Zasadil v. State of Alabama et al (MAG+)
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER directing as follows: (1) plaintiff's 23 objection is OVERRULED; (2) the 22 REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION of the Mag Judge is ADOPTED; (3) plaintiff's complaint is DISMISSED without prejudice for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Signed by Chief Judge William Keith Watkins on 1/7/13. (djy, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
THE STATE OF ALABAMA,
ALABAMA DEPARTMENT OF
GERALD HARDY, LANCE R.
LEFLEUR, MARILYN ELLIOTT,
SONJA M. MASSEY, LEE DAVIS,
and PHIL DAVIS,
CASE NO. 1:12-CV-826-WKW
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
On December 14, 2012, the Magistrate Judge recommended dismissal of
Plaintiff Kenneth Zasadil’s complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. (Doc. #
22.) Plaintiff timely objected. (Doc. # 23.) For the reasons that follow, the
Recommendation is due to be adopted.
Plaintiff, an Alabama resident, brought suit against the State of Alabama, the
Alabama Department of Environmental Management (“ADEM”), and various state
officials and employees.
Plaintiff removed three underground storage tanks
containing petroleum from his Chilton County property without providing advance
notice of the removal and without performing a site assessment, as required by state
rules and regulations governing underground storage tanks. Accordingly, ADEM
fined him $1,000.1 Plaintiff then brought this suit, alleging that Defendants “were
derelict in their duty . . . to insure that the public was safe from the possibility of
immediate exposure to toxins which may jeopardize their health and welfare” and that
Defendants harassed, assaulted, and defamed Plaintiff. (Doc. # 1, ¶¶ 7–14.)
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
The court reviews de novo the portion of the Recommendation to which the
objection applies. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).
The Magistrate Judge found no jurisdictional basis for Plaintiff’s claim in
federal court. Plaintiff’s objection does not undermine that conclusion, and de novo
review of the record confirms it.
A pleading must contain “a short and plain statement of the grounds for the
court’s jurisdiction.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(1). Plaintiff asserts that the court has
Alabama law authorizes ADEM to “promulgate rules and regulations relating to
underground storage tanks,” Ala. Code § 22-36-3(1), and to administer and enforce the
regulations it promulgates. Ala. Code § 22-22A-5(1), (18). ADEM sets standards for
“construction, installation, performance, and [operation]” of underground storage tanks in the
Alabama Administrative Code. Ala. Admin. Code r. 335-5-15.01.
jurisdiction to hear his claim because “ADEM is the State Environmental Control
Agency for the purposes of federal Environmental Law.” (Doc. # 1, ¶ 3.) Plaintiff
does not, however, challenge ADEM’s enforcement of any federal law against him or
identify a federal constitutional or statutory basis for relief.2 See 28 U.S.C. § 1331
(granting district courts jurisdiction over claims “arising under the Constitution, laws,
or treaties of the United States”).
Moreover, there is no basis for diversity
jurisdiction, as Plaintiff is an Alabama citizen suing the State of Alabama, a state
agency, and state officials who are Alabama citizens. See id. at § 1332(a) (providing
for federal jurisdiction over state law claims based on diversity of citizenship).
A district court need not consider “[f]rivolous, conclusive, or general
objections.” United States v. Schultz, 565 F.3d 1353, 1361 (11th Cir. 2009) (internal
quotations omitted). But the court must construe pro se pleadings liberally. Estelle
v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976) (“[A] pro se complaint, however inartfully
pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by
lawyers[.]” (internal quotations omitted)). Plaintiff’s objection does not remedy his
The Magistrate Judge extended Plaintiff two invitations to identify a federal basis for
his claim. (See Doc. # 17 (ordering Plaintiff to show cause why complaint should not be
dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction); Doc. # 15 (setting status conference where
court took up question of subject matter jurisdiction).)
Construed liberally, Plaintiff objection is that federal jurisdiction exists because
an Alabama state court is not qualified to hear claims against the State of Alabama,
state agencies, or state officials. (Doc. # 23 at 3 (“If my complaint is heard at the State
level, it would be as if I asked the fox to guard the hen house.”).) But federal courts
may only hear “those cases within the judicial power of the United States as defined
by Article III of the Constitution or otherwise authorized by Congress.” Taylor v.
Appleton, 30 F.3d 1365, 1367 (11th Cir. 1994). District courts may not hear claims
brought against a state, state agencies, or state officials simply because a plaintiff fears
homecooking in that state’s courts. U.S. Const. Art. III, § 2.
Accordingly, it is ORDERED as follows:
Plaintiff’s objection (Doc. # 23) is OVERRULED;
The Recommendation of the Magistrate Judge (Doc. # 22) is ADOPTED;
Plaintiff’s complaint is DISMISSED without prejudice for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction.
A separate judgment shall issue.
DONE this 7th day of January, 2013.
/s/ W. Keith Watkins
CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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