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GRAND LODGE OF FRAT. ORDER OF POLICE v. ASHCROFT

August 14, 2001

GRAND LODGE OF THE FRATERNAL ORDER OF POLICE, PLAINTIFF,
V.
JOHN ASHCROFT, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL, AND THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, DEFENDANTS.



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

  MEMORANDUM OPINION

Granting the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter is before the court on the defendants' motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction or, alternatively, for failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted. The plaintiff, the Grand Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police ("Grand Lodge"), seeks a declaratory judgment stating that Section 14141 of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, 42 U.S.C. § 14141, is unconstitutional as enforced because it interferes with the rights of local and state law-enforcement agents, thereby disturbing the, balance of power between federal and state governments. Grand Lodge also asks the court to enjoin the defendant from undertaking certain enforcement actions pursuant to Section 14141 to the extent that those actions affect members of the plaintiffs organization. The defendants argue that Grand Lodge lacks standing and that its claims are not ripe. For the reasons stated below, the court will grant the defendants' motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.

II. BACKGROUND

Grand Lodge is a non-profit fraternal organization that represents the interests of law-enforcement officers throughout the United States. See Compl. ¶ 6. Membership in Grand Lodge's affiliated lodges "is limited to persons who support and defend the Constitution of the United States and promote and foster the enforcement of law and order." Id. ¶ 8. In conjunction with its state and local affiliates, Grand Lodge provides legal representation to its members in matters concerning collective-bargaining agreements and internal police affairs and procedures. See id. ¶ 16. Grand Lodge also advocates on behalf of its members before Congress and state legislatures and courts. See id.

According to the defendants, Congress enacted the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 in response to the beating of Rodney King by members of the Los Angeles Police Department. See Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss at 3. Section 14141 of the Act provides the United States with a remedy in the form of injunctive and declaratory relief, but not damages, against systemic police misconduct. See 42 U.S.C. § 14141. Subsection (a) of the Act provides that it is unlawful for any government official "to engage in a pattern or practice of conduct . . . that deprives persons of rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or the laws of the United States." 42 U.S.C. § 14141(a). Subsection (b) authorizes the U.S. Attorney General to file a civil action seeking "appropriate equitable and declaratory relief to eliminate the pattern or practice" referenced in subsection (a). See id. § 14141(b).

Pursuant to its powers under Section 14141, the United States, through the Department of Justice ("DOJ"), has undertaken investigations of law-enforcement agencies in at least fourteen cities.*fn1 See Compl. ¶ 25. Based on these investigations, DOJ has initiated lawsuits against five state and local governments. In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and in Steubenville and Columbus, Ohio, for example, DOJ has filed suits alleging a pattern or practice of excessive force, false arrests, and improper searches. See DOJ Police Misconduct Pattern or Practice Program, Defs.' Reply in Support of Mot. to Dismiss, Ex. A, at 7. DOJ has also filed suit against the New Jersey State Police, alleging a pattern of racially discriminatory traffic stops and searches. See id.

In the Pittsburgh, Steubenville, and New Jersey lawsuits, the parties have negotiated settlements through the imposition of court-authorized consent decrees. See Compl. ¶¶ 33, 35. A consent decree resolving DOJ's claims against the city of Los Angeles is awaiting entry by the court. See Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss at 5. In Columbus, DOJ has been unable to negotiate a consent decree. See id at 6. Grand Lodge claims that by intervening in the Columbus litigation,*fn2 it was able to prevent DOJ and the city from entering into a consent decree. See Compl. ¶¶ 37, 51.

Grand Lodge sets forth three causes of action in its complaint: (1) "Section 14141 is invalid because it exceeds the scope of congressional power under Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment" or, in the alternative, the defendants' application of the statute is erroneous and/or unconstitutional, see id. ¶¶ 58-59; (2) the defendants should be enjoined from applying Section 14141 in the form of consent decrees, because the terms of such agreements generally impinge on the legal interests of police officers, see id. ¶¶ 72, 76; and (3) the defendants should be enjoined from applying Section 14141 through the use of consent decrees, because there is no evidence on the record that demonstrates the defendants' past compliance with Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 52 and 65(d),*fn3 see id. ¶¶ 82-83.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Legal Standard

The defendants move to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) or, in the alternative, Rule 12(b)(6). Rule 12(b)(1) deals with the court's subject-matter jurisdiction, while Rule 12(b)(6) "presents a ruling on the merits with a res judicata effect." See Haase v. Sessions, 835 F.2d 902, 906 (D.C.Cir. 1987). In the present case, the defendants argue that Grand Lodge has not fulfilled the constitutional requirement of standing. See Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss at 2. "The defect of standing is a defect in subject matter jurisdiction." Haase, 835 F.2d at 906. Therefore, the court will confine its consideration to the 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss.

Under Rule 12(b)(1), the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing that the court has jurisdiction. See District of Columbia Retirement Bd. v. United States, 657 F. Supp. 428, 431 (D.C. 1987). Because subject-matter jurisdiction focuses on the court's power to hear the plaintiffs claim, a Rule 12(b)(1) motion imposes on the court an affirmative obligation to ensure that it is acting within the scope of its jurisdictional authority. See 5A Charles A. Wright & Arthur R. Miller, FED.PRAC. & PROC.CIV.2D, ยง 1350. For this reason, "the [p]laintiffs factual allegations in the ...


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