United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division
FINDINGS, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATION
CARRILLO RAMIREZ, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Special Order No. 3-251, this case has been
automatically referred for findings, conclusions and
recommendation. Based on the relevant filings and applicable
law, the plaintiff's complaint should be
DISMISSED for lack of subject matter
Charles Johnson (Plaintiff), a prisoner in the Texas
Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), sues Dallas County Tax
Assessor/Collector John R. Ames; the City of Dallas, Special
Collections Division; Linebarger Groggan Blair & Sampson,
LLP; Michell Jenning, Office of the City Attorney; and Marc
Quarles, Office of the City Attorney, for violations of his
constitutional rights (doc. 24 at 3-4). While Plaintiff
was incarcerated in TDCJ, Dallas County, the City of Dallas,
and other taxing entities filed suit against him and his wife
for delinquent taxes, penalties, and interest on real
property they owned. (See doc. 24 at 4, 15-18,
19-20, 49-56); see also Dallas Cty., et al., v. Jimmy
Charles Johnson, et al., No. TX-10-31998 (68th Dist.
Ct., Dallas County, Tex., Dec. 10, 2010). On March 8, 2012, a
default judgment was entered after they failed to appear or
answer. (See doc. 24 at 60, 78.) At some point, the
house on the property was condemned and demolished, and the
property was sold on November 4, 2014. (See id. at
23-25, 27, 63-68.)
alleges that the defendants destroyed or demolished the home
without the legal consent of the owner and sold the property
in violation of his rights under the Fourth, Fifth, and
Fourteenth Amendments. (See id. at 4.) He claims
that he was denied a hearing to prove that the property taxes
had been paid, and he seeks monetary damages. (Id.)
courts are courts of limited jurisdiction; without
jurisdiction conferred by the Constitution and statute, they
lack the power to adjudicate claims. Kokkonen v. Guardian
Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994)
(citations omitted). They “must presume that a suit
lies outside this limited jurisdiction, and the burden of
establishing federal jurisdiction rests on the party seeking
the federal forum.” Howery v. Allstate Ins.
Co., 243 F.3d 912, 916 (5th Cir. 2001).
Injunction Act (the Act) prohibits district courts from
enjoining, suspending, or restraining “the assessment,
levy or collection of any tax under State law where a plain,
speedy, and efficient remedy may be had in the courts of such
State.” 28 U.S.C. § 1341. The Act “reflects
the fundamental principle of comity between federal courts
and state governments that is essential to Our Federalism,
particularly in the area of state taxation.”
Washington v. New Orleans City, 424 Fed.Appx. 307,
309-10 (5th Cir. 2011) (internal quotations omitted) (citing
Fair Assessment in Real Estate Ass'n, Inc. v.
McNary, 454 U.S. 100, 103 (1981)).
1341 is not ‘a narrow statute aimed only at injunctive
interference with tax collection, but is rather a broad
restriction on federal jurisdiction in suits that impede tax
administration.'” Id. at 310 (quoting
A Bonding Co. v. Sunnuck, 629 F.2d 1127, 1133 (5th
Cir. 1980)); see also Scott v. Dallas Cty. Appraisal
Dist., No. 3:02-CV-0584-D, 2002 WL 1798912, at *2 (N.D.
Tex. Aug. 2, 2002) (finding that although claims for monetary
damages for civil rights violations “may not fall
within the ambit of the [Act], ” such claims are
“precluded nonetheless.”). “[B]asing a
complaint upon alleged violation[s] of civil rights . . . or
the Federal Constitution will [therefore] not avoid the
prohibition contained in Section 1341.” Clark v.
Andrews Cty. Appraisal Dist., 251 Fed.Appx. 267, 268
(5th Cir. 2007); see also Smith v. Travis Cty. Educ.
Dist., 968 F.2d 453, 455-56 (5th Cir. 1992) (quoting
McNary, 454 U.S. at 116) (“taxpayers are
barred by the principles of comity from asserting § 1983
actions against the validity of state tax systems in federal
court.”); Scott, 2002 WL 1798912, at *2
(“The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly held that
taxpayers may not challenge the validity of a state tax
system in a federal civil rights action where state law
provides an adequate remedy.”). If an action is barred
under the Act, a district court may not assert jurisdiction
“unless the State fails to supply a plain, speedy and
efficient remedy for the taxpayers' claim.”
Smith, 968 F.2d at 456.
although Plaintiff sues under § 1983 for alleged
violations of his constitutional rights, he seeks damages for
the property that was sold to collect delinquent taxes
without a fair hearing. Tax sales to collect delinquent taxes
are expressly authorized by the Texas Tax Code. Tex. Tax Code
Ann. §§ 33.41, 33.53. As discussed, the property
was sold following a lawsuit by the County and other taxing
authorities to collect delinquent taxes, penalties, and
interest owed on it by Plaintiff, and the entry of a default
judgment. See Dallas Cty., et al., v. Jimmy Charles
Johnson, et al., No. TX-10-31998 (68th Dist. Ct., Dallas
County, Tex., Mar. 8, 2012). Because “[t]he tax sale in
question was used to recoup unpaid property taxes, ” it
is “tantamount to the collection of a tax.”
Stewart v. City of Irving, No. 3:17-CV-3296-G-BK,
2018 WL 3235665, at *2 (N.D. Tex. June 7, 2018), rec.
adopted, 2018 WL 3222921 (N.D. Tex. July 2, 2018);
see also Hammonds v. Dallas Cty., Texas, No.
3:17-CV-1661-N, 2018 WL 7286091, at *3 (N.D. Tex. Dec. 28,
2018), rec. adopted, 2019 WL 536451 (N.D. Tex. Feb.
11, 2019). Plaintiff's lawsuit therefore
“constitutes impermissible interference with the state
tax system” because it “necessarily seeks to
hinder the collection of taxes.” Id. (citing
ANR Pipeline Co. v. La. Tax Comm'n, 646 F.3d
940, 946 (5th Cir. 2011)); see also Dillon v.
Mississippi, 376 Fed.Appx. 421, 424 (5th Cir. 2010) (per
curiam) (“Appellants expressly seek declaratory and
injunctive relief . . ., as well as compensatory and punitive
damages for past improper tax assessments. These are
precisely the kinds of relief barred by the Act.”).
Accordingly, “unless Texas fails to supply a plain,
speedy, and efficient remedy for Plaintiff['s] claims,
” jurisdiction over this action is lacking.
Id. (citing ANR Pipeline Co., 646 F.3d at
remedy need only be “adequate” in order to
satisfy the requirements of the Act. Id. (citing
Home Builders Ass'n of Miss., Inc. v. City of
Madison, Miss., 143 F.3d 1006, 1012 (5th Cir. 1998)). A
state remedy is adequate where it provides the plaintiff
“with a complete judicial determination that is
ultimately reviewable in the United States Supreme
Court.” Home Builders, 143 F.3d at 1012. The
Fifth Circuit has determined “that Texas provides a
‘menu of remedies' that satisfy the [Act's]
requirements.” Stewart, 2018 WL 3235665, at *3
(citing Dawson v. Childs, 665 F.2d 705, 710 (5th
Cir. 1982)); see also Scott, 2002 WL 1798912, at *2
(“Texas law provides procedural vehicles that afford
taxpayers the opportunity to raise their serious federal
constitutional questions.”) (collecting cases).
Additionally, “[w]hether the time for pursuing such
remedies has lapsed is immaterial to the Court's
query-all that matters is that the remedies did exist.”
Stewart, 2018 WL 3235665, at *3 (citing Daytona
Beach Racing & Recreational Facilities Dist. v. Volusia
Cty., 579 F.2d 367, 369 (5th Cir. 1978) (per curiam)).
Plaintiff seeks relief that “would disrupt the
administration of Texas' tax system, and a plain, speedy,
and efficient remedy is available to [him] in state court,
the [Act] divests this Court of subject matter jurisdiction
over [his] claims.” Id. Accordingly,
Plaintiff's claims against all defendants should be
dismissed without prejudice for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction. See id.; see also Hammonds, 2018 WL
7286091, at *4 (dismissing claims for monetary damages and
injunctive relief for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction
based on the Act).
complaint should be DISMISSED without
prejudice for lack ...