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Majeed v. State

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division

April 22, 2019

THE STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA, et. al., Defendants.



         This matter is before the court on the North Carolina Department of Justice (“NCDOJ”) and the North Carolina Administrative Office of Courts' (“NCAOC”) (collectively “defendants”) motion to dismiss. (DE # 10.) Burnie Majeed, Sr. and Mia Majeed (“plaintiffs”) responded in opposition. (DE # 14.) The matter is now ripe for adjudication.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This action arises over a property dispute regarding the Morphis-Durham Cemetery, part of a 100-acre plot of land in Baldwin Township, Chatham County, North Carolina. Plaintiffs assert a present possessory interest over the subject property as the property's heirs. (See Am Compl., DE # 7, at 3.) In 1885, Emma Smith Morphis (“Morphis”) received a 100-acre plot from Mary Smith (“Smith”) for her life, with the remainder in fee to her children. (Id. at 4-5.) The will states,

I devise out of the Jones Grove tract in Chatham County, owned by my brother, Dr. Francis J. Smith, to Emma Morphis, wife of Henry Morphis (colored) one hundred acres, to Annette Kirby, wife of Ed Kirby (colored), one hundred acres, & to Laura Toole, wife of Gray Toole (colored), 100 acres of land, for their respective lives, free from the [control] or debts of their said husbands, & after their deaths to their children in fee. If either said Emma, Annette, or Laura, shall make conveyance of their estates for life, or give a lien on the same by mortgage or otherwise, their estates shall cease & their children respectively shall become immediately entitled to the land of their mothers . . . .

         (Compl., DE # 1-1, Ex. A, at 4-5.) Plaintiffs, as the descendants of Morphis, seek title to the Morphis-Durham Cemetery, a part of the 100-acre plot, because the land was mortgaged in 1911 and 1931 by Morphis' son, Eunie Morphis (“Eunie”). (See Am Compl., DE # 7, at 3; Pls.' Resp. Opp'n, DE # 14, at 9.) Because “Eunie [] had no legal authority, right, or ownership to have a lien placed on said land[, ]” a condition of the will was violated, thereby making plaintiffs, as Morphis' living kin, the property's “rightful owners.” (Pls.' Resp. Opp'n, DE # 14, at 9-10.)

         “The [p]laintiffs seek justice for improper management by the courts of inherited land and properties, ” (Am. Compl., DE # 7, at 2), and “return of 100 acres . . . and all other properties and funds of the Smith/Morphis family estate[, ]” (id. at 3). They invoke the court's jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1332, 1343(a)(3), and 1357. (Id. at 5; Pls.' Resp. Opp'n, DE # 14, at 2.)


         Defendants move to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), (2), (4), (5), and (6). (Def.s' Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss, DE # 10-1, at 1.) The court analyzes defendants' motion only as to Rule 12(b)(1) lack of subject matter jurisdiction and Rule 12(b)(6) failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

         A. Rule 12(b)(1)

When a Rule 12(b)(1) motion challenge is raised to the factual basis for subject matter jurisdiction, the burden of proving subject matter jurisdiction is on the plaintiff. In determining whether jurisdiction exists, the district court is to regard the pleadings' allegations as mere evidence on the issue, and may consider evidence outside the pleadings without converting the proceeding to one for summary judgment. The district court should apply the standard applicable to a motion for summary judgment, under which the nonmoving party must set forth specific facts beyond the pleadings to show that a genuine issue of material fact exists. The moving party should prevail only if the material jurisdictional facts are not in dispute and the moving party is entitled to prevail as a matter of law.

Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac R. Co. v. United States, 945 F.2d 765, 768-69 (4th Cir. 1991) (internal citations omitted).

         B. Rule 12(b)(6)

         “A district court should dismiss a complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) if, accepting all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true and drawing all reasonable factual inferences in the plaintiff's favor, the complaint does not allege enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Vitol, S.A. v. Primerose Shipping Co., 708 F.3d 527, 539 (4th Cir. 2013). “Moreover, the court need not accept the [plaintiff's] legal conclusions drawn from the facts, nor need it accept as true unwarranted inferences, unreasonable conclusions, or arguments.” Philips v. Pitt Cty. Mem'l Hosp., 572 F.3d 176, 180 (4th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). “While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, . . ., a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitle[ment] to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Bell Atl. ...

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