Lafferty v. Smith et al

Filing 7

ORDER denying as moot Plaintiff's 3 Motion for Default Judgment; granting Government's 4 Motion to Dismiss, signed by Judge James L. Robart.(SWT) (cc: Plaintiff via USPS)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT WESTERN DISTRICT OF WASHINGTON AT SEATTLE 8 9 ERIN-MAUREEN LAFFERTY, 10 ORDER Plaintiff, 11 CASE NO. C17-0513JLR v. 12 SHELLEY SMITH, et al., 13 Defendants. 14 15 I. INTRODUCTION 16 Before the court are two motions: Plaintiff Erin-Maureen Lafferty’s motion for 17 default judgment (DJ Mot. (Dkt. # 3)); and Defendants Shelley Smith, Jan Spicer, and 18 John Koskinen’s (collectively, “the Government”)1 motion to dismiss Ms. Lafferty’s 19 // 20 21 22 1 Ms. Lafferty, who is proceeding pro se, sues Ms. Smith, Ms. Spicer, and Mr. Koskinen in their official capacities as officers of the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”). (See Am. Compl. (Dkt. # 2) at 1-2.) “[A] suit against IRS employees in their official capacity is essentially a suit against the United States.” Gilbert v. DaGrossa, 756 F.2d 1455, 1458 (9th Cir. 1985). Accordingly, the court refers to all three defendants as “the Government.” ORDER - 1 1 amended complaint (MTD (Dkt. # 4)). The Government opposes Ms. Lafferty’s motion 2 (Resp. to DJ Mot. (Dkt. # 5)), whereas Ms. Lafferty failed to respond to the 3 Government’s motion (see Dkt.). The court has considered the parties’ briefing on the 4 motions, the relevant portions of the record, and the applicable law. Considering itself 5 fully advised,2 the court DENIES as moot Ms. Lafferty’s motion for default judgment, 6 GRANTS the Government’s motion to dismiss, and DISMISSES this case with 7 prejudice. 8 II. BACKGROUND Ms. Lafferty, who is proceeding pro se, challenges the validity of the IRS’s 9 10 collection of income taxes and a related tax lien. (See Am. Compl. at 4.) Although her 11 filings are opaque, she appears to contend that the IRS’s tax collection efforts violate a 12 variety of federal statutes. (See id. at 2.) She therefore asks the court to determine 13 whether “the IRS is in Final Administrative Default, and has lost its standing to maintain 14 any semblance of a valid or verified claim” to her property. (Id.; see also id. at 4 (“IRS 15 now appears to be unlawfully coercing conversion of Plaintiff’s equity based on inchoate 16 Notices of Federal Tax liens and levies.”).) To her complaint, Ms. Lafferty attaches “[a] 17 small portion of over a decade’s worth of paperwork.” (Id. at 2; see also id. at 5-30.) 18 On June 1, 2017, having never had default entered against any defendant, Ms. 19 Lafferty moved for default judgment on the basis that the Government had not yet filed a 20 // 21 22 2 Neither Ms. Lafferty nor the Government requested oral argument on either motion, and the court concludes oral argument would not aid in its disposition of the motions. See Local Rules W.D. Wash. LCR 7(b)(4). ORDER - 2 1 pleading responsive to her amended complaint. (DJ Mot.) On June 5, 2017, the 2 Government opposed Ms. Lafferty’s motion (Resp. to DJ Mot.) and moved to dismiss her 3 case (MTD). The motions are now before the court. 4 III. ANALYSIS 5 The Government argues—and Ms. Lafferty fails to refute—that the court lacks 6 jurisdiction over Ms. Lafferty’s claims. (See MTD at 1-10.) The court agrees. See 26 7 U.S.C. § 7421(a); 28 U.S.C. § 2201(a). Subject to certain exceptions not applicable here, 8 the Internal Revenue Code prohibits suits “for the purpose of restraining the assessment 9 or collection of any tax.” 26 U.S.C. § 7421(a); see also Elias v. Connett, 908 F.2d 521, 10 523 (9th Cir. 1990) (citing Bob Jones Univ. v. Simon, 416 U.S. 725, 736-37 (1974)) 11 (confirming that Section 7421(a) divests the court of jurisdiction). Such suits cannot “be 12 maintained in any court by any person.” 26 U.S.C. § 7421(a). Furthermore, the 13 Declaratory Judgment Act specifically divests the court of jurisdiction to afford Ms. 14 Lafferty any declaratory relief. 28 U.S.C. § 2201(a); Hughes v. United States, 953 F.2d 15 531, 536-37 (9th Cir. 1992). Ms. Lafferty’s amended complaint challenges the 16 assessment and collection of a tax and seeks declaratory relief. (See Am. Compl. at 2-4.) 17 Therefore, 26 U.S.C. § 7421(a) and 28 U.S.C. § 2201(a) divest the court of jurisdiction 18 over her claim. The court accordingly dismisses Ms. Lafferty’s amended complaint. 19 Courts must not dismiss a pro se complaint without leave to amend unless “it is 20 absolutely clear that the deficiencies of the complaint could not be cured by amendment.” 21 Akhtar v. Mesa, 698 F.3d 1202, 1212 (9th Cir. 2012) (quoting Schucker v. Rockwood, 22 846 F.2d 1202, 1203 (9th Cir. 1988)). Here, Ms. Lafferty’s complaint, amended ORDER - 3 1 complaint, and related filings demonstrate that her claims are based on an irredeemably 2 flawed legal theory. Unequivocal precedent makes it absolutely clear that amendment 3 would be futile. See Akhtar, 698 F.3d at 1212; Eminence Capital, LLC v. Aspeon, Inc., 4 316 F.3d 1048, 1052 (9th Cir. 2003); see also Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep’t, 901 5 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1988). The court therefore denies Ms. Lafferty leave to amend 6 her complaint. Because Ms. Lafferty’s claims are barred “in any court,” 26 U.S.C. 7 § 7421(a), the court dismisses her claims with prejudice, see Hovgaard v. I.R.S., 8 No. C-97-3054 VRW, 1997 WL 811764, at *1 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 22, 1997) (“No matter 9 how meritorious [the plaintiff]’s claim may be, the court therefore lacks the authority to 10 hear it, and this case must be dismissed with prejudice.”); cf. Altman v. Fuller, 680 11 F. Supp. 1435, 1436 (D. Haw. 1987) (dismissing without prejudice where the plaintiff 12 had a plausible opportunity to properly refile the suit following the completion of a 13 separate tax lawsuit).3 14 IV. CONCLUSION Based on the foregoing analysis, the court DENIES as moot Ms. Lafferty’s motion 15 16 for default judgment (Dkt. # 3), GRANTS the Government’s motion to dismiss (Dkt. 17 // 18 // 19 // 20 // 21 Because the court dismisses this case with prejudice, it DENIES Ms. Lafferty’s motion for default judgment as moot. (See DJ Mot.) 3 22 ORDER - 4 1 2 # 4), and DISMISSES the amended complaint with prejudice. Dated this 25th day of July, 2017. 3 4 A 5 JAMES L. ROBART United States District Judge 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 ORDER - 5

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