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Trustees of Marion Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses v. City of Marion

December 26, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Murphy, District Judge


This matter is before the Court on the motion to dismiss brought by Defendant City of Marion ("Marion") (Doc. 8) and the motion to dismiss brought by Defendant Karco Recycling, LLC ("Karco") (Doc. 14). For the following reasons, the motions are GRANTED, and the claims for violations of constitutional due process asserted in Count I and Count II of the complaint in this cause are DISMISSED without prejudice for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Court DECLINES to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the pendent state-law claims asserted in Counts III-VII of the complaint, and those claims are DISMISSED without prejudice.


This action involves a challenge to certain zoning decisions taken by Marion with respect to the operation of an automobile-shredding complex by Karco. Plaintiffs Trustees of Marion Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses, Jerry and Greta Cooksey, Carol and Ronald Reed, Don and Barbara Gunnell, Brenda and Opal Waide, Toni Wild, Cindy Simmons, Dennis and Kim Spencer, Joe and Linda Kinley, Larry and Dona Howell, Bill and Lucille Whitehead, Ezera L. Miller, Joseph Miller, Dale Follis, Theresa Hill, David and Bernadine Jennings, Margaret Dolce, Lyle R. Copher, and Tery and Kara Bisching allege that they own property adjacent to a parcel of real property commonly referred to as 9450 State Route 148 South, Marion, Williamson County, Illinois, which was purchased by Karco on May 18, 2006. Plaintiffs allege that on June 12, 2006, Marion's city council approved Ordinance 2087 annexing a portion of the Crab Orchard & Egyptian Railroad's railway line, thereby making Karco's property contiguous with that of Marion. Plaintiffs allege further that on July 17, 2006, Marion's city council approved Ordinance 2094, which amended Ordinance 1148, adopted on June 1, 1987, governing the rezoning of rural and agricultural property to industrial property. The amendment approved as a permitted use of industrial property under Section 1 of Article X of Ordinance 1148 a "[f]ull service recycling facility with automobile shredder," and deleted a portion of Section 4 of Article X of Ordinance 1148 requiring that "[a]ll production, processing, cleaning, servicing, testing, repair, or storage activities shall be conducted entirely within enclosed buildings." Complaint ¶¶ 18-19. Plaintiffs allege that on July 24, 2006, on Karco's application, Marion's city council passed Ordinance 2095, which annexed Karco's property into that of Marion, and Ordinance 2096, which rezoned Karco's property from rural and agricultural to industrial.

Plaintiffs' complaint asserts seven counts. Count I and Count II, which are brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, allege that the annexation of Karco's property into that of Marion and the rezoning of the property for industrial use violate, respectively, Plaintiffs' constitutional substantive due process and procedural due process rights. Count III asserts a claim for quo warranto. Count IV requests a judicial declaration of the invalidity of Ordinance 2095 under Illinois law. Count V requests an injunction against the enforcement of Ordinance 2095. Count VI requests a judicial declaration of the invalidity of Ordinance 2096 under Illinois law. Count VII requests an injunction against the enforcement of Ordinance 2096. Federal subject matter jurisdiction is asserted on the basis of 28 U.S.C. § 1331 with respect to Count I and Count II of the complaint; jurisdiction is asserted with respect to Counts III-VII on the basis of 28 U.S.C. § 1367. Both Marion and Karco have moved to dismiss the constitutional claims asserted in Count I and Count II of the complaint as unripe. Additionally, Karco argues that it is not a state actor and hence not a proper party Defendant with respect to the constitutional claims, and further asks the Court to abstain in this case under the doctrines enunciated in Railroad Commission of Texas v. Pullman Co., 312 U.S. 496 (1941), and Burford v. Sun Oil Co., 319 U.S. 315 (1943). Having reviewed carefully the submissions of the parties and conducted a hearing on the motions to dismiss, the Court now rules as follows.


A. Dismissal for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction

1. Legal Standard

In evaluating a request for dismissal under Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, "the district court must accept as true all well-pleaded factual allegations, and draw reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff." Ezekiel v. Michel, 66 F.3d 894, 897 (7th Cir. 1995) (citing Rueth v. EPA, 13 F.3d 227, 229 (7th Cir. 1993)). See also United Transp. Union v. Gateway W. Ry. Co., 78 F.3d 1208, 1210 (7th Cir. 1996). In order to determine if subject matter jurisdiction exists, "[t]he district court may properly look beyond the jurisdictional allegations of the complaint and view whatever evidence has been submitted on the issue[.]" Ezekiel, 66 F.3d at 897. See also Capitol Leasing Co. v. FDIC, 999 F.2d 188, 191 (7th Cir. 1993); Freiburger v. Emery Air Charter, Inc., 795 F. Supp. 253, 256-57 (N.D. Ill. 1992). If the factual basis for subject matter jurisdiction is contested, the plaintiff has the burden of bringing forward "competent proof" of the existence of subject matter jurisdiction. Johnson v. Equitable Life Assurance Soc'y of U.S., No. 96 C 2418, 1997 WL 417409, at *2 (N.D. Ill. July 22, 1997). In other words, a plaintiff must prove to the court by "a preponderance of the evidence . . . that jurisdiction exists." Villasenor v. Industrial Wire & Cable, Inc., 929 F. Supp. 310, 312-13 (N.D. Ill. 1996) (quoting NLFC, Inc. v. Devcom Mid-America, Inc., 45 F.3d 231, 237 (7th Cir. 1995)). See also Johns v. Johns Mitchell, No. 06-924-GPM, 2007 WL 496391, at *1 (S.D. Ill. Feb. 13, 2007).

2. Ripeness

In general, Article III of the Constitution restricts the jurisdiction of federal courts to "cases or controversies," and prohibits such courts from issuing advisory opinions. Hinrichs v. Whitburn, 975 F.2d 1329, 1333 (7th Cir. 1992) (citing Wisconsin's Envtl. Decade, Inc. v. State Bar of Wis., 747 F.2d 407, 410 (7th Cir. 1984)). Implicit in these requirements is the doctrine of ripeness, which provides generally that federal courts may not adjudicate cases where "the parties point only to hypothetical, speculative, or illusory disputes as opposed to actual, concrete conflicts." Id. See also Lehn v. Holmes, 364 F.3d 862, 867 (7th Cir. 2004) (explaining that the ripeness doctrine stems from "the . . . central perception . . . that courts should not render decisions absent a genuine need to resolve a real dispute."). The ripeness doctrine has both a constitutional component based on Article III and a prudential component based on the discretionary power of a court to refuse review for policy concerns. See Reno v. Catholic Soc. Servs., Inc., 509 U.S. 43, 57 n.18 (1993); Sprint Spectrum L.P. v. City of Carmel, Ind., 361 F.3d 998, 1002 (7th Cir. 2004). "[C]oncern with the contingency of future events is at the core of the ripeness doctrine." Alcan Aluminum Ltd. v. Oregon Dep't of Revenue, 724 F.2d 1294, 1295 n.1 (7th Cir. 1984). See also 13A Charles Alan Wright, Arthur R. Miller, Edward H. Cooper & Richard D. Freer, Federal Practice & Procedure § 3532 (3d ed. 1998 & Supp. 2007) ("The central concern [of the ripeness doctrine] is whether the case involves uncertain or contingent future events that may not occur as anticipated, or indeed may not occur at all.") (collecting cases). In determining whether a case is ripe, a court will consider two factors: (1) whether the issue is fit for judicial decision; and, if not, (2) whether there will be any hardship to the parties if the court withholds consideration. See Texas v. United States, 523 U.S. 296, 300-01 (1998); Pacific Gas & Elec. Co. v. State Energy Res. Conservation & Dev. Comm'n, 461 U.S. 190, 201 (1983); Commodity Trend Serv., Inc. v. CFTC, 233 F.3d 981, 985 (7th Cir. 2000). A plaintiff has the burden of proving a case is ripe for adjudication. See Ostergren v. Village of Oak Lawn, 125 F. Supp. 2d 312, 323 (N.D. Ill. 2000).

As a general rule, of course, there is no requirement that a plaintiff asserting a deprivation of constitutional rights by persons acting under color of state law must exhaust administrative remedies before bringing an action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Patsy v. Florida Bd. of Regents, 457 U.S. 496, 516 (1982); Wudtke v. Davel, 128 F.3d 1057, 1063 (7th Cir. 1997). However, in the context of constitutional challenges to local land use regulation, the ripeness doctrine imposes on litigants a duty to pursue state remedies before seeking recourse to federal court. In Williamson County Regional Planning Commission v. Hamilton Bank of Johnson City, 473 U.S. 172 (1985), the Court held that before initiating a constitutional challenge to local land use regulation in federal court, a plaintiff must demonstrate that he or she has both received a "final decision regarding the application of the [challenged] regulations to the property at issue" from "the government entity charged with implementing the regulations," and has sought "compensation through the procedures the State has provided for doing so." Id. at 186, 194. See also Forseth v. Village of Sussex, 199 F.3d 363, 372 (7th Cir. 2000) (quoting Williamson County, 473 U.S. at 186-87, 194) ("[B]efore a federal court may adjudicate land-use disputes, . . . the plaintiff must demonstrate that he or she received a 'final decision' from the relevant government entity . . . and . . . the plaintiff must have sought 'compensation through the procedures the State has provided for doing so.'"); Gamble v. Eau Claire County, 5 F.3d 285, 286 (7th Cir. 1993) ("[T]he landowner cannot complain that his constitutional right has been denied until he exhausts his remedies for obtaining a compensation award or equivalent relief from the state."). As the Williamson County Court explained, "no constitutional violation occurs until just compensation has been denied," which therefore obligates the "property owner [to] utilize procedures for obtaining compensation before bringing a § 1983 action." 473 U.S. at 194 n.13.

The special restrictions on ripeness created by Williamson County in the context of constitutional challenges to local land use regulation are prudential, rather than based on Article III. See Suitum v. Tahoe Reg'l Planning Agency, 520 U.S. 725, 733 n.7 (1997). Importantly, those restrictions apply regardless of whether a landowner asserts an allegedly unconstitutional deprivation of property for a public or private use, see Forseth, 199 F.3d at 369 n.8; Covington Court, Ltd. v. Village of Oak Brook, 77 F.3d 177, 179 (7th Cir. 1996), and regardless of whether the relief sought is legal or equitable. See Peters v. Village of Clifton, 498 F.3d 727, 730, 732-33 (7th Cir. 2007); Patel v. City of Chicago, 383 F.3d 569, 574 (7th Cir. 2004); Wisconsin Cent. Ltd. v. Wisconsin Pub. Serv. Comm'n, 95 F.3d 1359, 1369 (7th Cir. 1996). Accord Von Kerssenbrock-Praschma v. Sauders, 121 F.3d 373, 379 (8th Cir. 1997); Bickerstaff Clay Prods. Co. v. Harris County, Ga., 89 F.3d 1481, 1490 (11th Cir. 1996); MHC Fin. Ltd. P'ship v. City of San Rafael, No. C 00-3785 VRW, 2006 WL 3507937, at *7 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 5, 2006). Finally, the Williamson County restrictions apply regardless of whether a constitutional challenge to local land use regulation is asserted under the rubric of substantive due process or procedural due process. As the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has instructed, "a property owner may not avoid Williamson by applying the label 'substantive due process' to the claim . . . . So too with the label 'procedural due process.' Labels do not matter. A person contending that state or local regulation of the use of land has gone overboard must repair to state court." River Park, Inc. v. City of Highland Park, 23 F.3d 164, 167 (7th Cir. 1994). See also Hager v. City of W. Peoria, 84 F.3d 865, 869 (7th Cir. 1996) (stating that "[t]he exhaustion requirement of Williamson County applies whether plaintiffs claim an uncompensated taking, inverse condemnation, or due process violation.").*fn1

The Court turns to the matter of the state-law remedies available to Plaintiffs for challenging the annexation and zoning decisions at issue in this case. Considering first the matter of annexations, under Illinois law an annexation of property by a municipality is initiated by the filing of a petition for annexation by a landowner. See 65 ILCS 5/7-1-2; In re Petition to Annex Certain Territory to Vill. of North Barrington, 579 N.E.2d 880, 884 (Ill. 1991); In re Petition for Annexation of Certain Prop. to Vill. of Plainfield, Ill., 642 N.E.2d 502, 504 (Ill. App. Ct. 1994); In re Petition to Annex Certain Prop. to City of Wood Dale, 611 N.E.2d 606, 612 (Ill. App. Ct. 1993). Concerning objections to annexation, the Illinois Municipal Code provides, in pertinent part:

After the filing of the petition but not less than 5 days prior to the date fixed for the hearing, any interested person may file with the circuit clerk his objections (1) that the territory described in the petition or ordinance, as the case may be, is not contiguous to the annexing municipality, (2) that the petition is not signed by the requisite number of electors or property owners of record, (3) that the description of the territory contained in the petition or ordinance, as the case may be, is inadequate, or (4) that the objector's land is located on the perimeter of such territory, that he does not desire annexation, and that exclusion of his land will not destroy the contiguity of such described property with the annexing municipality.

65 ILCS 5/7-1-3. See also City of E. St. Louis v. Touchette, 150 N.E.2d 178, 181-82 (Ill. 1958); City of ...

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