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Angsten v. Blameuser

November 16, 2005

PETER J. ANGSTEN AND CONSTANCE J. ANGSTEN PLAINTIFFS,
v.
GEORGE P. BLAMEUSER, CLIFFORD B. OTTO, NORBERT SAUERS, AND KEVIN K. WINKLER DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Marvin E. Aspen, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiffs Peter and Constance Angsten (the "Angstens") filed this lawsuit, alleging that a neighbor (Blameuser) and two of his associates (Otto and Winkler) repeatedly trespassed on their land, damaged their property and threatened their family in various ways. The Angstens also claim that Norbert Sauers, the Chief of Police and Road Supervisor in their hometown of Bull Valley, Illinois, denied them equal protection of the laws.

Defendants George P. Blameuser, Clifford B. Otto and Kevin K. Winkler ("Movants") filed a motion to dismiss the Angstens' Complaint under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). For the reasons stated below, we grant the motion as to Counts II through IV, and deny it as to Count I.

BACKGROUND

When considering a motion to dismiss under Rules 12(b)(1) and (b)(6), we accept all well-pleaded allegations as true. Treadway v. Gateway Chevrolet Oldsmobile, Inc., 362 F.3d 971, 981 (7th Cir. 2004); Thompson v. Illinois Dep't of Prof'l Regul., 300 F.3d 750, 753 (7th Cir. 2002). The facts as alleged by the Angstens are as follows.

According to the Complaint, Movants conspired to destroy and/or damage property, inflict physical and emotional distress to the Angsten family and "drive the Angstens out of Bull Valley." (Compl. ¶ 7.) Since August 2003, Movants committed numerous overt acts in furtherance of the alleged state-law civilian conspiracy. (Compl. ¶¶ 8-9.) Specifically, Movants trespassed on the Angsten property and damaged trees, bushes, the swimming pool, its equipment, and a barn. (Compl. ¶ 8.) Movants harassed the Angstens by, among other things, causing "smoke and noxious fumes to enter" their property and threatening to kill family members. (Id.) Movants also "subjected the Angstens to unwarranted policy investigations, scrutiny and threats of arrest" by falsely accusing them of violations. (Id.) In addition to the conspiracy charge (Count II), the Complaint asserts a trespass claim against Winkler (Count III) and an intentional infliction of emotional distress claim against the Movants (Count IV). (Compl. ¶¶ 21-23, 25-28.)

In Count I of their Complaint, the Angstens also claim that Chief of Police Sauers, acting under the color of law, deprived them of the equal protection of the laws. (Compl. ¶¶ 13, 15.) Although Sauers knew about the ongoing conspiracy perpetrated by Movants, he intentionally refused to stop their unlawful conduct because he "did not like the Angstens." (Compl. ¶¶ 12, 15.) The Angstens assert that Sauers can be held liable for this Constitutional violation under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Compl. ¶¶ 6, 14.)

Movants contend that this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the Angstens' claims. (Mot. Dismiss ¶¶ 7, 10-12.) According to Movants, Count I fails to establish federal subject matter jurisdiction over the purported Section 1983 claim and, therefore, cannot be the basis for supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining claims. (Mot. Dismiss ¶¶ 7, 10-12.) They also complain that the Angstens' allegations of conspiracy are insufficient to state a claim under Section 1983. (Mot. Dismiss ¶ 9. ) Movants further argue that even if Count I sets forth a federal claim, it does not share a common nucleus of operative fact with Counts II through IV to justify our exercise of supplemental jurisdiction. (Reply ¶¶ 5-6.)

STANDARD OF REVIEW

The purpose of a motion to dismiss under Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) is to test the sufficiency of the complaint, not decide the merits of the case. See Gibson v. City of Chicago, 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). Accordingly, dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) is warranted only if the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claims that would entitle him to relief. See Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99, 102 (1957).

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) requires dismissal of claims over which the federal court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. Jurisdiction is the "power to decide" and must be conferred upon the federal court. In re Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific R.R. Co., 794 F.2d 1182, 1188 (7th Cir. 1986). In reviewing a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, the Court may look beyond the complaint to other evidence submitted by the parties. See United Transp. Union v. Gateway W. Ry. Co., 78 F.3d 1208, 1210 (7th Cir. 1996). The plaintiff faced with a 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss bears the burden of establishing that the jurisdictional requirements have been met. See Kontos v. U. S. Dept. Labor, 826 F.2d 573, 576 (7th Cir. 1987).

ANALYSIS

As the Seventh Circuit has observed, "[s]ubject-matter jurisdiction is the first question in every case, and if the court concludes that it lacks jurisdiction it must proceed no further." Illinois v. City of Chicago, 137 F.3d 474, 478 (7th Cir. 1998). Therefore, we must first evaluate whether we have subject matter jurisdiction --original or supplemental -- over the Angstens' claims. If we have ...


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