United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
D. SCHROEDER, CHIEF DISTRICT JUDGE.
the court are the Defendants' motions to dismiss for lack
of subject-matter jurisdiction pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and failure to state a claim upon
which relief can be granted pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). For
the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motions will be
granted and the complaint will be dismissed.
Michael Ray Carter, proceeding pro se, sues Steven Terner
Mnuchin, United States Secretary of the Treasury, and Ronald
G. Penny, Secretary of the North Carolina Department of
Revenue, in connection with a dispute over his taxes.
Although the allegations of Carter's complaint are not
entirely clear, he seeks “an injunction from the court
to stop current wage garnishment efforts so that he will not
be further damaged until Defendant[s] correct their records,
” as well as “supervisory action processing his
tax returns.” (Doc. 1 at 5.) According to the
complaint, Carter began demanding payment of “lawful
money” and using such demands to reduce his federal
adjusted gross income on his tax forms in in 2012.
(Id. at 4.) He claims that these deductions reduced
his income such that he does not owe state income taxes.
(Id.) The Internal Revenue Service
(“IRS”) has continued to seek the taxes it
contends Carter owes. Carter's employer has been
instructed by the North Carolina Department of Revenue to
begin garnishing his wages to recover his taxes. It is not
clear from the complaint whether the wage garnishment is
intended to satisfy state or federal taxes. Regardless,
Carter seeks an injunction to end these garnishment efforts.
(Id. at 5.)
United States, on behalf of Secretary Mnuchin, and Secretary
Penny filed separate motions to dismiss. (Docs. 7, 8, 12.)
The court issued Carter a Roseboro notice for each filed
motion, indicating that he had a right to file a 20-page
response and that his failure to do so would likely result in
his case being dismissed. (Docs. 10, 14.) In response to the
first Roseboro notice, Carter filed a supplement to his
complaint containing copies of his tax returns for 2017 and
2018, as well as copies of the IRS's notice of penalty
charges with “REFUSED FOR CAUSE” written on them
-- presumably by Carter himself. (Doc. 11.) Carter did not
attach any reply brief and provided no additional legal
argument to these supplemental documents. He has filed no
response to the Defendants' motions to dismiss since
then, and the time for doing so has expired.
though Defendants' motions to dismiss are unopposed and
can ordinarily be granted on that basis, see Local Rule
7.3(k), the court must satisfy itself that the motions are
merited. See Gardendance, Inc. v. Woodstock Copperworks,
Ltd., 230 F.R.D. 438, 448 (M.D. N.C. 2005); see also
Custer v. Pan Am. Life Ins. Co., 12 F.3d 410, 416
(4th Cir. 1993). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2)
provides that a complaint must contain a short and plain
statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled
to relief. Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6),
“a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter . .
. to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is plausible “when the
plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). When a defendant argues that a
complaint fails to allege any facts establishing
subject-matter jurisdiction, a 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss for
lack of subject-matter jurisdiction is evaluated under the
same standard of review as a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss.
Adams v. Bain, 697 F.2d 1213, 1219 (4th Cir. 1982).
Carter is proceeding pro se and is entitled to a liberal
construction of his pleading; however, this does not mean the
court may ignore clear defects in pleading, Bustos v.
Chamberlain, No. 3:09-1760-HMH-JRM, 2009 WL 2782238, at
*2 (D.S.C. Aug. 27, 2009), nor may it “conjure up
questions never squarely presented in the complaint.”
Brice v. Jenkins, 489 F.Supp.2d 538, 541 (E.D. Va.
2007) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
United States first contends that it, not its officers and
employees, is the proper defendant in this action. The
Government is correct. Thus, Secretary Mnuchin is not a
proper defendant here. Coble v. Wilkins, No.
1:11-cv-211, 2012 WL 665976, at *1 (M.D. N.C. Feb. 29, 2012),
adopted by Coble v. Wilkins, 2012 WL 1450047 (M.D.
N.C. Mar. 20, 2012), aff'd, 475 Fed.Appx. 17 (4th Cir.
2012) (per curiam) (unpublished opinion).
United States argues that Carter's claim to prevent the
collection of taxes is barred by the Anti-Injunction act, 26
U.S.C. § 7421(a). That section establishes that, except
under certain situations not at issue here, “no suit
for the purpose of restraining the assessment or collection
of any tax shall be maintained in any court . . . .” 26
U.S.C § 7421(a). The court clearly lacks jurisdiction
insofar as Carter seeks to stop the federal government's
efforts to recover his tax payments. Judicial Watch, Inc.
v. Rossotti, 317 F.3d 401, 405 (4th Cir. 2003)
(“The effect of the [Anti-Injunction] Act is simple and
obvious: courts lack jurisdiction to issue injunctive relief
in suits seeking to restrain the assessment or collection of
taxes.”) Therefore, Carter's claims against the
United States will be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.
Penny seeks dismissal of Carter's claims under similar
grounds. He correctly argues that Carter's claim should
be construed as an official capacity claim and thus one
against the State of North Carolina itself. Fordham v.
Keller, No. 1:13- cv-617, 2017 WL 1091876, at *8 (M.D.
N.C. Mar. 22, 2017). The Eleventh Amendment prohibits actions
in federal court by individuals against a state unless either
the state has waived immunity or Congress has abrogated
immunity. See Ballenger v. Owens, 352 F.3d 842,
844-45 (4th Cir. 2003). Nowhere in his complaint does Carter
allege a waiver of immunity by the State or an abrogation of
immunity by Congress. Any claims against the State must
therefore be dismissed as a matter of law because sovereign
immunity bars Carter's claims.