United States District Court, D. Idaho
BENJAMIN A. JOHNSON, Petitioner,
KOOTENAI COUNTY, a legal subdivision of the State of Idaho, by and through its Board of County Commissioners, Respondent.
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
C. Nye Chief U.S. District Court Judge.
before the Court is Petitioner Benjamin A. Johnson's
Petition for Writ of Mandamus, Judicial Review
(“Petition”). Dkt. 1. Having reviewed the record,
the Court finds that the facts and legal arguments are
adequately presented. Accordingly, in the interest of
avoiding further delay, and because the Court finds that the
decisional process would not be significantly aided by oral
argument, the Court will decide the Petition without oral
argument. Dist. Idaho Loc. Civ. R. 7.1(d)(1)(B).
review, and for the reasons set forth below, the Court does
not reach the merits of the Petition and DISMISSES the case
in its entirety for lack of jurisdiction.
January 24, 2019, the Kootenai County Community Development
Director (the “Director”) approved the
development of a three (3)-lot minor subdivision (the
“Subdivision”). Ben Pointe Road is a small
private road which provides access to the proposed
Subdivision. Certain sections of Ben Pointe Road, including
the portion that provides access to the Subdivision, are only
twelve (12) feet wide. These sections do not meet the
International Fire Code (“IFC”) standards, which
were adopted by Kootenai County. Namely, the IFC requires
roads to be twenty (20) feet wide.
appealed the Director's approval of the development
because Ben Pointe Road currently does not meet the IFC
standards. Johnson believes that approval of the Subdivision
should be conditioned on the widening of Ben Pointe Road to
be in compliance with the IFC. Ultimately, Kootenai County
Board of County Commissioners (the “Board”) heard
Johnson's appeal and affirmed the Director's
decision, citing various provisions of the Kootenai County
Code which allowed Kootenai County to proceed with the
development of the Subdivision despite the fact that Ben
Pointe Road fell short of IFC safety standards.
now seeks a writ of mandamus compelling the Board to approve
the Subdivision only if the private access road is brought up
to current IFC standards or, alternatively, judicial review
of the Board's decision.
federal court generally may not rule on the merits of a case
without first determining that it has jurisdiction over the
category of claim in suit (subject-matter
jurisdiction).” Sinochem Intern. Co. v. Malaysia
Int'l. Shipping Corp., 549 U.S. 422, 431-31 (2007).
Further, “[w]ithout jurisdiction the court cannot
proceed at all in any cause; it may not assume jurisdiction
for the purpose of deciding the merits of the case.”
Id. (internal quotations omitted). Thus, federal
courts “have an independent obligation to determine
whether subject-matter jurisdiction exists, even in the
absence of a challenge from any party.” Arbaugh v.
Y&H Corp., 546 U.S. 500, 514 (2006); see also
Washington Local Lodge No. 104 of Int'l Bhd. of
Boilermakers, AFL-CIO v. Int'l Bhd. of Boilermakers, Iron
Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers & Helpers,
AFL-CIO, 621 F.2d 1032, 1033 (9th Cir. 1980) (“If
the court determines at any time that it lacks subject-matter
jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the action.”)
(quoting Fed. R. Civ. P 12(h)(3)).
district courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and as
such, can only hear cases and controversies that involve a
federal question, 28 U.S.C. § 1331, or satisfy federal
diversity jurisdiction requirements, 28 U.S.C. § 1332.
Generally speaking, diversity jurisdiction requires: (1) the
plaintiff and defendant to be citizens of different states;
and (2) the amount in controversy exceeds the sum or value of
$75, 000. 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Under federal question
jurisdiction, a court has “original jurisdiction of all
civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or
treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 1331.
Simply put, a federal court has jurisdiction to hear cases
regarding federal law.
Johnson alleges that the Court has federal-question
jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 because this action
involves a federal question, to wit: the Takings Clause of
the Fifth Amendment. Dkt. 1, at 2. He then alleges that the
Court has authority to issue a writ of mandamus under the All
Writs Act, 28. U.S.C. § 1651, and may hear his state law
petition for judicial review under the Court's
supplemental jurisdiction authority.Id. As explained
below, the Court's ...