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Parker v. United States

September 29, 2010

SUSAN L. PARKER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: John A. Houston United States District Court

ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Susan Parker ("Plaintiff") filed a complaint against the United States of America ("Defendant") alleging three causes of action: 1) wrongful disclosure of tax return information; 2) failure to release lien; and 3) quiet title against defendant. Defendant moves to dismiss the first two causes of action under F.R.C.P. 12(b)(6) and F.R.C.P 12(b)(1), respectively. For the reasons stated below, defendant's motion to dismiss is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

BACKGROUND

As part of a Marital Settlement Agreement between plaintiff and her ex-husband George Parker, plaintiff obtained a parcel of property located at 17597 Cumana Terrace, San Diego, CA ("Property"). In 1993, prior to the divorce, George Parker filed a petition for bankruptcy. Defendant currently has a civil suit pending against George Parker to reduce various tax assessments against him to a judgment ("Parker Suit"). As part of that proceeding, defendant sent a letter to Mr. Parker, dated April 9, 2008, requesting all documents in his possession that pertain to various bank accounts held by Plaintiff. In that letter, Defendant listed the name of the financial institution holding each account and the respective account numbers. The letter also requested "[a] list of all investments forming the basis of Susan Parker's claim of [a specified amount set forth in the letter] in tax exempt interest in tax year 2006. Doc. 1¶9. Plaintiff contends the information contained in Defendant's letter constitutes "tax return information" within the meaning of 26 U.S.C. §6103(b)(3).

On May 1, 2009, Defendant recorded a Notice of Federal Tax Lien on the Property. The lien is in Plaintiff's name as the "nominee, transferee or alter ego" of George Parker. Plaintiff contends Defendant recorded this lien to force George Parker to settle the Parker Suit on terms favorable to the Defendant.

In its motion to dismiss, Defendant claims the first cause of action fails to state a claim and should be dismissed pursuant to F.R.C.P 12(b)(6). Defendant further claims the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to hear the second cause of action because the Defendant has not waived its sovereign immunity. Plaintiff filed an opposition [ Doc. 10.] and Defendant filed a reply [Doc. 13].

DISCUSSION

1. Legal Standard

A. Rule 12(b)(1)

Under Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a defendant may seek to dismiss a complaint for "lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1). When considering a 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss, the district court "is free to hear evidence regarding jurisdiction and to rule on that issue prior to trial, resolving factual disputes where necessary." Augustine v. United States, 704 F.2d 1074, 1077 (9th Cir. 1983). "In such circumstances, '[n]o presumptive truthfulness attaches to plaintiff's allegations, and the existence of disputed facts will not preclude the trial court from evaluating for itself the merits of jurisdictional claims.'" Id. (quoting Thornhill Publishing Co. v. General Telephone & Electronic Corp., 594 F.2d 730, 733 (9th Cir. 1979)). Plaintiffs, as the party seeking to invoke jurisdiction, have the burden of establishing that jurisdiction exists. See Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 114 S.Ct. 1673, 1675 (1994).

B. Rule 12(b)(6)

A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of the complaint. Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001). Dismissal is warranted under Rule 12(b)(6) where the complaint lacks a cognizable legal theory. Robertson v. Dean Witter Reynolds, Inc., 749 F.2d 530, 534 (9th Cir. 1984); See Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 326 (1989) ("Rule 12(b)(6) authorizes a court to dismiss a claim on the basis of a dispositive issue of law." ). Alternatively, a complaint may be dismissed where it presents a cognizable legal theory yet fails to plead essential facts under that theory. Robertson, 749 F.2d at 534. While a plaintiff need not give "detailed factual allegations," he must plead sufficient facts that, if true, "raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1965 (2007).

In reviewing a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must assume the truth of all factual allegations and must construe all inferences from them in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Thompson v. Davis, 295 F.3d 890, 895 (9th Cir. 2002); Cahill v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 80 F.3d 336, 337-38 (9th Cir. 1996). However, legal conclusions need not be taken as true merely because they are cast in the form of factual allegations. Ileto v. Glock, Inc., 349 F.3d 1191, 1200 (9th Cir. 2003); Western Mining Council v. Watt, 643 F.2d 618, 624 (9th Cir. 1981). "Nor ...


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