Williams v. Denmar LLC, Civil Action 21-cv-01431-DDD-NRN

CourtUnited States District Courts. 10th Circuit. United States District Court of Colorado
Writing for the CourtN. REID NEUREITER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Decision Date18 March 2022
PartiesDAVON WILLIAMS, Plaintiff, v. DENMAR LLC, A Colorado Foreign Limited Liability Company, DENSPRING LLC, A Colorado Foreign Limited Liability Company, RLJ II MH DENVER S LLC, A Colorado Foreign Limited Liability Company, DD LINCOLN STATION LLC, A Colorado Foreign Limited Liability Company, WOODMONT LONE TREE ACADEMY LLC, A Colorado Foreign Limited Liability Company, BLACK ELK LLC, A Colorado Foreign Limited Liability Company, FCPT Holdings LLC, A Colorado Foreign Limited Liability Company, HTA PARK MEADOWS EAT LLC, A Colorado Foreign Limited Liability Company, CITY OF LONE TREE, A Colorado Municipal Corporation, ROSHANA FLOYD, In her official Capacity as Senior Planner of City of Lone Tree, A Colorado Municipal Corporation, LINDA MICHOW, In her official Capacity as City Attorney of Lone Tree, A Colorado Municipal Corporation, DAVIS DEVELOPMENT, A Colorado Foreign Limited Liability Company, WHITE LODGING SERVICES CORP, A Colorado Foreign Limited Liability Company, REGIONAL TRANSPORTATION DISTRICT, a quasi municipal corporation, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, and ALL UNKNOWN PERSONS WHO CLAIM ANY INTEREST IN THE SUBJECT MATTER OF THIS ACTION, Defendants.
Docket NumberCivil Action 21-cv-01431-DDD-NRN

DAVON WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
v.

DENMAR LLC, A Colorado Foreign Limited Liability Company, DENSPRING LLC, A Colorado Foreign Limited Liability Company, RLJ II MH DENVER S LLC, A Colorado Foreign Limited Liability Company, DD LINCOLN STATION LLC, A Colorado Foreign Limited Liability Company, WOODMONT LONE TREE ACADEMY LLC, A Colorado Foreign Limited Liability Company, BLACK ELK LLC, A Colorado Foreign Limited Liability Company, FCPT Holdings LLC, A Colorado Foreign Limited Liability Company, HTA PARK MEADOWS EAT LLC, A Colorado Foreign Limited Liability Company, CITY OF LONE TREE, A Colorado Municipal Corporation, ROSHANA FLOYD, In her official Capacity as Senior Planner of City of Lone Tree, A Colorado Municipal Corporation, LINDA MICHOW, In her official Capacity as City Attorney of Lone Tree, A Colorado Municipal Corporation, DAVIS DEVELOPMENT, A Colorado Foreign Limited Liability Company, WHITE LODGING SERVICES CORP, A Colorado Foreign Limited Liability Company, REGIONAL TRANSPORTATION DISTRICT, a quasi municipal corporation, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, and ALL UNKNOWN PERSONS WHO CLAIM ANY INTEREST IN THE SUBJECT MATTER OF THIS ACTION, Defendants.

Civil Action No. 21-cv-01431-DDD-NRN

United States District Court, D. Colorado

March 18, 2022


REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ON DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO DISMISS (Dkt. ## 81 & 92)

N. REID NEUREITER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

This matter is before me pursuant to Orders (Dkt. ##85 & 93) issued by Judge Daniel D. Domenico referring Defendants RLJ II MH Denver S LLC (“RLJ”), DD Lincoln

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Station LLC (“DD Lincoln”), Black Elk LLC (“Black Elk”), FCPT Holdings LLC (“FCPT”), Regional Transportation District (“RTD”), and City of Lone Tree, Roshana Floyd and Linda Michow's (collectively the “City Defendants”) (all collectively referred to as the “Defendants”) Combined Motion to Dismiss With Prejudice Plaintiffs Amended Complaint (Dkt. #81), and Defendant United States of America's (“United States”) Motion to Dismiss Amended Complaint Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1). (Dkt. #92.)

Plaintiff Davon Williams, proceeding pro se, [1] filed a single response to both motions (Dkt. #102), and the United States and Defendants filed replies. (Dkt. ##108 & 109.) The Court heard oral argument from the parties (see Dkt. #111) on February 15, 2022, and Mr. Williams was given leave to file a supplemental brief explaining the research he had done prior to filing the lawsuit, which was filed on February 25, 2022. (Dkt. #112.) Now being fully informed and for the reasons discussed below, it is hereby RECOMMENDED that the subject motions (Dkt. #81 & 92) be GRANTED.

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BACKGROUND[2]

This lawsuit was initiated on May 26, 2021 by KW Lane Ltd. (Dkt. #1.) After the Court sua sponte ordered KW Lane Ltd to retain counsel (Dkt. #4), an Amended Plaintiff's Complaint to Quiet Title, Declaratory Judgement [sic] and Injunctive Relief (“Amended Complaint”) (Dkt. #6) was filed, substituting Mr. Williams as plaintiff.

The rambling[3] Amended Complaint can be briefly summarized as follows. Mr. Williams' company, KW Lane Ltd, acquired for less than $200 certain mineral rights at a tax lien foreclosure sale. Defendants are the surface owners. Mr. Williams believes he is entitled to access his mineral estate via Defendants' property. It should be noted that the properties involved are near or around the highly developed land just south of the giant Park Meadows Mall, south of Denver, in or near the City of Lone Tree. He also alleges that the City Defendants are interfering with his rights by requiring the surface owners' consent to explore for minerals and by “plac[ing] arbitrary rules . . . to issue us a special use permit to drill properties to determine mineral content under.”

Mr. Williams asserts four claims for relief:

• First Claim for Relief Pursuant to Declaratory Judgment 28 U.S.C. § 2201(a)

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• Second Claim for Relief Pursuant to Quiet Title 28 U.S.C. § 2409a and Colo. Rev. Stat. § 39-11-133
• Third Claim for Relief Fourth Claim for Relief Pursuant to Color of Title 43 U.S.C. § 1068 and Colo Rev. Stat. § 38-41-108
• Fourth Cause of Action Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Deprivation of Rights) and 28 U.S.C. § 1343(a)(3) (Elective Franchise).

The United States argues that it is immune from suit under the doctrine of sovereign immunity. The other Defendants contend that Mr. Williams' Amended Complaint should be dismissed because Mr. Williams' lack standing and fails to state a claim for relief.

ANALYSIS

I. Mr. Williams' Claims Against the United States

The United States argues that Mr. Williams' Amended Complaint should be dismissed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Court agrees.

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure instruct that “[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. 12(h)(3); Marcus v. Kan. Dep't of Revenue, 170 F.3d 1305, 1309 (10th Cir. 1999). Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and, as such, “are duty bound to examine facts and law in every lawsuit before them to ensure that they possess subject matter jurisdiction.” The Wilderness Soc. v. Kane Cnty., Utah, 632 F.3d 1162, 1179 n.3 (10th Cir. 2011) (Gorsuch, J., concurring). “The party invoking jurisdiction of the court has the duty to establish that

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federal jurisdiction does exist, but since the courts of the United States are court of limited jurisdiction, there is a presumption against its existence.” Basso v. Utah Power & Light Co., 495 F.2d 906, 909 (10th Cir. 1974) (quoting Wilshire Oil Co. of Tex. v. Riffe, 409 F.2d 1277 (10th Cir. 1969) and City of Lawton, Okla. V. Chapman, 257 F.2d 601 (10th Cir. 1958)). Thus, “[t]he burden of establishing subject matter jurisdiction is on the party asserting jurisdiction.” Port City Props. v. Union Pac. R.R. Co. 24, 518 F.3d 1186, 1189 (10th Cir. 2008).

Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), a party may bring either a facial or factual attack on subject matter jurisdiction, and a court must dismiss a complaint if it lacks subject matter jurisdiction. See Pueblo of Jemez v. United States, 790 F.3d 1143, 1147 n.4 (10th Cir. 2015). For a facial attack the court takes the allegations in the complaint as true; for a factual attack, the court may not presume the truthfulness of the complaint's factual allegations and may consider affidavits or other documents to resolve jurisdictional facts. Rural Water Dist. No. 2 v. City of Glen pool, 698 F.3d 1270, 1272 n.1 (10th Cir. 2012) (citing Holt v. United States, 46 F.3d 1000, 1002-03 (10th Cir. 1995)).

The United States mounts a facial attack to the Amended Complaint, arguing that the Court does not have subject matter jurisdiction over the claims contained therein because the United States has not waived sovereign immunity. The Eleventh Amendment provides that “[t]he Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State.” U.S. Const. amend. XI. “It is well settled that the United States . . . [is] immune from suit, unless sovereign immunity has been waived.” Atkinson v. O'Neill,

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867 F.2d 589, 590 (10th Cir. 1989). Sovereign immunity is a jurisdictional bar to suit. Fed. Dep. Ins. Corp. v. Meyer, 510 U.S. 471, 475 (1994). “A waiver of sovereign immunity cannot be implied but must be unequivocally expressed, ” United States v. Mitchell, 445 U.S. 535, 538 (1980) (internal quotations and citation omitted), and the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing that sovereign immunity has been waived, Fostvedt v. United States, 978 F.2d 1201, 1203 (10th Cir. 1992).

As an initial matter, it is unclear what claims, if any, Mr. Williams purports to assert against the United States. Indeed, he claims that “[a]ll defendants excluding The United States, is [sic] burdened under the easement requirements for performance of the land patent be met, due to the requirements in deed of permitted exceptions.” (Dkt. #6 at ¶ 106 (emphasis added).) Instead, Mr. Williams alleges that he is the assignee of a land patent made by the United States in 1891, which he claims makes the United States an “party of interest in any attack on that title in the courts of law.” (See Id. at ¶¶ 13, 66.) How this exposes the United States to any liability is left unexplained. Accordingly, the Court has little difficulty finding that the Amended Complaint violates Rule 8(a)'s requirement that a pleading contain short and plain statements (1) of the grounds for jurisdiction, and (2) a claim showing that Mr. Williams is entitled to relief. The Amended Complaint could be dismissed on these grounds alone.

Even assuming Mr. Williams intended to assert each claim for relief against the United States, he does not identify any applicable waiver of sovereign immunity that bestows federal jurisdiction on the Court. The first claim is for declaratory judgment, but the Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201(a), “does not confer jurisdiction upon federal courts, so the power to issue declaratory judgments must lie in some

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independent basis of jurisdiction.” Devon Energy Prod. Co., L.P. v. Mosaic Potash Carlsbad, Inc., 693 F.3d 1195, 1202 (10th Cir. 2012) (quoting Cardtoons, L.C. v. Major League Baseball Players Ass'n, 95 F.3d 959, 964 (10th Cir. 1996)). As discussed below, there is no other independent basis for jurisdiction as to Mr. Williams' claims against the United States.

The second claim invokes the Quiet Title Act, which provides that the United States “may be named as a party defendant in a civil action under this section to adjudicate a disputed title to real property in which the United States claims an interest.”...

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