6 F.3d 683 (10th Cir. 1993), 92-5154, Tilton v. Richardson

Docket Nº:92-5154.
Citation:6 F.3d 683
Party Name:Robert G. TILTON, an individual, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Gary L. RICHARDSON, Ole Anthony, Harry Guetzlaff, C. Tony Wright, David Burrows, and George A. Otstott, Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:September 14, 1993
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
 
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Page 683

6 F.3d 683 (10th Cir. 1993)

Robert G. TILTON, an individual, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

Gary L. RICHARDSON, Ole Anthony, Harry Guetzlaff, C. Tony

Wright, David Burrows, and George A. Otstott,

Defendants-Appellees.

No. 92-5154.

United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit

September 14, 1993

Page 684

J.C. Joyce (Sidney G. Dunagan of Gable & Gotwals, Inc. with him on the briefs), of Joyce & Pollard, Tulsa, OK, for plaintiff-appellant.

Joseph R. Farris (Jody R. Nathan and J. David Mustain of Feldman, Hall, Franden, Woodard & Farris, Dana Bowen, Gregory Meier and Gary L. Richardson of Richardson, Meier & Stoops, Tulsa, OK, Vic Feazell of Richardson & Feazell, Austin, TX, Steven W. Vincent, Tulsa, OK, Martin R. Merritt of Ostott & Associates, Michael F. Linz, Dallas, TX, William M. Hinkle, Tulsa, OK, with him on the brief), of Feldman, Hall, Franden, Woodard & Farris, Tulsa, OK, for defendants-appellees.

Before BRORBY, McWILLIAMS, and EBEL, Circuit Judges.

BRORBY, Circuit Judge.

This case is here via interlocutory appeal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1292(b) (1988) and concerns whether the district court had jurisdiction to address Mr. Tilton's 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1985(3) (1988) claim. 1 Mr. Tilton, who is a pastor, alleges that the Appellees, motivated solely by religious considerations, conspired to destroy his ministry by slander and libel in violation of his First, Fourteenth, and Fifth Amendment rights. The district court dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). Mr. Tilton alleges the six Appellees/Defendants were private individuals acting in their individual capacities. None were alleged to be state actors, although as hereinafter discussed, all were alleged to have acted to influence state action. Mr. Tilton appeals; we accept jurisdiction and now affirm.

I

Mr. Tilton is a minister of a "Prosperity Church" located near Dallas, Texas. "Prosperity Churches" are a new and small denomination of churches not accepted by conventional Christianity. Mr. Tilton alleged the Appellees, "motivated by animus and bigotry toward [Mr.] Tilton and his religion," conspired to destroy Mr. Tilton, his Church, and his religious practices by (1) the publication of libelous and slanderous statements; (2) the filing and prosecution of multiple law suits; and (3) the persuasion of state and federal officials to prosecute Mr. Tilton for fraud. He alleges Appellees thereby caused him to lose parishioners, made it more difficult for him to gain parishioners, and caused him to divert his attention to his defense at the expense of his effective ministry. Mr. Tilton claims Appellees' actions have deprived him of "his right to freedom of religion as guaranteed by the First Amendment, [and] his right to pursue his chosen profession as guaranteed by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments." He further alleges the unfavorable publicity deprived him of his right to trial by a fair and impartial jury.

The complaint designated three claims for relief: (1) equitable relief barring defendants from the future making of false statements; 2 (2) a claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1985(3); and (3) a pendent claim for libel and slander. The district court dismissed the complaint. It held that to be compensable under Sec. 1985(3) a conspiracy must be motivated by "some racial, or perhaps otherwise class-based, invidiously discriminatory animus," Griffin v. Breckenridge, 403 U.S. 88, 102, 91 S.Ct. 1790, 1798, 29 L.Ed.2d 338 (1971), and Mr. Tilton's claim stated only

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factual allegations that demonstrate "alleged animus ... economic in nature rather than religious" not prohibited by Sec. 1985(3).

On appeal, Mr. Tilton contends that the district court erred in dismissing for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and that the complaint does state a cause of action under Sec. 1985(3).

II

Mr. Tilton's first contention is that the district court erroneously found it lacked subject matter jurisdiction. The district court held it lacked subject matter jurisdiction after determining that Mr. Tilton had not stated a cause of action under Sec. 1985(3). Mr. Tilton challenges the district court's refusal to exercise jurisdiction by contending the motion should have been determined under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) or Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 on the merits. The district court's determination of its jurisdiction is reviewed de novo. In re Estate of Slade v. United States Postal Serv., 952 F.2d 357, 360 (10th Cir.1991); Downtown Medical Ctr. v. Bowen, 944 F.2d 756, 762 (10th Cir.1991).

In this instance, the question of whether the court had subject matter jurisdiction was...

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