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Davis v. State of Missouri

United States District Court, D. Kansas

June 26, 2017

RONALD E. DAVIS, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF MISSOURI, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          JULIE A. ROBINSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Ronald Davis, proceeding pro se, filed this action alleging state-law negligence and Fourteenth Amendment due process violations against Defendant State of Missouri for providing local counsel for the California Franchise Tax Board (“FTB”) in a separate lawsuit filed in this Court.[1] This matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 7) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) and failure to state a claim under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). In conjunction with this motion, the Court will also consider (1) Plaintiff's Application for Clerk's Entry of Default (Doc. 4); (2) Defendant's Motion for Extension of Time to File Answer (Doc. 6);[2] and (3) Plaintiff's Motion for the Court to Act (Doc. 11). These motions are fully briefed, [3] and the Court is prepared to rule. For the reasons explained more fully below, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 7) is granted; Plaintiff's Application for Clerk's Entry of Default (Doc. 4) is moot; Defendant's Motion for Extension of Time to File Answer (Doc. 6) is moot; and Plaintiff's Motion for the Court to Act (Doc. 11) is moot.

         I. Legal Standard

         “‘Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, ' possessing ‘only that power authorized by Constitution and statute.'”[4] Federal district courts have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States or where there is diversity of citizenship.[5] “A court lacking jurisdiction cannot render judgment but must dismiss the cause at any stage of the proceedings in which it becomes apparent that jurisdiction is lacking.”[6] The “burden of establishing” a federal court's subject matter jurisdiction “rests upon the party asserting jurisdiction.”[7]

         A motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) takes one of two forms: a facial attack or a factual attack.[8] A “facial attack on the complaint's allegations as to subject matter jurisdiction questions the sufficiency of the complaint, ” and in reviewing a facial attack on the complaint, “a district court must accept the allegations in the complaint as true.”[9] In reviewing a factual attack, “a party may go beyond allegations contained in the complaint and challenge the facts upon which subject matter jurisdiction depends, ” which does not allow a reviewing court to “presume the truthfulness of the complaint's factual allegations.”[10] Rather, a court has “wide discretion to allow affidavits, other documents, and [to conduct] a limited evidentiary hearing to resolve disputed jurisdictional facts” under Rule 12(b)(1).[11]

         Because plaintiff proceeds pro se, the court must construe his filings liberally and hold them to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by attorneys.[12] This liberal standard requires the court to construe a pro se plaintiff's pleadings as stating a valid claim if a reasonable reading of them allows the court to do so “despite the plaintiff's failure to cite proper legal authority, his confusion of various legal theories, his poor syntax and sentence construction, or his unfamiliarity with pleading requirements.”[13] However, the court “cannot take on the responsibility of serving as the litigant's attorney in constructing arguments and searching the record.”[14] Also, the requirement that the court must read a pro se plaintiff's pleadings broadly “does not relieve the plaintiff of the burden of alleging sufficient facts on which a recognized legal claim could be based.”[15] And, a plaintiff's pro se status does not excuse him from complying with federal and local rules.[16]

         II. Discussion

         Plaintiff's Complaint asserts claims against the State of Missouri under the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause, which the Court liberally construes as arising under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, [17] and state-law negligence. Defendant moves to dismiss these claims under Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 12(b)(1). It asserts that the Eleventh Amendment bars Plaintiff's claim against Defendant, and thus the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. The Court agrees, so it does not reach the issue of dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6).

         A. Sovereign Immunity

         The Eleventh Amendment provides: “The Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State.” The Eleventh Amendment grants immunity that “accord[s] states the respect owed them as joint sovereigns, ” “applies to any action brought against a state in federal court, including suits initiated by a state's own citizens, ” and “applies regardless of whether a plaintiff seeks declaratory or injunctive relief, or money damages.”[18] “The ultimate guarantee of the Eleventh Amendment is that nonconsenting States may not be sued by private individuals in federal court.”[19]

         However, there are three exceptions to the Eleventh Amendment's guarantee of sovereign immunity to states:

First, a state may consent to suit in federal court. Second, Congress may abrogate a state's sovereign immunity by appropriate legislation when it acts under Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment. Finally, under Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123, 28 S.Ct. 441, 52 L.Ed. 714 (1908), a plaintiff may bring suit against individual state officers acting in their official capacities if the complaint alleges an ongoing violation of federal law and the plaintiff seeks prospective relief.[20]

         Defendant argues that none of these exceptions are applicable, and that it is entitled to sovereign immunity.

         First, Defendant never waived its Eleventh Amendment immunity by expressly consenting to suit in federal court under § 1983. The “test for determining whether a State has waived its immunity from federal-court jurisdiction is a stringent one.”[21] The court “will find a waiver either if the State voluntarily invokes our jurisdiction, or else if the State makes a ‘clear declaration' that it intends to submit itself to our jurisdiction.”[22] “In deciding whether a State has waived its constitutional protection under the Eleventh Amendment, we will find waiver only where stated ‘by the most express language or by such overwhelming implications from the text as (will) leave no room for any other reasonable construction.'”[23] The State of Missouri has not consented to suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.[24] Moreover, a state is not a person for purposes of § 1983.[25] This exception to sovereign immunity is inapplicable.

         Second, Congress has never abrogated Defendant's Eleventh Amendment immunity through a valid exercise of its power. Congress has not abrogated the states' immunity under § 1983.[26] This exception to sovereign immunity is inapplicable.

         Lastly, the exception for suits challenging the constitutionality of a state official's action enforcing state law is also not applicable. The Supreme Court has held that such a suit is not one against the state itself.[27] Here, there are no state officials named. Also, Plaintiff's Complaint never seeks any ...


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