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ENNIS v. POINTER

August 29, 2003

MICHAEL JOHN ENNIS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
AVA POINTER, DEFENDANT; MICHAEL JOHN ENNIS, PLAINTIFF, V. INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE, DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Charles Breyer, District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiff sues an Internal Revenue Service revenue officer to quiet title on a tax lien. Now before the Court are the government's motion to remove Ava Pointer and substitute itself as a defendant, plaintiffs motion for summary judgment, and the government's motion for summary judgment. After carefully considering the papers submitted by the parties, including plaintiffs supplemental opposition filed on August 22, 2003, and having had the benefit of oral argument, the government's motion to substitute parties is GRANTED, the plaintiffs motion for summary judgment is DENIED, and the government's motion for summary judgment is GRANTED.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Michael John Ennis ("Mr. Ennis") filed federal income tax returns for 1994, 1995, and 1996. Kingston Decl. Ex. 1. He did not, however, fully pay the liabilities reflected on those returns. Id. The Internal Revenue Service ("IRS") claims that as of [ Page 2]

January 16, 2003, Mr. Ennis owed the United States $36,221.31, with interest continuing to accrue. Kingston Decl. Ex. 6; Def.'s Mot. at 4.

In 1997, defendant Ava Pointer ("Ms. Pointer"), then known as Ava Mills, held the position of Chief of Support Services with the IRS and was a Revenue Officer with a GS-11 ranking. Pointer Decl. at ¶ 3. On November 24, 1997, she signed and filed with the Contra Costa County Recorder's Office a Notice of Federal Tax Lien ("NFTL") to secure the IRS' interest against Mr. Ennis' property. Pointer Decl. Ex. A.

Mr. Ennis sues Ms. Pointer, challenging the validity of the NFTL. He seeks to quiet title and to recover monetary damages associated with his loss of credit rating. He makes the following allegations:

1. Ms. Pointer did not have the necessary authority to sign and file the NFTL. Compl. at 2.
2. He did not receive notices of liability or demands for payment prior to the filing of the NFTL. Compl. at 2.
3. The government did not follow the necessary state law filing procedures with respect to the NFTL. Compl. at 2.
On January 21, 2003, Mr. Ennis filed a motion attempting to amend his complaint to add the IRS as a defendant, to establish the complaint as one to "quiet title," and to ask for damages of $100,000 for "irreparable financial injury and hardships" arising from the clouding of his title.

Mr. Ennis has filed a motion for summary judgment. The government has filed a motion seeking to dismiss Ms. Pointer from the action and substitute itself as the proper defendant and a motion for summary judgment on the merits.

DISCUSSION

I. Cause of Action

As a precursor to any adjudication of the dispute, the Court must discern the proper legal bases for Mr. Ennis' claims. Pro se pleadings are held to less stringent standards than those drafted by lawyers. See Christiensen v. Commissioner of IRS, 786 F.2d 1382, 1384-85 [ Page 3]

(9th Cir. 1986). The Court should therefore construe his claims liberally in order to assure that he is not prejudiced by any lack of knowledge regarding legal technicalities. See id.

A. Quiet Title

Both sides agree that Mr. Ennis has a cause of action under 28 U.S.C. § 2410. Section 2410 allows suit against the United States to quiet title to property on which the IRS is asserted to have a procedurally invalid lien. See 28 U.S.C. § 241O(a); Elias v. Connett. 908 F.2d 521, 527 (9th Cir. 1990) (recognizing the cause of action); see also Hughes v. United States. 953 F.2d 53l, 538 (9th Cir. 1991) (noting that section 2410(a) "waives sovereign immunity and ...


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