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Macklin v. United States

August 13, 2002

ORVILLE MACKLIN, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. No. 99 C 1344--J.P. Stadtmueller, Chief Judge.

Before Bauer, Ripple and Kanne, Circuit Judges.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ripple, Circuit Judge

ARGUED JUNE 3, 2002

On November 16, 1999, Orville Macklin ("Mr. Macklin") filed this quiet title action against the United States. Mr. Macklin challenged the validity of a federal tax lien that the Internal Revenue Service ("IRS") had recorded against his property during August 1993. The United States moved to dismiss the action, submitting that Mr. Macklin had failed to file his claim within the applicable statute of limitations period. The district court agreed and granted the Government's motion. For the reasons set forth in the following opinion, we affirm the judgment of the district court.

I.

BACKGROUND

In July 1991, the IRS imposed a sizable tax assessment against Mr. Macklin's son, Gerald Macklin ("Gerald"). When the taxes remained unpaid in 1993, the IRS proceeded to federal court and obtained a ruling that reduced the assessment to judgment. Soon after, the IRS concluded that Gerald held a property interest in a parcel of land located in Waukesha County, Wisconsin ("Waukesha property"). *fn1 Notably, Mr. Macklin, Gerald's father, purported to be the sole owner of the Waukesha property.

On August 6, 1993, the IRS filed a notice of a nominee tax lien *fn2 against the Waukesha property in the Register of Deeds' Office for Waukesha County, Wisconsin. Filed on IRS Form 668, the notice not only identified the taxpayer as "Orville Macklin, nominee of Gerald Macklin" but also set forth the street address of the Waukesha property. In a letter dated August 16, 1993, the IRS informed Mr. Macklin of this action. A copy of the nominee lien was enclosed with the letter. In the years that followed, Mr. Macklin demanded on several occasions that the IRS remove the tax lien. The IRS denied his requests.

On November 16, 1999, over six years after the IRS recorded the lien, Mr. Macklin filed this action against the United States. The complaint, which contained no jurisdictional statement, alleged that the tax lien against the Waukesha property was invalid. *fn3 As such, Mr. Macklin requested that the lien be stricken from the records of the Register of Deeds' Office.

Construing Mr. Macklin's claim as an action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2410--a provision waiving the Government's sovereign immunity to certain quiet title actions-the United States moved to dismiss the complaint. According to the Government, Mr. Macklin had failed to bring his action within what it deemed the applicable six-year statute of limitations period, 28 U.S.C. § 2401(a). The Government emphasized that this latter provision conditioned the waiver of sovereign immunity found in § 2410 and barred all civil actions against the United States "unless the complaint is filed within six years after the right of action first accrues." 28 U.S.C. § 2401(a). In the Government's estimation, Mr. Macklin had failed to comply with this requirement, thereby barring his action against the United States. *fn4

After considering the parties' submissions, the district court dismissed Mr. Macklin's action. According to the district court, the Government correctly asserted that 28 U.S.C. § 2401(a) conditioned the waiver of sovereign immunity found in 28 U.S.C. § 2410. Given this conclusion, Mr. Macklin's action against the Government could proceed no further. In particular, the district court noted that Mr. Macklin's claim accrued on August 6, 1993, the date on which the IRS filed the nominee lien on the Waukesha property. Having filed his complaint six years after this event, November 16, 1999, Mr. Macklin brought his claim outside the applicable statute of limitations period, rendering his action time-barred.

II.

DISCUSSION

Mr. Macklin submits that he properly invoked the waiver of sovereign immunity embodied in 28 U.S.C. § 2410, thereby allowing his quiet title action against the United States to proceed. To maintain a viable claim against the United States in federal court, a party must satisfy two requirements. In particular, the plaintiff not only must identify a statute that confers subject matter jurisdiction on the district court but also a federal law that waives the sovereign immunity of the United States to the cause of action. See Harrell v. United States, 13 F.3d 232, 234 (7th Cir. ...


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