THOMAS v. REAGAN

USDC Cr. No. 84-3552

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
WILLIAM THOMAS,
            Plaintiff,                         Civil Action No. 84-3552

             V.                            

RONALD REAGAN, et al.,
            Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OF POINTS AND AUTHORITIES
IN SUPPORT OF MOTION TO DISMISS
PRESIDENT REAGAN AS DEFENDANT

Introduction

Plaintiff has filed a one hundred and twenty-five page, one hundred and seventy-five paragraph complaint, with voluminous attachments. He challenges his numerous arrests and frequent convictions for violations of federal laws governing the Memorial- core area National Parks set in the heart of Washington, D.C., in the vicinity of the White House. He seeks injunctive, declaratory and damages relief from nine defendants. Among those defendants is President Ronald Reagan.

We respectfully move to dismiss this action as against President Reagan. Arguably, plaintiff has sued President Reagan in both his official and individual capacities. Indeed, we will assume so for purposes of this motion. In all events, however, this action should be dismissed as against President Reagan.


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Facts

Little need be said with respect to the factual allegations of plaintiff's complaint for purposes of this motion. [1] President Reagan is named as a defendant in the caption of the case. In the description of the defendants, plaintiff states that President Reagan "is sued in both his personal and official capacity." Complaint 7.

Thereafter, he is mentioned in only four contexts in the one hundred and twenty-five pages of plaintiff's complaint. First, plaintiff purports to quote President Reagan several times on the subject of nuclear weapons, references which have no relationship whatsoever to plaintiff's claims asserted in this case. See Complaint 20, 21, 145. In paragraph 94, plaintiff accuses President Reagan of "personally enter[ing] into consort with any or all Defendants by virtue of receipt of a letter" from plain- tiff's wife and fellow demonstrator complaining of the arrests and alleged police harassment in the White House area; however, no further facts are provided. Plaintiff also refers to President Reagan indirectly in paragraph 98 when he describes a sign plaintiff constructed containing a message to President Reagan. Finally, in summarizing his claims in this action, plaintiff alleges that President Reagan is, or should have been, aware of violations of civil liberties alleged by plaintiff, and then charges President Reagan with civil rights violations and with treason. Complaint 146.


[1 References to plaintiff' s complaint are to the complaint as amended to specify the money damages sought.]


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Argument

I. Plaintiff Fails To Satisfy The Stringent
Requirements For Naming The President As
A Defendant In His Official Capacity

Read most charitably, plaintiff's complaint seeks three forms of relief: (1) a declaratory judgment that plaintiff's civil rights have been violated, that various arrests and con- victions of plaintiff for violation of federal laws are uncon- stitutional or otherwise illegal, and that the federal laws under which he has been arrested and convicted are themselves uncon- stitutional; (2) injunctive relief preventing further arrests of him for the conduct in which he desires to engage in the White House area; and (3) damages.against all defendants including President Reagan. None of that relief, however, can or should be forthcoming against the President of the United States.

The presence of the President as a defendant in a civil action is permitted only where it is absolutely necessary to grant the relief sought. When a plaintiff can be afforded complete relief in an action against governmental entities or federal officials other than the President, the President is considered to be immune from judicial process. Native America Rights Fund v. President Ronald Reagan, C.A. No. 83-1550 (D.DC.), Memorandum filed June I, 1984 (Flannery, J.) (copy attached); Crisafulli v. Simon, C.A. No. 76-471 (D.D.C.), Order filed May 21, 1976 (Flannery, J.) (copy attached); see Municipal Electric Utilities Association v. Reagan, C.A. No. 83-0595 (D.D.C.), Order filed July 22, 1983 (Hogan, J.).


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The exceptions serve to explain the general rule . In National Treasury Employees Union v. Nixon, 492 F.2d 587 (D.C. Cir. 1974), the Court of Appeals concluded that the federal courts have jurisdiction to issue a writ of mandamus compelling the President to perform a non-discretionary ministerial duty owed to plaintiffs. There the Court found that the President statutorily was required to submit an alternative federal employee pay plan to Congress by a certain date after a pay comparability study had been completed and forwarded to the President. Finding that the preliminary steps had been completed, the Court con- cluded that the President therefore was obligated by statute to submit to Congress an adjusted pay plan for federal employees.

In finding that NTEU properly could assert its claims against the President in that case, however, the Court of Appeals explained that, if an alternative defendant had been available, the President should have been dismissed as a defendant:
It bears repeating that if the defendant were any one other than the President of the United States, there is little question but that NTEU would be entitled to have a writ of mandamus issue in this case. There is also little doubt that if it were possible for NTEU to enforce its rights by naming a defendant additional to or in substitution of the President, this Court would exercise its discretion not to answer the question of whether the President is subject to mandamus by a federal court to perform a purely ministerial duty.

492 F.2d at 606. [2]


[2 The Court nevertheless declined to issue a writ of mandamus against the President, although it did issue a declaratory judgment.]


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A similar point had been made a year earlier in MinneSota Chippewa Tribe v. Carlucci, 358 F. Supp. 973 (D.D.C. 1973), where the Court determined that it should depart from the general rule barring suit against the President. There, the Court found that a section of the Indian Education Act required the President to make appointments to the National Advisory Council on Indian Education, and that the President neither had made those appoint- ments nor had delegated his power to do so. Suit therefore was permitted against the President, although the Court noted that joinder of the President generally is unnecessary because complete relief usually can be afforded against a subordinate government official. 358 F. Supp. at 976.

The general rule, then, continues to be that the President of the United States is subjected to jurisdiction as a civil defendant only if complete relief can not be obtained by suing other parties. "In other words, it is only when the President is uniquely able to carry out the relief sought in the complaint that he must be joined as a defendant." Native America Rights Fund v. President Ronald Reagan, supra, slip op. at 2. Here, that general rule is fully applicable, because the entirety of the declaratory and injunctive relief sought by plaintiff, even if it were warranted, can be obtained from the other defendants in this action.

Plaintiff simply seeks equitable relief declaring certain federal regulations unconstitutional, overturning his various convictions for violations of those laws, and enjoining the Park Police, the Secret Service and the Metropolitan Police from any further efforts to enforce such laws against him. All that relief


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can be obtained against the other defendants, who include senior Department of the Interior, National Park Service, United States Park Police, United States Secret Service and District of Columbia Metropolitan Police officials. President Reagan is simply not a necessary defendant because he is not "uniquely able to carry out the relief sought" in plaintiff's complaint. Accordingly, he should be dismissed as a defendant in his official capacity. [3]

II. The President Is Absolutely Immune From Any
Claim Against Him In His Individual Capacity

Plaintiff also seeks money damages from all defendants including President Reagan. As President of United States, however, Mr. Reagan is absolutely immune from any suit against him in his individual capacity for money damages or other relief. Nixon v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 731 (1982). On that basis alone, therefore, plaintiff's completely unsubstantiated, and indeed frivolous, claim for money damages against President Reagan must be dismissed at the outset. [4]


[3 One of plaintiff's claims is that President Reagan has committed treason in violation of 18 U.S.C. 2381, a claim as to which plaintiff seeks unspecified relief. We will not dignify that absurd contention any more than to say that plaintiff has no private right of action with respect to that criminal statute. A private right of action may be implied under a criminal statute only in the unique circumstance were there is a specific statutory basis for inferring that a civil cause of action of some kind lies in favor of someone. Chrysler Corp. v. Brown, 441 U.S. 281, 316 (1979); Cort v. Ash, 422 U.S. 66, 79-80 (1975). There is; no such basis in section 2381 or elsewhere in Title 18.]

[4 Moreover, and equally clearly, plaintiff fails to state a claim for damages against President Reagan for alleged constitutional or civil rights violations. Far more than the few general, elliptical references in the complaint is necessary to state such a claim under well-established pleading requirements. See, e.g., Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S, 800, 808, 817-18 (1982); Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 140 (1979); Butz v. Economou, 438 U.S. 478, 507-08 (1978); Lombard v. United States, 690 F.2d 215 (D.C. Cir. 1982).]


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Conclusion

Accordingly, for the foregoing reasons, this motion should be granted and the action against President Reagan in both his official and individual capacities should be dismissed with prejudice.

Respectfully submitted,

JOSEPH E. DIGENOVA
United States Attorney

ROYCE C. LAMBERTH
Assistant United States Attorney

JOHN D. BATES
Assistant United States Attorney


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