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Barnes v. Trump

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

March 13, 2019

GARY L. BARNES, Plaintiff,
v.
DONALD J. TRUMP, Respondent.

         ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS COMPLAINT (DKT. NO. 11), DENYING AS MOOT PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR EX PARTE INJUNCTION (DKT. NO. 6), DENYING AS MOOT DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO STAY PROCEEDINGS (DKT. NO. 7) AND DENYING AS MOOT PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO AMEND REPLY (DKT. NO. 15)

          HON. PAMELA PEPPER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. Procedural History

         On July 5, 2018, Gary L. Barnes, representing himself, filed a complaint against President Donald J. Trump, alleging that the President has imposed illegal and unconstitutional tariffs on imported goods. Dkt. No. 1. The defendant filed a notice of appearance on July 30, 2018. Dkt. No. 3. On August 15, 2018, the plaintiff filed a motion for ex parte injunction. Dkt. No. 6. The defendant did not respond to this motion, instead filing a motion to stay proceedings until the defendant could file a motion to dismiss. Dkt. No. 7. On September 25, 2018, the defendant filed a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Dkt. No. 11. The plaintiff responded to that motion, dkt. no. 13, and then asked the court to allow him to amend his response, dkt. no. 15. The court grants the defendant's motion to dismiss and denies the remaining motions as moot.

         II. Factual Background

         A. Allegations in the Complaint

         The plaintiff's complaint lists several tariffs that the defendant had imposed on certain goods. Dkt. No. 1 at 3-4 (listing tariffs on Canadian lumber, solar panel technology, washing machines, steel and aluminum, and “Chinese products”). The plaintiff alleges that the United States Constitution does not allow the defendant to impose these tariffs and that they are harmful to businesses and citizens. Dkt. No. 1 at 4-5. Specifically, the plaintiff argues that neither the United States Constitution nor the Trade Act of 1974 authorize the defendant to enact these tariffs. Id. The plaintiff asserts that he has standing to challenge these tariffs because he is a citizen of the United States with the First Amendment right to “petition the government for a redress of grievances.” Id. at 9. For relief, the plaintiff asks the court to rule that the defendant lacks the authority to impose taxes on foreign goods or to regulate commerce. Id. at 11. He also seeks a preliminary injunction to end the collection of tariffs, and asks the court to enjoin the defendant from imposing additional tariffs. Id. at 12.

         The plaintiff claims that the court has federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §1331, and the power to compel an officer to perform a duty owed to the plaintiff under 28 U.S.C. §1361. Id. at 2.

         B. Motion to Dismiss (Dkt. No. 11)

         The defendant asks the court to dismiss the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). Dkt. No. 11. In his brief, the defendant argues that the Court of International Trade has exclusive subject matter jurisdiction over challenges to the tariffs at issue. Dkt. No. 12 at 9. He says that the Court of International Trade's jurisdictional statute, 28 U.S.C. §1581, creates broad-based jurisdiction in that court on tariff-related claims and says that the plaintiff's claims fall within the statute. Id. (citing K-Mart v. Cartier, 485 U.S. 176, 182-83 (1988)).

         The defendant also asserts that the plaintiff lacks Article III standing. Id. at 13. The defendant notes that the plaintiff does not claim that he has bought, sold or imported any of the products listed in the complaint; in other words, he has not shown how these tariffs have caused him injury-in-fact. Id. at 14. The defendant contends that being a concerned United States citizen does not automatically confer Article III standing on that citizen. Id. at 14 (citing Valley Forge Christian Coll. v. Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Inc., 454 U.S. 464, 482-83 (1982)). The defendant asks the court to dismiss the case, rather than transferring it to the Court of International Trade.

         C. Plaintiff's Response (Dkt. No. 13)

         The plaintiff maintains that this court has jurisdiction over his complaint under 28 U.S.C. §§1331 and 1361. Dkt. No. 13 at 1. He asks the court to deny the defendant's motion and either allow the case to proceed in the district court or reassign it to the Court of International Trade. Id. at 2. Two weeks later, the plaintiff asked to amend his response, citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(1)(A). Dkt. No. 15. In his proposed amended response, the plaintiff cites a “Cure of Defects” provision from the Customs Courts Act of 1980. Id. at 2. The plaintiff alleges that this provision stated that when a civil action within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Court of International Trade is commenced in a district court, the district court shall transfer the action to the Court of International Trade. Id. (citing “Rules of the Court of International Trade state, in Public Law 96-417 (Oct. 10, 1980) §1584(a)”).

         Without asking permission to do so, the plaintiff also filed a supplemental response to the motion to dismiss.[1] Dkt. No. 16. He argued that his complaint was an “internal grievance, ” challenging the defendant's authority to levy tariffs. Dkt. No. 16 at 1-2. He indicated that his case should not go to the Court of International Trade, because that court “does not get involved with suits that encompass the internal workings of the government.” Id. at 2. The defendant asserts that the supplement raised no new arguments affecting the defendant's position on this court's lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. Dkt. No. 17.

         II. ...


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