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Falck v. Internal Revenue Service

June 14, 2007

JANE M. FALCK, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE, ET AL. DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ellen Segal Huvelle United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Pro se plaintiffs Jane and Steven Falck bring suit against the United States, the Internal Revenue Service, and the U.S. Department of Treasury. Plaintiffs' central theory is that their 1998--2003 earnings constituted "just compensation" for a "loss of life and liberty," rather than taxable income. (E.g., id. ¶¶ 28, 32, 39, 45, 51, 60.) Based on the theory that their earnings did not constitute taxable income, plaintiffs claim that, by placing levies on their property, the government violated the Bill of Attainder Clause, U.S. Const. art. I, § 9, cl. 3; the Contracts Clause, U.S. Const. art. I, § 10, cl. 1; the Fourth, Fifth, Fourteenth, and Sixteenth Amendments; and the Administrative Procedure Act ("APA"), 5 U.S.C. § 701 et seq. (2006). (See Compl. ¶¶ 27, 33--37, 41--43, 47--49, 58, 63, 65.) Plaintiffs further claim that, by labeling them "non-filers and illegal tax protesters," the government unlawfully retaliated against them for exercising their First Amendment rights. (Id. ¶ 64.) As relief, plaintiffs seek compensatory and punitive damages, declaratory and injunctive relief, attorneys fees, and costs. (See id. ¶¶ (i)--(xii).)

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12, the government has moved to dismiss plaintiffs' suit for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.*fn1 For the reasons stated herein, the government's motion will be granted.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs are residents of Uniontown, Ohio. (Id. ¶ 4.) According to their complaint, the government issued three "notices of levy" in connection with plaintiffs' unpaid taxes for the tax years 1998--2003. (See id. ¶¶ 18, 20, 22.) The total amount seized pursuant to these notices exceeded $86,000. (See id. But see id. ¶ (iv) (suggesting that plaintiffs could be "ma[d]e . . . whole" by a payment of $28,872.63).)

On December 29, 2006 - - evidently without having pursued administrative relief - -plaintiffs filed suit. On April 4, 2007, the government filed its motion to dismiss. Pursuant to Fox v. Strickland, 837 F.2d 507 (D.C. Cir. 1988), the Court advised plaintiffs about the consequences of failing to respond to the government's motion and ordered a response by May 7, 2007. At plaintiffs' request, the Court subsequently extended their deadline through June 6, 2007. Nonetheless, plaintiffs have failed to respond to the government's motion.*fn2

ANALYSIS

I. Standard of Review

The pleadings of pro se plaintiffs must be construed liberally. E.g., Lindsey v. United States, 448 F. Supp. 2d 37, 44--45 (D.D.C. 2006). Accordingly, although plaintiffs have expressly framed all of their claims as violating either the Constitution or the APA, the Court will construe the complaint to include three additional statutory claims: a claim for a tax refund pursuant to 26 U.S.C. § 7422, a claim for damages pursuant to 26 U.S.C. § 7433, and a claim for declaratory relief pursuant to the Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201, 2202 (2006).*fn3

When, as here, the government invokes Rule 12(b)(1) to attack the existence of subject matter jurisdiction on the face of a complaint, "the Court considers the factual allegations of the complaint in the light most favorable to the non-moving party." Loughlin v. United States, 230 F. Supp. 2d 26, 35--36 (D.D.C. 2002).Similarly, when the government moves for dismissal pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), "the Court will accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint[] and give the plaintiff the benefit of all inferences that can be drawn from the facts alleged." Medina v. District of Columbia, No. 97-594, 2007 WL 1656281, at *4 (D.D.C. June 6, 2007). However, to survive a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), "[a] complaint must present 'enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face,' and 'above the speculative level.'" Id. (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1965, 1974 (2007)).

II. This Court Lacks Subject Matter Jurisdiction over Plaintiffs' Constitutional Claims, APA Claim, Tax Refund Claim, and Claim for Declaratory Relief

A. Constitutional Claims

It is axiomatic that "[t]he doctrine of sovereign immunity bars those suits against the United States that are not specifically waived by statute." Jackson v. Bush, 448 F. Supp. 2d 198, 200 (D.D.C. 2006); accord United States v. Sherwood, 312 U.S. 584, 586 (1941). It is well settled "that Congress has not waived immunity for suits seeking monetary damages that arise under the Constitution." Jackson, 448 F. Supp. 2d at 201; see Clark v. Library of Cong., 750 F.2d 89, 102--03 (D.C. Cir. 1984). Furthermore, Congress has expressly barred suits for injunctive relief against allegedly unconstitutional tax collection efforts.See 26 U.S.C. § 7421(a) (2006) ("Except as provided in [various statutory provisions inapplicable here], no suit for the purpose of restraining the assessment or collection of any tax shall be maintained in any court by any person . . . ."); We the People Found., Inc. v. United States, 485 F.3d 140, 142--43 (D.C. Cir. 2007) (holding that § 7421(a) foreclosed the plaintiffs' claim "that government officials - - by seeking to collect unpaid taxes - - [had] retaliated against plaintiffs' exercise of First Amendment rights"); Lindsey, 448 F. Supp. 2d at 50 ("The language of § 7421(a) could not be clearer, as it unquestionably bars a suit from being brought in federal court where the suit seeks to enjoin the government from assessing or collecting federal taxes."). Indeed, plaintiffs themselves arguably concede that there is no statute waiving ...


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