United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, E.D
September 30, 1969
HARRY R. BOOTH, PLAINTIFF,
LEMONT MANUFACTURING CORPORATION, A CORPORATION; CECO STEEL PRODUCTS CORPORATION, A CORPORATION; PUBLICKER CHEMICAL CORPORATION, A CORPORATION; AMERICAN OIL COMPANY, A CORPORATION; TIM INCORPORATED, A CORPORATION; UNION TANK CAR COMPANY, A CORPORATION; H K H DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, A CORPORATION; CORN PRODUCTS COMPANY, A CORPORATION; METROPOLITAN SANITARY DISTRICT OF GREATER CHICAGO, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, DEFENDANTS.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robson, District Judge.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO DISMISS
The defendants move this court to dismiss the amended complaint
filed by the plaintiff as a taxpayers' class action against The
Metropolitan Sanitary District of Greater Chicago (Sanitary
District) and certain corporations which have leased or subleased
real estate owned by the Sanitary District. For the reasons set
forth below, this court is of the opinion the motions to dismiss
should be granted.
The plaintiff alleges that the manner in which the leases were
executed and the terms of the leases in question were improper
and unlawful. He further asserts that the leases violate the
taxpayers' federal constitutional rights, and are void or subject
FEDERAL QUESTION JURISDICTION
The defendants, inter alia, contend that this is a municipal
law dispute lacking any subject matter basis for this court's
jurisdiction. The plaintiff invokes jurisdiction under
28 U.S.C. § 1331. Specifically, he claims that this case arises under the
Constitution of the United States because the manner in which the
leases were executed and the terms of the leases in question
violate the standards of due process and equal protection
guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. However, claims based
upon mismanagement or fraud involving public property by
municipal officials do not state an injury to federal
constitutional rights. Otto v. Somers, 332 F.2d 697 (6th Cir.
1964), cert. den. 379 U.S. 1002, 85 S.Ct. 723, 13 L.Ed.2d 703
(1965); Hickey v. Illinois Central Railroad, 278 F.2d 529 (7th
Cir. 1960), cert. den. 364 U.S. 918, 81 S.Ct. 284, 5 L.Ed. 2d 259
The plaintiff also asserts that federal question jurisdiction
exists because Illinois requires that a plaintiff in a taxpayer's
action show that he suffered special injury in order to have
standing. He contends that application of the special injury rule
is also a denial of due process and equal protection of the law.
However, federal jurisdiction cannot be predicated on an
allegedly unconstitutional defense which could be or was asserted
in a state action. Skelly
Oil Co. v. Phillips Petroleum Co., 339 U.S. 667, 70 S.Ct. 876, 94
L.Ed. 1194 (1950); Louisville & Nashville R.R. v. Mottley,
211 U.S. 149, 29 S.Ct. 42, 53 L. Ed. 126 (1908). See also Chance v.
County Board of School Trustees of McHenry County, Illinois,
332 F.2d 971 (7th Cir. 1964). Furthermore, the Illinois special
injury rule applies equally to all citizens and taxpayers, and
cannot be said to conflict with due process or equal protection
requirements. It does not discriminate on the basis of financial
condition, extent of property owned, or any other consideration
which could be deemed arbitrary or invidious. See Booth v.
General Dynamics Corp., 264 F. Supp. 465 (N.D.Ill. 1967). The rule
only requires that the complaining taxpayer allege and prove a
direct injury. This requirement, if declared unconstitutional,
would force state courts to entertain the most remote taxpayer's
complaints without limitation. For these reasons, the amended
complaint fails to a state a claim arising under the Constitution
or laws of the United States, and this court therefore does not
have federal question jurisdiction.
The plaintiff attempts to aggregate the taxpayers' claims in
this class action in order to satisfy the statutory requirement
that the amount in controversy exceed the sum or value of
$10,000. 28 U.S.C. § 1331. It is undisputed that no single
taxpayer has a claim against any of the defendants even
approaching $10,000. The Supreme Court has recently held that
separate and distinct claims presented by and for various
claimants may not be aggregated to provide the requisite $10,000
jurisdictional amount. Snyder v. Harris, 394 U.S. 332, 89 S.Ct.
1053, 22 L.Ed.2d 319 (1969). In that decision, the Supreme Court
also ruled that class action claims can be aggregated as "joint
and common claims" only if such claims have traditionally been
subject to aggregation. The weight of federal case authority
substantiates the defendants' contention that taxpayers' claims
relating to property rights may not be aggregated. Scott v.
Frazier, 253 U.S. 243, 40 S.Ct. 503, 64 L.Ed. 883 (1920); Vraney
v. County of Pinellas, 250 F.2d 617 (5th Cir. 1958); Fuller v.
Volk, 351 F.2d 323 (3rd Cir. 1965). This court therefore
concludes that the plaintiff has failed to meet the required
Because of the dispositive nature of the jurisdictional issues
discussed above, it is unnecessary to rule upon the multitude of
theories and conclusory allegations asserted in the plaintiff's
voluminous pleadings. This court observes, however, that many of
the identical claims concerning the validity of the leases before
this court have been previously litigated in the Illinois courts.
E.g., Booth v. Metropolitan Sanitary District of Greater
Chicago, et al., 79 Ill. App.2d 310, 224 N.E.2d 591 (1st Dist.
1967); H.K.H. Development Corp. v. The Metropolitan Sanitary
District of Greater Chicago, et al., 47 Ill. App.2d 46,
196 N.E.2d 494 (1st Dist. 1964), and 97 Ill. App.2d 225, 240 N.E.2d 214 (1st
It is therefore ordered that the defendants' motions to dismiss
be, and they are hereby granted, and the cause is hereby
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