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Rollerson v. Port Freeport

United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Galveston Division

October 21, 2019




         Plaintiff Manning Rollerson ("Rollerson") filed this suit against the Brazos River Harbor Navigation District of Brazoria County n/k/a Port Freeport (the "Port") and the United States Army Corps of Engineers (the "Army Corps"). Before me is The United States Army Corps of Engineers' Motion to Dismiss ("Motion to Dismiss"). See Dkt. 37. After reviewing the record and the law, I RECOMMEND that the Army Corps's Motion to Dismiss (Dkt. 37) be GRANTED.


         I recently issued a Memorandum and Recommendation ("M&R") addressing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion filed by the Port. See Rollerson v. Port Freeport, No. 3:18-CV-00235, 2019 WL 4394584 (S.D. Tex. Sept. 13, 2019). In the M&R, I set forth specific facts as pled in Plaintiffs Second Amended Complaint ("Second Amended Complaint"). See id at * 1. Because the Army Corps's Motion to Dismiss concerns the Second Amended Complaint, I incorporate by reference my previous recitation of the facts involved in this case. I assume all well-pled facts as true and view those facts in the light most favorable to Rollerson. I add the following alleged facts from the Second Amended Complaint that are relevant to the disposition of the Army's Corps's Motion to Dismiss.

         Rollerson alleges that the Freeport Harbor Channel Improvement Project (the "Port's Expansion Project") is funded in part by the Army Corps. Rollerson contends that he filed an Administrative Complaint with the Army Corps, complaining that the Port's Expansion Project did not comply with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VI"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000d et seq. See Dkt. 36 at 43-5. After the Army Corps denied his Administrative Complaint, Rollerson filed this suit. Rollerson asserts two claims against the Army Corps under the Administrative Procedures Act ("APA"), 5 U.S.C. § 701 et seq. In Count I, Rollerson challenges the Army Corps's recent denial of his Administrative Complaint, which alleged the Port's violation of Title VI. Based on Count I, Rollerson seeks the following remedy: "a declaration that the [Army Corps] failed to carry out a statutorily required or purely ministerial act by refusing [his] Administrative Complaint" and a judgment compelling the Army Corps "to stop funding [the Ports' Expansion Project]" and "to provide oversight of the Port's land acquisition practices to ensure [they are] in accordance with the Uniform Act." Id. at 45. In Count II, Rollerson challenges the Army Corps's alleged failure to enforce Title VI and the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policy Act ("URA"), 42 U.S.C. § 4601 et seq. See Id. at 46-48. Rollerson's requested remedy under Count II is virtually the same remedy he describes under Count I. The only difference is Rollerson seeks to add a line in the declaration stating that the Army Corps also violated the APA by "continuing to fund [the Ports' Expansion Project] with federal funds." Id. at 48.

         The Army Corps has moved to dismiss both claims under Rule 12(b)(1) and Rule 12(b)(6).


         A. Rule 12(b)(1)

         A court must dismiss a suit for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1) where it lacks the statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate the case. See Home Builders Ass'n of Miss., Inc. v. City of Madison, 143 F.3d 1006, 1010 (5th Cir. 1998). Subject matter jurisdiction fails if the plaintiff lacks Article III standing. See Bender v. Williamsport Area Sch. DisL, 475 U.S. 534, 541-42 (1986). Therefore, when a plaintiff lacks standing to sue in federal court, it is appropriate to dismiss the action pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) for want of subject matter jurisdiction. See Chair King, Inc. v. Hous. Cellular Corp., 131 F.3d 507, 509 (5th Cir. 1997).

         B. Rule 12(b)(6)

         A pleading must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). This pleading standard does not require "detailed factual allegations, but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atl Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)) (internal quotation marks omitted). Under Rule 12(b)(6), a party may "move for dismissal for a failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Lemieux v. Am. Optical Corp., 712 Fed.Appx. 409, 412 (5th Cir. 2018) (internal quotation marks omitted). "The complaint must be liberally construed in favor of the plaintiff, and all facts pleaded in the complaint must be taken as true." Lowrey v. Tex. A&M Univ. Syst., 117 F.3d 242, 247 (5th Cir. 1997).

         Dismissal is appropriate "when a plaintiff fails to allege sufficient facts that, taken as true, state a claim that is plausible on its face." Amacker v. Renaissance Asset Mgmt. LLC, 657 F.3d 252, 254 (5th Cir. 2011). However, "[m]otions to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) are viewed with disfavor and are rarely granted." Lormand v. U.S. Unwired, Inc., 565 F.3d 228, 232 (5th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). "Determining whether the plausibility standard has been met is 'a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.'" Turner v. Pleasant, 663 F.3d 770, 775 (5th Cir. 2011) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679).


         A. Count I: The ...

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