Shuster v. Mnuchin et al
Opinion & Order signed by Judge James S. Gwin on 10/26/17. Plaintiff's complaint on its face fails to state any plausible federal claim for relief. Plaintiff is granted leave to file an amended complaint within 30 days from the date of this order setting forth a valid federal claim against proper defendants. If plaintiff files and serves such an amended pleading, the defendant(s) will have 30 days thereafter to respond, either through answer or motion. (D,MA)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO
KAREN L. SHUSTER,
STEVEN TURNER MNUCHIN, et al.,
CASE NO. 1:17 CV 1313
OPINION & ORDER
JAMES S. GWIN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE:
Pro se plaintiff Karen L. Shuster has filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§1983 against various United States and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) officials and
employees: Secretary of the Treasury Steven Turner Mnuchin; Commissioner of the IRS John
Koskinen; Acting Assistant United States Attorney General David A. Hubbert, and “J. Does”
IRS agents. (Doc. No. 1.) Her complaint alleges that the defendants have violated the Sixteenth
Amendment to the Constitution, which affords Congress the power to lay and collect taxes on
income without apportionment, by “knowingly and illegally taxing [her] sources” and have
illegally placed liens on her property. (Id. at ¶18.) She contends her “sources” are not income.
Pursuant to § 1983 and various state laws, she requests $1.5 million in damages. In addition,
she seeks declaratory and injunctive relief. (Id., ¶¶ 36-39.)
Although pro se pleadings are entitled to a liberal construction, the plaintiff’s complaint,
as written, fails to allege any plausible federal claim. Taxpayer suits for damages cannot be
brought against individual federal officials under Bivens v. Six Unknown Federal Narcotics
Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), which allows civil rights claims to be brought against federal
officials analogous to those permitted against state officials under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See
Fishburn v. Brown, 125 F.3d 979, 982-83 (6th Cir. 1997) (holding that the civil rights remedy
allowed against federal officials under Bivens is not available against IRS agents for their
alleged wrongful seizure of taxpayer property); abrogation on other grounds recognized in
Hoogerheide v. IRS, 637 F.3d 634 (6th Cir. 2011). In addition, when government officials are
sued in their official capacity, the suit is against the government itself, and the United States has
not waived its sovereign immunity for damage suits arising under the Constitution. See Morris
v. United States, 540 Fed. App’x 477 (6th Cir. 2013). The plaintiff’s requests for declaratory and
injunctive relief are also barred under the Declaratory Judgment and Tax Anti-Injunction Acts,
which preclude jurisdiction over suits brought for the purpose of restraining the assessment or
collection of taxes. See id. at 483.
Accordingly, for all of these reasons, the plaintiff’s complaint on its face fails to state
any plausible federal claim for relief. In that the plaintiff has paid the filing fee, however, she is
granted leave to file an amended complaint within 30 days from the date of this order setting
forth a valid federal claim against proper defendants. If the plaintiff files and serves such an
amended pleading, the defendant or defendants will have 30 days thereafter to respond, either
through answer or motion.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Dated: October 26, 2017
James S. Gwin
JAMES S. GWIN
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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