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Hopkins v. Aila

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

October 16, 2019

JOHN B. HOPKINS, Plaintiff,
v.
WILLIAM AILA, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT UNITED STATES OF AMERICA'S MOTION TO DISMISS

          Jill A Otake United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff John B. Hopkins alleges that various entities and individuals violated his rights under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments when they cancelled his long-term residential ground lease on Hawaiian Home Lands property and ordered him to vacate that property. Defendant United States of America (“United States”) moves to dismiss the Complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) because Plaintiff failed to show the Court has jurisdiction over the United States in this action. ECF No. 37. Alternatively, the United States moves to dismiss the Complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) because Plaintiff failed to allege facts that state a claim against the United States. Id. For the reasons stated below, the Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Facts

         Plaintiff is a native Hawaiian as defined in the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act (“HHCA”) and thus, a beneficiary of the public land trust created under the Hawai'i Statehood Admission Act (“Admission Act”).[1] Compl. [ECF No. 1] ¶ 2. Defendant Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (“DHHL”), together with its Executive Board, Defendant Hawaiian Homes Commission (“HHC”) (collectively, “DHHL/HHC”), are state entities that administer Hawaiian Home Lands in that public land trust for the benefit of native Hawaiians. Id. ¶¶ 2, 8, 16, p. 7.[2] Plaintiff was the beneficiary of a long-term residential ground lease (“lease”) on Hawaiian Home Lands and resided in a home on that property and made certain improvements to that property. Id. ¶¶ 2, 4, pp. 7-8.

         Under the terms of the contract for his lease, DHHL/HHC could cancel Plaintiff's lease if he failed to meet the mortgage payments on his home on the Hawaiian Home Lands. Id. at p. 8. On April 8, 2019, DHHL/HHC notified Plaintiff that it had cancelled his lease, ordered him to vacate the property, and awarded the lease to another native Hawaiian on DHHL's waiting list. Id. at pp. 7, 10. Plaintiff alleges DHHL/HHC never provided him with notice about the procedures used to cancel his lease, nor a fair hearing with counsel to contest this process, nor information about his right to appeal the lease cancellation and order to vacate. Id. at pp. 7-8, 10-12. While DHHL/HHC did hold a “Contested Case” hearing, Plaintiff was not present due to a medical condition. Id. at p. 10. Plaintiff also complains DHHL/HHC denied him the option to leverage the equity in his improvements on the Hawaiian Home Lands property, e.g., to obtain a loan that would have enabled him to make his mortgage payments. Id. at pp. 7-8.

         B. Procedural History

         Plaintiff brought this lawsuit against the State of Hawai'i, DHHL, HHC, and ten individuals in their official capacities who work for DHHL or HHC (collectively, “State Defendants”). Id. ¶¶ 5-17. Plaintiff also named the United States as a defendant, alleging the United States is a “vital” and “indispensable” party to this action. Id. ¶ 18, p. 2.

         Plaintiff brings two claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Id. ¶ 1. In Count I, Plaintiff alleges the process used to cancel his lease was inadequate and so constitutes an improper taking without just compensation in violation of the Fifth Amendment. Id. at pp. 9-10. In Count II, Plaintiff alleges the process used to cancel his lease violated his due process rights under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. Id. at pp. 11-12. Plaintiff thus seeks a declaration that the process by which he was ordered to vacate from Hawaiian Home Lands property violates due process and constitutes a breach of the State Defendants' duties under the public land trust. Id. at pp. 9, 12-13. Plaintiff also asks the Court to enjoin the State Defendants from ejecting him from his long-term residential ground lease and, further, to enjoin them from ejecting anyone residing on Hawaiian Home Lands property until adequate policies are enacted. Id. at pp. 9, 13.

         The State Defendants filed their Answer, raising certain defenses. ECF No. 29. The only defendant that did not file an Answer - the United States - filed the present Motion to Dismiss. ECF No. 37. The United States argues Plaintiff's factual allegations are insufficient to establish subject matter jurisdiction over it or state a claim against it. Plaintiff, who represents himself, did not oppose the motion. The State Defendants filed a notice indicating they do not oppose the motion. ECF No. 39. The Court held a hearing on the motion on October 11, 2019 and only the United States appeared.

         II. LEGAL STANDARDS

         A. Rule 12(b)(1)

         Rule 12(b)(1) motions challenge the court's subject matter jurisdiction. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). Federal courts are presumed to lack subject matter jurisdiction, and the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing that jurisdiction is proper. See Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). Dismissal under Rule 12(b)(1) is warranted when the plaintiff fails to meet this burden. See Chandler v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 598 F.3d 1115, 1122-23 (9th Cir. 2010). A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1) can amount to a facial or factual challenge. See Safe Air for Everyone v. Meyer, 373 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir. 2004). In a facial challenge, which the United States appears to mount here, the movant asserts that the allegations of the complaint “are insufficient on their face to invoke federal jurisdiction.” Leite v. Crane Co., 749 F.3d 1117, 1121 (9th Cir. 2014) (quoting Safe Air, 373 F.3d at 1039). As in a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court accepts the plaintiff's allegations as true, draws all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor, and determines whether the allegations sufficiently invoke the court's jurisdiction. See Id. (citing Pride v. Correa, 719 F.3d 1130, 1133 (9th Cir. 2013)).

         B. ...


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