United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS (Doc. #22), DENYING AS MOOT PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR DECLARATORY AND B>INJUNCTIVE RELIEF (Doc. #9), AND DISMISSING PLAINTIFFS' COMPLAINT
SEAN F. COX, District Judge.
Since at least March of 2011, the country of Yemen has been under a Travel Warning, issued by the United States Department of State ("State Department"), due to ongoing "terrorist activities and civil unrest." On February 11, 2015, the State Department suspended embassy operations in Yemen and evacuated U.S. Embassy staff from their office in Sana'a, Yemen.
On April 3, 2015, the State Department updated its Yemen Travel Warning, noting that "[t]he level of instability and ongoing threats in Yemen remains severe." The State Department explained that, at that time, there were "no plans for a U.S. government-coordinated evacuation of U.S. citizens" from Yemen.
In this action, Plaintiffs allege that they are United States citizens or permanent legal residents, are of Yemeni national origin, and are currently stranded in Yemen. Plaintiffs claim that President Barack H. Obama, Secretary of State John F. Kerry, and other United States government officials (collectively, "Defendants") are unlawfully refusing to implement evacuation efforts for U.S. citizens in Yemen despite the swiftly deteriorating conditions there, and despite the fact that the United States has carried out evacuation missions in other countries under similar circumstances. Plaintiffs seek, inter alia, an injunction "requiring Defendants to coordinate the emergency evacuation of Plaintiffs and U.S. citizens in Yemen...." (Compl., Doc. #1 at p. 28).
This matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs' Emergency Motion for Preliminary and/or Permanent Injunction, and Mandamus and Declaratory Relief (Doc. #9), and Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Doc. #22). The motions have been fully briefed by the parties and the Court heard oral argument on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss on June 3, 2015. Because the Court finds that Plaintiffs' Complaint raises nonjusticiable political questions, the Court shall GRANT Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, DENY AS MOOT Plaintiffs' Motion, and DISMISS Plaintiffs' Complaint.
A. Factual Background
Plaintiffs in this action are thirty-six (36) United States citizens and one (1) United States permanent legal resident who are currently in Yemen. Plaintiffs allege that "[a] coalition of countries led by Saudi Arabia have launched a military campaign against the Houthis, a militia group from northern Yemen..., " and that Saudi Arabia has imposed a no-fly zone and is in control of air space over Yemen. (Compl. at ¶¶ 1-3). Plaintiffs claim that they, along with approximately 55, 000 other American citizens, are stranded in Yemen "due to Saudi Arabia's no-fly zone and hijacked main roads." (Compl. at ¶ 9). Plaintiffs assert that, despite the unstable and dangerous conditions there, the State Department has refused to coordinate an evacuation effort to remove them and other endangered U.S. citizens from Yemen.
B. Procedural Background
Plaintiffs filed their "Complaint for Emergency Injunctive, Mandamus and Declaratory Relief" on April 9, 2015. (Doc. #1). In their Complaint, Plaintiffs pleaded four causes of action:
Count I: Violation of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution;
Count II: Unlawful Agency Action in Violation of the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 702, 706;
Count III: Writ of Mandamus; and
Count IV: Declaratory Relief.
(Compl., Doc. #1). In their Prayer for Relief, Plaintiffs request:
1. A declaratory judgment that finds that Defendants have failed to fulfill their duty to Plaintiffs by refusing to protect them and coordinate their evacuation from Yemen;
2. An injunction that requires Defendants to coordinate the emergency evacuation of Plaintiffs and American citizens in Yemen to the extent practicable as soon as practicable;
3. An award of attorneys' fees, costs, and expenses of all litigation, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2415; and,
4. Such other and further relief as the Court may deem just and proper.
(Compl. at 28).
As authority for their requested relief, Plaintiffs cite two main sources: Executive Order 12656, and a Memorandum of Agreement ("MOA") between the Departments of State and Defense. (Doc. #1 at 6-8). Executive Order 12656 provides, in pertinent part:
Sec. 502. Support Responsibilities. The Secretary of Defense shall:
(2) Advise and assist the Secretary of State and the heads of other Federal departments and agencies, as appropriate, in planning for the protection, evacuation, and repatriation of United ...