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Martin v. Colvin

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

November 4, 2014



KEVIN H. SHARP, Chief District Judge.

By Order entered January 30, 2014 (Docket Entry No. 3), the Court referred the above captioned action to the Magistrate Judge to enter a scheduling order for the management of the case, to dispose or recommend disposition of any pretrial motions under 28 U.S.C. §§ 636(b)(1)(A) and (B), and to conduct further proceedings, if necessary, under Rule 72(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Local Rules of Court.

Presently pending is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Docket Entry No. 24), to which the plaintiff has filed a response in opposition. See Docket Entry No. 31. Also before the Court is the Defendants' reply (Docket Entry No. 34) and the plaintiff's sur-reply (Docket Entry No. 36).[1] For the reasons set out below, the Court recommends that the Defendants' motion be granted and that this action be dismissed.


On January 27, 2014, the pro se plaintiff initiated this action by filing a complaint and request for injunctive relief against the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("SSA"). The plaintiff subsequently filed an amended complaint adding the Attorney General of the United States as a defendant to the action. See Docket Entry No. 22.

The plaintiff asserts that she is a 62 year old female "member of a heterosexual marital tax unit" who has filed a joint tax return with her spouse during all the 40 years of their marriage. See Amended Complaint (Docket Entry No. 22), at 5. The plaintiff contends that she "met with the SSA" regarding what she believes are inequities in the manner in which the Social Security and Medicare taxes deducted from her and her spouse's combined wages over the years were allocated between herself and her spouse with respect to the earning of SSA credits and the payment of anticipated Social Security benefits to her spouse and herself. Id . Essentially, it appears that the plaintiff complained that, despite the payment of joint taxes by her spouse and herself, she was not being given SSA credits for the time she spent over the years as a wife and mother who was not receiving an earned income but was contributing to the marital household by enabling her spouse to earn income and pay taxes. The plaintiff asserts that she was told that she needed to work and pay additional taxes or "get the law changed because that's the way it's always been done, " or the benefits she and her spouse could receive would be significantly reduced or eliminated. Id.[2] She contends that the record keeping practices of the SSA are archaic and discriminatory against married women. Id . at 2.

The plaintiff further contends that she has been discriminated against because the SSA does not treat members of same-sex marriages in a similar manner to members of heterosexual marriages and has retroactively processed widows' and widowers' claims arising from same-sex marriages. Id . at 3. She complains that the United States government's administration of tax laws and benefits with respect to same-sex couples adversely impacts her receipt of "benefits of taxation" and her right to "live in health and safety" and is forcing "Republican Party officials" in states that do not recognize same-sex marriages to validate same-sex marriage licenses from other states. Id . at 10-12.

The plaintiff asserts that she has standing "as an aggrieved married female taxpayer and grandmother, " id. at 3, and brings claims against the Defendants based on several constitutional provisions and federal statutes, including the First, Fourth, Fifth, Fourteenth, Sixteenth, and Nineteenth Amendments to United States Constitution, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983, 1985, and 1988, and the Revenue Act of 1948. Id . at 14-16. The plaintiff asserts that jurisdiction is conferred by 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1340, 1343, 1356, 1361, and 1391 and under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983, 1985, and 1988. Id . at 1. She seeks "actual and punitive damages, costs, fees, penalties, and all other amounts in equity and law, " Id . at 14, as well as the following forms of injunctive relief requiring the Defendants to:

1) "equally divide the combined taxable income (including wages and net income/loss from self employment) and taxes taken from wages of legally married spouses for the purposes of 42 U.S.C. §§ 414(a)(2), §§ 413(a)(2)(A)(i) and (ii), and § 403(f)(5)(A);"
2) refrain from "denying legally married females the same number of QC's as their spouses, and from using record-keeping practices that deprive legally married females and heterosexual male widowers in legal "marital tax units" of benefits, equal protections, privileges, privacy and Due Process;"
3) refrain from applying "purported marriage' and duration of marriage' rules (similar to 42 U.S. Code § 416 (h)(1)(B)(ii), and 42 U.S.C. §§ 416(c)(1)(E)), to same sex purported marriages, and from retroactively giving marriage validity and taxpayer benefits to members of purported marriages consummated with the knowledge that the license contradicted Federal laws and could be used only in the state that sold it as a special license without reciprocity between states at the time it was sold;" and
4) refrain "from using record-keeping practices that interfere with, aggrieve, and deprive both Single females and females in legal marital tax units' from freely exercising religious rights, freedoms, beliefs, privacies, and practices related to education and child-bearing."

Id. at 15-6.

The Defendants seek dismissal of the action under Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure arguing that the Court does not have subject matter jurisdiction over the action. The Defendants contend that the plaintiff has not shown that she has suffered any type of actual injury that satisfies the case and controversy requirement and thus fails to show that she has Article III standing for her claims. The Defendants further argue that, even if Article III standing is established, principles of sovereign immunity limit the jurisdiction of the Court. The Defendants assert that judicial review of actions by the Commissioner regarding benefits under the SSA is specifically limited by 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 405(h) to review of final decisions of the Commissioner, and that the plaintiff's own allegations do not show that she has filed a claim or request for benefits, let alone received a final decision, that permits judicial review of her complaints about the calculation of her benefits. The Defendants argue that the several other statutes to which the plaintiff refers in her Amended Complaint do not provide a basis for ...

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