United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division
James R. Rankin, Plaintiff,
Lee g. Lull, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS AND
ORDER DISMISSING MOTION TO EXPEDITE
L. MALONEY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
James Rankin filed this lawsuit in which he complains about
the denial of certain benefits for veterans. Rankin has been
granted in forma pauperis status and is proceeding
without counsel. Defendant Lee Lull filed a motion to
dismiss. (ECF No. 9.) Rankin filed a motion to expedite the
resolution of his complaint. (ECF No. 15.) This Court lacks
jurisdiction to resolve Rankin's claims arising from a
denial of benefits for veterans. And, Rankin has not stated a
claim for which this Court may grant relief related the
property tax exemption for veterans. Therefore, Lull's
motion to dismiss will be granted and Rankin's motion to
expedite will be dismissed a moot.
challenged by a motion filed under Rule 12(b)(1), the
plaintiff bears the burden of establishing subject matter
jurisdiction. EEOC v. Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran
Church and Sch., 597 F.3d 769, 776 (6th Cir. 2010)
(citing Hollins v. Methodist Healthcare,
Inc., 474 F.3d 223, 225 (6th Cir. 2007)). A motion
to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction may take the form of a facial challenge, which
tests the sufficiency of the pleading, or a factual
challenge, which contests the factual predicate for
jurisdiction. See RMI Titanium Co. v. Westinghouse Elec.
Corp., 78 F.3d 1125, 1134 (6th Cir. 1996) (quoting
Mortensen v. First Fed. Savings and Loan Ass'n,
549 F.2d 884, 890-91 (3d Cir. 1977)); see also DLX, Inc.
v. Kentucky, 381 F.3d 511, 516 (6th Cir. 2004); Ohio
Nat'l Life Ins. Co. v. United States, 922 F.2d 320,
325 (6th Cir. 1990). In a facial attack, the court accepts as
true all the allegations in the complaint, similar to the
standard for a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. Ohio Nafl Life Ins.
Co., 922 F.2d at 325. In a factual attack, the
allegations in the complaint are not afforded a presumption
of truthfulness and the district court weighs competing
evidence to determine whether subject matter jurisdiction
exists. Id. In this case, Defendant has made a
facial challenge to the complaint. The court accepts as true
the allegations in the complaint in order to determine
whether subject matter jurisdiction exists.
the notice pleading requirements, a complaint must contain a
short and plain statement of the claim showing how the
pleader is entitled to relief. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2); see
Thompson v. Bank of America, N.A., 773 F.3d 741, 750
(6th Cir. 2014) (holding that to survive a Rule 12(b)(6)
motion, the complaint Amust comply with the pleading
requirements of Rule 8(a)."). The complaint need not
contain detailed factual allegations, but it must include
more than labels, conclusions, and formulaic recitations of
the elements of a cause of action. Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). A defendant
bringing a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim
under Rule 12(b)(6) tests whether a cognizable claim has been
pled in the complaint. Scheid v. Fanny Farmer Candy
Shops, Inc., 859 F.2d 434, 436 (6th Cir. 1988). Although
the court considers the well-pled factual allegations in the
complaint, a motion to dismiss turns exclusively on questions
of law. See Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 150 n.8
(1985); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
674-75 (2009) (“Evaluating the sufficiency of the
complaint is not a 'fact-based' question of law, . .
survive a motion to dismiss, “[t]he complaint must
'contain either direct or inferential allegations
respecting all material elements necessary for recovery under
a viable legal theory.'" Kreipke v. Wayne State
Univ., 807 F.3d 768, 774 (6th Cir. 2015) (citation
omitted). The plaintiff must provide sufficient factual
allegations that, if accepted as true, are sufficient to
raise a right to relief above the speculative level. Bell
Atl., 550 U.S. at 555. And the claim for relief must be
plausible on its face. Id. at 570. “A claim is
plausible on its face if the 'plaintiff pleads factual
content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged.'" Ctr. for Bio-Ethical Reform, Inc. v.
Napolitano, 648 F.3d 365, 369 (6th Cir. 2011) (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “The plausibility
standard is not akin to a 'probability requirement, '
but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a
defendant has acted unlawfully." Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 678 (citations omitted). When considering a motion to
dismiss, a court must accept as true all factual allegations,
but need not accept any legal conclusions. Ctr. for
Bio-Ethical Reform, 648 F.3d at 369. Naked assertions
without further factual enhancement, formulaic recitations of
the elements of a cause of action, and mere labels and
conclusions will be insufficient for a pleading to state a
plausible claim. SFS Check, LLC v. First Bank of
Delaware, 774 F.3d 351, 355 (6th Cir. 2014) (citations
stated previously, Rankin is proceeding without counsel. He
filed his complaint using a blank form and has attached a
statement in which he summarizes his interactions with Lull
and sets forth the basic facts giving rise to his claims.
This Court must liberally construe the pleadings and other
filings of pro se parties. Boswell v. Mayer, 169
F.3d 384, 387 (6th Cir. 1999); see Owens v. Keeling,
461 F.3d 763, 776 (6th Cir. 2006) (citing Spotts v.
United States, 429 F.3d 248, 250 (6th Cir. 2005) (citing
Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972))). For
the purpose of Lull's motion, the Court must assume the
well-pleaded facts in the complaint are true.
is a disabled veteran. Rankin alleges that “some years
ago” he sought assistance from the Berrien County
Veterans Services Office (Office). Defendant Lee Lull is the
director of the Berrien County Veterans Services. Rankin
asserts that he has been battling the Veteran's
Administration over the “seizure” of his pension.
Rankin does not provide any background for this claim or
otherwise explain what occurred. Rankin states that the
dispute over his pension “went the distance” and
is now before Veterans Board of Appeals.
sought assistance from the Office for a claim for benefits
under 38 U.S.C. § 1151. He claims that he was injured by
the Veteran's Administration (VA), although he does not
discuss the nature of his injury or how it occurred. Rankin
insists that the Office told him that § 1151 did not
apply. Rankin alleges he has since receive the relevant forms
and information to complete the forms. Rankin insists the
initial denial of the forms, and the denial of assistance to
complete the forms gives rise to a claim for denial of his
right to petition the government.
Rankin sought a veteran's exemption for property taxes
using form 21-8940. Rankin alleges that Lull stated that the
exemption did not apply. According to Rankin, Lull would not
provide the form or provide any assistance with the exemption
form. Eventually, Rankin was able to find the exemption form