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Huff v. Lupinski

United States District Court, Central District of Illinois, Rock Island Division

March 20, 2015

MICHAEL HUFF, Plaintiff,
v.
THOMAS E. LUPINSKI, WILLIAM M. FOX, and CITY OF SILVIS Defendants.

ORDER

SARA DARROW, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

Plaintiff Michael Huff is suing the City of Silvis (“Silvis”), William Fox, and Thomas Lupinski for declaring it unlawful for him to occupy a home he owns. Plaintiff alleges four violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and seeks injunctive relief, damages, and attorney’s fees. Before the Court is Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 9. For the following reasons, the Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED. Plaintiff requests oral argument in his Response to the Motion to Dismiss. That request is denied.

BACKGROUND[1]

Michael Huff owns a single-family home in Silvis, Illinois. In July 2012, a dispute arose about weeds and other conditions at Huff’s home. Thomas Lupinski, Silvis’s Building Inspector, began entering Huff’s property without permission and photographing the property. On July 6, 2012, Huff received a notice of an ordinance violation. Huff appealed the notice, and, on July 19, sent notice of his appeal. On July 23 or 24, placards were placed on the home. The placards stated that further occupancy of the home was unlawful due to the immediate and continuing hazard to Silvis and its residents. Huff was not provided with notice of what the signs meant by “immediate and continuing hazard.” Huff has been without access to the home since the signs were put up.

The City subsequently responded to Huff’s notice of appeal. His appeal has proceeded and is before the Circuit Court in Rock Island. Huff has never been notified that his house has been condemned.

DISCUSSION

Plaintiff alleges four violations of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983: (I) an unlawful seizure claim against all defendants, (II) a procedural due process claim against all defendants, (III) a procedural due process Monell claim against Silvis, and (IV) an “invasion of privacy” claim supposedly arising under the Fourth Amendment. Defendants move, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), to dismiss Counts I-III because they are not yet ripe, Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss 2–5. Defendants move pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) to dismiss Counts III and IV because they fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Id. at 5–10. Finally, Defendants move in the alternative to dismiss Plaintiff’s request for punitive damages because punitive damages are not available against a municipality. Id. at 10–12. Because the Court dismisses all four Counts, it addresses only Defendants’ arguments as to Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6).

I. Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction

A. Legal Standard

There are two types of challenges to jurisdiction which may be made under Rule 12(b)(1): (1) facial attacks, which “require only that the court look to the complaint and see if the plaintiff has sufficiently alleged a basis of subject matter jurisdiction, ” Apex Digital, Inc. v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 572 F.3d 440, 443 (7th Cir. 2009); and (2) factual attacks, which challenge the truth of the jurisdictional facts alleged in the pleadings, generally via the challenger’s external facts, see Id. at 444. In reviewing a facial attack, the court “must consider the allegations of the complaint as true.” Id.

B. Ripeness

Federal courts have subject matter jurisdiction only over cases or controversies. U.S. Const., Art. III, § 2. “One important element of the ‘case’ or ‘controversy’ is satisfying the ripeness doctrine.” Sprint Spectrum L.P. v. City of Carmel, Indiana, 361 F.3d 998, 1002 (7th Cir. 2004). The basic purpose of ripeness doctrine “is to prevent the courts, through avoidance of premature adjudication, from entangling themselves in abstract disagreements over administrative policies, and also to protect the agencies from judicial interference until an administrative decision has been formalized and its effects felt in a concrete way by the challenging parties.” Abbott Labs. v. Gardner, 387 U.S. 136, 148-49 (1967) (overruled on other grounds by Califano v. Sanders, 430 U.S. 99, 105 (1977)). A plaintiff has the burden of showing that a case is ripe for adjudication. See Ostergren v. Village of Oak Lawn, 125 F.Supp.2d 312, 323 (N.D. Ill. 2000).

The Supreme Court has articulated a special ripeness doctrine for constitutional property rights. Federal courts may not adjudicate land use or zoning disputes until: “(1) the regulatory agency has had an opportunity to make a considered definitive decision, and (2) the property owner exhausts available state remedies for compensation.” Forseth v. Vill. of Sussex, 199 F.3d 363, 368 (7th Cir. 2000) (citing Williamson Cnty. Reg’l Planning Comm’n v. Hamilton Bank of Johnson City, 473 U.S. 172, 193–94 (1985)). The Seventh Circuit has cautioned that, despite the requirement that a litigant pursue all his available state remedies, Williamson’s rule is not a doctrine of exhaustion but “rather the idea . . . is that the due process clause permits municipalities to use political methods to decide, so that the only procedural rules at stake are those local law provides, and these rules must be vindicated in local courts.” River Park, Inc. v. City of Highland Park, 23 F.3d 164, 167 (7th Cir.1994). In other words, state and local governments are permitted to determine for themselves the amount of process due in the deprivation of an individual’s property rights, because the Constitution does not supply it. Id. Williamson and River Park leave open the possibility that the complete application of such procedures, and their challenge in state court, might finally result either in an uncompensated taking in violation of the Fifth Amendment, or a violation of some core right under the Fourteenth Amendment; but with respect to the latter, the Seventh Circuit has expressed extreme skepticism. See id (“True, there remains some possibility that a taking for a private use would violate the Constitution (perhaps under the rubric of substantive due process), but this esoteric concern has no pertinence here . . . .”); Williamson, 473 U.S. 193–94.

When applying this ripeness analysis to land use claims, it does not matter how creatively a plaintiff pleads his complaint, or what specific cause of action is alleged. River Park, 23 F.3d at 167 (“[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 ...


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