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Sam Matranga v. Internal Revenue Service

June 1, 2012

SAM MATRANGA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE, DEFENDANT.



FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

This matter came before the court on November 18, 2011, for hearing of defendant's motion to dismiss plaintiff's complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.*fn1 Attorney Aaron Bailey appeared telephonically on behalf of the defendant. Plaintiff, Sam Matranga, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, appeared on his own behalf. Oral argument was heard, and defendant's motion was thereafter taken under submission.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff commenced this action on June 14, 2011, by filing his complaint. (Compl. (Doc. No. 1)). Therein, plaintiff alleges that the defendant is improperly withholding from him a tax refund in the amount of $11,704 "on non taxable disability income." (Id. at 1.*fn2

On September 29, 2011, defendant filed the motion to dismiss now pending before the court pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) on the grounds that this court lacks jurisdiction over the subject matter of this suit and that plaintiff has failed to state a cognizable claim upon which relief can be granted. (MTD (Doc. No. 8-1) at 3.) Specifically, defendant argues that plaintiff has failed to allege that the defendant has waived its sovereign immunity. (Id. at 3-4.) Moreover, counsel for defendant argues that plaintiff's complaint is so sparse with respect to its factual allegations as to fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. (Id. at 4-6.)

On November 3, 2011, plaintiff filed an opposition stating that he opposes defendant's motion and claiming to have evidence in support of his refund claim, but failing to address the specific arguments raised by defendant's motion. (Pl.'s Opp'n. (Doc. No. 13) at 1.) At the November 18, 2011 hearing before the undersigned, plaintiff claimed to have a letter from the Internal Revenue Service that was relevant to the resolution of defendant's motion. Plaintiff was ordered to serve a copy of the letter on counsel for defendant and to file the letter with the court forthwith. Plaintiff filed a copy of the letter the same day. (Doc. No. 15.) On December 1, 2011, defendant filed a supplemental brief addressing the letter filed by plaintiff. (Doc. No. 16.)

LEGAL STANDARDS APPLICABLE TO DEFENDANT'S MOTION

I. Legal Standards Applicable to Motions to Dismiss Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1)

In moving to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), the challenging party may either make a facial attack on the allegations of jurisdiction contained in the complaint or can instead take issue with subject matter jurisdiction on a factual basis. Thornhill Publ'g Co. v. Gen. Tel. & Elect. Corp., 594 F.2d 730, 733 (9th Cir. 1979); Mortensen v. First Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n, 549 F.2d 884, 891 (3rd Cir. 1977). If the motion constitutes a facial attack, the court must consider the factual allegations of the complaint to be true. Williamson v. Tucker, 645 F.2d 404, 412 (5th Cir. 1981); Mortensen, 549 F.2d at 891. If the motion constitutes a factual attack, however, "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." Thornhill, 594 F.2d at 733 (quoting Mortensen, 549 F.2d at 891). The court may properly consider extrinsic evidence in making that determination. Velasco v. Gov't of Indon., 370 F.3d 392, 398 (4th Cir. 2004).*fn3

II. Legal Standards Applicable to Motions to Dismiss Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6)

The purpose of a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) is to test the legal sufficiency of the complaint. N. Star Int'l v. Ariz. Corp. Comm'n, 720 F.2d 578, 581 (9th Cir. 1983). "Dismissal can be based on the lack of a cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory." Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). A plaintiff is required to allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A defendant's Rule 12(b)(6) motion challenges the court's ability to grant any relief on the plaintiff's claims, even if the plaintiff's allegations are true.

In determining whether a complaint states a claim on which relief may be granted, the general rule is that the court accepts as true the allegations in the complaint and construes the allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984); Love v. United States, 915 F.2d 1242, 1245 (9th Cir. 1989). However, the court need not assume the truth of legal conclusions cast in the form of factual allegations. W. Mining Council v. Watt, 643 F.2d 618, 624 (9th Cir. 1981). The court is permitted to consider material which is properly submitted as part of the complaint, documents not physically attached to the complaint if their authenticity is not contested and the plaintiff's complaint necessarily relies on them, and matters of public record. Lee v. City of Los Angeles, 250 F.3d 668, 688-89 (9th Cir. 2001). Finally, pro se complaints may be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972).

ANALYSIS

Jurisdiction is a threshold inquiry that must precede the adjudication of any case before the district court. Morongo Band of Mission Indians v. Cal. State Bd. of Equalization, 858 F.2d 1376, 1380 (9th Cir. 1988). Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and may adjudicate only those cases authorized by federal law. Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994); Willy v. Coastal Corp., 503 U.S. 131, 136-37 (1992).*fn4 "Federal courts are presumed to lack jurisdiction, 'unless the contrary appears affirmatively from the record.'" Casey v. Lewis, 4 F.3d 1516, 1519 (9th Cir. 1993) (quoting Bender v. Williamsport Area Sch. Dist., 475 U.S. 534, 546 (1986)).

Lack of subject matter jurisdiction may be raised by the court at any time during the proceedings. Attorneys Trust v. Videotape Computer Prods., Inc., 93 F.3d 593, 594-95 (9th Cir. 1996). A federal court "ha[s] an independent obligation to address sua sponte whether [it] has subject-matter jurisdiction." Dittman v. California, 191 F.3d 1020, 1025 (9th Cir. 1999). It is the obligation of the district court "to be alert to jurisdictional requirements." Grupo Dataflux v. Atlas Global Group, L.P., 541 U.S. 567, 593 ...


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