United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division
D. Whitney, Chief United States District Judge.
MATTER comes before the Court on Defendant
Jessup's Motion to Dismiss, (Doc. No. 24).
se Plaintiff filed a Complaint while he was incarcerated
at the Federal Correctional Institution at Bennettsville,
South Carolina. Plaintiff alleged that North Carolina
General Statutes § 20.24-1 addressing driver's
license revocations, and the Department of Motor
Vehicles' (“DMV”) enforcement of it, violate
due process and equal protection. The Complaint passed
frivolity review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 and
Defendant Jessup was served. See (Doc. No. 8).
Defendant has now filed the instant Motion to Dismiss.
names as the sole Defendant Commissioner of the North
Carolina DMV, Torre Jessup, in his official capacity.
Plaintiff argues that North Carolina General Statutes §
20.24-1, and DMV's enforcement of it, violate due process
and equal protection.
the Complaint liberally and accepting the allegations as
true, a North Carolina court imposed $300 in fines and court
costs on Plaintiff following a September 2, 2011, traffic
citation. There was no hearing about Plaintiff's ability
to pay fines and costs before the fines and costs were
imposed. Plaintiff contacted the Department of Transportation
about having his driver's license reinstated and was told
that his only option was to pay any late fees and costs in
full. Plaintiff, who was by this point incarcerated in a
federal correctional institution, paid more than $300 in
fines and costs from his prison pay. However, his license is
still indefinitely revoked and will remain so until he pays
DMV a $65 restoration fee and $50 service fee which he is
unable to afford.
is scheduled to be released from prison following a
seven-year sentence. He is homeless, unemployed, and
indigent. He will need transportation to find a job, travel
to work, and take care of family obligations. He also intends
to enroll in truck driving school to obtain a commercial
driver's license. Plaintiff fears that he will be unable
to carry out any of these activities until his driver's
license is reinstated. He argues that North Carolina is
largely rural, has a large number of impoverished citizens,
and lacks widely available public transit. He claims that the
automatic revocation of licenses occurs without a
pre-deprivation hearing on the driver's ability to pay
and whether non-payment was willful, fails to provide
sufficient notice of the opportunity to be heard, and
disproportionately burdens impoverished North Carolina
seeks declaratory relief, injunctive relief, costs and fees,
and such other relief as the Court deems just and equitable.
Motion to Dismiss
Jessup argues that the Complaint should be dismissed for lack
of subject-matter jurisdiction under the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine because the
“injury” he raises is predicated on state court
judgments over which he seeks review in federal court.
D.C. Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462
(1983); Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413
(1923). Moreover, Plaintiff seeks to place the responsibility
for holding an “ability to pay hearing” on the
DMV whereas fines and costs are ordered to be paid by the
court. Plaintiff lacks standing to raise claims under N.C.
Gen. Stat. § 20-24.1 because there is no allegation in
the Complaint that Plaintiff did not have the ability to pay
the fines and costs when they were assessed, and he admits
that he paid the fines and costs out of his prison earnings.
Jessup further argues that the his claim is barred by the
Eleventh Amendment under Ex parte Young, 209 U.S.
123 (1908), because a declaration that a state officer
violated federal law in the past is not permitted and,
insofar as the DMV Commissioner plays any role in the
revocation or suspension of driver's licenses pursuant to
§ 20-24.1, it arises merely from the DMV's general
authority to enforce state law by performing the perfunctory
duty of noting the revocation of driver's licenses in
their database when criminal defendants fail to comply with
presumably valid state court orders within the time
prescribed by the court.
Complaint fails to state a claim for which relief can be
granted because Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief to prohibit
DMV from revoking drivers' licenses for non-payment and
mandate that DMV lift current license revocations. However,
the state courts issue revocation orders under § 20-24.1
and the DMV Commissioner is not the decision-maker regarding
revocation and has no authority to question the assessment of
statutory reinstatement and service fees under §§
20-7(i1) and 20-48.
Defendant argues that Plaintiff's license revocation does
not involve fundamental rights and §§ 20-24.1,
20-7(i1) and 20-48 are ...