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Klein v. Village of Mettawa

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

April 25, 2014

EMILY KLEIN AND MICHAEL KLEIN, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS REPRESENTATIVES OF A CLASS OF TAXPAYERS, Plaintiff,
v.
VILLAGE OF METTAWA, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, AND LISA MADIGAN, AS ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

THOMAS M. DURKIN, District Judge.

Emily and Michael Klein allege that the Village of Mettawa denied them a tax rebate in violation of the Illinois constitution, Article IX, section 4 (Count II), and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution (Count III). See R. 1-1.[1] The Klein's also named Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan as a defendant but did not make any allegations against her or the State of Illinois in their complaint. See id. Mettawa and the Attorney General have moved to dismiss the Kleins' claims pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). R. 13; R. 19. For the following reasons, both motions are granted.

Background

On June 20, 2012, Mettawa passed Ordinance Number 720, which was amended on September 18, 2012, as Ordinance Number 726, to correct certain scrivener's errors in Ordinance 720 (the "Ordinance"). R. 1-1 at 3 (¶ 3); id. at 13-23. The Ordinance provided that Mettawa had a $500, 000 revenue surplus and directed that these funds be distributed as a tax rebate in accordance with 35 ILCS 200/30-1 et seq. See id. at 18. The relevant statute section, 35 ILCS 200/30-25(a), provides the following:

At the direction of the corporate authorities of a taxing district, the treasurer of the taxing district shall disburse the amounts held in the tax reimbursement account [D]isbursement shall be made to all of the owners of taxable homestead property within the taxing district. Each owner of taxable homestead property shall receive a proportionate share of the total disbursement based on the amount of ad valorem taxes on taxable homestead property paid by the owner to the taxing district under the most recent tax bill.

"Homestead property" is defined, in relevant part, as "residential property that is occupied by its owner or owners as his or their principal dwelling place." 35 ILCS 200/15-175(f). This definition is the basis for an Illinois tax exemption known as the "homestead exemption." 35 ILCS 200/15-175.

The Ordinance provides that "taxable homestead property" is property in Mettawa "upon which an Owner-occupied single-family detached residence is located which is given [a] homestead exemption by the County of Lake, and concerning which an Owner seeks a Tax Rebate." R. 1-1 at 19. The Ordinance also provides that "Owner-occupied" means "[a] single-family detached residence occupied by an Owner thereof continuously from January 1 through December 31, 2010; being the calendar year for which a Tax Rebate is sought pursuant to this Ordinance." Id. at 19. Additionally, the Owner must "certif[y] that the Owner continued to occupy as the Owner's residence the Taxable Homestead Property continuously from January 1, 2010 through the day of filing an Application for Tax Rebate." Id. at 20. Mettawa property owners seeking this tax rebate were required to submit an application before October 1, 2012. Id. at 20.

Mettawa admits that the Klein's submitted a tax rebate application prior to the October 1 deadline, around August 23, 2012. R. 13 at 5. The Kleins admit that they moved out of the homestead property they owned prior to "the time the rebates were going to be paid." R. 1-1 at 7 (¶ 9(C)), 6 (¶ 8), 3 (¶ 1). Mettawa rejected the Kleins' rebate application by letter dated March 22, 2013, because the Kleins "sold [their] property... in March 2012." Id. at 30.

The Ordinance required Mettawa to return any remaining funds to Mettawa's general fund "as soon as possible after January 1, 2013." R. 1-1 at 22. Mettawa's financial consultant, Dorothy May, submitted a sworn declaration stating that the rebate account was terminated on April 30, 2013. R. 13-1 ¶ 8.

The Kleins filed this complaint on June 5, 2013. R. 1-1 at 3. The Kleins ask the Court to "enjoin[] [Mettawa] from making payments until this matter is decided, " R. 1-1 at 6 (¶ 9(A)), and to "order[] [Mettawa] to pay the property tax rebate to [the Kleins] for the tax years that they owned the homestead property on Shagbark Lane and paid their taxes, " id. at 6 (¶ 9(B)), "notwithstanding the fact that the[y] moved from [Mettawa] at the time the rebates were going to be paid." Id. at 7 (¶ 9(C)).

Legal Standard

A Rule 12(b)(6) motion challenges the sufficiency of the complaint . See, e.g., Hallinan v. Fraternal Order of Police of Chi. Lodge No. 7, 570 F.3d 811, 820 (7th Cir. 2009). A complaint must provide "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, " Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), sufficient to provide defendant with "fair notice" of the claim and the basis for it. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). This standard "demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). While "detailed factual allegations" are not required, "labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. The complaint must "contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.'" Mann v. Vogel, 707 F.3d 872, 877 (7th Cir. 2013) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). In applying this standard, the Court accepts all well-pleaded facts as true and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Mann, 707 F.3d at 877.

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) authorizes the Court to dismiss any claim over which the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. "Federal courts lack subject matter jurisdiction when a case becomes moot." Pakovich v. Verizon LTD Plan, 653 F.3d 488, 492 (7th Cir. 2011). "When considering a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.... [t]he court may look beyond the jurisdictional allegations of the complaint and view whatever evidence has been submitted on the issue to determine whether in fact subject matter jurisdiction exists." Alicea-Hernandez v. Catholic Bishop of Chi., 320 F.3d 698, 701 (7th Cir. 2003); see also Roman v. U.S. Postal Serv., 821 F.2d 382, 385 (7th Cir. 1987) ("It is proper for the district court ...


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