United States v. State

Decision Date06 March 2023
Docket Number2:22-CV-04022-BCW
PartiesUNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff, v. STATE OF MISSOURI, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Western District of Missouri
OPINION AND ORDER
BRIAN C. WIMES JUDGE

Before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. #8), Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) (Doc. #13), and Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) (Doc. #15). The Court being duly advised of the premises, denies Defendants' motions to dismiss (Docs. #13 & #15) and grants Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment (Doc. #8).

BACKGROUND

On February 16, 2022, Plaintiff the United States of America filed a complaint in this Court against Defendants the State of Missouri, Michael L. Parson in his official capacity as the Governor of the State of Missouri, and Andrew Bailey[1] in his official capacity as the Attorney General of the State of Missouri (collectively Defendants). The United States challenges the constitutionality of Missouri General Assembly House Bill No 85, signed into law on June 12, 2021, and codified in Mo Rev. Stat. §§ 1.410 - 1.485 (“SAPA”).

The United States seeks declaratory and injunctive relief against Defendants' implementation and enforcement of SAPA through three claims for relief: (I) Supremacy Clause; (II) preemption; and (III) violation of intergovernmental immunity. (Doc. #1).

The United States seeks a declaratory judgment that SAPA is invalid, null, void, and of no effect, and further seeks a declaration “that state and local officials may lawfully participate in joint federal task forces, assist in the investigation and enforcement of federal firearm crimes and fully share information with the Federal Government without fear of [SAPA's] penalties.” (Doc. #1 at 26-27). Further, the United States seeks injunctive relief against SAPA's implementation and enforcement by Defendants, as well as costs in pursuing this action and any other just and proper relief. (Doc. #1 at 27).

On February 28, 2022, the United States filed the instant motion for summary judgment that there is no genuine issue of material fact and it is entitled to declaratory and injunctive relief as a matter of law. (Doc. #8). In the course of the summary judgment briefing, Defendants filed two motions to dismiss, one under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1), and one under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). (Docs. #13 & #16). These three motions are fully briefed and ripe for consideration, alongside the amici curiae briefs filed in this matter. (Docs. #7, #15-1, #21-1, #30, #38, #42, #44, #46, #53, #55, #58, #60, #61, #63-#76, #78-#83).

A. Defendants' motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) (Doc. #13) is denied.

The Court first considers Defendants' motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Kronholm v. Fed. Deposit Ins. Corp., 915 F.2d 1171, 1174 (8th Cir. 1990) (citing Barclay Square Props. v. Midwest Fed. Sav. & Loan, 893 F.2d 968, 969 (8th Cir. 1990)) (“Subjectmatter jurisdiction is a threshold requirement which must be assured in every federal case.”).

Defendants argue the United States' complaint should be dismissed under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) for two reasons: (1) lack of standing; and (2) lack of cause of action.

Because Defendants challenge subject matter jurisdiction on the face of the complaint, “all of the factual allegations concerning jurisdiction are presumed to be true and the motion is successful if the plaintiff fails to allege an element necessary for subject matter jurisdiction.” Titus v. Sullivan, 4 F.3d 590, 593 (8th Cir. 1993) (citing Eaton v. Dorchester Dev., Inc., 692 F.2d 727, 731-32 (11th Cir. 1982)).

1. The United States has standing.

Defendants argue that because the United States does not demonstrate any of the three requirements for standing, the complaint should be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. (Doc. #13).

[S]tanding is an essential and unchanging part of the case-or-controversy requirement of Article III.” Lujan v. Defs. of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560 (1992). “To establish standing, a plaintiff must show that he has suffered an injury in fact that is fairly traceable to the challenged conduct of the defendant and will likely be redressed by a favorable decision.” Digit. Recognition Network, Inc. v. Hutchinson, 803 F.3d 952, 956 (8th Cir. 2015) (citing Lujan, 504 U.S. at 560-61) (internal citations and quotations omitted) (standing requires (1) “an injury in fact - an invasion of a legally protected interest which is (a) concrete and particularized, and (b) actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical”; (2) “a causal connection between the injury and the conduct” of which plaintiff complains that is “fairly traceable” to the defendant; and (3) a likelihood, “as opposed to merely speculat[ion] that the injury will be redressed by a favorable decision)).

First, Defendants rely on Muskrat v. United States, 219 U.S. 346 (1911) to argue that there is no case or controversy, nor any harm or threat of harm to the United States that is attributable to SAPA. (Doc. #13 at 109). Second, Defendants argue the United States cannot show causation because Defendants do not enforce SAPA; rather, the statutory scheme is enforced through private civil action. Third, Defendants argue the United States cannot show redressability because declaratory and/or injunctive relief against Defendants would not redress the United States' alleged harm.

a. The United States demonstrates injury in fact.

Defendants argue the United States has no injury in fact for two reasons: (1) the United States alleges no case or controversy under Muskrat; and (2) only state actors, and not the United States, are subject to regulation under SAPA.

Muskrat involved a congressional act relating to plaintiffs' rights to Cherokee lands and funds. 219 U.S. at 349-350. The legislation conferred jurisdiction “upon the court of claims with the right of appeal, by either party, to the Supreme Court of the United States, to hear, determine, and adjudicate each of said suits.” Id. at 350. When subsequent legislation potentially increased the number of individuals with rights to the lands and funds at issue, plaintiffs sued. Id. at 348-49.

The Supreme Court of the United States dismissed the Muskrat plaintiffs' claims for lack of jurisdiction because, while the legislation authorized plaintiffs' suit, plaintiffs had incurred no injury; therefore, plaintiffs' suit sought only “to settle the doubtful character of the legislation in question . . . .” Id. at 361. Because the Muskrat plaintiffs did not present a “justiciable controversy within the authority of the court, acting within the limitations of the Constitution under which it was created,” the Supreme Court reversed and remanded with instructions to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction. Id. at 363.

Here, in contrast with Muskrat, the United States demonstrates an injury in fact attributable to Defendants' implementation and enforcement of SAPA. The United States has standing to challenge state laws that interfere with the federal government's operations and objectives. United States v. Arizona, 703 F.Supp.2d 980, 1007 (D. Ariz. 2010) (citing Crosby v. Nat'l Foreign Trade Council, 530 U.S. 363, 379-80 & n. 14 (2000); Am. Ins. Ass'n v. Garamendi, 539 U.S. 396, 413 (2003)), aff'd, 641 F.3d 339 (9th Cir. 2011), aff'd in part, 567 U.S. 387 (2012) (federal enforcement undermined by state's enforcement of interfering state legislation)); United States v. Sup. Ct. of N. Mexico, 839 F.3d 888, 899 (10th Cir. 2016) (United States had standing to challenge state rule that “impair[ed] the United States's interest in the effective conduct of federal criminal investigations and prosecutions”). The United States' law enforcement operations have been affected through withdrawals from and/or limitations on cooperation in joint federal-state task forces, restrictions on sharing information, confusion about the validity of federal law in light of SAPA, and discrimination against federal employees and those deputized for federal law enforcement who lawfully enforce federal law.

Based on the complaint and attendant declarations, the United States has a concrete injury, attributable to Defendants' implementation and enforcement of SAPA, that is particularized and actual. Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, 578 U.S. 330, 339 (2016) (citing Lujan, 504 U.S. at 560). The United States demonstrates injury in fact relative to SAPA's interference with the function of federal firearms regulations and public safety objectives. The injury in fact requirement is satisfied.

b. The United States demonstrates causation.

Defendants argue the United States cannot show causation because SAPA is enforced not by Defendants, but through private civil action. For causation to exist for purposes of standing, “the injury has to be fairly traceable to the challenged action of the defendant, and not the result of the independent action of some third party not before the court.” Agred Found. v. U.S. Army Corps of Eng'r, 3 F.4th 1069, 1073 (8th Cir. 2021) (citing Lujan, 504 U.S. at 560).

SAPA requires state and local law enforcement officials to cease enforcement of federal firearms regulations deemed infringements under § 1.420 and imposes a duty on state courts and state law enforcement agencies to protect citizens against the infringements identified. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 1.440. State law enforcement entities have withdrawn personnel from joint task forces and restricted what information can be shared with federal law enforcement agencies. (Docs. ##8-2, 83, 8-4). In addition, “any person” can file suit against a law enforcement entity knowingly enforcing § 1.420's “infringements,” which includes Missouri's Attorney General on the State's...

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