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Petty v. State

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

May 3, 2018

WILLIAM E. PETTY, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF MISSOURI and CITY OF ST. LOUIS, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          JOHN M. BODENHAUSEN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant State of Missouri's (“State”) Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 19) and Defendant City of St. Louis' (“City”) Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint (ECF No. 23). Plaintiff William E. Petty (“Petty”) has filed responses in opposition and the issues are fully briefed. All matters are pending before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge, with consent of the parties, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c).

         Petty appears to challenge the constitutionality of Chapter 138 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri, entitled Equalization and Review of Tax Assessments and comprised of approximately sixty separate statutes. Petty seeks to have Chapter 138 removed from the books as a tax on real estate. In response, the State and the City contend that Petty has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The State also asserts that, pursuant to the Eleventh Amendment, sovereign immunity bars Petty's claim against the State, and Petty lacks standing.

         I. Factual Background

         In the Complaint, Petty alleges that the State and the City have “install[ed] a tax on real estate property that is prevented by the Constition [sic] … by imposing the equalization law.” (Complaint, ECF No. 1 at 1-2) Petty further alleges that ‘[t]he State of Missouri and counties and cities is [sic] forbidden by the Constitution from imposing any tax on any real estate property; despite this law, they proceeded to install, as a property tax called the equalization Law, Chapter 138 as a tax on real estate.” (Id. at 4) As relief, Petty requests that “Missouri Law Chapter 138 Equalization Law with all of its parts, removed from the books as a tax on real estate, and all money collected returned to those they took it from.” (Id. at 5)

         In May 2017, Petty, an owner of real property in St. Louis City, received a Change of Assessment Notice from the City of St. Louis, Office of the Assessor, which reflected a general equalization increasing the appraised value of his residential property and the estimated real estate taxes from $585.39 in 2016 to $1, 232.12 in 2017. (ECF Nos. 22, 29, and 30)

         II. Legal Standard

         The purpose of a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim is to test the legal sufficiency of the complaint. To survive a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. V. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). The requirement of facial plausibility is satisfied “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. A claim for relief “must include sufficient factual information to provide the ‘grounds' on which the claim rests, and to raise a right to relief above a speculative level.” Schaaf v. Residential Funding Corp., 517 F.3d 544, 549 (8th Cir. 2008) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 & n.3). This obligation requires a plaintiff to plead “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.

         On a motion to dismiss, the Court accepts as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint, even if it appears that “actual proof of those facts is improbable, ” and reviews the complaint to determine whether its allegations show that the pleader is entitled to relief. Id. at 555-56; Fed.R.Civ.P. Rule 8(a)(2). The principle that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint does not apply to legal conclusions. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 678.

         III. Discussion

         A. State and City's Motions to Dismiss - Failure to State a Claim

         Any person aggrieved by an assessment of real estate taxes on property may appeal to the board of equalization. The procedures for equalization and review of real estate tax assessments by the board of equalization are found in Chapter 138. See St. Peters Hosp. v. Zimmerman, 914 S.W.2d 26, 28 (Mo.Ct.App. 1995). The Missouri Constitution and Statutes delineate a comprehensive plan for the valuation of property for tax purposes and in general the administration of the over-all scheme, including valuation and assessment. Const. Mo., Art. 10, Sec. 14, Chapter 138.

         It appears that Petty seeks to challenge the City of St. Louis board of equalization's increase in the assessed value of his property resulting in an increase in his real estate property taxes.[1] Although Petty could have appealed the increased assessment value of his real property, it appears he did not do so.

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