United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Middle Division
LEROY OATIS, AND ARTHUR L. DOWDELL, Plaintiffs,
CITY OF GADSDEN and THOMAS ALEXANDER KING in his official capacity as Municipal Court Judge for the City of Gadsden, Defendants.
VIRGINIA EMERSON HOPKINS United States District Judge.
Introduction and Procedural History
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. ¶
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.
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
the jurisdictional attack by Judge King on Plaintiffs'
complaint is facial, and the court has accepted all
allegations contained in Plaintiffs' complaint as true.
Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings
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.'”