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US Awami League, Inc. v. City of Chicago

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

June 22, 2015

US Awami League, Inc., Plaintiff,
v.
City of Chicago, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

JOHN ROBERT BLAKEY, District Judge.

This action for declaratory judgment concerns Defendant City of Chicago's decision to erect a street sign honoring President Ziaur Rahman, a former ruler of Bangladesh. Plaintiff filed a one-count Complaint alleging that the sign violated the Supremacy Clause in Article VI of the Constitution because it interfered with the exclusive federal power to conduct foreign affairs. [1]. Now before the Court is Defendant's motion to dismiss for lack of standing under Rule 12(b)(1), and for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6). [6]. That motion is granted.

I. Background[1]

On September 6, 1984, the Chicago City Council passed an Ordinance authorizing the posting of honorary street signs ("the Ordinance"). [1] at ¶ 7. Under the Ordinance, City aldermen may submit requests to erect honorary street signs in their wards. Id. at ¶ 8. Each request must then be approved by the Commissioner of Public Works and the City Council before the sign is erected. Id. at ¶¶ 8, 10. On September 14, 2014, City Council approved a street sign honoring Ziaur Rahman at the 6700 block of North Clark Street in Chicago, Illinois. Id. at ¶ 10. That action was taken pursuant to the Ordinance.

On February 26, 2015, Plaintiff filed its Complaint in this matter. Id. Plaintiff is a not-for-profit corporation organized and existing under the laws of New Jersey. Id. at ¶ 2. It is a branch of the Bangladesh Awami League, the controlling and ruling party of Bangladesh. Id. at ¶ 3. It appears that Ziaur Rahman was associated with a different political party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party.

In the Complaint, Plaintiff appears to allege both facial and "as applied" challenges to the constitutionality of the Ordinance. Yet the apparent thrust of the Complaint is an "as applied" challenge: that the erection of the Ziaur Rahman sign violated the Supremacy Clause because it interfered with the exclusive federal power to conduct foreign affairs. [1] at ¶ 18. In support, Plaintiff alleges that the United States has recognized the government of Bangladesh, and that the sign is "politically offensive to the country of Bangladesh and would embarrass the United States in terms of its dealings with that country." Id. at ¶¶ 11, 16.

According to Plaintiff, the sign is offensive because Ziaur Rahman: (1) was a military dictator who opposed democracy and liberalism; (2) toppled the democratic government of Bangladesh; (3) murdered the founding father of Bangladesh and 18 family members; and (4) suspended the constitution and human rights.[2]

While not the focus of Plaintiff's Complaint, it appears that there is also a facial challenge to the constitutionality of the Ordinance. In just one paragraph of its Complaint, and without further support relating to a facial challenge, Plaintiff alleges that the "ordinance gives the City an opportunity to make targeted political statements contrary to the position of the United States government which has exclusive power over foreign affairs and, therefore, violates Article VI of the United States Constitution." Id. at ¶ 18.

II. Legal Standard

Under both 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6), the Court must construe the Complaint in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, accept as true all well-pleaded facts and draw all reasonable inferences in its favor. Yeftich v. Navistar, Inc., 722 F.3d 911, 915 (7th Cir. 2013); Long v. Shorebank Dev't Corp., 182 F.3d 548, 554 (7th Cir. 1999). Statements of law, however, need not be accepted true. Yeftich, 722 F.3d at 915.

For a Rule 12(b)(1) motion, Plaintiff bears the burden of establishing that the jurisdictional requirements have been met. Ctr. for Dermatology & Skin Cancer, Ltd. v. Burwell, 770 F.3d 586, 589 (7th Cir. 2014). If the jurisdictional facts are challenged, Plaintiff must support those facts by competent proof. Thomson v. Gaskill, 315 U.S. 442, 446 (1942). The standard for a Rule 12(b)(1) motion differs from that under Rule 12(b)(6) only in that the court "may properly look beyond the jurisdictional allegations of the [claim] and view whatever evidence has been submitted on the issue to determine whether in fact subject matter jurisdiction exists." Apex Digital, Inc. v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 572 F.3d 440, 444 (7th Cir. 2009).

To survive Defendant's motion under Rule 12(b)(6), the Complaint must "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Yeftich, 722 F.3d at 915. "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." Id. Rule 12(b)(6) limits this Court's consideration to "allegations set forth in the complaint itself, documents that are attached to the complaint, documents that are central to the complaint and are referred to in it, and information that is properly subject to judicial notice." Williamson v. Curran, 714 F.3d 432, 436 (7th Cir. 2013).

III. ...


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