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Brown v. Williams

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

January 12, 2017


         SECTION “R” (1)



         Defendants Erroll G. Williams, Lawrence E. Chehardy, Jimmie Thorns, Jr., and Robert D. Hoffman, Jr. move[1] the Court to dismiss plaintiff Howard Brown's complaint.[2] Because the Court does not have jurisdiction to entertain plaintiff's complaint, the motions to dismiss are GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This case arises out of a tax dispute. Plaintiff believes that the application of Louisiana's ad valorem tax scheme to plaintiff's property is unconstitutional under both the United States and Louisiana constitutions. On October 5, 2016, Plaintiff Howard Brown filed this pro se lawsuit alleging that defendants conspired to deprive plaintiff of his rights. At the time the complaint was filed, defendant Williams was the Assessor of Orleans Parish, Chehardy and Thorns were members of the Louisiana Tax Commission, and Hoffman was special counsel for the Commission. Plaintiff's complaint alleges that, in imposing an ad valorem tax on Brown's property, the defendants conspired to violate plaintiff's constitutional rights. Plaintiff seeks $20, 800, 000 and costs for his suit.[3]

         On October 13, 2016, defendant Williams filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). On October 31, the remaining defendants filed a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) as well as a motion to strike under Rule 12(f).[4] Plaintiff filed a response on November 15, 2016, [5] and defendants replied three days later.[6]Defendants' motions to dismiss argue that the Court lacks jurisdiction to hear this case pursuant to the Tax Injunction Act, and possibly under the Eleventh Amendment. The motions also argue that even if this Court had jurisdiction, plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.


         A. Rule 12(b)(1)

         Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1) requires dismissal of an action if the court lacks jurisdiction over the subject matter of the plaintiff's claim. Motions submitted under that rule allow a party to challenge the court's subject matter jurisdiction based upon the allegations on the face of the complaint. Barrera-Montenegro v. United States, 74 F.3d 657, 659 (5th Cir. 1996); see also Lopez v. City of Dallas, No. 03-2223, 2006 WL 1450420, at *2 (N.D. Tex. May 24, 2006).

         If the court lacks the statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate a claim, the claim must be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Home Builders Ass'n of Mississippi, Inc. v. City of Madison, Miss., 143 F.3d 1006, 1010 (5th Cir. 1998). A court has federal question jurisdiction when the plaintiff's claim arises under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States. 28 U.S.C. § 1331. A claim arises under federal law when federal law creates the cause of action. Grable & Sons Metal Prods., Inc. v. Darue Eng'g & Mfg., 545 U.S. 308, 312 (2005). When “a private citizen relies on a federal statute as the basis of federal question jurisdiction, that statute must provide a private cause of action, or else a federal court will not have subject matter jurisdiction to hear the dispute.” Lowe v. ViewPoint Bank, 972 F.Supp.2d 947, 954 (N.D. Tex. 2013) (citing Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals Inc. v. Thompson, 478 U.S. 804, 817 (1986)).

         In ruling on a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss, the court may rely on (1) the complaint alone, presuming the allegations to be true, (2) the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts, or (3) the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts and by the court's resolution of disputed facts. Den Norske Stats Oljeselskap As v. HeereMac Vof, 241 F.3d 420, 424 (5th Cir. 2001); see also Barrera-Montenegro, 74 F.3d at 659. A court's dismissal of a case for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction is not a decision on the merits, and the dismissal does not necessarily prevent the plaintiff from pursuing the claim in another forum. See Hitt v. City of Pasadena, 561 F.2d 606, 608 (5th Cir. 1977).

         B. Rule 12(b)(6)

         When a defendant attacks the complaint because it fails to state a legally cognizable claim, Rule 12(b)(6) provides the appropriate challenge. To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, plaintiffs must plead enough facts “to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 547 (2007)). A claim is facially plausible when a plaintiff pleads facts that allow the court to “draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. at 678. A court must accept all well-pleaded facts as true and must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiffs. Lormand v. U.S. Unwired, Inc., 565 F.3d 228, 232-33 (5th Cir. 2009); Baker v. Putnal, 75 F.3d 190, 196 (5th Cir. 1996). But the Court is not bound to accept as true legal conclusions couched as factual allegations. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         A legally sufficient complaint must establish more than a “sheer possibility” that plaintiffs' claim is true. Id. It need not contain detailed factual allegations, but it must go beyond labels, legal conclusions, or formulaic recitations of the elements of a cause of action. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. In other words, the face of the complaint must contain enough factual matter to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of each element of the plaintiffs' claim. Lormand, 565 F.3d at 255-57. If there are insufficient factual allegations to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, or if it is apparent from the face of ...

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