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CHAVOUS v. D.C. FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY AND MANAGEMENT

August 3, 2001

KEVIN P. CHAVOUS, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY AND MANAGEMENT ASSISTANCE AUTHORITY, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Richard W. Roberts, United States District Judge.

  MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiffs Kevin P. Chavous, David A. Catania and the Committee of Interns and Residents*fn1 filed this action seeking to declare void and to enjoin the implementation of the contract between defendants District of Columbia Financial Responsibility and Management Assistance Authority (the "Control Board" or "Authority") and Greater Southeast Community Hospital Corporation I ("GSE" or "Greater Southeast") to transfer the majority of the services provided by the public D.C. General Hospital over to the privately-run GSE. The plaintiffs have moved for summary judgment arguing that the Control Board's actions were ultra vires, violated the Councilmembers' constitutional right to cast unimpeded votes on issues of public importance, and violated the separation of powers doctrine.*fn2 Defendants Control Board and Greater Southeast*fn3 have moved to dismiss the complaint arguing that none of the plaintiffs have standing to bring this action, but even if they do, the plaintiffs have failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Because plaintiffs Chavous and Catania have standing to bring this action, the defendants' motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction as to those plaintiffs' claims will be denied. However, because the Committee of Interns and Residents does not have standing to bring this case, the motion to dismiss this plaintiff's claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction will be granted. The Control Board's and Greater Southeast's motions to dismiss the ultra vires claim will be treated as motions for summary judgment since they presented matters outside of the pleadings. Those motions will be granted since the Control Board, as a matter of law, acted within its authority. Further, these defendants' motions to dismiss the constitutional claims will be granted because neither argument states a valid legal claim. Correspondingly, the plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment will be denied. Finally, the District of Columbia's motion to dismiss the complaint against it also will be granted because the plaintiffs have alleged no cognizable claim against the District.

BACKGROUND

As part of the fiscal year 2001 appropriation for the District of Columbia, Congress allocated $90,000,000 "for the purpose of restructuring the delivery of health services in the District of Columbia." District of Columbia Appropriations Act, 2001, Pub.L. No. 106-522, 114 Stat. 2440, 2452 (2000). In addition, Congress directed that a restructuring plan be prepared and "approved by the Mayor of the District of Columbia, the [D.C. Council], the [Control Board], the [Chief Financial Officer of the District], and the Chair of the Board of Directors of the [Public Benefit Corporation]."*fn4 Id. at 2456. After receiving this direction from Congress, the Control Board issued its "Resolution, Recommendations and Orders Concerning the Public Benefit Corporation." (See First Amended Complaint ("Compl.") ¶ 16.) In it, the Control Board recommended, in relevant part, that the D.C. Council repeal the act which established the PBC and work with the Mayor to "prepare and approve a plan to establish an alternative publicly-financed health care delivery system." (See Compl. Ex. A.) The Control Board also stated that if the recommendations were not approved within ninety days, the Control Board would implement the recommendation itself. (Id.) The Council received the resolution on December 6, 2000. This resolution also contained orders to the Mayor, the Director of the D.C. Department of Health, and the Chief Financial Officer of the District. (Id.)
On December 15, 2000, the Control Board issued a Request for Proposal ("RFP") which sought to "obtain the services of one qualified health care provider or team of qualified health care providers . . . to provide comprehensive, integrated and coordinated health care services to the uninsured population of the District of Columbia." (See Pl. Ex. B.) Greater Southeast submitted a proposal on January 30, 2001 (see Compl. ¶ 20), which the Control Board ultimately accepted.
On March 6, 2001, the D.C. Council passed a unanimous resolution rejecting the Control Board's recommendations, citing a concern for the impact that a contract with Greater Southeast would have on healthcare in the District of Columbia. (Id. ¶ 23.) In an effort to shore up D.C. General's short-term financial future, the Council approved an additional $21 million dollars to fund the PBC through the end of the fiscal year. (Id. ¶ 24.) Despite the Council's objection to the GSE proposal which would result in the privatization of healthcare for uninsured residents in the city, and the Council's subsequent rejection of the contract with GSE, the Control Board signed the contract with GSE. (See id. ¶¶ 28-29.) On April 30, 2001, the Control Board issued a series of Acts ("the Privatization Acts") which, among other things, abolished the PBC. (See Pl. Ex. 10.) Plaintiffs brought this action claiming, among other things, that the Control Board acted outside of the authority granted by the District of Columbia Financial Responsibility and Management Assistance Act of 1995, Pub.L. No. 104-8 (1995) ("FRMAA" or "the Act") when it signed this contract and abolished the PBC. (See Compl. ¶¶ 33-49.)

DISCUSSION

I. Standing

The Control Board and GSE have moved under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) to dismiss the amended complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, arguing that the plaintiffs lack standing. (See District of Columbia Financial Responsibility and Management Assistance Authority's Motion to Dismiss ("Mot. to Dism.") at 2-7.) In order to invoke properly the authority of the federal courts, a party must demonstrate that he or she has a "case" or "controversy" sufficient to meet the requirements of Article III. See Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560 (1992); see also Allen v. Wright, 468 U.S. 737, 750 (1984) ("The case-or-controversy doctrines state fundamental limits on federal judicial power in our system of government."); Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 498 (1975) ("In essence the question of standing is whether the litigant is entitled to have the court decide the merits of the dispute or of particular issues.")
"[T]he irreducible constitutional minimum of standing" has three elements. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. at 560. First, the plaintiff must have suffered an "injury in fact," which is an invasion of "a legally protected interest" that is "concrete and particularized" and "actual or imminent, not `conjectural' or `hypothetical.'" Second, the claimant must demonstrate a causal connection between the injury and the conduct about which he complains. Third, it must be likely that the injury is subject to redress by means of a favorable court decision. Id. at 560-61. "[E]ach element [of the standing inquiry] must be supported in the same way as any other matter on which the plaintiff bears the burden of proof." Id. at 561.
This bedrock requirement is one with which the federal courts must strictly comply because "`the law of Art. III standing is built on a single basic idea — the idea of separation of powers.'" Raines v. Byrd, 521 U.S. 811, 818, 820 (1997) (quoting Allen v. Wright, 468 U.S. 737, 752 (1984)). By employing the sorting mechanism established by the standing inquiry, courts ensure that their powers are limited to reviewing only those disputes which are appropriately resolved through the judicial process. See Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. at 560. When reviewing a standing challenge, then, trial courts must "accept as true all material allegations of the complaint," and further, must "construe the complaint in favor of the complaining party." Warth, 422 U.S. at 501. In other words, the trial court must accept as true the complainant's pleaded legal theory. See American Fed'n of Gov't Employees v. Pierce, 697 F.2d 303, 305 (D.C. Cir. 1982); see also United States House of Representatives v. United States Dep't of Commerce, 11 F. Supp.2d 76, 83 (D.D.C. 1998) ("In the context of a challenge to the plaintiff's standing to sue, [construing the complaint in favor of the complaining party] means that the plaintiff's arguments on the merits are accepted as valid.") Here, plaintiffs' claims that the Control Board acted outside of the scope of its authority will be accepted as true for purposes of the standing analysis.

Legislator Standing

Councilmembers Chavous and Catania argue that they have standing in their official capacity as legislators. (See Plaintiffs' Opposition to the District of Columbia Financial Responsibility and Management Assistance Authority's Motion to Dismiss ("Opp. to Mot. to Dism.") at 11-15.) In Raines, individual members of Congress challenged the constitutionality of the Line Item Veto Act. See Raines, 521 U.S. at 814. There, the members claimed that they had been injured because the Act altered the practical effect of any votes they may have cast for or against legislation, diminished their role in the repeal of legislation, and altered the constitutional balance between the legislative and executive branches. Id. at 816. The Court held that the Congressmen did not have standing. Their claim was more properly characterized as an institutional injury, equally shared by all members of Congress, and they had not been deprived of anything to which they were personally entitled. Id. at 829-30.
The Court noted that one exception to the legislator standing rule existed. In Coleman v. Miller, 307 U.S. 433 (1939), the Kansas Senate ratified a proposed Child Labor Amendment to the federal Constitution after a twenty-to-twenty tie which was broken by the presiding officer of the Senate, the Lieutenant Governor. See Coleman, 307 U.S. at 435-36. Thereafter, twenty-one members of the Senate, including the twenty who voted against the amendment, brought an action challenging the right of the Lieutenant Governor to cast the deciding vote in the Senate. Id. at 436. The Supreme Court held that the complaining legislators had standing because the senators' votes against ratification "[had] been overridden and virtually held for naught although . . . their votes would have been sufficient to defeat ratification." Id. at 438. Coleman has been interpreted as standing for the proposition that "legislators whose votes would have been sufficient to defeat (or enact) a specific legislative Act have standing to sue if that legislative action goes into effect (or does not go into effect), on the ground that their votes have been completely nullified." Raines, 521 U.S. at 823.
The Control Board argues that Chavous' and Catania's claims are barred because they were not singled out for "specially unfavorable treatment," and further, they have simply alleged a form of institutional injury which is equally shared by all members of the Council. (See Mot. to Dism. at 4.) These arguments, however, are unavailing. Councilmembers Chavous and Catania have made allegations which are sufficient to support legislative standing in this case. In the First Amended Complaint, the plaintiffs claimed that even if the Control Board had the authority to enter into the contract with GSE, that authority ended on February 14, 2001, when the Control Board certified that the District's financial crisis was over, thereby triggering the start of the Control Board's demise. (See Compl. ¶ 42.) If this certification heralded an immediate shift in power from the Control Board to the city's democratically-elected institutions, as the plaintiffs contend, then the Council's unanimous decision to reject the contract should have been determinative. Accordingly, members Chavous and Catania can properly assert Coleman standing here. Their votes against the contract were more than sufficient to defeat the proposed action. (See id. ¶ 28.) Thus, it was not the absence of support which prevented Chavous and Catania from achieving their legislative goal; rather, it was the Control Board's direct override of the Council's authority which had the effect of nullifying their votes. See, e.g., Alaska Legislative Council v. Babbitt, 181 F.3d 1333, 1338 (D.C. Cir. 1999) (affirming the district court's dismissal when members of the Alaska legislature failed to claim that "[they] had the votes to enact a particular measure, that they cast those votes or that the federal statute or the federal defendants did something to nullify their votes.")
Assuming for the sake of argument that the Control Board previously had the authority to enter into this contract, and this authority was lost on February 14, 2001, the Council's authority has been completely negated because the contract against which it voted has gone into effect. Councilmembers Chavous and Catania have "`a plain, direct and adequate interest in maintaining the effectiveness of their votes,'" Raines, 521 U.S. at 821-22 (quoting Coleman, 307 U.S. at 438), and it is this interest which allegedly has been violated. This court may hear such claims. Accordingly, the defendants' motion to dismiss plaintiffs Chavous and Catania from the suit for lack of subject matter jurisdiction will be denied.*fn5

Union Standing

The defendants have also claimed that the Committee of Interns and Residents lacks standing here. (See Mot. to Dism. at 5-7.) Specifically, they claim that the union's grievance does not fall within the zone of interests promoted by the FRMAA. Though it is clear that the union meets the requirements of Article III standing — its members have been injured by virtue of the fact that they have lost their jobs, this injury was caused by the Control Board's actions, and the injury can be redressed by this court — it cannot meet the additional limits that courts have placed on standing. "The question of standing `involves both constitutional limitations on federal-court jurisdiction and prudential limitations on its exercise.'" Bennett v. Spear, 520 U.S. 154, 162 (1997) (quoting Warth, 422 U.S. at 498). Thus, a plaintiff must not only establish constitutional standing, but it must meet the "judicially self-imposed limits on the exercise of federal jurisdiction" that are "founded in [a] concern about the proper — and properly limited — role of the courts in a democratic society." Bennett, 520 U.S. at 162 (citations omitted). To that end, courts will examine whether "a plaintiff's grievance . . . fall[s] within the zone of interests protected or regulated by the statutory provision . . . invoked in the suit." Id. Though there "need be no indication of congressional purpose to benefit the would-be plaintiff," the zone of interests test seeks to "den[y] a right of review if the plaintiff's interests are so marginally related to or inconsistent with the purposes implicit in the statute that it cannot reasonably be assumed that Congress intended to permit the suit." Clarke v. Sec. Indus. Assoc., 479 U.S. 388, 399-400 (1987).
Defendants rely on Nat'l Fed'n of Federal Employees v. Cheney, 883 F.2d 1038 (D.C. Cir. 1989) ("NFFE") to support their claim that the union does not meet the prudential requirement of standing embodied in the zone of interest test. (See Mot. to Dism. at 5-7) In NFFE, the union of federal employees contested a United States Army decision to contract out services that had previously been handled by federal employees "in-house." See NFFE, 883 F.2d at 1040-41. As a result of this decision, many union members lost their jobs. Id. at 1054 (Mikva, J., dissenting). The court of appeals affirmed the district court's decision granting the motion to dismiss, holding that the plaintiffs did not meet the requirements of the zone of interest test. Id. at 1054. After examining the legislative histories of the ...

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