United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
LEROY WASHINGTON on his own behalf, and on behalf of a Class of those similarly situated, Plaintiff,
MARION COUNTY PROSECUTOR, MAYOR OF THE CONSOLIDATED CITY OF INDIANAPOLIS/MARION COUNTY, CHIEF OF THE INDIANAPOLIS METROPOLITAN POLICE DEPARTMENT, Defendants.
Jane Magnus-Stinson, Chief Judge United States District Court
Leroy Washington's car was seized and held for forfeiture
following his arrest, pursuant to Indiana Code Section
34-24-1-2(a)(1). Mr. Washington commenced this action against
Defendants the Marion County Prosecutor (the
“Prosecutor”), the Mayor of the
Consolidated City of Indianapolis/Marion County (the
“Mayor”), and the Chief of the
Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (the
“Chief”) in their official capacities,
challenging the forfeiture statute (and the Defendants'
enforcement of it) as unconstitutional. Presently pending
before the Court is the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Mr.
Washington's Complaint. [Filing No. 24.] For the
reasons that follow, the Court denies the Defendants'
Washington is a resident of Marion County, Indiana.
[Filing No. 1 at 4.] On September 21, 2016, a law
enforcement officer with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police
Department (“IMPD”) stopped a vehicle
driven and owned by Mr. Washington. [Filing No. 1 at
6.] Mr. Washington was subsequently arrested and charged
with several felony offenses. [Filing No. 1 at
6.] The arresting officer had Mr. Washington's
vehicle towed and held for forfeiture, pursuant to Indiana
Code Section 34-24-1-2(a)(1). [Filing No. 1 at 7.]
On November 1, 2016, Mr. Washington made a demand for the
return of his property, both electronically and by U.S. Mail.
[Filing No. 1 at 7]; see I.C. §
November 2, 2016, Mr. Washington filed a Complaint in this
Court, on behalf of himself and other putative class members.
[Filing No. 1.] Mr. Washington alleges that Indiana
Code Section 34-24-1-2(a)(1) violates the Due Process Clause
of the United States Constitution, and is therefore illegal,
because “it allows the executive branch to seize and
hold the vehicle of an owner for several months without
affording the owner the right to a postseizure hearing to
challenge the seizure.” [Filing No. 1 at 1.]
The Complaint requests a declaratory judgment and injunctive
relief, along with costs and attorneys' fees. [Filing
No. 1 at 7.] It also requests the certification of Mr.
Washington's proposed class. [Filing No. 1 at
7.] Contemporaneously with the filing of his Complaint,
Mr. Washington filed a Motion for Class Certification and a
Memorandum in Support of his Motion for Class Certification.
[Filing No. 3; Filing No. 4.]
Prosecutor requested an extension of time to respond to Mr.
Washington's first discovery requests, and the parties
agreed that the responses would be due February 3, 2016.
[Filing No. 27-7 at 1.] On February 3, the date the
Prosecutor's discovery responses were due, the Defendants
filed a Joint Motion to Dismiss, stating that:
[a]s of February 3, 2017, the vehicle subject to the Marion
County forfeiture action, the vehicle at issue in this
lawsuit, is being released to [Mr.] Washington by the Marion
County Prosecutor's Office and the Indianapolis
Metropolitan Police Department, and the Marion County
Prosecutor's Office has terminated the foreclosure action
against [Mr.] Washington's vehicle.
No. 24 at 2.] In that Motion, the Defendants contend
that because the vehicle is being released to Mr. Washington,
no further relief can be granted to him, and this matter is
therefore moot. [Filing No. 24 at 2.] Mr. Washington
filed his response [Filing No. 26], and the
Defendants did not file a reply.
Court construes the Defendants' motion as being raised
under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), requesting
dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
“Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) allows a
party to dismiss a claim for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction.” Hallinan v. Fraternal Order of
Police of Chicago Lodge No. 7, 570 F.3d 811, 820 (7th
Cir. 2009). The burden is on the plaintiff to prove, by a
preponderance of the evidence, that subject-matter
jurisdiction exists for his or her claims. See
Lee v. City of Chicago, 330 F.3d 456, 468 (7th Cir.
III of the Constitution grants federal courts jurisdiction
over “cases and controversies[, ]” and the
standing doctrine is the tool used to identify which cases
and controversies the federal judicial process can
appropriately resolve. Whitmore v. Arkansas, 495
U.S. 149, 154-55 (1990). Standing is “the threshold
question in every federal case, determining the power of the
court to entertain the suit.” Warth v. Seldin,
422 U.S. 490, 498 (1975). “[T]he ‘irreducible
constitutional minimum' of standing consists of three
elements. The plaintiff must have (1) suffered an injury in
fact, (2) that is fairly traceable to the challenged conduct
of the defendant, and (3) that is likely to be redressed by a
favorable judicial decision.” Spokeo, Inc. v.
Robbins, 136 S.Ct. 1540, 1547 (2016) (internal citations
Court's jurisdiction depends on “an actual
controversy [that] must be extant at all stages of review,
not merely at the time the complaint is filed.”
Arizonans for Official English v. Arizona, 520 U.S.
43, 67 (1997). Thus, if the controversy defined by a legal
claim is no longer live, or the parties lack a legally
cognizable interest in the outcome, the claim is moot, and
the court must dismiss for want of jurisdiction. SeeCity of Erie v. Pap's A.M.,529 U.S. 277, 287
(2000); North Carolina v. Rice,404 U.S. 244, 246
(1971) (per curiam) (“Mootness is a jurisdictional
question because the Court ‘is not empowered to decide
moot questions or abstract propositions, ' ... our
impotence ‘to review moot cases ...