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CMoore Holdings, LLC v. Five Mile Estates Subdivisions

United States District Court, D. Idaho

June 5, 2019

CMOORE HOLDINGS, LLC, an Idaho limited liability company, Plaintiffs,
v.
FIVE MILE ESTATES SUBDIVISIONS, LOREN KAEHN, TERESA A. THAUT, and JOHN AND JANE DOES 1-23, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          David C. Nye, Chief U.S. District Court Judge.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff CMoore Holdings, LLC, 's Motion for Summary Judgment and request to enter a Declaratory Judgment (Dkt. 12) pursuant to the Federal Declaratory Relief Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201 et seq. The Court has reviewed Plaintiff's briefing and the Non-Opposition to this Motion filed by the Defendants Loren Kaehn and Teresa A. Thaut. For the reasons set forth below, the Court DISMISSES this case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, thereby rendering Plaintiff's Motion moot.

         II. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff is the owner of real property located within the Five Mile Estates Subdivision at 3940 S. Summerset Way in Boise, Ada County, Idaho. After purchasing this property, Plaintiff began remodeling a home there for use as a residential assisted living facility. Shortly thereafter, Plaintiff received an email purportedly from a group of homeowners in Five Mile Estates West Subdivision.[1] The email said that the homeowners objected to the operation of the assisted living facility in the Subdivision for several reasons, and claimed that such a facility violates the Protective Covenants and Restrictions (“CC&R's”) for Five Mile Estates West Subdivision because it is not a “residential use” as defined therein. Defendant Loren Kaehn later admitted that he was the author of this email. Dkt. 13, at 3.

         Around that same time, Plaintiff received telephone calls from unidentified residents of the Subdivision, some of whom threatened to file a lawsuit to stop the opening of the assisted living facility. Two of these callers have become known to Plaintiff as Defendants Teresa A. Thaut and Loren Kaehn.

         Plaintiff filed its Complaint on January 1, 2018 and seeks entry of a declaratory judgment declaring that portions of the Five Mile Estates CC&R's violate the Federal Fair Housing Act insofar as they attempt to ban a residential assisted living facility for seniors who are handicapped and need assistance with the activities of daily living.

         III. LEGAL STANDARDS

         Subject matter jurisdiction may be considered by the Court at any time. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(h)(3) (“Whenever it appears by suggestion of the parties or otherwise that the court lacks jurisdiction of the subject matter, the court shall dismiss the action.”); Ruhrgas AG v. Marathon Oil Co., 526 U.S. 574, 583 (1999) (“Subject-matter delineations must be policed by the courts on their own initiative even at the highest level.”)

         In this case, Plaintiff seeks entry of declaratory judgment pursuant to the Declaratory Judgment Act, which permits a federal court to “declare the rights and other legal relations” of parties to “a case of actual controversy.” 28 U.S.C. § 2201. This “actual controversy” requirement is the same as the “case or controversy” requirement of Article III of the United States Constitution. See Aetna Life Ins. Co. v. Haworth, 300 U.S. 227, 239-40 (1937). Therefore, the question of justiciability, and therefore of subject matter jurisdiction, is the same under § 2201 as it is under Article III.

         The United States Supreme Court has given guidance as to when “an abstract” question becomes a “controversy” under the Declaratory Judgment Act:

The difference between an abstract question and a “controversy” contemplated by the Declaratory Judgment Act is necessarily one of degree, and it would be difficult, if it would be possible, to fashion a precise test for determining in every case whether there is such a controversy. Basically, the question in each case is whether the facts alleged, under all the circumstances, show that there is a substantial controversy, between parties having adverse legal interests, of sufficient immediacy and reality to warrant the issuance of a declaratory judgment.

Maryland Casualty Co. v. Pacific Coal & Oil Co., 312 U.S. 270, 273 (1941).

         Applying this standard, the Ninth Circuit has held that something less than an “actual threat” of litigation is required to meet the “case or controversy” requirement; instead, courts must focus on whether a declaratory plaintiff has a “reasonable apprehension” that he or she will be subjected to liability. Societe ...


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