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Turaani v. Sessions

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

June 7, 2018

Khalid Turaani, Plaintiff,
Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, III, in his official capacity, et al., Defendants.

          R. Steven Whalen United States Magistrate Judge



         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff Khalid Turaani commenced this action on December 20, 2017. Dkt. No. 1. In the Complaint, he contends that the Defendants improperly delayed (by three days) his right to purchase a firearm and constructively denied him that right. See Id. The Defendants are an Unnamed FBI Agent, in his individual capacity, and the following individuals in their official capacity: Jefferson B. Sessions, III, the Attorney General of the United States of America; Christopher A. Wray, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Charles H. Kable, IV, the Director of the Terrorist Screening Center; and Thomas E. Brandon, the Deputy Director, Head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

         Turaani asserts a defamation claim against the Unnamed FBI Agent in his individual capacity (Count I). He also maintains that the official-capacity Defendants violated his right to procedural due process under the Fifth Amendment (Count II); substantive due process under the Fifth Amendment (Count III); and equal protection under the Fifth Amendment (Count IV). Additionally, Turaani alleges that the official-capacity Defendants violated the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 701-706 (“APA”), (Count V), and he asserts a claim for injunctive and declaratory relief under 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201, 2202 (Count VI).

         On April 5, 2018, the official-capacity Defendants moved to dismiss Counts II-VI of the Complaint for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Dkt. No. 10. Turaani responded to the motion on April 26, 2018. Dkt. No. 12. The official-capacity Defendants replied in support of the motion on May 23, 2018. Dkt. No. 16.

         Presently before the Court is the official-capacity Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Counts II-VI of the Complaint for Lack of Subject-Matter Jurisdiction and Failure to State a Claim [10]. The Court held a hearing on this motion on Monday, June 4, 2018. For the reasons detailed below, the Court will GRANT the official-capacity Defendants' Motion to Dismiss [10]. The Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over certain claims asserted by Turaani. The Court also concludes that Turaani has failed to state a claim on Counts II-VI. That is, the Court will dismiss his claims regarding procedural due process (Count II), substantive due process (Count III), equal protection (Count IV), the Administrative Procedure Act (Count V), and injunctive and declaratory relief (Count VI).

         Additionally, as the claims against the official-capacity Defendants will not survive the motion to dismiss and the individual-capacity Defendant (the Unnamed FBI Agent) has yet to receive service, the Court will DISMISS Count I WITHOUT PREJUDICE.

         II. Background

         Plaintiff Khalid Turaani is a United States citizen domiciled in Michigan. Dkt. No. 1, p. 2 (Pg. ID 2). He is the legal owner of three firearms, firearms which he purchased between 2000 and 2016. Id. at p. 9 (Pg. ID 9). This case concerns his inability to buy a fourth firearm, in 2017 and from Target Sports Orchard Lake in Michigan.

         A. Firearm Background Check Procedures

         On June 24, 2017, after discussing Turaani's request to purchase a firearm with an FBI agent, a clerk at Target Sports Orchard Lake refused to sell Turaani a gun. Id. at p. 10 (Pg. ID 10). By way of background, the Brady Act, 18 U.S.C. §§ 921 et seq., requires that federal firearms licensees (“FFL”) contact the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (“NICS”) before selling a firearm to any person. Id. at p. 5 (Pg. ID 5); see generally 28 C.F.R. § 25.1 et seq. The FBI manages the NICS, and in Michigan, FFLs directly contact the FBI with certain information about the potential purchaser. Dkt. No. 1, p. 5 (Pg. ID 5); see also Dkt. No. 10, pp. 17-18 (Pg. ID 78-79). Using that information, a search is run in certain databases, including the National Crime Identification Center (“NCIC”). Dkt. No. 10, p. 18 (Pg. ID 79). The NCIC, in turn, includes a sub-file on Known or Appropriately Suspected Terrorists (“KST”). Dkt. No. 1, p. 12 (Pg. ID 12); see also Dkt. No. 10, p. 18 (Pg. ID 79). Plaintiff alleges that, on the date of the firearm transaction, he was on a No. Fly List or Watch List, and thus, he was on a KST list. Dkt. No. 1, p. 9 (Pg. ID 9).

         When a person on a KST list initiates a firearm transaction, the background check results in a “delay” response. 28 C.F.R. § 25.6(c)(1); see also Dkt. No. 10, p. 19 (Pg. ID 80). To be sure, residence on a KST list, standing alone, does not prohibit a person from legally owning a firearm. See 18 U.S.C. § 922(g); see also Dkt. No. 10, p. 19 (Pg. ID 80). Rather, a delay response suspends the transaction for three days while authorities further investigate the individual. Dkt. No. 10, p. 19 (Pg. ID 80); see also 28 C.F.R. § 25.6(c)(1)(iv)(B). A person may complete the firearm transaction if the NICS responds “proceed” or three days have passed from the delay response, whichever occurs first. 28 C.F.R. § 25.6(c)(1)(iv)(B).

         Conversely, a “deny” response occurs where federal or state law prohibits a person from obtaining a firearm. See Id. at § 25.6(c)(1)(iv)(C); see also 18 U.S.C. § 922(g), (n). If a person passes the background check, NICS will respond “proceed.” 28 C.F.R. § 25.6(c)(1)(iv)(A).

         B. Turaani's Experience at Target Sports Orchard Lake

         As Target Sports Orchard Lake is an FFL, it contacted the FBI when Turaani initiated the firearm transaction. Dkt. No. 1, p. 10 (Pg. ID 10). A store clerk began a NICS background check on Turaani, including running Plaintiff's name through the relevant databases. Id. Turaani maintains that an FBI agent then called the store clerk, informed him that Turaani was the subject of an FBI investigation, and instructed him to delay the transaction. Id. Following the FBI's directions, the store clerk delayed the transaction. Id. at pp. 10-11 (Pg. ID 10-11). The FBI, however, did not contact the store clerk again regarding Turaani's transaction and, of course, three days have passed since Turaani attempted to purchase the firearm. Id. at p. 10 (Pg. ID 10). Therefore, Turaani may legally purchase the gun. See 28 C.F.R. § 25.6(c)(1)(iv)(B).

         But Turaani contends that he has not been able to purchase a gun from Target Sports Orchard Lake. He alleges that the store will not sell him a gun until the FBI has informed the store that he never was, or is no longer, under investigation by the FBI. Dkt. No. 1, pp. 10-11 (Pg. ID 10-11). He also asserts that because the store clerk knows that he is or was under investigation by the FBI, this news will spread throughout his Orchard Lake community and thereby damage his reputation. Id. at pp. 16-17 (Pg. ID 16-17).

         III. Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) allows a court to assess whether a plaintiff has stated a claim upon which relief may be granted. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). “Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only ‘a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ' in order to ‘give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.' ” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). “[E]ven though the complaint need not contain ‘detailed' factual allegations, its ‘factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all of the allegations in the complaint are true.' ” Ass'n of Cleveland Fire Fighters v. City of Cleveland, 502 F.3d 545, 548 (6th Cir. 2007) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

         A court must construe the complaint in favor of a plaintiff, accept the allegations of the complaint as true, and determine whether plaintiff's factual allegations present plausible claims. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. But, “the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 668 (2009). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a plaintiff's pleading for relief must provide “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Ass'n of Cleveland Fire Fighters, 502 F.3d at 548 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 553-54). “Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders naked assertion[s] devoid of further factual enhancement.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (internal citations and quotations omitted). Instead, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). The plausibility standard requires “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not show[n]-that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Id. at 679. (internal citations and quotation marks omitted).

         IV. Discussion

         The Plaintiff raises five claims against the official-capacity Defendants. He contends that they violated his right to procedural due process (Count II), to substantive due process (Count III), and to equal protection of the laws (Count IV). He also maintains that their actions contravened the APA (Count V), and he raises an independent claim for injunctive and declaratory relief (Count VI). The Court will find that Plaintiff lacks standing to assert claims regarding certain harms. In addition, the Court will hold that none of these counts will survive the Motion to Dismiss.

         A. Standing

         Turaani principally claims that he has suffered harm as a result of both the three-day delay of his firearm purchase and the “constructive denial” of his Second Amendment right. The Court will find that it has subject-matter jurisdiction over his claims regarding the three-day delay of his Second Amendment rights. Conversely, the Court will conclude that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff's constructive denial claim.

         “Federal courts, ” the Sixth Circuit has noted, “have constitutional authority to decide only ‘cases' and ‘controversies.' ” Crawford v. Dep't of Treasury, 868 F.3d 438, 452 (6th Cir. 2017) (quoting U.S. Const. art. III § 2) (citing Muskrat v. United States, 219 U.S. 346 (1911)). “And there is no case or controversy if a plaintiff lacks standing to sue.” Duncan v. Muzyn, 885 F.3d 422, 427 (6th Cir. 2018) (citing Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, __ U.S.__, 136 S.Ct. 1540, 1547 (2016)). “A claimant bears the burden of establishing standing and must show it ‘for each claim he seeks to press.' ” Hagy v. Demers & Adams, 882 F.3d 616, 620 (6th Cir. 2018) (quoting DaimlerChrysler Corp. v. Cuno, 547 U.S. 332, 352 (2006)). If a claimant fails to establish standing, a court must dismiss the complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1). Lyshe v. Levy, 854 F.3d 855, 858 (6th Cir. 2017) (citing Allstate Ins. Co. v. Glob. Med. Billing, Inc., 520 Fed.Appx. 409, 410-11 (6th Cir. 2013)).

         “The ‘irreducible constitutional minimum' of standing comprises three elements: (1) an injury-in-fact, which is (2) fairly traceable to the defendant's challenged conduct, and that in turn is (3) likely redressable by a favorable judicial ...

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