United States District Court, D. Maine
ORDER DISMISSING PLAINTIFF'S COMPLAINT
A. WOODCOCK, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Belisle, acting pro se, filed a complaint in which she
evidently seeks relief from the Town of Athens' attempt
to enforce a tax lien. Compl. (ECF No. 1). Ms.
Belisle also filed a motion for injunctive relief in an
apparent effort to prevent certain action from occurring on
September 17, 2016 Mot. for Inj. (ECF No. 3). Ms.
Belisle subsequently filed a motion to seal. Mot. to Seal
Case (ECF No. 5). A review of the Complaint reveals the
Court lacks jurisdiction to consider the subject matter of
Ms. Belisle's Complaint. Accordingly, the Court dismisses
her Complaint without prejudice.
Complaint, which Ms. Belisle characterizes as a “bill
in equity, ” she alleges the Town of Athens, Maine,
insists that she must pay taxes on realty she owns within the
Town. Compl. at 1. Citing inter alia her
“natural, inherent and unalienable rights, ” the
Declaration of Independence, the preamble of the United
States Constitution, and the International Covenant on Civil
and Political Rights, Ms. Belisle asserts that municipal real
estate taxes are merely “voluntary contributions”
and that any effort by the Town to levy or collect taxes
constitutes trespass, defamation, and conversion.
Id. at 2 - 3. Ms. Belisle thus asks the Court to
“decree a writ of permanent injunction … and
order all clouds on the title of [her] property be removed
promptly and without delay, ” and to “oversee the
return of [her] estate … and provide … a
competent and trusted advisor experienced in assisting
returning beneficiaries.” Id. at 6, ¶¶
11 - 12.
is black-letter law that a federal court has an obligation to
inquire sua sponte into its own subject matter
jurisdiction.” McCulloch v. Velez, 364 F.3d 1,
5 (1st Cir. 2004); see also Hertz Corp. v. Friend,
559 U.S. 77, 94 (2010) (“Courts have an independent
obligation to determine whether subject-matter jurisdiction
exists, even when no party challenges it.”). Consistent
with this principle, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(h)(3)
states: “If the court determines at any time that it
lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the
some of Ms. Belisle's filings are not entirely clear, the
essence of her claim is her challenge to the Town of
Athens' authority to assess and collect property taxes.
Given the nature of Ms. Belisle's claim, the Tax
Injunction Act of 1937 (TIA) informs the Court's
jurisdictional analysis. The TIA provides that “[t]he
district courts shall not enjoin, suspend or restrain the
assessment, levy or collection of any tax under State law
where a plain, speedy and efficient remedy may be had in the
courts of such State.” 28 U.S.C. § 1341.
“The TIA deprives federal district courts of
jurisdiction to enjoin the collection of state taxes.”
Wal-Mart Puerto Rico, Inc. v. Zaragoza-Gomez, No.
16-1370, __F.3d__, 2016 WL 4447261, at *6 (1st Cir. Aug. 24,
2016). The only exception to the jurisdictional bar is in
cases “where state courts do not provide a
‘plain, speedy and efficient remedy.'”
Id. (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 1341). In other words,
“where a state offers an adequate remedy, ” this
Court lacks jurisdiction to enjoin the collection of a state
tax. Maine v. DeVore, 324 F.Supp.2d 103, 104 (D. Me.
2004). For purposes of the TIA, a state tax is an
assessment “imposed primarily for revenue raising
purposes.” Id. (quoting Butler v.
Maine, 767 F.Supp. 17, 19 (D. Me. 1991)).
estate taxes, although generally administered at the local
level by municipal officers, are state taxes imposed to raise
revenue. See 36 M.R.S. §§ 201, 251, 551.
The issue, therefore, is whether Maine offers adequate
remedies to taxpayers aggrieved by the wrongful assessment,
levy or collection of property taxes. State law affords to
individual taxpayers both administrative and judicial
remedies for the illegal assessment of real property taxes.
See, e.g., 36 M.R.S. §§ 271
(State Board of Property Tax Review), 504 (Illegal
assessment; recovery of tax), 841 (Abatement procedures), 843
(Appeals), 844 (Appeals to county commissioners), 941 - 949
(Procedures for enforcement of lien on real estate); 5 M.R.S.
§§ 8001 et seq. (Maine Administrative Procedures
Act); Me. R. Civ. P. 80C (Review of final agency action). By
any objective measure, the state law remedies are
sufficiently “plain, speedy and efficient” to
preclude this Court's exercise of subject matter
jurisdiction over the property tax dispute that is the
subject of Plaintiff's Complaint.
Court lacks jurisdiction over the subject matter of Audrey
Belisle's Complaint. The Court, therefore, DISMISSES
without prejudice Plaintiff's Complaint. Because the
Court lacks jurisdiction over the subject matter of
Plaintiff's Complaint, the Court necessarily is without
jurisdiction to consider Ms. Belisle's request for
injunctive relief. Accordingly, with the dismissal of
Plaintiff's Complaint, the Court also dismisses without
prejudice Audrey Belisle's motion for injunctive relief.
(ECF No. 3.) Finally, Audrey Belisle's argument in
support of her motion to seal the proceedings (ECF No. 5)
fails to overcome the presumption “of public access to
judicial proceedings and records.” United States v.
Kravetz, 706 F.3d 47, 52 (1st Cir. 2013.) The Court
therefore DENIES Audrey Belisle's motion to seal (ECF No.
 Concerning her
“beneficiary” designation, Plaintiff maintains
that her “future energy and productivity was pledged as
collateral surety for the UNITED STATES corporation's
debts when [she] was a baby, ” that she was
“presumed dead or absent by the State, ” and that
she is “actually one of the Creditors of the United
States of America, ” whose “birth estate has been
accessed without [her] ...