United States District Court, D. Connecticut
THOMAS J. JEFFREYS, Plaintiff,
TOWN OF WATERBURY, Defendant.
ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS
Jeffrey Alker Meyer United States District Judge
Jeffreys lives in Waterbury, Connecticut, and he owns a 1988
Mustang car. He has filed a complaint pro se and
in forma pauperis against the City of Waterbury
alleging that it violated his rights by garnishing money from
his bank account to collect amounts he allegedly owed for
municipal car taxes. The City has moved to dismiss the
complaint on the ground that the federal courts do not have
jurisdiction over lawsuits like this one that seeks to
challenge the assessment and collection of local taxes. I
agree and therefore I will dismiss this action.
following facts as alleged in the complaint are accepted as
true only for purposes of this ruling. Doc. #1. Thomas
Jeffreys lives in Waterbury, Connecticut, and he owns a 1988
Ford Mustang. Jeffreys alleges that from 2011 to 2015 the
City wrongfully assessed taxes on his car despite the fact
that the car is antique and exempt from taxes. Jeffreys
further alleges that the City wrongfully tried to collect the
taxes it assessed by garnishing his bank account and by doing
so despite the fact that his bank account holds Social
Security disability income which is exempt from garnishment.
has filed this lawsuit for money damages against the City of
Waterbury. He alleges that the City violated his rights under
the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Civil Rights Act of
1964, and the First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the
U.S. Constitution. He also alleges that the City violated a
state law against the taxation of a car that is more than 20
years old. The City has now moved to dismiss.
Because federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, a
federal court complaint must at minimum allege facts that
give rise to plausible grounds for a court to conclude that
it has federal jurisdiction. See Lapaglia v. Transamerica
Cas. Ins. Co., 155 F.Supp.3d 153, 155 (D. Conn. 2016).
The pleadings of a pro se party must be construed in
a non-technical manner to raise the strongest arguments that
they suggest. See, e.g., McLeod v. Jewish Guild
for the Blind, 864 F.3d 154, 156-57 (2d Cir. 2017)
(per curiam). Still, a pro se complaint may
not survive dismissal if its factual allegations do not meet
the basic plausibility standard. See, e.g.,
Fowlkes v. Ironworkers Local 40, 790 F.3d 378, 387
(2d Cir. 2015).
City argues that Jeffreys's complaint should be dismissed
because of the federal Tax Injunction Act, which provides
that “[t]he district courts shall not enjoin, suspend
or restrain the assessment, levy or collection of any tax
under State law where a plain, speedy and efficient remedy
may be had in the courts of such State.” 28 U.S.C.
§ 1341. The Act applies not only to state taxes but also
to local municipal taxes. See Hibbs v. Winn, 542
U.S. 88, 100 n.1 (2004). Moreover, although the Act by its
terms applies only to prevent a district court's grant of
injunctive relief, it is well recognized that parallel
principles of comity likewise preclude a federal court from
awarding money damages if there is an adequate remedy to be
had in state court. See Levin v. Commerce Energy,
Inc., 560 U.S. 413, 424 (2010); Marshall v. Town of
Middlefield, 360 Fed.Appx. 227, 228 (2d Cir. 2010).
order to determine whether the Tax Injunction Act or related
principles of comity apply to bar an action from proceeding
in federal court, a court should ask two questions. First,
does the plaintiff's action amount to a challenge to the
assessment, levy, or collection of any tax under state or
local law? Second, is there an effective remedy that the
plaintiff can pursue in the state courts? See generally
Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee, LLC v. Shumlin, 737 F.3d
228, 230-35 (2d Cir. 2013).
the first question, it is clear that Jeffreys seeks to
challenge the assessment and collection of a local government
tax. He complains about the City's assessment of taxes
against his car and its collection efforts by means of
garnishment of his bank account. This is the type of
challenge that the Second Circuit has ruled may not be
entertained in the federal district courts. See Piedmont
Gardens, LLC v. LeBlanc, 733 Fed.Appx. 576, 578 (2d Cir.
2018) (comity bars challenge to “a specific tax
collection procedure” involving City of Waterbury's
use of a marshal or constable to serve tax warrants, which
includes an additional service fee); Marshall v. Town of
Middlefield, 360 Fed.Appx. 227, 228-29 (2d Cir. 2010)
(comity bars challenge to local motor vehicle property tax
the second question, the City has shown that state law
provides Jeffreys with ample opportunity to challenge the
City's assessment and collection of car taxes, as well as
to pursue a challenge to the tax-related garnishment of his
bank account. See Doc. #13 at 7-8, 11-12 (citing
Conn. Gen. Stat. §§ 12-118, 12-119, 12-53,
52-367b); Marshall v. Town of Middlefield, 360
Fed.Appx. 227, 228-29 (2d Cir. 2010) (describing Conn. Gen.
Stat. § 12-119 and § 12-117a to be “multiple
methods by which a taxpayer may contest property
taxes”); Baltayan v. Tito, 2011 WL 2982315, at
*2 (D. Conn. 2011) (citing provisions of Connecticut law that
allow state court challenges to motor vehicle taxes in a case
where a plaintiff challenged a town's garnishment of his
bank account). Moreover, as the Second Circuit has noted,
“the Connecticut state constitution offers a remedy for
deprivation of constitutional rights that is, for all
relevant purposes, coextensive with 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
” and “[t]hese options satisfy comity's
requirement of a plain, adequate, and complete remedy.”
Piedmont Gardens, 733 Fed.Appx. at 579 (citing
Roundhouse Const. Corp. v. Telesco Masons Supplies Co.,
Inc., 170 Conn. 155, 157 (1976)).
short, I am satisfied that the City has established grounds
to conclude that there is no federal jurisdiction in this
case. It has shown that Jeffreys seeks to challenge the
assessment and collection of local taxes. And it has shown
that Jeffreys has been afforded an adequate opportunity to
raise such challenges in the state courts of Connecticut.
Accordingly, I will grant the City's motion to dismiss.
the reasons set forth above, the City of Waterbury's
motion to dismiss (Doc. #12) is GRANTED on the ground that
the Court does not have jurisdiction to entertain
Jeffreys's challenge to the ...