United States District Court, D. Hawaii
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT NANCY A. BERRYHILL'S
MOTION TO DISMISS FOR LACK OF SUBJECT-MATTER
C. Kay Sr., United States District Judge
reasons discussed below, Defendant Nancy A. Berryhill's
Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject-Matter Jurisdiction,
ECF No. 19, is hereby GRANTED. Plaintiff's Complaint is
DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.
Michael Yellen (“Plaintiff”), proceeding pro se,
is a resident of the state of Hawai`i who alleges that he has
been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder
(“PTSD”). Compl., ECF No. 1, ¶ 2. Plaintiff
alleges that his PTSD diagnosis arose from his 21-year
incarceration. Compl. ¶ 2. On January 8, 2018,
Plaintiff filed an application for Supplemental Security
Income (“SSI”), Declaration of Glen Haas
(“Haas Decl.”), ECF No. 19-1, ¶ 5, and on
February 8, 2018, Plaintiff filed an application for Social
Security Disability Insurance (“SSDI”). Haas
Decl. ¶ 3; Def. Exh. A, ECF No. 19-2. The Social
Security Administration (“SSA”) denied
Plaintiff's application for SSDI on February 13, 2018,
Haas Decl. ¶ 3; Def. Exh. B, ECF No. 19-3, and on June
1, 2018 the SSA denied Plaintiff's application for SSI.
Haas Decl. ¶ 5; Def. Exh. C, ECF No. 19-4. The SSA
denied Plaintiff's SSDI application because he has not
earned enough work credits to qualify for SSDI. Hass Decl.
¶ 5; Def. Exh. B. Plaintiff's Complaint suggests
that he has not earned enough work credits to qualify for
SSDI because his 21-year incarceration precluded him from
working. Compl. ¶ 6. The SSA denied Plaintiff's SSI
application because it determined that he is not disabled
within the meaning of the Social Security Act. Haas Decl.
¶ 5; Def. Exh. C. Plaintiff did not request
reconsideration of either determination. Haas Decl.
¶¶ 4, 6.
October 31, 2018, Plaintiff filed his Complaint in which he
challenges the earnings requirement of the Social Security
Act, which requires individuals to have worked and paid
Social Security taxes for a certain number of years in order
to be insured for SSDI. See 42 U.S.C. §
423(c)(1). Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that the earnings
requirement violates the Equal Protection Clause of the
Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and
Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act
(“ADA”). Compl. ¶¶ 9-10. Plaintiff does
not appear to assert claims related to the denial of his
application for SSI benefits.
April 1, 2019, Defendant Nancy A. Berryhill, then Acting
Commissioner of Social Security,  (“Defendant”)
filed a Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject-Matter
Jurisdiction (“Motion”) pursuant to Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), ECF No. 19. On May 2, 2019,
Plaintiff filed his Opposition, ECF No. 21, and on May 15,
2019, Defendant filed a Reply. ECF No. 22. The Court held a
hearing on Defendant's Motion on August 8, 2019.
Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject-Matter
court's subject-matter jurisdiction may be challenged
under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1). Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(1). “A party invoking the federal court's
jurisdiction has the burden of proving the actual existence
of subject-matter jurisdiction.” Thompson v.
McCombe, 99 F.3d 352, 353 (9th Cir. 1996).
12(b)(1) challenges may be either “facial” or
“factual.” Wolfe v. Strankman, 392 F.3d
358, 362 (9th Cir. 2004). In a facial attack, “the
challenger asserts that the allegations contained in a
complaint are insufficient on their face to invoke federal
jurisdiction.” Id. (quoting Safe Air for
Everyone v. Meyer, 373 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir. 2004)).
When opposing a facial attack on subject-matter jurisdiction,
the nonmoving party is not required to provide evidence
outside the pleadings. Wolfe, 392 F.3d at 362;
see Doe v. Holy See, 557 F.3d 1066, 1073 (9th Cir.
2009) (treating defendant's challenge to subject-matter
jurisdiction as facial because defendant “introduced no
evidence contesting any of the allegations” of the
complaint). In deciding a facial Rule 12(b)(1) motion, the
court must assume the allegations in the complaint are true
and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's
favor. Wolfe, 392 F.3d at 362 (citations omitted).
contrast, in a factual attack, “the challenger disputes
the truth of the allegations that, by themselves, would
otherwise invoke federal jurisdiction.” Wolfe,
392 F.3d at 362 (quoting Safe Air, 373 F.3d at
1039). The moving party may bring a factual challenge to the
court's subject-matter jurisdiction by submitting
“affidavits or any other evidence properly before the
court.” St. Clair v. City of Chico, 880 F.2d
199, 201 (9th Cir. 1989). The nonmoving party must then
“present affidavits or any other evidence necessary to
satisfy its burden of establishing that the court, in fact,
possesses subject-matter jurisdiction.” Colwell v.
Dep't of Health & Human Servs., 558 F.3d 1112,
1121 (9th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted). In these
circumstances, the court may look beyond the complaint
without having to convert the motion into one for summary
judgment. U.S. ex rel. Meyer v. Horizon Health
Corp., 565 F.3d 1195, 1200 n.2 (9th Cir. 2009). When
deciding a factual challenge to the court's
subject-matter jurisdiction, the court “need not
presume the truthfulness of the plaintiffs'
Special Considerations for Pro Se Litigants
se litigant's pleadings must be read more liberally than
pleadings drafted by counsel. Haines v. Kerner, 404
U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972); Wolfe, 392 F.3d at 362;
Eldridge v. Block, 832 F.2d 1132, 1137 (9th Cir.
1987). When a plaintiff proceeds pro se and technically
violates a rule, the court should act with leniency toward
the pro se litigant. Draper v. Coombs, 792 F.2d 915,
924 (9th Cir. 1986); Pembrook v. Wilson, 370 F.2d
37, 39-40 (9th Cir. 1966). However, “a pro se litigant
is not excused from knowing the most basic pleading
requirements.” Am. Ass'n of Naturopathic
Physicians v. Hayhurst, 227 F.3d 1104, 1107-08 (9th Cir.
2000) (citations omitted).
may deny a pro se plaintiff leave to amend where amendment
would be futile. Flowers v. First Hawaiian Bank, 295
F.3d 966, 976 (9th Cir. 2002) (citing Cook, Perkiss &
Liehe, Inc. v. N. California Collection Serv. Inc., 911
F.2d 242, 247 (9th Cir. 1990); Lucas v. Dep't of
Corr., 66 F.3d 245, 248-49 (9th Cir. 1995) (holding that
dismissal of a pro se complaint without leave to amend is
proper only if it is clear that the deficiencies cannot be
cured by amendment or after the pro se litigant is given an
opportunity to amend).
has brought a factual challenge to the Court's
subject-matter jurisdiction because Defendant has submitted a
declaration and several exhibits in support of the Motion.
See Savage v. Glendale Union High Sch., 343 F.3d
1036, 1039 n.2 (9th Cir. 2003). Defendant presents two
central arguments in the Motion: (1) Plaintiff has failed to