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Papi v. Town of Gorham

United States District Court, D. Maine

April 20, 2017

JOHN PAPI and JOHN J. PAPI, LLC, Plaintiffs,
v.
TOWN OF GORHAM, TOWN OF GORHAM TOWN COUNCIL, TOWN OF GORHAM TOWN CLERK, DAVID COLE, individually and in his official capacity as Town Manager, RONALD SHEPARD, individually and in his official capacity as Chief of Police, and DANIEL JONES, individually and in his official capacity as Chief of Police, Defendants.

          ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' PARTIAL MOTION TO DISMISS

          JON D. LEVY U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         John Papi and his limited liability company, John J. Papi, LLC, assert claims against the Town of Gorham and several of its officials stemming from Papi's operation of a solid waste removal business. See ECF No. 1. Defendants jointly move to dismiss Counts I through VII of the Complaint to the extent they relate to a prior action the Town brought against Papi in the Cumberland County Superior Court. ECF No. 5 at 8. For the reasons explained below, Defendants' motion is granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Papi is the sole owner and manager of John J. Papi, LLC, which is a solid waste removal company. Papi obtained a solid waste removal license from the Town of Gorham each year between 1998 and 2013, as required by the Town's ordinance. Between 2002 and 2014, Papi notified Gorham officials on multiple occasions that other solid waste removal companies were operating in Gorham without the required license. The Town allegedly never took any action in response to these notices. Papi expressed to Town officials his opposition to what he believed was the selective enforcement of the licensing ordinance. In January 2014, Papi engaged in waste hauling without the required license and was issued a citation by the Town. The Town was allegedly aware that other companies were engaging in unlicensed waste hauling at the time, but did not take any enforcement action against those other companies. Papi asserts that he was cited in retaliation for complaining about the selective enforcement of the licensing ordinance.

         Papi contested the citation in Cumberland County Superior Court, and the matter proceeded to trial. Papi argued in state court that Gorham's selective enforcement of the licensing ordinance violated the United States and Maine Constitutions. The Superior Court rejected that argument, and upheld the citation. Papi was ordered to pay a fine, cease and desist from hauling solid waste without a municipal license, and pay the Town's costs and attorney's fees.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Legal Standard

         Defendants move to dismiss the claims against them under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, and under Rule 12(b)(6), for failure to state a claim on which relief may be granted.

         Under Rule 12(b)(1), the burden is on Papi[1] to demonstrate that the Court has subject-matter jurisdiction. See Aversa v. United States, 99 F.3d 1200, 1209 (1st Cir. 1996). The Complaint should be construed liberally; the Court must treat all well-pleaded facts as true and draw all reasonable inferences in Papi's favor. Id. at 1209-10. The Court may also consider evidence outside of the pleadings to determine the jurisdictional issue. Id. at 1210.

         To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint “must contain sufficient factual matter to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Saldivar v. Racine, 818 F.3d 14, 18 (1st Cir. 2016) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)) (internal quotation marks and alterations omitted). The court should accept all well-pleaded facts as true, while ignoring conclusory legal allegations. Id. All reasonable inferences should be drawn in favor of the non-moving party. Id. at 16. Determining the plausibility of a claim is a context-specific task that requires the court “to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id. at 18 (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679) (quotation marks omitted).

         B. Consideration of Materials Outside the Complaint

         As noted above, a court may consider evidence outside of the pleadings when ruling on a jurisdictional challenge under Rule 12(b)(1). See Aversa, 99 F.3d at 1210. A court may also consider certain materials outside the pleadings when ruling on a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) without converting the motion to one for summary judgment, including documents of undisputed authenticity, official public records, documents central to a plaintiff's claim, and documents sufficiently referred to in the complaint. See Global Tower Assets, LLC v. Town of Rome, 810 F.3d 77, 89 (1st Cir. 2016); see also Beddall v. State St. Bank & Trust Co., 137 F.3d 12, 17 (1st Cir. 1998) (“When . . . a complaint's factual allegations are expressly linked to-and admittedly dependent upon-a document (the authenticity of which is not challenged), that document effectively merges into the pleadings and the trial court can review it in deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6).”).

         Here, the Defendants urge the Court to consider a number of documents attached to their motion to dismiss, including the Decision and Order issued by the Cumberland County Superior Court after the trial at which Papi contested his citation. Papi does not dispute the authenticity of these documents or contest the Court's ability to consider them. The Complaint specifically references the Superior Court suit, and asserts that the instant suit “result[s] from damages incurred due to the Town of Gorham's selective enforcement in Town of Gorham v. John Papi, Docket No. VI-14-001 (Cumberland County Superior Court, March 27, 2015).” ECF No. 1 at 2, ¶ 3. Because the authenticity of the documents is uncontested and the Complaint's allegations expressly reference and depend upon the Superior Court judgment, the documents are properly considered in analyzing the Defendants' motion to dismiss.

         C. ...


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