United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
LISA D. LEBER, Plaintiff,
MELISSA BUZBEE-STILES, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
PHIL GILBERT DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on defendant Major Melissa
Buzbee-Stiles's second motion to dismiss this case for
lack of subject matter jurisdiction and for failure to state
a claim (Doc. 25). Plaintiff Lisa D. Leber has responded to
the motion (Doc. 27).
case arose after Leber obtained an emergency order of
protection under the Illinois Stalking NO Contact Order Act,
740 ILCS 21/1 et seq. in state court against
Buzbee-Stiles. Leber was a civilian federal employee assigned
to work in the Pediatric Clinic at Scott Air Force Base in
Illinois, and Buzbee-Stiles, a Major in the United States Air
Force, was her supervisor. Apparently, Leber was unhappy with
the way Buzbee-Stiles treated her at work during the course
of their employment, so on March 29, 2019, Leber filed a
Verified Petition For Stalking No Contact Order in the St.
Clair County Circuit Court, Case No. 19OP249 (Doc. 1-1 at
same day Leber filed her petition, and without notice to
Buzbee-Stiles, the St. Clair County Circuit Court issued an
Emergency Stalking No Contact Order (“Emergency
OP”). Buzbee-Stiles was served with the Emergency OP on
April 1, 2019. On April 12, 2019, she removed the case to
federal court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1442a and
1442(a)(1). This Court vacated the Emergency OP four days
later on the grounds that she did not have a likelihood of
success on the merits in light of the preemptive effect of
the Civil Service Reform Act (“CSRA”), 5 U.S.C.
§ 1101 et seq., on disputes over federal
now asks the Court to dismiss this case in its entirety on
the grounds of sovereign immunity, mootness, failure to state
a claim, and preemption by the CSRA. Leber's response
recounts the horrors of her encounters with Buzbee-Stiles,
but she does not squarely address the legal issues raised by
argues that Leber's claims under the Illinois Stalking NO
Contact Act are preempted by the CSRA, 5 U.S.C. § 1101
et seq., because Leber seeks redress for her
employment-related grievances regarding the conditions she
describes in her petition. Leber's claims are, in fact,
preempted by the CSRA, and her remedies are found exclusively
under that act.
CSRA “is a detailed, comprehensive effort to regulate
employee-management relations in the federal
government.” Schrachta v. Curtis, 752 F.2d
1257, 1259 (7th Cir. 1985). “[T]he CSRA comprehensively
overhauled the civil service system, creating an elaborate
new framework for evaluating adverse personnel actions
against federal employees.” United States v.
Fausto, 484 U.S. 439, 443 (1988) (internal quotations,
citations and brackets omitted); accord Richards v.
Kiernan, 461 F.3d 880, 883 (7th Cir. 2006) (noting
Congress implicitly repealed jurisdiction of federal courts
over personnel actions arising out of federal employment).
Adverse personnel actions include a change in working
conditions by, say, a supervisor's harassment. 5 U.S.C.
§ 2302(a)(2)(A)(xii); see Dekeyser v.
Zimmermann, No. 16-CV-422-WMC, 2017 WL 3484963, at *5
(W.D. Wis. Aug. 14, 2017). The United States Court of Appeals
for the Seventh Circuit has noted that “the detailed
administrative framework established by the [CSRA] convinces
us, as it has other courts, that Congress intended the
remedies provided by the CSRA to be the exclusive means to
remedy violations of the Act's substantive
provisions.” Schrachta, 752 F.2d at 1260.
Because the CSRA provides a comprehensive remedy scheme for
allegedly improper actions by federal employees that might
otherwise give rise to a civil lawsuit, such other claims are
preempted by the CSRA. See LeBlanc v. United States,
50 F.3d 1025, 1030 (Fed. Cir. 1995). For this reason, the
Court lacks jurisdiction over Leber's claims in this
the Court could hear this case, it is convinced Leber would
not be entitled to the relief she seeks under the Illinois
Stalking NO Contact Order Act, 740 ILCS 21/1 et seq.
The Court arrives at this conclusion after first addressing
Buzbee-Stiles's claims of sovereign immunity.
argues that Leber's claims are barred by the doctrine of
sovereign immunity. “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); United States v. Mitchell, 463 U.S. 206, 212
(1983). Federal officers sued in their official capacities
are entitled to the same immunity because a suit against a
federal officer in his official capacity is tantamount to a
suit against the United States. Kentucky v. Graham,
473 U.S. 159, 166 (1985); see, e.g., Maus v. Curran,
945 F.Supp. 1217 (E.D. Wis. 1996). The same is true where a
federal officer is sued in her individual capacity but where
the relief sought against the officer would, in fact, be
relief against the United States. Larson v. Domestic
& Foreign Commerce Corp., 337 U.S. 682, 687 (1949).
For example, a suit for injunctive relief against a federal
officer to restrain the officer's action may also
effectively restrain the United States actions by restraining
its agent, the officer. Id. at 688. Such suits are
barred by sovereign immunity absent the United States'
consent to be sued. Id.
lawsuit against Buzbee-Stiles is effectively against the
United States. She seek to enjoin Buzbee-Stiles from conduct
within the scope of her employment as a federal employee.
Such an injunction would also effectively restrain the United
States as well, for Buzbee-Stiles acts as the United
States' agent in the conduct to be restrained. Indeed,
during the brief period where the Emergency OP was in effect,
Buzbee-Stiles was unable to report to her federal workplace
and perform the tasks assigned to her to perform on behalf of
the United States. Such an injunction is barred by sovereign
immunity absent the United States' consent to be sued.
However, it appears that, in the Administrative Procedures
Act, the United States has waived its immunity for injunctive
claims for prospective relief:
An action in a court of the United States seeking relief
other than money damages and stating a claim that an agency
or an officer or employee thereof acted or failed to act in
an official capacity or under color of legal authority shall
not be dismissed nor relief therein be denied on the ground
that it is against the United States or that the United
States is an indispensable party.
5 U.S.C. § 702; see Blagojevich v. Gates, 519
F.3d 370, 371 (7th Cir. 2008). Therefore, Buzbee-Stiles is