Leora H. Bell, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff-Appellant,
City of Country Club Hills, Defendant-Appellee.
September 13, 2016
from the United States District Court for the Northern
District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 15 C 4227 - James
B. Zagel, Judge.
BAUER, KANNE, and HAMILTON, Circuit Judges.
Leora H. Bell, filed suit against Defendant-appellee, City of
Country Club Hills, claiming a deprivation of her
constitutional rights in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Bell's claims arise from the City's decision to
repeal an ordinance that provided a twenty-five percent tax
rebate to qualifying homeowners. The district court granted
the City's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim
under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), holding that
the tax rebate did not confer a vested property right upon
Bell. Bell appeals, arguing that she maintains a vested
property right in the rebate program, and that the City
unlawfully repealed the ordinance. For the reasons stated
below, we affirm.
April 23, 2012, the City of Country Club Hills City Council
adopted Ordinance No. O-02-12, which provided to homeowners a
twenty-five percent rebate of 2010 city property taxes paid
in 2011, subject to the completion of an application by the
homeowner and approval by the City Clerk. According to the
application, this was the City's twelfth consecutive year
of offering a rebate program. The application stated that the
"FILING OF THIS APPLICATION DOES NOT GUARANTEE APPROVAL
BY THE CITY OF COUNTRY CLUB HILLS." The city prepared
the rebate checks but never distributed them to homeowners.
In 2012, the Cook County treasurer overpaid the City by more
than $6 million, and the County brought suit against the City
in Cook County Circuit Court to collect the overpayment in
July 2012. Judgment was entered against the City a
year later for nearly $6.6 million.
filed the instant action on May 15, 2015, on behalf of
herself and others similarly situated. She asserted a claim
under § 1983, arguing that the City's refusal to
issue the rebates constituted a taking in violation of the
Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States
Constitution, as well as Article I, § 15 of the Illinois
Constitution. Bell also asserted state law claims for
conversion and unjust enrichment. On August 24, 2015, the
City Council passed Ordinance O-H-15, which repealed the
April 2012 Ordinance. On September 1, 2015, the City filed a
motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), contending that Bell
had no constitutionally protected property interest in the
expectation of a rebate, and that she had adequate state
court remedies for her claims under state law. The district
court agreed with the City, and granted its motion on January
filed a motion for relief from a final judgment under Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) on February 4, 2016, arguing
that the City's August 2015 repeal of the April 2012
Ordinance was invalid because it violated the Illinois Open
Meetings Act, 5Ill.Comp.Stat. 120/2(e). The district court
denied Bell's motion. On March 28, 2016, the City Council
responded to concerns over the validity of its August 2015
repeal by again repealing the April 2012 Ordinance. This
review the district court's granting of a motion to
dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) de novo, accepting all
well-pleaded facts as true and drawing all reasonable
inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Golden v.
State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 745 F.3d 252, 255 (7th
Cir. 2014). A Rule 12(b)(6) motion challenges the sufficiency
of the complaint itself. Gibson v. City of Chicago,
910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990) (citation omitted). To
state a claim, a complaint must first provide "a short
and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). The statement
of the claim must sufficiently give to the defendants
"fair notice of what the ... claim is and the grounds
upon which it rests." Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citation omitted).
Additionally, the complaint's factual allegations must
raise the claim above a mere "speculative level."
Id. "While a complaint attacked by a Rule
12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual
allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the
grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than
labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action will not do." Id.
(citations and internal alterations omitted).
asserts her constitutional claims against the City under
§ 1983, which provides that "[e]very person who,
under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or
usage, of any State ... subjects, or causes to be subjected,
any citizen of the United States ... to the deprivation of
any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the
Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured
in an action at law ... ." In order to state a claim
under this provision, the following conditions must be met:
"(1) the offending conduct [must be] committed by
someone who acted under the color of state law; (2) the
actions deprive the plaintiff of a constitutionally protected
property interest; and (3) the alleged deprivation occurred
without due process of law." Germano v. Winnebago
Cnty., 403 F.3d 926, 927 (7th Cir. 2005). The parties do
not appear to dispute that the City acted under color of law.
contends that the City's failure to issue the rebate
constitutes a taking of a government benefit without due
process of law in violation of the United States and Illinois
Constitutions. The Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment,
made applicable to the states through the Fourteenth
Amendment, provides: "[N]or shall private property be
taken for public use, without just compensation."
Sorrentino v. Godinez, 777 F.3d 410, 413 (7th Cir.
2015) (quoting U.S. Const, amend. V). The Due Process Clause
of the Fourteenth Amendment provides: "[N]or shall any
State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property,
without due process of law." U.S. Const, amend. XIV,
§ 1. "[I]n any due process case where the
deprivation of property is alleged, the threshold question is
whether a protected property interest actually exists."
Cole v. Milwaukee Area Tech. Coll. Dist, 634 F.3d
901, 904 (7th Cir. 2011).
have a property interest in a benefit, a person clearly must
have more than an abstract need or desire for it. He must
have more than a unilateral expectation of it. He must,
instead, have a legitimate claim of entitlement to it."
Bd. of Regents ofState Colls, v. Roth, 408
U.S. 564, 577 (1972). "Property interests are not
created by the Constitution but rather 'they are created
and their dimensions are defined by existing rules or
understandings that ...