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Bartz v. Federal Bureau of Investigation

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

September 11, 2019

Jon Bradley Bartz, Plaintiff,
v.
Federal Bureau of Investigation, and U.S. Attorney General, Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          BECKY R. THORSON, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff Jon Bradley Bartz's (1) Complaint (Doc. No. 1), and (2) Application to Proceed in District Court Without Prepaying Fees or Costs (Doc. No. 2, (“IFP Application”)). For the reasons discussed below, this Court recommends dismissing from this action (1) any claims in the Complaint for monetary relief (due to a lack of jurisdiction), and (2) any remaining claims for nonmonetary relief against the party that Bartz refers to as the “U.S. Attorney General” and the “United States Attorney General MN” (due to Bartz's failure to state a claim for which this Court can grant relief).

         I. BACKGROUND

         The Complaint's allegations hinge on Bartz's two unsuccessful recent attempts to buy a firearm. From records attached to the Complaint, it appears that in July 2005, a Minnesota court convicted Bartz on one count of third-degree criminal sexual assault and one count of fourth-degree assault of a correctional officer. (See Doc. No. 1, Attach. 1, Bartz v. State, No. 72-CV-19-27, Order Restoring Pet'r's Ability to Possess and Otherwise Deal with Firearms 1-2 (Minn. Dist. Ct. Apr. 25, 2019) (“State-Court Order”).) Under Minn. Stat. § 624.713, subd. 1(10)(i)[1] and 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1), [2] these convictions barred Bartz from possessing firearms. (See State-Court Order 2.) Minnesota authorities discharged Bartz in January 2011. (See id.)

         In February 2019, Bartz filed an action in Minnesota state court to restore his ability to possess firearms. See Register of Actions, Bartz v. State, No. 72-CV-19-27 (Minn. Dist. Ct.), available at http://pa.courts.state.mn.us (last accessed Aug. 2, 2019). Under Minn. Stat. § 609.165, subd. 1d, “[a] person prohibited by state law from . . . possessing . . . a firearm or ammunition because of a conviction . . . for committing a crime of violence may petition a court to restore the person's ability to possess . . . and otherwise deal with firearms and ammunition.” A court can grant this relief “if the person shows good cause to do so and the person has been released from physical confinement.” Id.

         On April 25, 2019, a Minnesota state-court judge entered an order purportedly restoring Bartz's ability to possess firearms. (See State-Court Order 2 (“Petitioner Jon Bradley Bartz's ability to possess, receive, ship, transport, and otherwise deal with firearms is fully restored pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 609.[165], subd. 1d.”).)[3] Shortly thereafter, Bartz tried to buy a firearm from a licensed dealer, but the dealer refused to sell him the firearm because of a “NICS denial.” (See Compl. 5.)[4] Bartz sent a “request for reasons and appeal” to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), but “didn't hear back for 6 weeks.” (Id.)

         On May 3, 2019, Bartz applied to his local police department for a permit to buy a firearm. (See id.) This application was successful, with the permit approved on May 15, 2019. (See id.) Two days later, Bartz again tried to buy a firearm from a licensed dealer. (See id.) This purchase was “initially delayed then denied on [May 21], 2019.” (Id.) Bartz asserts that he appealed this decision as well, presumably to the FBI. (See id.)

         In early June 2019, Bartz received a letter from the FBI denying both of his appeals. (See id.) That letter refers to Minn. Stat. § 624.714, subd. 24. (See id.; see also Doc. No. 1, Attach. 5, Letter from William G. McKinsey, U.S. Dep't of Justice, to Jon Bradley Bartz 1 (dated June 5, 2019).) Bartz claims that this statute covers individuals who wish to carry a firearm, and as such is inapplicable to him, given that he only seeks to possess a firearm. (See Compl. 5.)

         Bartz filed this action on June 14, 2019. (See Id. at 1.) He names two Defendants. The first is the FBI. (See id.) The second is unclear. The Complaint's caption refers to the U.S. Attorney General, (see id.), but in the list of parties on the Complaint's second page, Bartz lists “United States Attorney General MN” and provides an address corresponding to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Minnesota. (See Id. at 2.) It is thus unclear whether Bartz seeks to sue the U.S. Attorney General (i.e., the position presently filled by William Barr) or instead seeks to sue the U.S. District Attorney for the District of Minnesota (i.e., the position presently filled by Erica H. MacDonald). In what follows, the Court will refer to this party as the “Unknown DOJ Party.”

         As for causes of action, Bartz alleges that the FBI has infringed his Second Amendment rights by “denying a [NICS] background check without cause, ” and denied his due-process rights by “not responding in a timely manner [to] inquiries or accepting further information.” (Id. at 5.)[5] The Complaint's Request for Relief asks for (1) orders directing the FBI to update its records regarding him and to “immediately issue a UPIN” for him, [6] (2) awards of court filing fees and any attorney fees if Bartz “choose[s] to retain one, ” and (3) a monetary award of $1, 000 for each day between April 26, 2019, and the date that “the FBI has issued a UPIN and contacted . . . Mankato Guns with a proceed on” the transaction dated May 17, 2019. (Id. at 4.)

         II. ANALYSIS

         In a separate Order, this Court is granting Bartz's IFP Application. Under the statute providing for IFP applications, however, “[n]otwithstanding any filing fee, or any portion thereof, that may have been paid, the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that . . . the action or appeal . . . seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(iii). Furthermore, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(h)(3), “[i]f the court determines at any time that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the action.” This Court may therefore review the Complaint to determine whether any of its claims seek relief against immune defendants or are claims over which this Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction.[7]

         The Complaint's crux is a claim that certain entities and officials of the federal government have infringed on Bartz's constitutional rights. (See Compl. 4-5.) Naming federal Defendants brings to the fore whether Bartz can bring any of his claims for monetary relief.

         “Absent a waiver, sovereign immunity shields the Federal Government and its agencies from suit.” F.D.I.C. v. Meyer, 510 U.S. 471, 475 (1994) (citing cases); see also Kratville v. U.S. Bureau of Prisons, No. 17-CV-4453 (MJD/TNL), 2018 WL 6182591, at *2 (D. Minn. Aug. 31, 2018) (making same point), report and recommendation adopted, 2018 WL 6181366 (D. Minn. Nov. 27, 2018). And sovereign immunity is jurisdictional in nature: where an entity has sovereign immunity, this Court lacks jurisdiction to address claims against it. See, e.g., Meyer, ...


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