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Mosley v. Jessup

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division

March 4, 2019

ANTONIO MOSLEY,[1] Plaintiff,
v.
TORRE JESSUP, Defendant.

          ORDER

          Frank D. Whitney, Chief United States District Judge.

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on Defendant Jessup's Motion to Dismiss, (Doc. No. 24).

         I. BACKGROUND

         Pro se Plaintiff filed a Complaint while he was incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution at Bennettsville, South Carolina.[2] 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.

         (1) Complaint

         Plaintiff 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.

         Construing 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.

         Plaintiff 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 citizens.

         Plaintiff seeks declaratory relief, injunctive relief, costs and fees, and such other relief as the Court deems just and equitable.

         (2) Motion to Dismiss

         Defendant 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.

         Defendant 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.

         The 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.

         Finally, Defendant argues that Plaintiff's license revocation does not involve fundamental rights and §§ 20-24.1, 20-7(i1) and 20-48 are ...


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