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RUMBER v. DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

December 12, 2005.

ROSE RUMBER et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA et al., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: RICARDO URBINA, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

GRANTING THE DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS

I. INTRODUCTION

  This matter comes before the court on the defendants' motion to dismiss. The plaintiffs, owners and tenants of properties known as the "Skyland Area," contend that legislation authorizing the defendants, the District of Columbia ("D.C.") and the National Capital Revitalization Corporation ("NCRC"), to exercise eminent domain over their property is unconsitutional and that the defendants are therefore unauthorized to take such action. The defendants assert that they have not yet taken any property from the plaintiffs and have filed a motion to dismiss on the grounds that the plaintiffs' claims are not ripe. Because the court concludes that the plaintiff's claims are not ripe, the court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over this case. For this reason, the court grants the defendants' motion to dismiss. II. BACKGROUND*fn1

  Beginning in 2004, D.C. enacted a series of bills pertaining to the eminent domain power of the NCRC with regard to the Skyland Shopping Center area in Southeast, D.C. 3d Am. Compl. ¶¶ 2-4. This legislation authorizes the NCRC to acquire property by eminent domain, when such action has been approved by at least two-thirds of the D.C. Council, to assist the NCRC in achieving revitalization goals. D.C. Official Code § 2-1219.19. On April 5, 2005, the D.C. Council approved the National Capital Revitalization Corporation Eminent Domain Clarification and Skyland Eminent Domain Approval Amendment Act of 2004 ("Skyland Act"), D.C. Legisl. 15-286 (Act 15-679). With the passage of this bill, the NCRC is authorized to exercise eminent domain power to acquire and redevelop the Skyland Shopping Center. 3d Am. Compl. ¶ 3.

  On July 13, 2004, the plaintiffs brought suit to enjoin the defendants from commencing eminent domain proceedings. See generally Compl. Three amended complaints later, the plaintiffs seek a declaratory judgment that the legislation constitutes an unlawful taking of their property in violation of the Fifth Amendment's takings and equal protection provisions, 3d Am. Compl. ¶¶ 104-138, and that the D.C. Council acted beyond its authority in passing the legislation, 3d Am. Compl. ¶¶ 139-141. On June 15, 2005, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiffs' third amended complaint on the grounds that, inter alia, the plaintiffs' claims are not ripe. Defs.' Mem. of P. & A. in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss 3d Am. Compl. ("Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss") at 1-2. The defendants assert that because they have not yet exercised eminent domain power, none of the plaintiffs' rights have been violated. Id. The court now turns to the defendants' motion.

  III. ANALYSIS

 
A. Legal Standard for a Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1)
  Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and the law presumes that "a cause lies outside this limited jurisdiction." Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994); St. Paul Mercury Indem. Co. v. Red Cab Co., 303 U.S. 283, 288-89 (1938); see also Gen. Motors Corp. v. Envtl. Prot. Agency, 363 F.3d 442, 448 (D.C. Cir. 2004) (noting that "[a]s a court of limited jurisdiction, we begin, and end, with an examination of our jurisdiction").

  Because "subject-matter jurisdiction is an `Art. III as well as a statutory requirement[,] no action of the parties can confer subject-matter jurisdiction upon a federal court.'" Akinseye v. Dist. of Columbia, 339 F.3d 970, 971 (D.C. Cir. 2003) (quoting Ins. Corp. of Ir., Ltd. v. Compagnie des Bauxite de Guinea, 456 U.S. 694, 702 (1982)). On a motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing that the court has subject-matter jurisdiction. Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561 (1992). The court may dismiss a complaint for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction only if "it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Empagran S.A. v. F. Hoffman-Laroche, Ltd., 315 F.3d 338, 343 (D.C. Cir. 2003) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)).

  Because subject-matter jurisdiction focuses on the court's power to hear the claim, however, the court must give the plaintiff's factual allegations closer scrutiny when resolving a Rule 12(b)(1) motion than would be required for a Rule 12(b)(6) motion for failure to state a claim. Macharia v. United States, 334 F.3d 61, 64, 69 (D.C. Cir. 2003); Grand Lodge of Fraternal Order of Police v. Ashcroft, 185 F. Supp. 2d 9, 13 (D.D.C. 2001). Moreover, the court is not limited to the allegations contained in the complaint. Hohri v. United States, 782 F.2d 227, 241 (D.C. Cir. 1986), vacated on other grounds, 482 U.S. 64 (1987). Instead, to determine whether it has jurisdiction over the claim, the court may consider materials outside the pleadings. Herbert v. Nat'l Acad. of Scis., 974 F.2d 192, 197 (D.C. Cir. 1992).

  B. The Court Lacks Subject-Matter Jurisdiction

  The plaintiffs' principle argument in challenging the implementation and enforcement of the Skyland Act is that D.C. improperly delegated eminent domain power to the NCRC by enacting unconstitutional legislation. 3d Am. Compl. ¶ 5. Therefore, the plaintiffs claim, "the enactment and execution of the [legislation] constitute[s] an unconstitutional taking of their property, in violation of the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution." 3d Am. Compl. ¶ 5. The defendants counter that the plaintiffs fail to show that this court has subject-matter jurisdiction because there has not yet been a taking by eminent domain and the case is therefore not yet ripe. Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss at 4-5. The court now considers the matter of ripeness to determine whether it has jurisdiction over the plaintiffs' claims.

  1. Legal Standard for Ripeness

  Article III of the Constitution limits the jurisdiction of federal courts to cases or controversies. U.S. CONST. ART. III, § 2, cl. 1. The case-or-controversy requirement reflects the "common understanding of what it takes to make a justiciable case." Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Env't, 523 U.S. 83, 102 (1998). Among the various doctrines developed by the courts to test the fitness of controversies for judicial resolution ...


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