Gillespie v. City of Indianapolis

Decision Date05 June 1998
Docket NumberNo. IP 98-0266-C B/S.,IP 98-0266-C B/S.
Citation13 F.Supp.2d 811
PartiesJerald GILLESPIE, Plaintiff, v. CITY OF INDIANAPOLIS, City of Indianapolis Police Department and Michael H. Zunk, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of Indiana

William J. Friedman, Sante Fe, NM, John C. Ruckelshaus, Ruckelshaus Roland Kautzman & Hasbrook, Indianapolis, IN, for plaintiff.

Marsha C. Massey, Asst. U.S. Atty., Indianapolis, IN, Dale R. Simmons, Assistant Corp. Counsel, City-County Legal Div., Indianapolis, IN, for defendant.


BARKER, Chief Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff's motion strike the United States' motion to dismiss and its jurisdictional arguments on standing and ripeness, Defendants' motion to dismiss, the United States' motion to dismiss and Plaintiff's motion for preliminary injunction. For the reasons set forth below, we deny Plaintiff's motion to strike, grant Defendants' motion to dismiss, grant the United States' motion to dismiss and deny as moot Plaintiff's motion for preliminary injunction. In addition, Plaintiff requests oral argument on his preliminary injunction motion and the Defendants' and the United States' motions to dismiss. However, the Court finds the parties' briefing sufficient for determination of this matter and oral argument unnecessary, and accordingly deny Plaintiff's request for oral argument.


In September of 1996, Congress passed certain amendments (the "Lautenberg Amendment") to the Gun Control Act of 1968, 18 U.S.C. § 921 et seq., adding a firearms disability for "any person ... who has been convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence." See 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(9). Unlike every other federal firearms disability under § 922(g), the Lautenberg Amendment applies to law enforcement officers, for Congress specifically excluded domestic violence misdemeanants from the general exemption for federal and state agencies from § 922(g) firearms disabilities. See 18 U.S.C. § 925(a)(1).

Plaintiff, Jerald Gillespie ("Gillespie"), brought this suit against Defendants, the City of Indianapolis (the "City"), the City of Indianapolis Police Department and Michael H. Zunk, Chief of Police, challenging the constitutionality of the Lautenberg Amendment. See Compl. The United States has intervened in this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2403(a). Gillespie is a police officer employed by the Indianapolis Police Department and has been a full-time law enforcement officer since 1971. See Compl. ¶¶ 5, 8. In October 1995, Gillespie pled guilty to a misdemeanor battery offense involving domestic violence against his ex-wife. See Compl. ¶ 7; Defs.Exh. A. The Indianapolis Police Department proposes to terminate Gillespie based on application of the Lautenberg Amendment, which criminalizes possession of a firearm by domestic violence offenders; under Indianapolis Police Department policy, every police officer must be trained and equipped to use and possess a firearm. See Compl. ¶¶ 6, 25. Gillespie filed suit and moved for preliminary injunctive relief barring his termination of employment, and Defendants, as well as the United States as intervenor, moved to dismiss his complaint. We will first address Gillespie's motion to strike and the City's and the United States' motions to dismiss and then turn to Gillespie's motion for preliminary injunction.


On a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), we must determine whether the plaintiff's complaint states a claim upon which relief can be granted. See Fed. R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). The Court must examine the sufficiency of the plaintiff's complaint, not the merits of his lawsuit. See Triad Assocs. v. Chicago Housing Auth., 892 F.2d 583, 585 (7th Cir.1989). "Accordingly, the motion should not be granted unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff cannot prove any facts that would support his claim for relief." Craigs, Inc. v. General Elec. Capital Corp., 12 F.3d 686, 688 (7th Cir.1993) (citation omitted); see also Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73, 104 S.Ct. 2229, 2232, 81 L.Ed.2d 59 (1984); Jones v. General Elec. Co., 87 F.3d 209, 211 (7th Cir.1996). When reviewing a motion to dismiss, we accept as true all well-pleaded factual allegations and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. See Leatherman v. Tarrant County Narcotics Intelligence and Coordination Unit, 507 U.S. 163, 165, 113 S.Ct. 1160, 1161, 122 L.Ed.2d 517 (1993); Dawson v. General Motors Corp., 977 F.2d 369, 373 (7th Cir.1992).

Scope of the Government's Intervention

The United States, which is not a party to this action, moved the Court to allow the Government to intervene as a matter of right, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2403(a), which provides:

In any action, suit or proceeding in a court of the United States to which the United States ... is not a party, wherein the constitutionality of any Act of Congress affecting the public interest is drawn in question, the court ... shall permit the United States to intervene for presentation of evidence ... and for argument on the question of constitutionality. The United States shall ... have all the rights of a party and be subject to all liabilities of a party as to court costs to the extent necessary for a proper presentation of the facts and law relating to the question of constitutionality.

28 U.S.C. § 2403(a). Gillespie objected to the United States' motion, requesting the Court to limit the scope of the intervention. In an order dated April 17, 1998, we granted the United States' motion to intervene as a matter of right and reserved the issue regarding the permissible scope of the intervention until later. In addition to his objection to the United States' motion to intervene, Gillespie moves to strike the United States' motion to dismiss and its jurisdictional arguments on standing and ripeness on the same grounds.

Gillespie argues that the statutory language of § 2403(a) specifically circumscribes the matters that the United States as intervenor may argue, in particular asserting that the United States may not challenge Gillespie's standing to bring suit and ripeness. See Plaint.Resp. to Govt.Mot.Interv. at 3. The United States responds that § 2403(a) is silent regarding whether its rights as an intervenor include the right to raise jurisdictional challenges and contends that the Court should not prevent the United States from addressing jurisdictional defects because it is "well-settled" that courts "should not reach constitutional questions if their decision[s] can be reasonably avoided." See Govt. Resp./Mot.Br. at 6 (quoting Evans v. Newton, 382 U.S. 296, 315-316, 86 S.Ct. 486, 497, 15 L.Ed.2d 373 (1966)) (Harlan, J., dissenting); see also Peters v. Hobby, 349 U.S. 331, 338, 75 S.Ct. 790, 794, 99 L.Ed. 1129 (1955).

We have found no case law specifically addressing the issue of whether the United States as an intervenor under § 2403(a) may challenge the jurisdiction of the Court. The case law relied upon by Gillespie primarily asserts that the intervention is "limited" to presenting evidence and arguing constitutionality, parroting the words of the statute without providing much interpretation. See Yniguez v. State of Arizona, 939 F.2d 727, 739-740 (9th Cir.1991) (government intervenor only had "limited right," not a party as to appeal); Vietnamese Fishermen's Assoc. v. Knights of Ku Klux Klan, 543 F.Supp. 198, 215 (S.D.Tex.1982); Smolowe v. Delendo Corp., 36 F.Supp. 790, 792 (S.D.N.Y.1940). However, § 2403(a) also states that a government intervenor has "all the rights of a party ... to the extent necessary for a proper presentation of the facts and law relating to the question of constitutionality." 18 U.S.C. § 2403(a). This language suggests to us that the United States may argue issues of standing and ripeness as well as file a motion to dismiss as proper exercises of its right to present its constitutional arguments fully.

In addition, we recognize our independent obligation to determine subject matter jurisdiction as to each case before us, regardless of the parties' arguments or waivers, pursuant to our responsibilities under Article III (see 13 Charles A. Wright, Arthur R. Miller & Edward H. Cooper, Federal Practice and Procedure: Jurisdiction § 3522 at 69-72 (2d ed.1984) (collecting cases); United States v. Tribal Development Corp., 49 F.3d 1208, 1216 (7th Cir.1994) (court's authority to act under Article III carries with it a corresponding duty to monitor its jurisdiction)), which obligation is more acute when addressing constitutional challenges (see Bender v. Williamsport Area School Dist., 475 U.S. 534, 541-542, 106 S.Ct. 1326, 1331 & 1334, 89 L.Ed.2d 501 (1986)). This continuing, nonwaivable requirement of subject matter jurisdiction is codified in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(h)(3), which states:

Whenever it appears by suggestion of the parties or otherwise that the court lacks jurisdiction of the subject matter, the court shall dismiss the action.

Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3).

In light of the right granted to government intervenors under § 2403(a) to present constitutional arguments and the Court's obligation to determine independently whether it has proper authority over the instant case, we will consider the United States' arguments as to standing and ripeness as well as its motion to dismiss. Even if the motion to dismiss is not a proper exercise of the United States' rights as an intervenor under § 2403(a), we construe the motion to dismiss as the United States' argument in support of the constitutionality of § 922(g). Accordingly, we overrule Gillespie's objection to the scope of the United States' intervention and deny Gi...

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