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National Railroad Passenger Corp. v. Caln Township

March 12, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robert F. Kelly Senior Judge



Presently before the Court is the Motion of All Defendants to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint and Deny Plaintiffs' Motion for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief Pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is denied.


Plaintiff National Railroad Passenger Corporation ("Amtrak") was established by the Rail Passenger Service Act, 49 U.S.C. § 24101, in 1971. Daniel Karczeski ("Karczeski") is Amtrak's Deputy Division Engineer and is also a Plaintiff in this litigation. Caln Township ("the Township") is a township organized and existing under the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, located at 253 Municipal Drive, Thorndale, Pennsylvania 19372.*fn1 A portion of Amtrak's railway runs through Caln Township.

On August 13, 2008, the Township issued two citations to Karczeski for Amtrak's alleged failure to comply with local ordinance § 302.4, a Township weed control ordinance requiring that plant growth be maintained at eight inches or less. On August 26, 2008, the Township again cited Karczeski for a second alleged violation of this same ordinance on another portion of Amtrak's property. A Pennsylvania magisterial district judge issued summonses for the citations on August 14, 2008 and August 28, 2008. Karczeski pled not guilty to the citations and posted collateral for the citations in the amount of $352.00. Thereafter, the magistrate judge scheduled a hearing on the matter for September 30, 2008.

On September 12, 2008, counsel for Amtrak sent a letter to the Township asserting that Amtrak was federally exempt from local land use ordinances, such as the Township's weed control ordinance. The letter also referenced similar citations that the Township had issued against Amtrak two years prior, in 2006, and requested that the Township withdraw the current citations, as it had done with the 2006 citations.

On September 24, 2008, Deputy General Counsel and Solicitor General for Amtrak contacted the Township's Solicitor, asking that the Township take whatever steps possible to get the citations against Karczeski withdrawn. However, before the citations were withdrawn, the magistrate judge held a hearing on the matter, as scheduled, on September 30, 2008, wherein Karczeski was not present. As a result, on October 1, 2008, the magistrate judge entered an Order Imposing Sentence of a fine of $12.32, and on October 2, 2008, the magistrate judge issued a Notice of Impending Arrest to Karczeski, directing that if Karczeski did not either appear before the court or remit the $12.32 to the Township, a warrant would be issued for his arrest. A bench warrant was ultimately issued for Karczecki's arrest, and Karczecki received notice of it on November 7, 2008.

On November 10, 2008, counsel for Amtrak contacted counsel for the Township and demanded that the Township withdraw the citations and the bench warrant for Karczecki's arrest. On November 11, 2008, counsel for the Township responded to Amtrak's counsel, stating that the Township did not have the authority to withdraw the arrest warrant issued for Karczecki, but offered to "informally look into" the reason for the arrest warrant. Counsel for the Township later agreed, via email, to withdraw the citations and to ask the magistrate judge to rescind the arrest warrant. According to the Township, it further informed counsel for Amtrak that it would be unable to proceed with the withdrawal of the charges until November 14, 2008, due to the unavailability of the magistrate judge. On November 14, 2008, the Township withdrew the citations and asked the magistrate judge to withdraw the arrest warrant issued for Karczecki's arrest, to which he agreed. A Notice of Withdrawal of Charges was issued on November 14, 2008. Amtrak filed its Complaint in this Court on that same day, alleging that the Township's weed ordinance is preempted by several provisions of the Rail Passenger Service Act, 49 U.S.C. § 24101, and 49 C.F.R. § 213.37.


Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), when "considering a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, the person asserting jurisdiction bears the burden of showing that the case is properly before the court at all stages of the litigation." Fed. Realty Inv. Trust v. Juniper Props. Group, No. 99-3389, 2000 WL 45996, at *3 (E.D. Pa. 2000) (citing Packard v. Provident Nat'l Bank, 994 F.2d 1039, 1045 (3d Cir. 1993)). The district court, when reviewing a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, "must accept as true the allegations contained in the plaintiff's complaint, except to the extent federal jurisdiction is dependent on certain facts." Id. (citing Haydo v. Amerikohl Mining, Inc., 830 F.2d 494, 496 (3d Cir. 1987)). The district court is not confined to the face of the pleadings when deciding whether subject matter jurisdiction exists. Id. (citing Armstrong World Indus. v. Adams, 961 F.2d 405, 410, n.10 (3d Cir. 1992)). "In assessing a Rule 12(b)(1) motion, the parties may submit and the court may consider affidavits and other relevant evidence outside of the pleadings." Id. (citing Berardi v. Swanson Mem'l Lodge No. 48 of Fraternal Order of Police, 920 F.2d 198, 200 (3d Cir. 1990)). In the case where the defendant attacks jurisdiction with supporting affidavits, "the plaintiff has the burden of responding to the facts so stated." Id. "A conclusory response or a restatement of the allegations of the complaint is not sufficient." Id. (citing Int'l Ass'n of Machinists & Aerospace Workers v. N.W. Airlines, Inc., 673 F.2d 700, 711 (3d Cir. 1982)).

A motion to dismiss, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), tests the legal sufficiency of the complaint. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957). A court must determine whether the party making the claim would be entitled to relief under any set of facts that could be established in support of his or her claim. Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984) (citing Conley, 355 U.S. at 45-46); see also Wisniewski v. Johns-Manville Corp., 759 F.2d 271, 273 (3d Cir. 1985).

In considering a motion to dismiss, all allegations in the complaint must be accepted as true and viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Rocks v. City of Phila., 868 F.2d 644, 645 (3d Cir. 1989) (citations omitted). Exhibits which are attached to the complaint and upon which one or more claims are based can be considered in deciding a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). See Rossman v. Fleet Bank (R.I.) Nat'l Assoc., 280 F.3d 384, 388 n.4 (3d Cir. 2002). A court need not credit either "bald assertions" or "legal conclusions" in a complaint when deciding a motion to dismiss. Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 351 (3d Cir. 2005) (citations omitted).


A. Standing and the Case or Controversy Requirement

The Township first argues that Amtrak's Complaint must be dismissed because there is no viable case or controversy, and therefore, Amtrak lacks standing to bring the suit. "Article III limits the jurisdiction of the federal courts to 'cases' and 'controversies.'" Del. Valley Toxics Coal. v. Kurz-Hastings, Inc., 813 F. Supp. 1132, 1138 (E.D. Pa. 1993). For a case or controversy to exist, the matter must be "definite and concrete, touching the legal relations of parties having adverse interests. It must be a real and substantial controversy admitting of special relief through a decree of conclusive character." Aetna Life Ins. Co. v. Haworth, 300 U.S. 227, 240-41 (1937). Where no case or controversy exists, the Court will dismiss the case as moot. See Ridley Twp. v. Blanchette, 421 F. Supp. 435, 437 n. 1 (E.D. Pa. 1976).

The case or controversy requirement "is embodied in the doctrine of standing to identify those disputes which are appropriately resolved through the judicial process." Del. Valley Toxics Coal., 813 F. Supp. at 1138. The standing question asks "whether the plaintiff has 'alleged such a personal stake in the outcome of the controversy' as to warrant [plaintiff's] invocation of federal-court jurisdiction and to justify exercise of the court's remedial powers on ...

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