United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
A. ROSS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Defendant City of St.
Peters' motion for summary judgment. (Doc. No. 12). The
matter has been fully briefed and is ready for disposition.
For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion will
be granted as to Counts I and II, and the Court will decline
to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Counts III, IV,
& PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Carl and Janice Duffner own and live in a residential
property in the City of St. Peters, Missouri (“the
City”). (Complaint (“Compl.”), Doc. No. 1,
at ¶ 9). On May 14, 2014, the City sent Plaintiffs a
letter indicating that their yard was in violation of City
Ordinance 405.390 (hereinafter referred to as the “Turf
Grass Ordinance”), which requires that “[a]
minimum of fifty percent (50%) of all yard areas shall be
comprised of turf grass.” (Doc. No. 13-22). Plaintiffs
had been keeping a flower garden that covered their entire
yard. (Compl. at ¶ 1). Plaintiffs' yard did not
contain any turf grass because Janice Duffner is allergic to
grass. (Id.). Plaintiffs allege their continued
violation of the Turf Grass Ordinance could subject them to a
fine of more than $180, 000 and 20 years' imprisonment.
(Id. at ¶ 2).
23, 2014, Plaintiffs applied for a variance, requesting that
they not be required to plant any turf grass. (Doc. 1-6). On
July 1, 2014, the City of St. Peters Board of Zoning
Adjustment (“BOA”) granted a variance, reducing
the amount of turf grass required from 50% to 5%. (Doc. No.
1-9). The BOA required the grass area to be placed in the
front yard or in the side yard in front of the fence and
provided Plaintiffs with a December 1, 2014 compliance
refused to comply with the variance and, on September 25,
2014, they filed a petition in the Circuit Court of St.
Charles County (“state trial court”) challenging
the Turf Grass Ordinance and asserting the following four
counts: (1) violations of Plaintiffs' state and federal
substantive due process rights; (2) denial of equal
protection of the laws under the state and federal
constitutions; (3) violations of state constitutional
protections concerning the taking of private property; and
(4) the exercise of excessive state statutory zoning power.
(Doc. No. 13-2).
City filed a motion to dismiss, asserting that the petition
failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.
(Doc. No. 13-3). On April 22, 2015, the state trial court
granted the City's motion to dismiss, holding that the
allegations were a collateral attack on the order of the BOA.
(Doc. No. 13-4 at 2). As a result, the state trial court held
that it did not have subject matter jurisdiction because
Plaintiffs failed to exhaust their administrative remedies,
and that Plaintiffs' constitutional challengers were
waived because they were not raised at the earliest
opportunity. (Id. at 3).
appealed and, on January 12, 2016, the Missouri Court of
Appeals affirmed the state court's dismissal of Counts I
and II of the petition and remanded Counts III and IV for
further proceedings. (Doc. No. 13-6). Specifically, with
regard to Count I, the Court of Appeals held that a claim
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violation of a substantive
due process right was not a collateral attack on the
BOA's decision, but rather an attack on the validity of
the Turf Grass Ordinance itself. (Id. at 8).
Therefore, Plaintiffs were not required to exhaust
administrative remedies before pursuing their state action.
However, although the state trial court had subject matter
jurisdiction to address Count I, the Court of Appeals
determined that Count I failed to state a claim upon which
relief could be granted because Plaintiffs failed to allege
the higher standard of truly irrational conduct in their
petition. (Id. at 15-16).
Count II, which challenged the terms of the variance, the
Court of Appeals held that Plaintiffs were aggrieved by a
particular decision of the BOA acting in its administrative
capacity. (Id. at 10). This, the Court of Appeals
reasoned, was a collateral attack on a decision of the BOA,
and Plaintiffs had to first exhaust administrative remedies
before bringing suit. (Id. at 11). The Court of
Appeals also held that Plaintiffs were not required to
administratively exhaust their remedies with regard to Count
III, a state constitution takings/inverse condemnation claim,
and that Plaintiffs properly pled such a claim. (Id.
at 9-10). As to Count IV, the Court of Appeals held that the
allegation that the City exceeded its statutory zoning power
by enacting the Turf Grass Ordinance was not an attack on the
decision of the board, but rather an attack on the validity
of the ordinance itself. (Id. at 8). Therefore, the
Court concluded that Count IV was sufficient to state a
claim. In sum, the Court of Appeals affirmed the state trial
court's dismissal of Counts I and II, but reversed the
state trial court's dismissal of Counts III and IV.
the decision of the Court of Appeals, Plaintiffs filed a
motion to modify the appellate court's decision,
requesting that the order instruct the state trial court to
address the merits of Plaintiffs claim under 42 U.S.C. §
1983 (Count I). (Doc. No. 13-7). The Court of Appeals denied
remand, the City filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing
that Plaintiffs' claim of inverse condemnation (Count
III) was barred by the applicable statute of limitations, and
Count IV (exceeding statutory zoning power) failed as a
matter of law because the Turf Grass Ordinance was authorized
under statutory and common law. (Doc. No. 11 at 2).
Thereafter, Plaintiffs filed a motion to amend their petition
to (1) clarify the basis of its claim as to Count I; (2)
challenge the validity of additional City ordinances; and (3)
add a count asserting that Plaintiffs' choice to
cultivate and maintain flowers rather than turf grass was an
expressive act protected by the First Amendment. (Doc. No.
13-12). The state trial court denied the motion on July 27,
2016, concluding that it was untimely and raised no new facts
or circumstances that could not have been raised in the
original petition. (Doc. No. 13-13). On September 6, 2016,
Plaintiffs dismissed their state court action without
prejudice. (Doc. No. 13-14).
December 19, 2016, Plaintiffs filed this action in federal
court. (Doc. No. 13-15). In their complaint, Plaintiffs seek
declaratory and injunctive relief for the following
violations: (1) the deprivation of their fundamental rights
to use private property in harmless, lawful manners of the
owner's choosing and to exclude unwanted persons from
private property, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the
Fourteenth Amendment, and Article 1, Section 10 of the
Missouri Constitution; (2) the violation of the prohibition
against excessive fines and cruel and unusual punishment
under the Eighth Amendment; (3) the taking of private
property for private use and exceeding the proper scope of
the police power, in violation of Article 1, Section 28 of
the Missouri Constitution; (4) the taking or damaging private
property without just compensation, in violation of Article
1, Section 26 of the Missouri Constitution; and (5) exceeding
statutory zoning power, in violation of Missouri law.
after Plaintiffs filed their federal action, the City sent
them a letter on October 18, 2016, stating that they remained
in violation of the variance granted to them, and that
failure to comply with the variance by December 16, 2016
would result in a court summons. The City filed the instant
motion for summary judgment on March 6, 2017. (Doc. No. 12).
to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c), a court may grant a
motion for summary judgment only if all of the information
before the court shows “there is no genuine issue of
material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as
a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); see Celotex
Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The Court
must view the evidence and all reasonable inferences in the
light most favorable to the non-moving party. Hutson v.
McDonnell Douglas Corp., 63 F.3d 771, 775 (8th Cir.
moving party has the initial burden to establish the
non-existence of any genuine issue of fact that is material
to a judgment in its favor. City of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa v.
Associated Elec. Co-op., Inc., 838 F.2d 268, 273 (8th
Cir. 1988). Once this burden is discharged, if the record
does in fact bear out that no genuine dispute exists, the
burden then shifts to the non-moving party, who must set
forth affirmative evidence and ...