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Simon v. United States Department of Justice

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

November 19, 2018




         Pro se plaintiff Charles Simon brings this action in which he challenges the calculation of the compensation award he receives pursuant to the Inmate Accident Compensation Act (“IACA”), 18 U.S.C. § 4126, for a back injury he sustained in 1987 while incarcerated.[1] The defendants (United States Department of Justice (“DOJ”), Federal Prison Industries, and two employees of Federal Prison Industries) have moved under Rule 12(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or, in the alternative, for improper venue. [ECF No. 7]. In the same motion, the defendants also ask that the Court enjoin Simon from filing lawsuits in the District of Massachusetts without receiving prior authorization from the Court to do so. Simon opposed the motion to dismiss, and, in the same document, moved for judgment on the pleadings. [ECF No. 10]. He later filed a motion for a preliminary injunction [ECF. No. 12], which the defendants have opposed. Simon's motion for a pretrial hearing [ECF No. 10] is also pending.

         For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant in part and deny in part the defendants' motion, deny as moot all other pending motions, and dismiss the action.

         I. Calculation of Compensatory Payment

         Although Simon's complaint is not a model of clarity, the Court discerns two general claims. The first regards the DOJ's determination twenty-four years ago of the monthly compensatory benefits due to Simon upon his release based on his loss of earning potential resulting from a back injury sustained in prison. Because the injury occurred in the course of Simon's prison employment, compensation is governed by the IACA and its implementing regulations. See 28 C.F.R. § 301, et seq. The statutory text of the IACA does not contain any minimum requirements or guidelines for determining the amount of such compensation. It simply mandates that compensation not exceed the amount of awards authorized under the Federal Employees Compensation Act (“FECA”), 5 U.S.C. §§ 8101-8193, which provides compensation to federal employees for wages lost due to job-related injuries. The IACA regulations explicitly state that the FECA “shall be followed when practicable.” 28 C.F.R. § 301.314. Under the FECA, compensation for work-related partial disability is two-thirds of the difference between the employee's monthly pay and his monthly wage-earning capacity. See 5 U.S.C. § 8106(a).[2] Simon argues that the DOJ's method of calculating its monthly compensation-multiplying the percentage of the inmate's work-related disability by two-thirds of the income of someone employed full-time at the federal minimum wage[3] -is inconsistent with the FECA and violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Fifth Amendment, and the Eighth Amendment.

         Any claim concerning the calculation of Simon's monthly compensation award is barred by the doctrine of res judicata. “Under the federal law of res judicata, a final judgment on the merits of an action precludes the parties from relitigating claims that were raised or could have been raised in that action.” Maher v. GSI Lumonics, Inc., 433 F.3d 123, 126 (1st Cir. 2005) (quoting Porn v. Nat'l Grange Mut. Ins. Co., 93 F.3d 31, 34 (1st Cir. 1996)). As the defendants point out in their motion to dismiss, Simon has attempted on numerous occasions to litigate this claim. Courts have dismissed his actions on the merits. See Simon v. Fed. Prison Indus., Inc., No. 97-5323, 159 F.3d 637 (Table), 1998 WL 388369 (D.C. Cir. May 13, 1998) (per curiam) (holding that Simon's “award of compensation was properly calculated under [IACA] and its implementing regulations” and that there was “no merit to [Simon]'s challenge to the validity of the inmate compensation system”); Simon v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, 89 F.3d 823 (Table), 1996 WL 345955 (1st Cir. June 25, 1996) (per curiam) (agreeing with the district court that his Eighth and Fourteenth amendment claims “lack[ed] even the minimal factual specificity required to scale the Rule 12(b)(6) hurdle” and that “plaintiff's execution of the ‘award and acknowledgement and acceptance form' extinguished any further claim for inmate accident compensation, ” entitling the government to summary judgment on that issue).[4] Thereafter, courts have dismissed the claim on the ground of res judicata. See, e.g., Simon v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, No. 16-5031, 2016 WL 3545484 (D.C. Cir. June 10, 2016) (per curiam); Simon v. Bickell, Case. No. 10-5313, 2011 WL 1770138 (D.C. Cir. Apr. 22, 2011) (per curiam); Simon v. Fed. Prison Indus., Inc., 238 Fed. App'x 623 (D.C. Cir. 2007) (per curiam); Simon v. Fed. Prison Indus., No. 08-10792-JLT, 2003 WL 26128191 (D. Mass. July 15, 2003), aff'd, 91 Fed. App'x 161 (1st Cir. 2004) (per curiam).[5]

         Moreover, such claim, which arises out the DOJ's 1995 determination of the manner in which Simon's compensation is calculated, would be time-barred. See 28 U.S.C. § 2401(a) (providing a six-year statute of limitations for lawsuits against the United States).

         II. Termination of Compensatory Benefits

         Simon also alleges in the present action that, after receiving compensation payments under the IACA, the payments were terminated in June 2018 “without reason or notice.” Compl. ¶ 7a.[6] He claims he has been unlawfully deprived of his property interest in the continued compensation. The defendants do not address this claim in their motion to dismiss. Because Simon did not and could not have raised this claim in his earlier actions, the defendants' motion to dismiss on the ground of res judicata or the statute of limitations is denied with regard allegations that his compensation payments were wrongfully terminated in 2018.

         Notwithstanding, the Court will dismiss this claim, but without prejudice, because Simon has failed to exhaust his administrative remedies.[7] Neither the IACA nor its implementing regulations specifically require the administrative exhaustion of a claim that IACA compensatory payments were wrongfully terminated. Under the common-law doctrine of administrative exhaustion, however, a court can require a litigant to exhaust administrative remedies in appropriate circumstances. See McCarthy v. Madigan, 503 U.S. 140, 145-46 (1992), superseded by statute on other grounds, 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a); Anversa v. Partners Healthcare Sys., Inc., 835 F.3d 167, 175-76 (1st Cir. 2016). Requiring exhaustion of administrative remedies “serves the twin purposes of protecting administrative agency authority and promoting judicial efficiency.” McCarthy, 503 U.S. at 145.

         Simon does not represent that, during the brief passage of time between the reported termination of the payments in June 2018 and the filing of this lawsuit on July 10, 2018, he attempted to resolve the matter with DOJ, or, in other words, that he even attempted, much less exhausted his administrative remedies. While the exact procedure for challenging the termination of monthly compensation payments is not specified in the IACA or its implementing regulations, the regulations envision some resolution at the administrative level of issues concerning the termination of monthly payments. See 28 C.F.R. § 301.315(b) (where FPI requests but recipient fails to provide a statement of earnings, IACA benefits will be suspended “until such time as satisfactory evidence of continued eligibility is provided).[8] Simon must attempt to address the reason for the termination of his compensation payments with the DOJ before seeking a judicial remedy.

         III. Venue

         The defendants correctly point out that venue does not exist in the District of Massachusetts. The claims raised in this action lack any ties to the District of Massachusetts, and Simon represents that he resides in New York. Should Simon choose to seek judicial review of a decision of the DOJ to terminate his payments (after having exhausted administrative remedies), he must bring the action in a federal district court where venue is appropriate. See 28 U.S.C. § 1391.

         IV. Motion for an ...

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