The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Robert Holmes Bell
In this action for injunctive and declaratory relief, Plaintiffs Abate of Michigan ("Abate"), a Michigan non-profit corporation, and seven of its members, challenge Michigan's motorcycle helmet law, Mich. Comp. Laws § 257.658(4),*fn1 on its face and as applied. The action was originally filed in the Ingham County Circuit Court. Defendants State of Michigan, Department of State Police, and Col. Peter C. Munoz, Director of the Michigan Department of State Police, removed the action on the basis of federal question jurisdiction. Defendants have now moved to dismiss the entire action on the basis of lack of standing, claim preclusion, failure to state a claim, and failure to demonstrate the need for injunctive relief. (Dkt. No. 5.) For the reasons that follow the motion will be granted in part and denied in part.
Defendants contend that Plaintiffs lack standing because their claims of future injury are too speculative.
In order to meet the case or controversy requirement of Article III of the Constitution, a plaintiff must have standing, i.e., "a sufficiently concrete and redressable interest in the dispute." Warshak v. United States, 532 F.3d 521, 525 (6th Cir. 2008) (en banc). To satisfy the standing requirement, a plaintiff must establish that:
(1) he or she has suffered an "injury in fact" that is (a) concrete and particularized and (b) actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical; (2) the injury is fairly traceable to the challenged action of the defendant; and (3) it is likely, as opposed to merely speculative, that the injury will be redressed by a favorable decision. In the context of a declaratory judgment action, allegations of past injury alone are not sufficient to confer standing. The plaintiff must allege and/or demonstrate actual present harm or a significant possibility of future harm.
Fieger v. Mich. Sup. Ct., 553 F.3d 955, 962 (6th Cir. 2009) (quoting Fieger v. Ferry, 471 F.3d 637, 643 (6th Cir. 2006)). "An association may obtain 'standing to bring suit on behalf of its members when its members would otherwise have standing to sue in their own right, the interests at stake are germane to the organization's purpose, and neither the claim asserted nor the relief requested requires the participation of individual members in the lawsuit.'" Cleveland Branch, NAACP v. City of Parma, 263 F.3d 513, 524 (6th Cir. 2001) (quoting Friends of the Earth, Inc. v. Laidlaw Envtl. Servs., 528 U.S. 167, 181 (2000)).
Where, as here, Defendants base their Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss on Plaintiffs' failure to allege sufficient facts in their complaint to create subject matter jurisdiction, the Court is required to take the allegations in the complaint as true. See Nichols v. Muskingum Coll.,318 F.3d 674, 677 (6th Cir. 2003) (citing Jones v. City of Lakeland, 175 F.3d 410, 413 (6th Cir.1999)).
Defendants contend that because Plaintiffs are alleging only possible future injuries -- that they may be stopped, detained, and issued a helmet citation at some undetermined point in the future -- their injuries are too speculative to confer standing. Defendants refer the Court to Fieger, where the Sixth Circuit held that the plaintiffs' assertion that the threat of being disciplined for violating the Michigan Supreme Court's courtesy and civility rules "chilled" his speech and conduct were not sufficient to confer standing. Id. at 962. The Sixth Circuit explained its holding as follows:
[W]hile the challenged rules have been enforced, plaintiffs fail to sufficiently articulate their intended speech or conduct. They make only vague suggestions of a general desire to criticize the Michigan judiciary. They have not presented sufficient facts to demonstrate a threat of sanction arising from their unspecified future criticisms.
In contrast to the allegations of unspecified future conduct that might trigger enforcement of the disciplinary rule in Fieger, the conduct that might subject the Plaintiffs in the case before this Court to enforcement of the motorcycle helmet law is neither vague nor unspecified. Each of the individual Plaintiffs has been stopped, detained, and issued a citation for wearing an illegal helmet. (Compl. ¶ 5.) Abate's mission is to protect the statutory and constitutional rights of its members regarding motorcycling in Michigan and to champion the rights of motorcyclists to equitable, fair, and legal treatment regarding enforcement of the current motorcycle helmet law, Mich. Comp. Laws § 257.658(4). (Compl. ¶ 6.) The possibility that the individual Plaintiffs or other members of Abate may be stopped, detained, and issued a helmet citation in the future for wearing apparently illegal motorcycle helmets is neither conjectural nor hypothetical. There is a significant possibility that they may be stopped and cited for wearing an apparently illegal helmet in the future. Plaintiffs have alleged a sufficient likelihood of future harm to confer standing. Accordingly, Defendants' motion to dismiss for lack of standing will be denied.
Defendants contend that Plaintiffs' claims are barred under the doctrine of claim preclusion or res judicata because they could have been raised in state court when the individual Plaintiffs challenged their citations. Plaintiffs respond that their claims are not barred because Michigan district courts do not have jurisdiction to render declaratory judgments to enjoin enforcement of a Michigan statute.
"'[A] federal court must give to a state-court judgment the same preclusive effect as would be given that judgment under the law of the State in which the judgment was rendered.'" Daubenmire v. City of Columbus, 507 F.3d 383, 389 (6th Cir. 2007) (quoting Migra v. Warren City Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ., 465 U.S. 75, 81 (1984)). Michigan courts employ the doctrine of res judicata "to prevent multiple suits litigating the same cause of action." Adair v. State of Michigan, 680 N.W.2d 386, 396 (Mich. 2004). "[C]laim preclusion 'bars a second, subsequent action when (1) the prior action was decided on the merits, (2) both actions involve the same parties or their privies, and (3) the matter in the second case was, or could have been, resolved in the first.'" Executive Arts Studio, Inc. v. City of Grand Rapids, 391 F.3d 783, 795 (6th Cir. 2004) (quoting Adair, 680 N.W.2d at 396). "[T]he party asserting preclusion bears the burden of proof." United States v. Dominguez, 359 F.3d 839, 842 (6th Cir. 2004) (citing Detroit v. Qualls, 434 Mich. 340, 357-58, 454 N.W.2d 374 (1990)).
Defendants contend that all three elements of res judicata are present here: (1) the individual plaintiffs challenged the issuance of their citations (Compl. ¶ 5(e)); (2) both the prior actions regarding the citations and the current action involve the same individual Plaintiffs and the Michigan State Police; and, (3) the individual Plaintiffs could have challenged the ...