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Higgins v. City of Melrose

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

June 17, 2019

JOHN T. HIGGINS, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF MELROSE, et al., Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS [DOCKET NO. 16]

          JENNIFER C. BOAL UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Defendant City of Melrose has moved to dismiss pro se plaintiff John T. Higgins' complaint. Docket No. 16.[1] For the following reasons, this Court recommends that the District Judge assigned to this case grant the motion.

         I. FACTS[2]

         On December 20, 2018, Higgins filed his complaint, using a model form for pro se litigants. Docket No. 1. In the section asking him to identify the basis for jurisdiction, Higgins chose federal question. Id. at 3. In the section asking him to identify the applicable federal statutes, federal treaties, and/or provisions of the United States Constitution giving rise to the case, Higgins wrote “STATE AUTHORITY VS MUNICIPAL AUTHORITY.” Id.

         In support of his claims, Higgins alleges that:

City of Melrose authorized tow of my car to Stephan's [sic] Auto Body on Tremont St. Melrose. My claim is that city tow/hold authorization is not valid, because land on side of train tracks is state property, and as such, city needs state authorization before towing vehicle.

         Docket No. 1 at 4.

         Higgins named as defendants the City of Melrose and Stephen's Auto Body & Towing Services. Id. at 2. It is not clear whether he also intended to name Gail Infurna, the Interim Mayor of Melrose, and Stephen Longmuir, the principal of Stephen's Auto Body & Towing, as defendants in this action. See Id.

         II. ANALYSIS

         The City of Melrose moves to dismiss the Complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure on the grounds that the Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction and pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) on the grounds that Higgins' complaint fails to state a claim.

         “[A] federal court generally may not rule on the merits of a case without first determining that it has jurisdiction over the category of claim in suit (subject-matter jurisdiction) and the parties (personal jurisdiction).” Sinochem Int'l Co., Ltd. v. Malaysia Int'l Shipping Corp., 549 U.S. 422, 430-31 (2007). Therefore, this Court first addresses the jurisdictional issue.

         A. The Defendant's Motion To Dismiss Based On Lack Of Jurisdiction

         Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. Destek Group, Inc. v. State of New Hampshire Pub. Util. Comm'n, 318 F.3d 32, 38 (1st Cir. 2003). The party claiming that there is jurisdiction carries the burden of showing that the court has jurisdiction. Murphy v. United States, 45 F.3d 520, 522 (1st Cir. 1995).

         In his complaint, Higgins asserts that the Court has subject-matter jurisdiction on the basis of a federal question. Docket No. 1 at 3. A federal question exists if a civil action is one “arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 1331. The federal question must be stated “on the face of the plaintiff's well-pleaded complaint.” Lopez-Muñoz v. Triple-S Salud, Inc., 754 F.3d 1, 4 (1st Cir. 2014) (citations omitted). Higgins has failed to state what law or statute the Defendants allegedly violated. In the section asking for the basis for federal question jurisdiction, he wrote only “STATE AUTHORITY VS MUNICIPAL AUTHORITY.” It appears that Higgins is alleging that the City of Melrose violated state law when it towed ...


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