374 P.3d 779 (Okla. 2016), 114482, Dani v. Miller

Docket Nº:114482
Citation:374 P.3d 779, 2016 OK 35
Opinion Judge:COMBS, V.C.J.
Party Name:ROBERT N. DANI, as a resident beneficiary taxpayer claimant of the STATE OF OKLAHOMA UNIFORM UNCLAIMED PROPERTY ACT TRUST and for the benefit of all the other 938,021 (more or less) resident and non-resident beneficiary claimants of the Trust, Plaintiff/Appellant, v. (1) KEN MILLER, in his official capacity as TREASURER OF THE STATE OF OKLAHOMA and
Attorney:Jerry R. Fent, Oklahoma City, OK, for Plaintiff/Appellant. Ted Pool, Oklahoma City, OK, for Plaintiff/Appellant. Jared B. Haines, Assistant Solicitor General, and Mithun S. Mansinghani, Deputy Solicitor General, Oklahoma City, OK, for Defendants/Appellees Ken Miller, State Treasurer of Oklahoma, ...
Judge Panel:COMBS, V.C.J. ALL JUSTICES CONCUR.
Case Date:March 29, 2016
Court:Supreme Court of Oklahoma
 
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Page 779

374 P.3d 779 (Okla. 2016)

2016 OK 35

ROBERT N. DANI, as a resident beneficiary taxpayer claimant of the STATE OF OKLAHOMA UNIFORM UNCLAIMED PROPERTY ACT TRUST and for the benefit of all the other 938,021 (more or less) resident and non-resident beneficiary claimants of the Trust, Plaintiff/Appellant,

v.

(1) KEN MILLER, in his official capacity as TREASURER OF THE STATE OF OKLAHOMA and TRUSTEE OF THE STATE'S UNIFORM UNCLAIMED PROPERTY ACT TRUST; and (2) STATE OF OKLAHOMA; and (3) JOHN DOE and/or MARY DOE, Attorneys for the State of Oklahoma and/or State officials, etc. for legal malpractice in their advice that the Uniform Unclaimed Property Act Trust was lawful and constitutional in its use of private trust funds for the State of Oklahoma profits, Defendants/Appellees

114482

Supreme Court of Oklahoma

March 29, 2016

ON APPEAL FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF OKLAHOMA COUNTY. HONORABLE THOMAS E. PRINCE DISTRICT JUDGE.

ORDER OF THE TRIAL COURT IS AFFIRMED.

SYLLABUS

[¶0] An owner of unclaimed property filed suit in the District Court of Oklahoma County seeking relief, including damages, declaratory relief, and injunctive relief challenging the constitutionality and administration of the Oklahoma Uniform Unclaimed Property Act, 60 O.S. § § 651-688. The State Treasurer in his official capacity, and other defendants, moved to dismiss the petition for failure to state a claim for which relief could be grated pursuant to 12 O.S. 2011 § 2012(B)(6). The property owner moved for summary judgment. The trial court granted the defendants' motion to dismiss and denied the property owner's motion for summary judgment, and the property owner appealed.

Jerry R. Fent, Oklahoma City, OK, for Plaintiff/Appellant.

Ted Pool, Oklahoma City, OK, for Plaintiff/Appellant.

Jared B. Haines, Assistant Solicitor General, and Mithun S. Mansinghani, Deputy Solicitor General, Oklahoma City, OK, for Defendants/Appellees Ken Miller, State Treasurer of Oklahoma, and the State of Oklahoma.

COMBS, V.C.J. ALL JUSTICES CONCUR.

OPINION

COMBS, V.C.J.:

[¶1] The question presented to this Court is whether the trial court properly granted Defendants/Appellees' motion to dismiss the action for failure to state claims upon which relief may be granted, and denied Plaintiff/Appellant's motion for summary judgment. We hold in the affirmative, and affirm the trial court's order.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

[¶2] Plaintiff /Appellant Robert N. Dani (Appellant) is an Oklahoma resident and taxpayer. Certain property belonging to Appellant was handed over to the State Treasurer pursuant to the Uniform Unclaimed Property Act (UUPA), 60 O.S. § § 651-688, because it was presumed abandoned. This property consisted of $19.56, received in 2004 and submitted by Chevron/Texaco, as well as $150.00, received in 2013 and submitted by Office Depot, Inc. Appellant filed a claim for this property on or about January 16, 2014. His claim was approved, and a check was issued to Appellant for $169.56 on April 17, 2014.

[¶3] On June 22, 2015, Appellant filed suit in Oklahoma County District Court against Defendants/Appellees (collectively, " State" ), seeking damages, declaratory relief, and injunctive relief, concerning the constitutionality and administration of the UUPA. Appellant's first causes of action center on the alleged creation of a trust by the UUPA, and he argues: 1) the UUPA is a " public trust," having the State Treasurer as trustee and private parties such as Appellant as the beneficiaries; 2) UUPA provisions that require transfer of funds not held as reserve in the UUPA's Unclaimed Property Fund to the State of Oklahoma's General Revenue Fund violate trust obligations; and 3) the UUPA's requirement that interest and income accruing in the Unclaimed Property Fund's principal be paid to the general revenue fund violates trust obligations.

[¶4] Appellant also asserts the UUPA is a " Ponzi scheme" . He then sets out causes of action detailing alleged violations of the United States and Oklahoma Constitutions, including: 1) the statutorily-required transfers to the General Revenue Fund create a debt in violation of Okla. Const. art. 10, § 23; and 2) the statutorily required transfers violate the U.S. Constitution's prohibition on takings without just compensation, the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution, as well as the due process protection of Okla. Const. art. 2, § 7.

[¶5] Appellant further alleges that by committing the above-described acts, state officials violated their oaths of office and unnamed attorneys for the state committed legal malpractice. Finally, Appellant asserts no statute of limitations bars his claim and that sovereign immunity does not apply.

[¶6] On July 16, 2015, the State filed a Motion to Dismiss Appellant's Petition. The State asserts generally that the UUPA complies with all constitutional requirements and the State Treasurer's administration of the Unclaimed Property Fund complies with the UUPA and any duties as a trustee. Specifically, the State argues: 1) Appellant's trust arguments fail to state a claim, and even if they do, whether the UUPA creates a public trust as provided for in 60 O.S. 2011 § 176 is irrelevant; 2) the UUPA does not create an obligation that binds future legislators to appropriate money for a certain purpose, and therefore does not create an unconstitutional debt in violation of Okla. Const. art. 10, § 23; 3) Longstanding State and Federal precedent upholding the constitutionality of state unclaimed property statutes defeats Appellant's other Constitutional claims; 4) Appellant's statute of limitations claim, oath claim, and malpractice claim are not legally cognizable; and 5) any claims for damages are precluded by sovereign immunity.

[¶7] While the State's Motion to Dismiss was pending, Appellant filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on August 31, 2015. The trial court held a hearing to consider both motions on October 7, 2015. In a journal entry filed on November 4, 2015, the trial court granted the State's Motion to Dismiss as to all of Appellant's causes of action, and denied Appellant's Motion for Summary Judgment. The trial court determined: 1) sovereign immunity precluded monetary damages in the case; 2) none of the provisions of the UUPA effectuate an unconstitutional taking; and 3) Appellant's other causes of action failed to state a claim on which relief could be granted for the reasons articulated by the State in its Motion to Dismiss.

[¶8] Appellant appealed the trial court's ruling, and filed his Petition in Error pursuant to Rule 1.36, Oklahoma Supreme Court Rules, 12 O.S.Supp. 2013, Ch. 15, App. 1, on November 30, 2015. In his Petition in Error, Appellant argues the trial court erred when it denied his Motion for Summary Judgment and granted the State's Motion to Dismiss. Appellant asserts: 1) the UUPA is a " public trust" having the Treasurer as a trustee and private parties as beneficiaries; 2) the UUPA provisions requiring transfer of funds not held as reserve to the State's General Revenue Fund violate trust obligations; 3) the UUPA requirement that interest and income accruing in the Unclaimed Property Fund's principle be paid to the State's General Revenue Fund violates trust obligations; 4) the UUPA is a " Ponzi scheme" ; 5) transfers from the Unclaimed Property Fund to the State's General Revenue Fund create a debt in violation of Okla. Const. art. 10, § 23; and 6) transfers from the Unclaimed Property Fund to the State's General Revenue Fund violate the U.S. Constitution's prohibition on takings without just compensation, Due Process Clause, and Equal Protection Clause, as well as the due process protections of Okla. Const. art. 2, § 7.[1]

[¶9] Appellant filed a Motion to Retain in the Supreme Court on November 30, 2015, which this Court granted on December 22, 2015.2 The cause was assigned to this office on December 29, 2015. There is a pending Motion to Set Oral Argument Before This Court En Banc filed by Appellant on November 30, 2015. This motion is denied.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

[¶10] Motions to dismiss are generally viewed with disfavor, and the standard of review before this Court is de novo. Ladra v. New Dominion, LLC, 2015 OK 53, ¶ 8, 353 P.3d 529; Simonson v. Schaefer, 2013 OK 25, ¶ 3, 301 P.3d 413; Hayes v. Eateries, Inc., 1995 OK 108, ¶ 2, 905 P.2d 778. The purpose of a motion to dismiss is to test the law that governs the claim, not the underlying facts. Wilson v. State ex rel. State Election Bd., 2012 OK 2, ¶ 4, 270 P.3d 155; Darrow v. Integris Health, Inc., 2008 OK 1, ¶ 7, 176 P.3d 1204; Zaharias v. Gammill, 1992 OK 149, ¶ 6, 844 P.2d 137. Accordingly, when considering the legal sufficiency of the petition the court takes all allegations in the pleading as true together...

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