Brott v. United States, No. 16-1466

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtALICE M. BATCHELDER, Circuit Judge.
Citation858 F.3d 425
Parties Kevin BROTT, et al., Plaintiffs–Appellants, v. UNITED STATES of America, Defendant–Appellee.
Docket NumberNo. 16-1466
Decision Date31 May 2017

858 F.3d 425

Kevin BROTT, et al., Plaintiffs–Appellants,
v.
UNITED STATES of America, Defendant–Appellee.

No. 16-1466

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit.

Argued: February 2, 2017
Decided and Filed: May 31, 2017
Rehearing En Banc Denied August 8, 2017


ARGUED: Mark F. Hearne II, ARENT FOX LLP, Washington, D.C., for Appellants. Brian C. Toth, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C., for Appellee. ON BRIEF: Mark F. Hearne II, ARENT FOX LLP, Washington, D.C., Matthew L. Vicari, Stephen J. van Stempvoort, MILLER, JOHNSON, SNELL & CUMMISKEY, P.L.C., Grand Rapids, Michigan, for Appellants. Brian C. Toth, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C., for Appellee. John M. Groen, Ethan W. Blevins, PACIFIC LEGAL FOUNDATION, Sacramento, California, Steven J. Lechner, MOUNTAIN STATES LEGAL FOUNDATION, Lakewood, Colorado, Robert H. Thomas, DAMON KEY LEONG KUPCHAK HASTERT, Honolulu, Hawaii, Shelley Ross Saxer, PEPPERDINE SCHOOL OF LAW, Malibu, California, C. Thomas Ludden, LIPSON, NIELSON, COLE, SELTZER & GARIN, P.C., Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, for Amici Curiae.

Before: BATCHELDER, ROGERS, and WHITE, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

ALICE M. BATCHELDER, Circuit Judge.

Twenty-three Michigan landowners filed suit in federal district court seeking compensation in excess of $10,000 for the United States's alleged taking of their land for use as a public recreational trail. The landowners assert that they are entitled to have their claims considered in an Article III court and by a jury. However, Congress has acted constitutionally in bestowing on the Court of Federal Claims, an Article I court, exclusive jurisdiction over the landowners' compensation claims and removing the right to a jury trial for claims brought in the Court of Federal Claims and in the district court under the Little Tucker Act. Therefore, we must affirm the district court's dismissal of the landowners' complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

I.

The landowners filed suit in the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan, alleging three claims: (1) a Fifth Amendment claim for just compensation, brought under the Little Tucker Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1346 ; (2) a Fifth Amendment claim for just compensation, brought under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 ; and (3) a declaratory judgment claim requesting that the court determine that it has jurisdiction to hear the landowners' compensation claims.1

The district court determined that Congress, via the Tucker Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1491, and the Little Tucker Act, "vested the Court of Federal Claims with exclusive jurisdiction to hear all claims against the United States founded upon the Constitution where the amount in controversy exceeds $10,000." The court found no constitutional infirmity in this statutory framework, despite the fact that the Tucker Act prevents the landowners from filing

858 F.3d 428

their claims for damages exceeding $10,000 in an Article III court, and litigants bringing claims in the Court of Federal Claims2 or in the district court under the Little Tucker Act3 are deprived of a jury trial. Further, because the landowners had failed to demonstrate that the Tucker Act and the Little Tucker Act were unconstitutional, the district court found that they had failed to demonstrate any basis for a declaratory judgment. The court therefore dismissed the complaint pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). This appeal followed.4

II.

"We review questions of subject-matter jurisdiction and statutory interpretation de novo." Williams v. Duke Energy Int'l, Inc. , 681 F.3d 788, 798 (6th Cir. 2012) (citation and quotation marks omitted). "The party opposing dismissal has the burden of proving subject matter jurisdiction." Elgharib v. Napolitano , 600 F.3d 597, 600 (6th Cir. 2010) (quoting Charvat v. GVN Mich., Inc., 561 F.3d 623, 627 (6th Cir. 2009) ). We also review de novo a district court's decision to dismiss a declaratory judgment count for failure to state a claim. See Tyler v. Hillsdale Cty. Sheriff's Dep't , 837 F.3d 678, 685 (6th Cir. 2016) (en banc).

The landowners assert that the district court has federal question jurisdiction, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331, to consider their Fifth Amendment claims. Alternatively, the landowners argue that, to the extent that the Tucker Act and the Little Tucker Act establish that the Court of Federal Claims has exclusive jurisdiction over the landowners' just-compensation claims, those Acts are unconstitutional because they deprive the landowners of review in an Article III court and by a jury.

III.

Federal district courts do not have subject matter jurisdiction to consider just-compensation claims for money damages in excess of $10,000 against the United States. Rather the Tucker Act vests jurisdiction over such claims in the Court of Federal Claims. In pertinent part, the Tucker Act states that

The United States Court of Federal Claims shall have jurisdiction to render judgment upon any claim against the United States founded either upon the Constitution, or any Act of Congress or any regulation of an executive department, or upon any express or implied contract with the United States, or for liquidated or unliquidated damages in cases not sounding in tort....

28 U.S.C. § 1491(a)(1). The Little Tucker Act grants federal district courts concurrent jurisdiction for non-tort claims for money damages under $10,000 against the

858 F.3d 429

United States. Under the Little Tucker Act,

The district courts shall have original jurisdiction, concurrent with the United States Court of Federal Claims, of: ... (2) Any other civil action or claim against the United States, not exceeding $10,000 in amount, founded either upon the Constitution, or any Act of Congress, or any regulation of an executive department, or upon any express or implied contract with the United States, or for liquidated or unliquidated damages in cases not sounding in tort....

28 U.S.C. § 1346(a)(2). Together, the Tucker Act and the Little Tucker Act operate to vest in the Court of Federal Claims subject matter jurisdiction to consider non-tort claims for money damages against the United States in excess of $10,000.

Moreover, the Tucker Act vests in the Court of Federal Claims exclusive jurisdiction to hear such claims. The United States Supreme Court made this clear in Eastern Enterprises v. Apfel , 524 U.S. 498, 118 S.Ct. 2131, 141 L.Ed.2d 451 (1998), when it confirmed that a takings suit for money damages must be filed in the Court of Federal Claims but a declaratory judgment action, seeking determination that a government taking had occurred, may be filed in federal district court.

Under the Tucker Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1491(a)(1), the Court of Federal Claims has exclusive jurisdiction to render judgment upon any claim against the United States for money damages exceeding $10,000 that is "founded either upon the Constitution, or any Act of Congress or any regulation of an executive department, or upon any express or implied contract with the United States, or for liquidated or unliquidated damages in cases not sounding in tort." Accordingly, a claim for just compensation under the Takings Clause must be brought to the Court of Federal Claims in the first instance, unless Congress has withdrawn the Tucker Act grant of jurisdiction in the relevant statute.

Id. at 520, 118 S.Ct. 2131 (citing Ruckelshaus v. Monsanto Co. , 467 U.S. 986, 1016–19, 104 S.Ct. 2862, 81 L.Ed.2d 815 (1984) ); see Blanchette v. Conn. Gen. Ins. Corps. (Reg'l Rail Reorganization Act Cases ), 419 U.S. 102, 126–27, 95 S.Ct. 335, 42 L.Ed.2d 320 (1974) ("The general rule is that whether or not the United States so intended, ‘[i]f there is a taking, the claim is ‘founded upon the Constitution’ and within the jurisdiction of the Court of Claims to hear and determine.' " (citation omitted)); cf . Bowen v. Massachusetts , 487 U.S. 879, 910 n.48, 108 S.Ct. 2722, 101 L.Ed.2d 749 (1988) (explaining that the Tucker Act's grant of jurisdiction to the Court of Federal Claims is " ‘exclusive’ only to the extent that Congress has not granted any other court authority to hear the claims that may be decided by the [Court of Federal Claims]").

Contrary to the landowners' assertion, this court has previously determined that 28 U.S.C. § 1331 does not provide federal district courts with subject matter jurisdiction when Congress has otherwise provided an exclusive forum.

28 U.S.C. § 1331 (1976), the general federal question provision, does not provide a jurisdictional basis on these facts. The Fifth Amendment "taking" claim "arises under the Constitution," and a remedy for a violation of this provision arguably does not require a waiver of sovereign immunity. However, a number of cases indicate that Congress has made the Court of Claims the exclusive and an adequate forum for the Fifth Amendment claims, at least those over $10,000. We conclude that 28 U.S.C. § 1346(a)(2) expressly limits the district court's jurisdiction
858 F.3d 430
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14 practice notes
  • Welch v. Pen Air Fed. Credit Union, CIVIL ACTION NO. 18-00220-B
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Southern District of Alabama
    • September 25, 2019
    ...jurisdiction to consider non-tort claims for money damages in excess of $10,000 against the United States. See Brott v. United States, 858 F.3d 425, 429 (6th Cir. 2017) ("Together, the Tucker Act and the Little Tucker Act operate to vest in the Court of Federal Claims subject matter ju......
  • In re Trinco Inv. Co., No. 11-857L
    • United States
    • Court of Federal Claims
    • October 31, 2018
    ...with the authority of the Court of Federal Claims to hear and decide takings cases against the federal government. Brott v. United States, 858 F.3d 425 (6th Cir. 2017), cert denied, ___ U.S. ___, 138 S.Ct. 1324 (2018), involved the taking of land, and Sammons v. United States, 860 F.3d 296 ......
  • Fairholme Funds, Inc. v. United States, No. 13-465C
    • United States
    • Court of Federal Claims
    • December 6, 2019
    ...Crowell, 285 U.S. at 50, i.e., the payment of a debt with money from the United States treasury. Accord Brott v. United States, 858 F.3d 425, 435 (6th Cir. 2017) (holding that plaintiffs pursuing takings claims are not constitutionally entitled to have those claims adjudicated in an Article......
  • Funds v. United States, No. 13-465C
    • United States
    • Court of Federal Claims
    • December 6, 2019
    ...Crowell, 285 U.S. at 50, i.e., the payment of a debt with money from the United States treasury. Accord Brott v. United States, 858 F.3d 425, 435 (6th Cir. 2017) (holding that plaintiffs pursuing takings claims are not constitutionally entitled to have those claims adjudicated in an Article......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
14 cases
  • Welch v. Pen Air Fed. Credit Union, CIVIL ACTION NO. 18-00220-B
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Southern District of Alabama
    • September 25, 2019
    ...jurisdiction to consider non-tort claims for money damages in excess of $10,000 against the United States. See Brott v. United States, 858 F.3d 425, 429 (6th Cir. 2017) ("Together, the Tucker Act and the Little Tucker Act operate to vest in the Court of Federal Claims subject matter ju......
  • In re Trinco Inv. Co., No. 11-857L
    • United States
    • Court of Federal Claims
    • October 31, 2018
    ...with the authority of the Court of Federal Claims to hear and decide takings cases against the federal government. Brott v. United States, 858 F.3d 425 (6th Cir. 2017), cert denied, ___ U.S. ___, 138 S.Ct. 1324 (2018), involved the taking of land, and Sammons v. United States, 860 F.3d 296 ......
  • Fairholme Funds, Inc. v. United States, No. 13-465C
    • United States
    • Court of Federal Claims
    • December 6, 2019
    ...Crowell, 285 U.S. at 50, i.e., the payment of a debt with money from the United States treasury. Accord Brott v. United States, 858 F.3d 425, 435 (6th Cir. 2017) (holding that plaintiffs pursuing takings claims are not constitutionally entitled to have those claims adjudicated in an Article......
  • Funds v. United States, No. 13-465C
    • United States
    • Court of Federal Claims
    • December 6, 2019
    ...Crowell, 285 U.S. at 50, i.e., the payment of a debt with money from the United States treasury. Accord Brott v. United States, 858 F.3d 425, 435 (6th Cir. 2017) (holding that plaintiffs pursuing takings claims are not constitutionally entitled to have those claims adjudicated in an Article......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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