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Oatis v. City of Gadsden

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Middle Division

May 2, 2017

LEROY OATIS, AND ARTHUR L. DOWDELL, Plaintiffs,
v.
CITY OF GADSDEN and THOMAS ALEXANDER KING in his official capacity as Municipal Court Judge for the City of Gadsden, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          VIRGINIA EMERSON HOPKINS United States District Judge.

         I. Introduction and Procedural History

         Plaintiffs initiated this § 1983 lawsuit on August 3, 2016, asserting “a continuous and systematic violation of their 1st Amendment rights under the United States Constitution to attend all court proceedings held in the Municipal Court of the City of Gadsden.” (Doc. 1 at 1 ¶ 1). Plaintiffs have sued the City of Gadsden (the “City”) and Thomas Alexander King in his official capacity as a Municipal Court Judge for the City of Gadsden (“Judge King”). (Doc. 1 at 1; id. ¶ 2).

         On April 4, 2017, Judge King filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (Doc. 23) (the “Motion”). The 14-day deadline for Plaintiffs to oppose this Motion ran on April 18, 2017 (Doc. 2 at 23 § B.2), and nothing was filed. For the reasons stated below, the Motion is due to be granted in part and otherwise termed as moot.

         II. Standards

         A. Rule 12(b)(1) Generally

         As the Eleventh Circuit has explained the standard on motions to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction:

Attacks on subject matter jurisdiction under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) come in two forms. “Facial attacks” on the complaint “require[] the court merely to look and see if [the] plaintiff has sufficiently alleged a basis of subject matter jurisdiction, and the allegations in his complaint are taken as true for the purposes of the motion.” Menchaca v. Chrysler Credit Corp., 613 F.2d 507, 511 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 449 U.S. 953, 101 S.Ct. 358, 66 L.Ed.2d 217 (1980) (citing Mortensen v. First Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n, 549 F.2d 884, 891 (3d Cir. 1977)). “Factual attacks, ” on the other hand, challenge “the existence of subject matter jurisdiction in fact, irrespective of the pleadings, and matters outside the pleadings, such as testimony and affidavits, are considered.” Id.
These two forms of attack differ substantially. On a facial attack, a plaintiff is afforded safeguards similar to those provided in opposing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion-the court must consider the allegations of the complaint to be true. Williamson v. Tucker, 645 F.2d 404, 412 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 454 U.S. 897, 102 S.Ct. 396, 70 L.Ed.2d 212 (1981). But when the attack is factual,
the trial court may proceed as it never could under 12(b)(6) or Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. Because at issue in a factual 12(b)(1) motion is the trial court's jurisdiction-its very power to hear the case-there is substantial authority that the trial court is free to weigh the evidence and satisfy itself as to the existence of its power to hear the case. In short, no presumptive truthfulness attaches to plaintiff's allegations, and the existence of disputed material facts will not preclude the trial court from evaluating for itself the merits of jurisdictional claims.
Id. at 412-1313 (quoting Mortensen, 549 F.2d at 891).

Lawrence v. Dunbar, 919 F.2d 1525, 1528-29 (11th Cir. 1990) (emphasis added); see also Williamson v. Tucker, 645 F.2d 404, 413 (5th Cir. 1981) (“The district court consequently has the power to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction on any one of three separate bases: (1) the complaint alone; (2) the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts evidenced in the record; or (3) the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts plus the court's resolution of disputed facts.”).[1]

         Here, the jurisdictional attack by Judge King on Plaintiffs' complaint is facial, and the court has accepted all allegations contained in Plaintiffs' complaint as true.

         B. Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings

         Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that “[a]fter the pleadings are closed--but early enough not to delay trial--a party may move for judgment on the pleadings.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). As the Eleventh Circuit has explained the Rule 12(c) standard:

Judgment on the pleadings is appropriate when there are no material facts in dispute, and judgment may be rendered by considering the substance of the pleadings and any judicially noticed facts. See Bankers Ins. Co. v. Florida Residential Property and Cas. Joint Underwriting Ass'n, 137 F.3d 1293, 1295 (11th Cir. 1998) (citing Hebert Abstract Co. v. Touchstone Properties, Ltd., 914 F.2d 74, 76 (5th Cir. 1990)); see also Rule 12(c), Fed.R.Civ.P. When we review a judgment on the pleadings, therefore, we accept the facts in the complaint as true and we view them in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See Ortega, 85 F.3d at 1524 (citing Swerdloff v. Miami Nat'l Bank, 584 F.2d 54, 57 (5th Cir. 1978)). The complaint may not be dismissed “‘unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief.'” Slagl ...

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