United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
I. QUIÑONES ALEJANDRO, J.
The Sherwin-Williams Company (“Plaintiff”)
brought this action against the County of Delaware (the
“County”) and five members of the Delaware County
Council, identified as John P. McBlain, Colleen P. Morrone,
Michael Culp, Kevin M. Madden, and Brian Zidek (together, the
“Defendant Public Officials”) (collectively with
the County, “Defendants”), pursuant to the
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201(a). Plaintiff
seeks declarations that “threatened, ” future
lawsuits by the County would violate Plaintiff's various
constitutional rights. Defendants have moved to dismiss this
declaratory judgment action pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure (“Rule”) 12(b)(1), on the basis that no
actual case or controversy exists and, therefore, this Court
does not have subject-matter jurisdiction. The issues raised
in Defendants' motion have been fully briefed and are
ripe for consideration. For the reasons stated herein,
Defendants' motion to dismiss is granted.
Plaintiff's complaint in this matter contains nearly 100
paragraphs of allegations, for purposes of Defendants'
underlying motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter
jurisdiction, the facts can be summarized as follows:
Plaintiff alleges that information contained in public
filings, statements, and media reports has revealed that the
County, acting through the Defendant Public Officials, has
either retained, or is in the process of retaining counsel in
order to potentially sue Plaintiff in various courts
throughout Pennsylvania to pay for the inspection and
abatement of lead paint in or on private housing and publicly
owned buildings and properties. In support of its claims,
Plaintiff contends that these “threatened
lawsuits” and/or “anticipated claims of
liability” will violate Plaintiff's constitutional
rights. Based on these purported threats of litigation,
Plaintiff seeks declarations that the County's threatened
claims violate Plaintiff's First Amendment and Due
the County's purported threat to bring a lawsuit against
Plaintiff has not materialized. Notwithstanding the absence
of any pending litigation, Plaintiff commenced this
declaratory judgment action seeking to effectively preclude
the County from bringing the threatened lawsuit.
12(b)(1) permits a defendant to challenge a civil action for
lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1).
The burden of establishing subject matter jurisdiction rests
with the party asserting its existence. DaimlerChrysler
Corp. v. Cuno, 547 U.S. 332, 342 n.3 (2006). When
challenging a court's subject matter jurisdiction, a
party may do so by way of either a facial or a factual
attack. See Common Cause of Pa. v. Pennsylvania, 558
F.3d 249, 257 (3d Cir. 2009). A facial attack “concerns
‘an alleged pleading deficiency' whereas a factual
attack concerns ‘the actual failure of [a
plaintiff's] claims to comport [factually] with the
jurisdictional prerequisites.'” CNA v. United
States, 535 F.3d 132, 139 (3d Cir. 2008) (citations
omitted). “In reviewing a facial attack, the court must
only consider the allegations of the complaint and documents
referenced therein and attached thereto, in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff.” Gould Elecs. Inc. v.
United States, 220 F.3d 169, 176 (3d Cir. 2000). Here,
Defendants have only made a facial attack.
their underlying motion to dismiss, Defendants contend,
inter alia, that there is no “case or
controversy” under Article III of the Constitution and,
thus, this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction.
Specifically, Defendants argue that Plaintiff has failed to
state the requisite particularized, concrete injury in fact
that is required to show an actual case or controversy
sufficient to satisfy its burden to invoke federal
jurisdiction. This Court agrees.
Declaratory Judgment Act (“DJA”), 28 U.S.C.
§ 2201(a), the statute under which Plaintiff brings its
current claims, “is an enabling act, which confers
discretion on the courts rather than an absolute right on a
litigant.” Wilton v. Seven Falls Co., 515 U.S.
277, 287 (1995) (quoting Public Serv. Comm'n of Utah
v. Wycoff Co., 344 U.S. 237, 241 (1952)). “The
Declaratory Judgment Act has been understood to confer on
federal courts unique and substantial discretion in deciding
whether to declare the rights of litigants.”
Wilton, 515 U.S. at 286. “In the declaratory
judgment context, the normal principle that federal courts
should adjudicate claims within their jurisdiction yields to
considerations of practicality and wise judicial
administration.” Id. at 289.
permits a district court, “[i]n a case of actual
controversy within its jurisdiction, ” to
“declare the rights and other legal relations of any
interested party seeking such declaration.” 28 U.S.C.
§ 2201(a). Before granting or denying such relief, a
court must determine whether an “actual
controversy” exists within the meaning of the DJA.
See id.; Spivey Co. v. Travelers Ins. Cos.,
407 F.Supp. 916, 917 (E.D. Pa. 1976). Though there is no
precise definition as to what constitutes an “actual
controversy” for purposes of both the DJA and Article
III of the Constitution, the facts alleged in a complaint
must present a substantial controversy between adverse
parties of sufficient immediacy and reality as to warrant a
declaratory judgment. Maryland Cas. Co. v. Pacific Coal
& Oil Co., 312 U.S. 270, 273 (1941).
courts are limited by Article III of the U.S. Constitution to
consider only actual “cases or controversies.”
See Whitmore v. Arkansas, 495 U.S. 149, 154-55
(1990). The “core” of the
“case-or-controversy requirement” is the
“triad of injury in fact, causation, and
redressability.” Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better
Env't, 523 U.S. 83, 103 (1998). This core
“serves to identify those disputes which are
appropriately resolved through the judicial process.”
Whitmore, 495 U.S. at 155. To meet the
injury-in-fact requirement, a plaintiff must establish
“an invasion of a legally protected interest which is
(a) concrete and particularized, and (b) actual or imminent,
not conjectural or hypothetical.” Lujan v.
Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560 (1992)
(internal citations omitted). To meet the causation
requirement, a plaintiff must establish “a causal
connection between the injury and the conduct complained
of.” Id. Finally, to meet the redressability
requirement, a plaintiff must establish that it is
“‘likely,' as opposed to merely
‘speculative,' that the injury will be
‘redressed by a favorable decision.'”
Id. at 561 (internal citation omitted). If a
litigant does not meet these requirements, the case must be
dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. See
Steel Co., 523 U.S. at 88-89. This is true even when a
plaintiff seeks a declaratory judgment. See, e.g., St.
Thomas-St. John Hotel & Tourism Ass'n, Inc. v.
Gov't of the U.S. Virgin Islands, 218 F.3d 232, 240
(3d Cir. 2000) (“A declaratory judgment . . . can issue
only when the constitutional standing requirements of a
‘case' or ‘controversy' are met.”).
Importantly, “[t]he party invoking federal jurisdiction
bears the burden of establishing these elements.”
Lujan, 504 U.S. at 561.
with the issue of what constitutes a “case and actual
controversy” is the ripeness doctrine. Wyatt,
Virgin Islands, Inc. v. Gov't of the Virgin Islands,
385 F.3d 801, 806 (3d Cir. 2004). The Court of Appeals for
the Third ...