Marshall v. Middlefield ( 2010 )


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  •     08-6229-cv
        Marshall v. Middlefield
    
    
                                  UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
                                      FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT
    
                                        SUMMARY ORDER
    RULINGS BY SUMMARY ORDER DO NOT HAVE PRECEDENTIAL EFFECT. CITATION TO A SUMMARY ORDER
    FILED ON OR AFTER JANUARY 1, 2007, IS PERMITTED AND IS GOVERNED BY FEDERAL RULE OF
    APPELLATE PROCEDURE 32.1 AND THIS COURT’S LOCAL RULE 32.1.1. WHEN CITING A SUMMARY ORDER
    IN A DOCUMENT FILED WITH THIS COURT, A PARTY MUST CITE EITHER THE FEDERAL APPENDIX OR AN
    ELECTRONIC DATABASE (WITH THE NOTATION “SUMMARY ORDER”). A PARTY CITING A SUMMARY ORDER
    MUST SERVE A COPY OF IT ON ANY PARTY NOT REPRESENTED BY COUNSEL.
    
             At a stated term of the United States Court of Appeals
        for the Second Circuit, held at the Daniel Patrick Moynihan
        United States Courthouse, 500 Pearl Street, in the City of
        New York, on the 12 th day of January, two thousand ten.
    
        PRESENT:
                 ROBERT A. KATZMANN,
                 DEBRA ANN LIVINGSTON,
                                Circuit Judges,
                 LOUIS L. STANTON,*
                                District Judge.
        _____________________________________
    
        Kerry L. Marshall,
    
                                       Plaintiff-Appellant,
    
                           v.                                  08-6229-cv
    
        Town of Middlefield, Anne L. Olszewski, Town of
        Middlefield’s Tax Collector, ind., Jane Doe, ind.,
    
                                       Defendants-Appellees.
    
        _________________________________
    
    
    
    
                 *
              Louis L. Stanton, Senior Judge of the United States
        District Court for the Southern District of New York, sitting by
        designation.
    FOR PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT:      Kerry L. Marshall, pro se,
                                  Middlefield, Connecticut.
    
    FOR DEFENDANT-APPELLEE:       No appearance. See Fed. R. App. P.
                                  31(c).
    
    
    
         Appeal from the United States District Court for the
    
    District of Connecticut (Kravitz, J.).
    
         UPON DUE CONSIDERATION, it is hereby ORDERED, ADJUDGED,
    
    AND DECREED that the judgment of the district court is
    
    AFFIRMED.
    
         Appellant Kerry L. Marshall appeals from the judgment
    
    of the United States District Court for the District of
    
    Connecticut (Kravitz, J.) granting Defendants’ summary
    
    judgment motion on the ground that the Tax Injunction Act,
    
    28 U.S.C. § 1341, and the principle of comity deprived it of
    
    subject matter jurisdiction over his 42 U.S.C. § 1983
    
    claims.     We assume the parties’ familiarity with the
    
    underlying facts, the procedural history of the case, and
    
    the issues on appeal.
    
         This Court reviews de novo a district court’s legal
    
    conclusion that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction.      See
    
    Makarova v. United States, 
    201 F.3d 110
    , 113 (2d Cir. 2000).
    
    To the extent that the district court granted summary
    
    
    
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    judgment, this Court reviews such orders de novo and
    
    determines whether the district court properly concluded
    
    there was no genuine issue as to any material fact and the
    
    moving party was entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
    
    See Cronin v. Aetna Life Ins. Co., 
    46 F.3d 196
    , 202-03 (2d
    
    Cir. 1995).   Summary judgment is appropriate where “there is
    
    no genuine issue as to any material fact and . . . the
    
    movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law,” Fed.
    
    R. Civ. P. 56(c), i.e., “[w]here the record taken as a whole
    
    could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the
    
    non-moving party.”   Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith
    
    Radio Corp., 
    475 U.S. 574
    , 587 (1986).
    
        The Tax Injunction Act (“TIA”) provides that “[t]he
    
    district courts shall not enjoin, suspend or restrain the
    
    assessment, levy or collection of any tax under State law
    
    where a plain, speedy and efficient remedy may be had in the
    
    courts of such State.”   28 U.S.C. § 1341; see Long Island
    
    Lighting Co. v. Town of Brookhaven, 
    889 F.2d 428
    , 431 (2d
    
    Cir. 1989) (explaining that the TIA prevents district courts
    
    from providing injunctive and declaratory relief as long as
    
    there is a “plain, speedy and efficient” state court
    
    remedy).   Similarly, the principle of comity prevents a
    
    
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    taxpayer from seeking damages in a § 1983 action if a plain,
    
    adequate, and complete remedy may be had in state court.
    
    See Long Island Lighting Co., 889 F.2d at 431.   Before the
    
    TIA may be invoked to bar district court jurisdiction, two
    
    conditions must exist: (1) the assessment or surcharge in
    
    question must constitute a tax; and (2) the plaintiff must
    
    lack a “plain, speedy and efficient remedy in state court.”
    
    Hattem v. Schwarzenegger, 
    449 F.3d 423
    , 427 (2d Cir. 2006).
    
    This Court has explained that “the TIA should be interpreted
    
    to preclude jurisdiction only where ‘state taxpayers seek
    
    federal-court orders enabling them to avoid paying state
    
    taxes.’” Luessenhop v. Clinton County, 
    466 F.3d 259
    , 267 (2d
    
    Cir. 2006) (quoting Hibbs v. Winn, 
    542 U.S. 88
    , 107 (2004)).
    
        Here, the district court properly concluded that
    
    Appellant’s complaint sought to avoid the payment of taxes.
    
    The parties disputed whether Appellant had paid a particular
    
    motor vehicle property tax bill that had been assessed on
    
    his Dodge Intrepid.   Furthermore, although Appellant argues
    
    that his case is analogous to Luessenhop and Wells v.
    
    Malloy, 
    510 F.2d 74
    , 77 (2d Cir. 1975), he is not directly
    
    challenging the method by which he was notified of the
    
    delinquent taxes, nor the state statute specifying that he
    
    
                                  4
    must pay the delinquent taxes on the Dodge Intrepid before
    
    he is allowed to pay the taxes on his other automobile.
    
        We note that Connecticut provides multiple methods by
    
    which a taxpayer may contest property taxes: (1) the
    
    taxpayer may administratively appeal the assessment to a
    
    board of assessment appeals, and he may then appeal that
    
    decision to Connecticut Superior Court, under Conn. Gen.
    
    Stat. § 12-117a; or (2) the taxpayer may directly file an
    
    action in Connecticut Superior Court to claim that the
    
    property has been wrongfully assessed, under Conn. Gen.
    
    Stat. § 12-119.    See, e.g., Second Stone Ridge Coop. Corp.
    
    v. City of Bridgeport, 
    597 A.2d 326
    , 326 (Conn. 1991)
    
    (distinguishing between § 12-119 and § 12-117a, which was
    
    formerly codified as § 12-118, in the context of challenges
    
    to valuation).    Appellant argues that it would have been
    
    impossible for him to have timely filed a claim under § 12-
    
    119 in state court since the assessment concerned the 1997
    
    tax year and he only learned of the assessment in 2007.
    
    However, even assuming this is true, it does not appear
    
    likely that the Connecticut state courts would construe the
    
    statute of limitations in a way that would completely
    
    foreclose any claim.    See, e.g., Wiele v. City of
    
    
                                   5
    Bridgeport, No. CV074020814S, 
    2008 WL 5253146
    , at *2-4
    
    (Conn. Super. Ct. 2008); Lawrence & Memorial Hosp. v. City
    
    of New London, No. CV074007075, 
    2008 WL 271664
    , at *4-5
    
    (Conn. Super Ct. 2008); cf. Interlude, Inc. v. Skurat, 
    754 A.2d 153
    , 158 (Conn. 2000) (calling a result in which
    
    application of the § 12-119 statute of limitations would
    
    have left plaintiff with only six days to file an appeal
    
    “bizarre”).
    
        Thus, the district court properly concluded that it
    
    lacked subject matter jurisdiction to consider his claims
    
    under the TIA and the principle of comity.   See Long Island
    
    Lighting, 889 F.2d at 433.   Accordingly, the district
    
    court’s judgment is AFFIRMED.
    
    
                                 FOR THE COURT:
                                 Catherine O’Hagan Wolfe, Clerk
    
                                 By:___________________________
    
    
    
    
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