Osher v. City of St. Louis, Missouri et al
OPINION MEMORANDUM AND ORDER IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Plaintiffs Motion for Temporary Restraining Order, Preliminary Injunction, and Permanent Injunction, [Doc. No. 3], is DENIED. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that this matter is dismissed. 3 Signed by District Judge Henry Edward Autrey on 12/29/16. (CLA)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
LAND CLEARANCE FOR
REDEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY OF
THE CITY OF ST. LOUIS, et al.,
) Case No. 4:16CV1674HEA
OPINION, MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs Motion for Temporary
Restraining Order, Preliminary Injunction, and Permanent Injunction, [Doc. No. 3].
Defendants oppose the Motion. The Court conducted a hearing on the Motion on
November 18, 2016, at which all parties were represented by counsel. Arguments
were heard at the hearing; no evidence was presented. For the reasons set forth
below, Plaintiffs Motion for Temporary Restraining Order, Preliminary Injunction,
and Permanent Injunction is denied and this case is dismissed.
Plaintiff filed this action against the Land Clearance Redevelopment
Authority of the City of St. Louis (“LCRA”) and the National Geospatial-
Intelligence Agency (“NGA”) alleging violations of the Uniform Relocation
Assistance Act (“URA”) and Fifth Amendment. Plaintiff also filed a Motion for
Temporary Restraining Order, Preliminary Injunction, and Permanent Injunction to
enjoin Defendants from displacing him and forcing him to vacate his property
located in the City of St. Louis.
Facts and Background
Plaintiff filed this action on October 28, 2016, alleging violations of the
Federal Uniform Relocation Assistance Act (“URA”), 42 U.S.C. § 4601, et seq. In
his Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that he owns a property in the City of St. Louis at
the comer of Jefferson Avenue and Cass Avenue. He further alleges that he and
Defendant Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority of the City of St. Louis
(“LCRA”) are parties to a case pending in the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis
(the “State Court Case”), in which LCRA acquired his property by eminent,
Plaintiff alleges that LCRA intended to acquire his property in order to
construct a new facility for Defendant National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency
(“NGA”). Plaintiff further alleges that Defendants have never advised him of his
rights under the URA or offered him certain relocation benefits to which he is
supposedly entitled under the URA. Plaintiff claims that Defendants failure to do
so has “resulted in [his] property being unlawfully seized and [him] being
subjected to displacement from his home and business.”
Plaintiff filed his Motion on November 1, 2016 seeking to enjoin Defendants
from displacing him from his property. The Motion, like his Complaint, was not
verified. He did not submit any affidavits in support of his Motion, and did not
offer any evidence during the hearing on it. However, the following facts do not
appear to be in dispute.
LCRA filed the State Court Case on December 29, 2015. Plaintiff did not
challenge LCRA’s right to condemn his property. Pursuant to Missouri law, a
Commissioners’ Hearing was held to determine the fair market value of Plaintiffs
property, which neither Plaintiff nor his attorney attended. The Commissioners
later filed an award assessing the fair market value of Plaintiffs property at
$810,000.00. On June 24, 2016, LCRA paid this amount, with interest, into the
Court registry, and by doing so took title to the property under Missouri law.
LCRA wrote to Plaintiff informing him that he had 90 days to vacate the
property. Because Plaintiff refused to vacate, LCRA filed a Petition for Writ of
Possession in the State Court Case. Plaintiff filed an opposition to that petition,
asserting, inter alia, that LCRA had not provided him with federal relocation
benefits. A hearing on that petition was held the day before Plaintiff filed this
Motion. By the time of the hearing on Plaintiffs Motion in this action, the state
court had sustained the Petition for Writ of Possession and ordered Plaintiff to
immediately tender possession of the Property to LCRA.
Plaintiff brings Counts I and II of his Amended Complaint pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983. However, by its express terms, § 1983 does not provide a cause of
action against the federal government. See 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (imposes liability on
any person who, under color of state law, deprives a person of rights, privileges, or
immunities under the Constitution or federal law) (emphasis added); see also
District of Columbia v. Carter, 409 U.S. 418, 424-25 (1973); Williams v. Rogers,
449 F.2d 513, 517 (8th Cir. 1971). This is a point that Plaintiff conceded in his
Reply brief. Accordingly, Plaintiff’s § 1983 claims against NGA fail as a matter of
law. See McKenna v. St. Louis Co. Police Dep’t, No. 4:09CV1113CDP, 2010 WL
56011, *5 (E.D. Mo. Jan. 4, 2010) (“Section 1983 claims are unavailable against
federal defendants because of section 1983’s state action requirement.”).
In Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 43-44 (1971), the Supreme Court stated
that federal courts should refrain from interfering with pending state judicial
proceedings absent extraordinary circumstances. See Fuller v. Ulland, 76 F.3d 957,
959 (8th Cir. 1996). When determining whether to invoke the Younger abstention
doctrine, courts analyze three factors known as the Middlesex factors: 1) whether
there is an ongoing state judicial proceeding; 2) whether the state court proceeding
implicates important state interests; and 3) whether there is an adequate
opportunity in the state court proceeding to raise constitutional challenges. See
Middlesex v. Garden State Bar Ass’n, 457 U.S. 423, 432 (1982). If all three
questions are answered affirmatively, a federal court should abstain. Id., at 435.
The circumstances here compel such affirmative answers.
The Court finds that all three of the Middlesex factors are met. First, it is
undisputed that there is a pending state court eminent domain action, which
predates this case and concerns the same property at issue here. Second, eminent
domain proceedings have long been recognized as an important state interest. See
Aaron, 357 F.3d at 777; see also Edwards v Arkansas Power & Light Co., 683
F.2d 1149, 1156 (8th Cir. 1982) (important state interest in eminent domain
proceedings makes abstention particularly appropriate). Third, there is no evidence
to suggest that the state court case does not provide Plaintiff an adequate
opportunity to raise the same issues he is raising here and Plaintiffs Motion does
not argue otherwise. Missouri has adequate judicial procedures for consideration of
the parties’ competing interests in eminent domain cases. Aaron v Target Corp.,
357 F.3d 768, 778 (8th Cir. 2004).
Because all of the Middlesex factors are present here and Aaron provides the
controlling precedent, the Court must abstain from proceeding further with this
case. The Court therefore denies Plaintiff’s Motion and dismisses this case as to
Private Right of Action
Considerable discussion and time was devoted to the applicability of the
URA and whether it establishes a private cause of action. Clear Shy Car Wash,
LLC v. City of Chesapeake, VA, 910 F. Supp. 2d 861, 878 (E.D. Va. 2012). Munoz
v. City of Philadelphia, 346 Fed. App’x 766, 769 n. 6 (3d Cir. 2009) (unpublished)
(“We highly doubt whether, in light of Gonzaga…, [the URA] does create a
private right enforceable under § 1983.”). Because the lack of a private right of
action precludes the existence of subject matter jurisdiction, claims suffering from
this jurisdictional defect may be dismissed sua sponte. Kurtz v. U.S., 798 F. Supp.
2d 285, 289 (D.D.C. 2011); Rizvi v. JP Chase Bank, No. 13-3339, 2014 WL
12595656, at * 3 (N.D. Tex. Apr. 9, 2014); Mangano v. Camhriere, No. 04-4980,
2007 WL 2846418, at * 1 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 7, 2007).
To the extent that Plaintiff’s claims against NGA are premised on the URA
and not § 1983, Plaintiff’s claim fails because the URA does not provide a private
right of action. The URA does not expressly allow a private right of action and
seems to foreclose that option by stating that “the provisions of section 4651 of this
title create no rights or liabilities and shall not affect the validity of any property
acquisitions by purchase or condemnation.” See 42 U.S.C. 4602.
The URA also does not provide an implied private right of action for
violations thereof. See Delancey v. City of Austin, 570 F.3d 590 (5th Cir. 2009)
(“Applying the analysis announced by the Supreme Court in Gonzaga…, we hold
that the URA does not provide a private right of action for monetary damages);
Munoz v. City of Philadelphia, 346 Fed. App’x 766, 769 n. 6 (3d Cir. 2009)
(unpublished) (“We highly doubt whether, in light of Gonzaga…, [the URA] does
create a private right enforceable under § 1983.”); Alamo Aircraft Ltd. v. City of
San Antonio,Ho.15-784, 2016 WL 5720860, at * 2 (W.D. Tex. Sept. 30, 016);
Clear Sky Car Wash, LLC v. City of Chesapeake, Va., 910 F.Supp. 2d 861, 878
(E.D. Va. 2012) (URA’s relocation benefits are not enforceable in a federal right of
action). The courts that held no private right of action exists in the URA based
their decisions on Gonzaga Univ. v. Doe, in which the Supreme Court declined to
allow a private suit based on an alleged violation of the Family Educational Rights
and Privacy Act of 1974 because “the text and structure of [the] statute provide[d]
no indication that Congress intend[ed] to create new individual rights…,” as
nothing “short of an unambiguously conferred right” can support a cause of action
under § 1983. 536 U.S. 273, 286 (2002).
The lack of a private right of action within the URA is further evidenced by
the administrative scheme set forth in the statute, which permits the lead agency to
set forth regulations allowing any aggrieved person to have his application for
relocation benefits reviewed by the head of the federal agency having authority
over the project or the state agency in the case of a program or project receiving
federal financial assistance. See 42 U.S.C. § 4633; see also Four T’s, Inc. v. Little
Rock Mun. Airport Comm’n, 108 F.3d 909, 916 (8th Cir. 1997) (“The fact that [the
statute] requires the various written assurances of nondiscrimination to be given to
the Secretary of Transportation ‘indicates that Congress intended to establish an
administrative enforcement scheme’ rather than a private right of action.”).
Although the Eighth Circuit granted a stay of eviction proceedings in
Tullock v. State Highway Comm’n of Mo., 507 F.2d 712 (8th Cir. 1974), the Court
did not specifically hold that the URA created a private right of action. Because
Tullock does not “squarely address” whether this Court has subject matter
jurisdiction over URA claims, its decision does not imply a holding that subject
matter jurisdiction does in fact exist and this Court should consider for itself
whether such jurisdiction exists. See United States v. Lovelace, 565 F.3d 1080,
1085 (8th Cir. 2009) (“[W]hen an issue is not squarely addressed in prior case law,
we are not bound by precedent through stare decisis.”). Based on the text of the
URA, the fact that the Eighth Circuit has not revisited a URA case since the
Gonzaga decision was handed down in 2002 and Tullock conflicts with Gonzaga,
this Court finds that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s URA claim.
See Delancey, 570 F.3d at 595, n. 7 (the argument that the Eighth Circuit
recognized a private right of action under the URA in Tullock is unpersuasive
because that decision predates and conflicts with Gonzaga).
Moreover, the URA does not apply to the underlying eminent domain
proceedings. “URA benefits are available to displaced persons only on projects
undertaken by federal agencies or by state agencies receiving federal financial
assistance.” Moorer v. Dep’t of Hous. and Urban Dev., 561 F.2d 175, 178-79 (8th
Cir. 1977). The eminent domain proceedings were not undertaken by NGA and the
federal government is not providing any financial assistance to LCRA or the City
of St. Louis for the acquisition of Plaintiff’s land or any of the land in the
redevelopment area. Plaintiff’s claims against the NGA therefore must be
Based upon the foregoing analysis, Plaintiff’s Motion for Temporary
Restraining Order, Preliminary Injunction and Permanent Injunction is denied and
this matter will be dismissed.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Plaintiff’s Motion for Temporary
Restraining Order, Preliminary Injunction, and Permanent Injunction, [Doc. No. 3],
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that this matter is dismissed.
Dated this 29th day of December, 2016.
HENRY EDWARD AUTREY
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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