United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Northern Division
JAMES BENJAMIN, as Trustee of the REBEKAH C BENJAMIN TRUST, Plaintiff,
JOHN STEMPLE AND JANET SANTOS, in their official and individual capacities, Defendants.
ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR PRELIMINARY
L. LUDINGTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
March 14, 2018, Plaintiff James Benjamin, trustee for the
Rebekah C. Benjamin Trust, filed suit against Defendant John
Stemple and Janet Santos, employees of the City of Saginaw.
ECF No. 1. In the suit, Benjamin alleges that the City of
Saginaw's practice of requiring owners of “vacant,
but maintained, properties to ‘register' their
property in order to obtain licensing compliance” and,
as part of that registration, consent to warrantless entries
of those properties for administrative protections violates
the United States Constitution. On May 15, 2018, Defendants
filed a motion to dismiss. ECF No. 9. Two days later,
Plaintiff filed an amended complaint. ECF No. 10. Defendants
promptly moved to dismiss, and a hearing on that motion has
been scheduled for September 11, 2018, at 4:00 p.m. ECF No.
11, 2018, Benjamin filed a motion for a preliminary
injunction wherein he requests relief by June 22, 2018. Mot.
Prelim. Inj., ECF No. 16. In the motion, Benjamin seeks
“[a] preliminary injunction order in favor of the
putative class.” Id. at PageID.238.
Importantly, Benjamin does not seek relief for himself in the
motion. A review of the allegations in the amended complaint
and motion for a preliminary injunction makes this clear.
alleges that “[o]n January 11, 2018, Defendant JOHN
STEMPLE issued two municipal citations (i.e. tickets) on
Plaintiff TRUST.” Am. Compl. at PageID.113. Plaintiff
further alleges that “[a]t the time of filing,
Defendant JOHN STEMPLE . . . is actively seeking to impose
penalties on Plaintiff TRUST and Class members for not
waiving the Fourth Amendment rights of Plaintiff TRUST and
Class members.” Id. at PageID.115. The amended
complaint cites to Exhibits C and D in support of that
allegation. Those exhibits are composed of two “Uniform
Municipal Civil Infraction Citation[s]” issued to
Benjamin for “Failure to register vacant
dwelling[s].” Citations, ECF No. 10, Exs. C, D.
Exhibits F and G of the amended complaint indicate that
hearings on the citations were scheduled for March 22, 2018.
ECF No. 10, Exs. F, G. The current status of the enforcement
proceedings, including the outcome of the March 22, 2018,
hearings, is unclear.
motion for a preliminary injunction, Benjamin requests that
the Court “preliminarily enjoin Defendant Stemple . . .
from initiating and continuing quasi-criminal prosecutions
for failing to register in the manner disputed in this
case.” Mot. Prelim. Inj. at PageID.245. As examples of
the harm which Benjamin seeks to prevent, he provides copies
of civil infraction tickets and summons issued to other land
owners in Saginaw. For example, Exhibit A to the motion for a
preliminary injunction is a notice of a hearing issued to the
Jones Family Trust/Bobby Jones. Jones Notice, ECF No. 16, Ex.
A. The hearing on the citation is currently set for June 22,
2018. Benjamin's request for a preliminary injunction
prior to that date confirms that the injury he seeks to
prevent is the continuation of enforcement proceedings
regarding the Jones Family Trust citation. Benjamin also
cites to a citation and notice of hearing issued to Clara
Cooper on January 12, 2018. Cooper Notice, ECF No. 17, Ex. B.
The hearing on Cooper's citation was scheduled for April
12, 2018, but Plaintiff's counsel indicates that
Cooper's action has been stayed by the state court. Mot.
Prelim. Inj. at PageID.237 n.1.
individual standing is a prerequisite for all actions,
including class actions.” Fallick v. Nationwide
Mut. Ins. Co., 162 F.3d 410, 423 (6th Cir. 1998).
“A potential class representative must demonstrate
individual standing vis-as-vis the defendant; he cannot
acquire such standing merely by virtue of bringing a class
action.” Id. “However, once an
individual has alleged a distinct and palpable injury to
himself he has standing to challenge a practice even if the
injury is of a sort shared by a large class of possible
litigants.” Senter v. Gen. Motors Corp., 532
F.2d 511, 517 (6th Cir. 1976). “To seek injunctive
relief, a plaintiff must show that he is under threat of
suffering “injury in fact” that is concrete and
particularized; the threat must be actual and imminent, not
conjectural or hypothetical; it must be fairly traceable to
the challenged action of the defendant; and it must be likely
that a favorable judicial decision will prevent or redress
the injury.” Summers v. Earth Island Inst.,
555 U.S. 488, 493 (2009). “‘[W]hen the plaintiff
is not himself the object of the government action or
inaction he challenges, standing is not precluded, but it is
ordinarily ‘substantially more difficult' to
establish.'” Id. (quoting Defendants
of Wildlife, 504 U.S. at 562). In Summers, the
Supreme Court explained that standing existed only “if
application of the [challenged] regulations by the Government
will affect them.” Id. (emphasis in
are challenging Benjamin's standing to bring this suit as
a whole, ECF No. 16, but that question is currently not
framed before the Court. Indeed, for the purposes of this
motion, the Court will assume without deciding that Benjamin
has standing to bring this complaint. However, the question
of whether Benjamin has standing to request a preliminary
injunction on behalf of putative class members is distinct
from the question of whether Benjamin may litigate this suit
on behalf of putative class members. See O'Shea v.
Littleton, 414 U.S. 488, 495-96 (1974) (“Past
exposure to illegal conduct does not in itself show a present
case or controversy regarding injunctive relief, however, if
unaccompanied by any continuing, present adverse
effects.”); Buchwald v. Univ. of New Mexico Sch. of
Med., 159 F.3d 487, 493 (10th Cir. 1998)
(“[P]laintiff's standing to seek an injunction
ordering her admission to the school based solely on her
allegations of past misconduct does not entail
standing to seek an injunction prohibiting future
use of the disputed preference.”) (emphasis in
motion for a preliminary injunction does not identify
any imminent injury to Benjamin. Rather, Benjamin
contends that he is requesting the preliminary injunction on
behalf of the putative class, not himself. See Mot.
Prelim. Inj. at PageID.238-239 (explaining that, since
issuing a citation to Benjamin, the City of Saginaw
“has instituted numerous criminal civil infraction
actions in the local state court for persons and entities who
refuse to register” and that “others have
approached the undersigned counsel with identical
prosecutions” in the interim); id. at
PageID.238 (“A preliminary injunction order in favor of
the putative class would remedy this harm by
maintaining the status quo.”) (emphasis added);
id. (“As such, Plaintiff, as the putative
class representative, is seeking to stop the imminent and
ongoing constitutional violations to the class until
this case is resolved.”) (emphasis added); id.
at PageID.242 (“Plaintiff would assert that not
entering the injunction is causing substantial harm to the
putative class.”); id. at PageID.245
(“The Court is requested to take action before June 22,
2018 (see Exhibit A) and preliminarily enjoin Defendant
Stemple, in both his official and personal capacities, from
initiating and continuing quasi-criminal prosecutions for
failing to register in the manner disputed in this case
unless and until this Court rules on the merits of this legal
amended complaint indicates that the hearing on
Benjamin's citation occurred on March 22, 2018, and
Benjamin does not contend that the requested preliminary
injunction will benefit him in any way. The unavoidable
conclusion, then, is that the enforcement proceedings against
Benjamin have concluded. That fact is not necessarily fatal
to Benjamin's challenge to the City of Saginaw's
practice of requiring owners of vacant, but maintained,
properties to ‘register' their property in order to
obtain licensing compliance, but it does demonstrate that
Benjamin lacks standing to seek a preliminary injunction
against the initiation of such enforcement proceedings.
Senter confirms that a putative class representative
can advance claims on behalf of the putative class only
insofar as he possesses standing to advance the claim
himself. 532 F.2d at 517. See also Big Elk v. Bd. of Cty.
Comm'rs of Osage Cty., 3 Fed.Appx. 802, 806-07 (10th
Cir. 2001) (holding that the plaintiffs lacked standing to
seek injunctive relief on behalf of a class against the
continuance of a sheriff's department policy because the
plaintiff's had not shown a sufficient likelihood that
they would be subject to the policy a second time). The
injury Benjamin identifies in the motion for a preliminary