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Natchitoches Voters and Civil League v. Natchitoches Parish Government

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Alexandria Division

April 27, 2018

NATCHITOCHES VOTERS AND CIVIC LEAGUE
v.
NATCHITOCHES PARISH GOVERNMENT

          MAG. JUDGE, PEREZ-MONTES

          MEMORANDUM RULING

          JAMES T. TRIMBLE, JR., UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the court is a "Motion to Dismiss by Natchitoches Parish Government" (R. #28) (appearing through Rick Nowlin in his Official Capacity as President of the Parish of Natchitoches, and the Natchitoches Parish Council, hereinafter referred to as the "Parish Government"), wherein the mover seeks to dismiss the instant lawsuit because Plaintiff (1) has no standing and (2) has failed to show any justiciable controversy between Plaintiff and/or its members, and Defendant.

         ALLEGATIONS

         Plaintiff, the Natchitoches Voters and Civic League (the "League"), filed the instant declaratory action seeking a declaration of rights under the Head Start Act (the "Act"), in an attempt to outline the relationship between the Natchitoches Parish Government and Head Start and Early Head Start.[1] Plaintiff seeks to have this court interpret and apply 45 CFR 1301, etc. seq.[2] In its complaint, Plaintiff requests that this court answer the following questions:

1. Does the right to hire, fire and discipline employees of Head Start and Early Head Start commence before the Natchitoches Parish Government?
2. Who has the right to hire, fire and discipline employees of Head Start and Early Head Start?
3. Does the right to hire, fire and discipline the executive director of Head Start and Early Head Start commence before the Natchitoches Parish Government?
4. Who has the right to hire, fire and discipline the executive director of Head Start and Early Head Start?
5. What are the rights and duties of the agency?
6. What are the rights and duties of the governing body?
7. What are the rights and duties of the policy council?
8. What role, if any, does the Natchitoches Parish Government play in constituting the policy council?
9. Are the governing body and policy council co-equal bodies?

         The League requests that this court answer these questions, and that the Defendant be enjoined from the following acts regarding the Head Start Program:

(1) Inserting the Office of Community Service in the chain of command;
(2) Allowing the Office of Community Service from making recommendations pertaining to the continued employment/termination of the Head Start Director,
(3) Making employment decisions as they pertain to Head Start and Early Head Start; and
(4) Playing a role in the constituting of the policy council.

         STANDARD OF LAW

         A motion to dismiss for lack of standing is properly brought under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1).[3] The Supreme Court has held that there must be an actual controversy that is justiciable under Article III for actions brought pursuant to the Declaratory Judgment Act in order for a court to declare the rights and other legal relations.[4] To meet the standing requirement under Article III, the party invoking federal jurisdiction must show (1) it has suffered an "injury in fact" that is (a) concrete and particularized and (b) actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical; (2) the injury is fairly traceable to the challenged action of the defendant; and (3) it is likely, as opposed to merely speculative, that the injury will be redressed by a favorable decision.[5]

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires that pleadings which state one or more claims for relief must contain "...a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief..." This "notice pleading" requirement is balanced against Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) which provides that a court may dismiss one or more claims when the pleader fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.

         For the purpose of considering a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the court must take all well-pled factual allegations as true and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.[6] The pleading must allege facts which, when taken as true, raise the pleader's claim to the level of a justiciable controversy. A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim should be denied unless "it appears to a certainty that the plaintiff would be entitled to no relief under any state of facts" alleged in the petition.[7]

         Only those facts which are well-pleaded and state a "plausible claim for relief" must be accepted.[8] A claim is plausible when the court can reasonably infer from the facts that the defendant is liable to the plaintiff; a claim is not plausible when it only states conclusions of a "formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action."[9] However, even those facts which are extremely doubtful are to be assumed correct.[10]

         LAW AND ANALYSIS

         The Parish Government seeks to dismiss the instant lawsuit because The League has no standing; the Parish Government maintains that The League has failed to allege a particular injury as to the League or any of its members. Specifically, the League has failed to show how it or any of its members would be affected by employment decisions, including those related to the Executive Director. The complaint does not allege that a termination has occurred, will occur, and if so, how it would affect The League and/or any of its members. Moreover, the complaint fails to show any actual controversy that would be resolved through a Declaratory Judgment.

         In an attempt to establish "standing", The League alleges that it is in the business of protecting the rights of African-Americans, and its purpose is to improve the political, educational, social and economic status of minority and poor people in the Natchitoches Parish communities.[11] The League argues that several of its members have standing to bring this matter.[12]

         In its amending petition, the League complains that the "Head Start Agency" has never officially established a governing body as mandated by 45 CFR 1301.1.[13] It further complains that the Parish Government prohibited the policy council from doing the following:

a. Activities to support the active involvement of parents in supporting program operations, including policies to ensure that the Head State agency is ...

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