United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana
PEOPLE'S WORKSHOP, INC., ET AL.
FEDERAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY, ET AL.
RULING AND ORDER
W. deGRAVELLES, JUDGE.
case is before the Court on two Motions to Dismiss. The first
Motion to Dismiss was filed by the Federal Emergency
Management Agency (“FEMA”) and John F. Kelly, the
Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security
(“DHS”). (Doc. 13). Plaintiffs People's
Workshop, Inc., and the individually named Plaintiffs oppose
this Motion. (Doc. 20).
second Motion to Dismiss was filed by FEMA and DHS as an
entity. (Doc. 58). Plaintiffs oppose this Motion, (Doc. 63),
and FEMA and DHS have replied in further support of it, (Doc.
reasons discussed below, Defendants' Motions are granted,
and Plaintiffs' claims against them are dismissed.
Dismissal is with leave to amend and an extension of time to
August 2016, the town of Clinton, Louisiana, which is located
in East Feliciana Parish, was devastated by historic
flooding. (Doc. 1 at 2). As a result, President Obama
declared a state of emergency in Louisiana. (Id. at
6). According to Plaintiffs, under the Stafford Act (the
“Act”), victims of a disaster who are displaced
from their homes are eligible for housing assistance from
FEMA in one of two forms, either financial or
“direct” (i.e., in the form of an actual
unit of temporary housing). (Id. at 5 (citing 42
U.S.C. § 5174)). Plaintiffs argue that the Act requires
FEMA to provide this relief to eligible persons on a
non-discriminatory basis. (Id. at 14).
their alleged statutory right to assistance, Plaintiffs argue
that many victims, themselves included, have requested
housing assistance but have not received it, have unlawfully
been denied it, have not been properly notified of both the
scope and conditions of available assistance, or have been
relocated to other parishes despite the presence of available
land in Clinton. (Id. at 7-9). Plaintiffs also
contend that People's Workshop met with local FEMA
representatives after acquiring land that could have been
used as a trailer park in Clinton, but that the
representatives “became irate, belligerent, and
prejudiced towards the notion of the flood victims having a
group trailer site in their own community.”
(Id. at 6-7). Plaintiffs appear to contend that this
occurred after the local FEMA representatives learned that
the flood victims are African Americans. (Id. at
24). Some representatives from FEMA have also allegedly
failed to properly assess flooding damage to Plaintiffs'
property. (Id. at 8).
filed this suit seeking declaratory and injunctive relief
requiring FEMA to, inter alia, provide all eligible
applicants with temporary housing assistance within a
reasonable period of time and to prevent Defendants from
establishing a “trailer group site” outside of
Clinton. (Id. at 25). As grounds for this relief,
Plaintiffs allege that the Defendants have violated
provisions of the Stafford Act and the Due Process Clause of
the U.S. Constitution. (Id. at 18-24).
instant Motions seek relief under Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure (“Rules”) 12(b)(1), 12(b)(2), 12(b)(5)
and 12(b)(6). The Court addresses each standard in turn.
the standard for Rule 12(b)(1) motions, the Fifth Circuit has
Motions filed under Rule 12(b)(1) . . . allow a party to
challenge the subject matter jurisdiction of the district
court to hear a case. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). Lack of subject
matter jurisdiction may be found in any one of three
instances: (1) the complaint alone; (2) the complaint
supplemented by undisputed facts evidenced in the record; or
(3) the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts plus the
court's resolution of disputed facts.
Barrera-Montenegro v. United States, 74 F.3d 657,
659 (5th Cir. 1996).
The burden of proof for a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss is
on the party asserting jurisdiction. McDaniel v. United
States, 899 F.Supp. 305, 307 (E.D. Tex. 1995).
Accordingly, the plaintiff constantly bears the burden of
proof that jurisdiction does in fact exist. Menchaca v.
Chrysler Credit Corp., 613 F.2d 507, 511 (5th Cir.
When a Rule 12(b)(1) motion is filed in conjunction with
other Rule 12 motions, the court should consider the Rule
12(b)(1) jurisdictional attack before addressing any attack
on the merits. Hitt v. City of Pasadena, 561 F.2d
606, 608 (5th Cir. 1977) (per curiam). . . .
In examining a Rule 12(b)(1) motion, the district court is
empowered to consider matters of fact which may be in
dispute. Williamson v. Tucker, 645 F.2d 404, 413
(5th Cir. 1981). Ultimately, a motion to dismiss for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction should be granted only if it
appears certain that the plaintiff cannot prove any set of
facts in support of his claim that would entitle plaintiff to
relief. Home Builders Ass'n of Miss., Inc. v. City of
Madison, Miss., 143 F.3d 1006, 1010 (5th Cir.1998).
Ramming v. United States, 281 F.3d 158, 161 (5th
12(b)(2) allows a party to move to dismiss for lack of
personal jurisdiction. “Where a defendant challenges
personal jurisdiction, the party seeking to invoke the power
of the court bears the burden of proving that jurisdiction
exists.” Luv N'Care, Ltd. v. Insta-Mix,
Inc., 438 F.3d 465, 469 (5th Cir. 2006) (citing
Wyatt v. Laplan, 686 F.2d 276, 280 (5th Cir. 1982)).
When a court rules on a motion to dismiss for lack of
personal jurisdiction without holding an evidentiary hearing,
the plaintiff need only make a prima facie showing of
personal jurisdiction. Johnston v. Multidata Systems
Intern. Corp., 523 F.3d 602, 609 (5th Cir. 2008)
(quoting Buillion v. Gillepsie, 895 F.2d 213, 217
(5th Cir. 1990) (citations omitted)). “Moreover, on a
motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, uncontroverted
allegations in the plaintiff's complaint must be taken as
true, and conflicts between the facts contained in the
parties' affidavits must be resolved in the
plaintiff's favor for purposes of determining whether a
prima facie case for personal jurisdiction exists.”
Id. (“Proof by preponderance of the evidence
is not required.”). However, in assessing whether the
plaintiff has presented a prima facie case of personal
jurisdiction, the court “will not ‘credit
conclusory allegations, even if uncontroverted.'”
Sealed Appellant 1 v. Sealed Appellee 1, 625
Fed.Appx. 628, 631 (5th Cir. 2015) (quoting Panda
Brandywine Corp. v. Potomac Elec. Power Co., 253 F.3d
865, 869 (5th Cir. 2001)). The court may consider
“affidavits, interrogatories, depositions, oral
testimony, or any combination of the recognized methods of
discovery.” Revell v. Lidov, 317 F.3d 467, 469
(5th Cir. 2002) (quoting Stuart v. Spademan, 772
F.2d 1185, 1192 (5th Cir. 1985)); cf. Fed. R. Civ.
P. 12(d) (listing only motions under Rule 12(b)(6) and 12(c)
as requiring conversion to summary judgment if evaluated on
matters outside the pleadings).
service of process is an essential part of the procedure for
establishing and proving personal jurisdiction. Carimi v.
Royal Carribean Cruise Line, Inc., 959 F.2d 1344, 1347
(5th Cir. 1992); see also Delta S.S. Lines, Inc. v.
Albano, 768 F.2d 728 (5th Cir. 1985). In the absence of
valid service of process, proceedings against a party are
void. Aetna Business Credit, Inc. v. Universal
Décor & Interior Design, Inc., 635 F.2d 434,
435 (5th Cir. 1981).
Rule of Civil Procedure (“Rule”) 12(b)(5) allows
a party to move to dismiss for insufficient service of
process. The party making service has the burden of
demonstrating its validity when an objection to service is
made. Holly v. Metro. Transit Authority, 213
Fed.Appx. 343 (5th Cir. 2007) (citing Carimi, 959
F.2d at 1346). The district court has broad discretion in
determining whether to dismiss an action for ineffective
service of process. George v. U.S. Dept. of Labor,
Occupational Safety & Health Admin., 788 F.2d 1115,
1116 (5th Cir. 1986).