Hutcherson v. Lauderdale County, Tennessee, 00-5686.

Citation326 F.3d 747
Decision Date09 April 2003
Docket NumberNo. 00-5686.,00-5686.
PartiesWiley HUTCHERSON; Western Tennessee Enterprises, Inc.; and Hutcherson Metals, Inc., Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. LAUDERDALE COUNTY, TENNESSEE; Lauderdale County Commission; Lauderdale County Regional Planning Commission; Rozell Criner; Don Ammons; Robert Flagg; Dennis McCaslin; and Doug Collins, Defendants-Appellees.
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)

Patrick W. Rogers (argued and briefed), Jerry D. Kizer, Jr. (briefed), Rainey, Kizer, Butler, Reviere & Bell, Jackson, Tennessee, for Appellants.

Michael E. Keeney (argued and briefed), Kemper B. Durand (briefed), Thomason, Hendrix, Harvey, Johnson & Mitchell, Memphis, Tennessee, for Appellee.

Before MOORE and COLE, Circuit Judges; ROSEN, District Judge.*


COLE, Circuit Judge.

This action stems from the efforts of a commercial landfill operator to win approval for its proposed landfill expansion after a change in Tennessee law required the expansion of pre-existing landfills to comply with new zoning requirements. Plaintiffs-Appellants Wiley Hutcherson ("Hutcherson"), the property owner, Hutcherson Metals, Inc. ("Hutcherson Metals"), and Western Tennessee Enterprises, Inc. ("WTE"), argue that Hutcherson Scrap Company, Inc. ("Hutcherson Scrap"), which is not a party to this lawsuit, was the subject of differential treatment and arbitrary action by Defendants-Appellees Lauderdale County, Tennessee; Lauderdale County Commission (the "County Commission"); Lauderdale County Regional Planning Commission (the "Planning Commission"); Rozell Criner, former Lauderdale County Executive; Don Ammons, Robert Flagg, and Dennis McCaslin, County Commission and Planning Commission members between July 1990 and November 1992; and Doug Collins, Planning Commission member during all relevant periods of this dispute. Plaintiffs now appeal the district court's grant of Defendants' Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, which dismissed Plaintiffs' action in its entirety.

This appeal presents four issues: (1) whether the instant action seeks to raise claims and issues that could have been litigated in a prior state proceeding and thus properly should be dismissed pursuant to the Rooker-Feldman doctrine; (2) whether Plaintiffs' complaint sets forth sufficient facts to support a claim that Defendants' denial of Plaintiffs' rezoning request was so arbitrary and capricious as to violate substantive due process; (3) whether Plaintiffs' complaint sets forth sufficient facts to support a claim that, although Plaintiffs' landfill and the county-run landfill were similarly situated, their differential treatment with respect to rezoning was not rationally related to a legitimate state purpose; and, therefore, was a violation of the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution; and (4) whether the district court properly found that Defendants were not entitled to absolute immunity for actions taken in their legislative capacities.

We conclude that Plaintiffs are barred under the doctrine of res judicata from raising the foregoing claims because they could have been litigated in the prior state proceeding. Accordingly, we AFFIRM the district court's dismissal of the instant complaint.

A. Factual Background

On December 10, 1984, the County Commission adopted the Lauderdale County Zoning Resolution, which provided that a sanitary landfill was a "use permitted on appeal" in farming-agricultural-residential ("FAR") and industrial ("I") districts. To obtain a "use permitted on appeal" designation, a landowner seeking to operate a landfill was required to submit an application to the Lauderdale County Board of Zoning Appeals ("Board") for approval. At the time this zoning resolution was enacted, there existed only one landfill in Lauderdale County, a FAR-zoned county-run landfill.

The State of Tennessee licensed Hutcherson Scrap in November 1986 for operation of a sanitary landfill on a small portion of Hutcherson Scrap's 322-acre "Love Farm" property in Lauderdale County (the "County"). The property, jointly owned by Hutcherson, WTE, and Hutcherson Scrap, was (and remains) FAR-zoned. In January 1987, the Board authorized Hutcherson Scrap to operate a sanitary landfill on a 9.8-acre parcel of Love Farm for use by Plaintiffs as a disposal site for certain by-products of Plaintiffs' private scrap-metal recycling program. Thereafter, Hutcherson Scrap conveyed by deed this parcel to Landfill, Inc., a closely-held corporation owned by Hutcherson, on which it began operation of a sanitary landfill.

Between June 1989 and February 1990, the County purchased one hundred acres for the expansion of the County landfill. Plaintiffs allege that the County never submitted its expansion plan for approval to the Board as a "use permitted on appeal" despite the fact that the zoning resolution made no distinction between private and public landfills.

In 1990, Hutcherson Scrap, in coordination with WTE, set in motion efforts to obtain state approval for its construction of a Class I sanitary landfill on 184 acres of Love Farm enveloping Hutcherson Scrap's pre-existing landfill. Thereafter, in October 1990, the Planning Commission became aware of Hutcherson Scrap's interest in expanding its landfill. Plaintiffs maintain that the Planning Commission began discussions at this time to remove landfills from FAR-zoned areas such as Love Farm in an effort to stymie Hutcherson Scrap's landfill expansion. The Planning Commission, according to Plaintiffs, continued these discussions over the course of the next several months and sought to enact an amendment to the zoning resolution with no other purpose than to thwart Hutcherson Scrap's expansion plans.

In May 1991, the Planning Commission began consideration of an amendment to the zoning resolution to provide for the creation of two types of industrial districts: light industrial ("I-1") and heavy industrial ("I-2"). It also discussed possible sites for the newly proposed I-2 district. State planner Tim Roach recommended that the Planning Commission redesignate the County landfill and Hutcherson Scrap's landfill as I-2 compliant. The Planning Commission rejected Roach's suggestion, however, and recommended to the County Commission that it rezone only the County landfill as I-2. Plaintiffs submit that the Planning Commission's differential treatment in this regard was motivated by its desire to prevent the approval of Hutcherson Scrap's proposed landfill expansion. In June 1991, the Planning Commission voted to recommend the creation of I-1 and I-2 industrial districts. Although the Planning Commission's vote had no binding effect — only the County Commission can amend a zoning resolution — its recommendation was required by state law as a precondition for future County Commission action.

Later that year, in August, the County Commission, pursuant to the Planning Commission's recommendation, amended the zoning resolution ("1991 Amendment") and effected the following changes: (1) the then-existing single industrial designation was expanded to include I-1 and I-2 activity; (2) landfills could no longer be sited in FAR zones, but were thenceforth to be restricted to I-2-designated areas;1 (3) the County landfill was rezoned I-2 "to insure the orderly development of land use in Lauderdale County," although Hutcherson Scrap's landfill was not; and (4) although Hutcherson Scrap could continue operation of its 9.8 acre sanitary landfill, it would be required to seek approval for any future landfill or landfill expansion either by seeking to have its property rezoned as I-2 or by seeking a permit from the Board.

Prior to the adoption of the 1991 Amendment, a Notice of Public Hearing was published announcing a hearing scheduled for August 12, 1991. The Notice provided in relevant part:

The hearing is to receive public input into proposed amendments to the Lauderdale County Zoning Resolution and zoning map summarized as follows:

1) Consideration of a Resolution entitled "A Resolution to Amend the Lauderdale County Zoning Resolution, Provisions Governing Industrial Districts and the Lauderdale County Zoning Map." The Resolution creates two (2) industrial districts for Lauderdale County: Light Industrial (I-1) and Restricted Industrial (I-2). Further, specific definitions of, and restrictions on, landfills, commercial feed lots and salvage yards are created and requirements for site plans established. Specific uses and requirements listed in the Resolution may be viewed in the office of the Lauderdale County Executive.

2) The amendment of the Lauderdale County Zoning Map to designate it all existing I (industrial) zoning districts as I-1 (light industrial) and the designation of the existing Lauderdale County Landfill as I-2 (restricted industrial).

Plaintiffs contend that the Notice provided "no explanation or discussion concerning removing landfills as a use permitted on appeal from the FAR zoning district."

On December 9, 1991, in what Plaintiffs maintain was part of the County Commission's continuing effort to frustrate Hutcherson Scrap's expansion plans, the County Commission approved a resolution, known as the "Jackson Law," that prohibited the new construction of private commercial landfills in the unincorporated areas of any county without prior approval of the county legislative body. The passage of this resolution resulted in the termination of further action by the State of Tennessee, Division of Solid Waste Management ("DSWM"), on Hutcherson Scrap's then-pending application for an expansion of its landfill. When the DSWM completed its review of Hutcherson Scrap's application, a representative of Hutcherson Scrap appeared before the County Commission, seeking approval of its proposed landfill expansion. The County Commission refused Hutcherson Scrap's request,...

To continue reading

Request your trial
142 cases
  • Butcher v. Wendt
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • September 22, 2020
    ...... jurisdictional challenges" under the Rooker - Feldman doctrine "before turning to the merits of a case"); Hutcherson v. Lauderdale Cty. , 326 F.3d 747, 755 (6th Cir. 2003) (" Rooker - Feldman should be considered first since its application strips federal courts of jurisdiction and the ......
  • Whittiker v. Deutsche Bank National Trust Co., Case No. 1:08 CV 300.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Ohio
    • March 17, 2009
    ...the Court of jurisdiction to consider affirmative defenses and the other bases of defendants' motions. See Hutcherson v. Lauderdale County, Tennessee, 326 F.3d 747, 755 (6th Cir.2003) (rehearing and suggestion for rehearing en banc denied). The Rooker-Feldman doctrine stands for the "unrema......
  • WCI, Inc. v. Ohio Dep't of Pub. Safety
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. Southern District of Ohio
    • July 30, 2020
    ......v. City and County of San Francisco , 545 U.S. 323, 125 S.Ct. 2491, 162 ...Migra , 465 U.S. at 85, 104 S.Ct. 892 ; Hutcherson v. Lauderdale Cty., Tenn. , 326 F.3d 747, 758 (6th Cir. ......
  • Dlx, Inc. v. Kentucky
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • August 26, 2004
    ...a preexisting injury," Pieper v. Am. Arbitration Ass'n, Inc., 336 F.3d 458, 461 n. 1 (6th Cir.2003). See also Hutcherson v. Lauderdale County, 326 F.3d 747, 755 (6th Cir.2003) ("`[T]he fundamental and appropriate question to ask is whether the injury alleged by the federal plaintiff resulte......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT