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County Board of Arlington, Virginia v. U.S. Dep't of Transportation

April 15, 2010

COUNTY BOARD OF ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rosemary M. Collyer United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

The County Board of Arlington, Virginia (the "County Board") brought this suit for declaratory and injunctive relief against Defendants related to a proposed highway project in Northern Virginia. Defendants are the U.S. Department of Transportation ("DOT"), the Federal Highway Administration ("FHA"), the Virginia Department of Transportation ("VDOT"), and the following individuals in their official and personal capacities: Raymond LaHood, Secretary of the DOT; Victor Mendez, Administrator of the FHA; and Pierce Homer, former Secretary of Transportation for the Commonwealth of Viginia. VDOT and Mr. Homer (the "Virginia Defendants") move to dismiss Mr. Homer from this suit, asserting that Mr. Homer is no longer Secretary of Transportation, that he cannot be sued personally for declaratory and injunctive relief, and that the current Secretary of Transportation should not be substituted for him. As explained below, certain claims against Mr. Homer and the other individual defendants in their personal capacities will be dismissed, and the current Secretary of Transportation, in his official capacity only, will be substituted for Mr. Homer.

I. FACTS

The County Board objects to a highway project involving the construction of toll lanes and major infrastructure modifications and additions in the I-95/I-395 corridor in Northern Virginia, from Spotsylvania County to the Eads Street/Pentagon Reservation interchange in Arlington County. The project has been referred to as a high occupancy vehicle/high occupancy toll (HOV/HOT) project. This, Plaintiff alleges, is a misnomer for a project actually intended to "enable a financiallyable, privileged class of suburban and rural, primarily [C]aucasian residents from Stafford and Spotsylvania counties, operating single occupancy vehicles ("SOV"), unimpeded access on toll lanes." Compl. ¶ 10. The Complaint alleges seven counts:

Count I and Count II -- violations of the National Environmental Policy Act ("NEPA"), 42 U.S.C. § 4321 et seq.;*fn1 Count III -- violation of the Clean Air Act, 42 U.S.C. § 7506(c); Count IV -- violation of civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983*fn2 via violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d et seq., prohibiting discrimination in connection with any program receiving federal financial assistance;

Count V -- violation of civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 via violation of due process and equal protection under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments;

Count VI -- violation of due process under Article 1, § 11 of the Virginia Constitution;*fn3 and

Count VII -- violation of the Federal-Aid Highways Act, 23 U.S.C. § 109(a).

The County Board seeks declaratory and injunctive relief; it does not seek money damages. See Compl. at 58-59 ("Relief Requested").

The Virginia Defendants move to dismiss Mr. Homer from this suit , arguing that the Complaint fails to state a claim against him because he is no longer Secretary of Transportation in Virginia. When this suit was filed, Mr. Homer was the Secretary under the prior Governor of Virginia. On January 16, 2010, Virginia inaugurated a new Governor, and the new Governor appointed a new Secretary. On January 17, 2010, Sean T. Connaughton was sworn in as Secretary of Transportation for the Commonwealth of Virginia. The Virginia Defendants also seek to dismiss Mr. Homer because he cannot be sued for declaratory or injunctive relief in his individual capacity.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

A motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) challenges the adequacy of a complaint on its face, testing whether a plaintiff has properly stated a claim. A complaint must be sufficient "to give a defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal citations omitted). Although a complaint does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief "requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Id. The facts alleged "must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Id .

In deciding a motion under Rule 12(b)(6), a court may consider the facts alleged in the complaint, documents attached to the complaint as exhibits or incorporated by reference, and matters about which the court may take judicial notice. Abhe & Svoboda, Inc. v. Chao , 508 F.3d 1052, 1059 (D.C. Cir. 2007). A court must treat the complaint's factual allegations as true, "even if doubtful in fact." Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555. But a court need not accept as true legal conclusions set forth in a complaint. Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id . "While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by ...


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