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The Disciples Road v. Hiivala

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

November 17, 2017

The Disciples Road, Plaintiff,
v.
Robert Hiivala, Wright County Auditor, Mark Dayton, Governor, State of Minnesota, Joe Haggerty, Wright County Sheriff, Defendants.

          Terry Halonen, plaintiff pro se.

          Greg T. Kryzer, and Eric V. Brown, Minnesota Attorney General counsel for defendants.

          ORDER

          David S. Doty, Judge United States District Court

         This matter is before the court upon the motions to dismiss by defendants Robert Hiivala, Wright County Auditor; Joe Haggerty, Wright County Sheriff; and Mark Dayton, Governor of the State of Minnesota. Based on a review of the file, record, and proceedings herein, and for the following reasons, the motions are granted.

         Plaintiff The Disciples Road claims that defendants have trespassed on its land in Wright County, Minnesota. The land in question appears to have been forfeited following the non-payment of taxes. Compl. ¶¶ 10-11. On September 1, 2017, plaintiff filed this suit under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 2201 seeking a declaration that it owns the property at issue free of any encumbrance. Defendants promptly moved to dismiss arguing, among other things, that the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the case because plaintiff has failed to allege any violations of the Constitution or federal law. See 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (“The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.”).[1] The court agrees that dismissal is proper under the circumstances presented.

         As an initial matter, plaintiff is not represented by counsel. Plaintiff is a religious ministry purportedly represented by non-lawyer Terry Halonen. But Halonen is without authority to speak on behalf of another person or entity in this court.[2] See Jones ex rel. Jones v. Corr. Med. Servs., Inc., 401 F.3d 950, 952 (8th Cir. 2005) (“[A] ... non-attorney may not engage in the practice of law on behalf of others.”); Knoefler v. United Bank of Bismarck, 20 F.3d 347, 348 (8th Cir. 1994) (“A nonlawyer ... has no right to represent another entity ... in a court of the United States.”); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1654 (“In all courts of the United States the parties may plead and conduct their own cases personally or by counsel as, by the rules of such courts, respectively, are permitted to manage and conduct causes therein.”). For this reason alone, the court must dismiss the complaint.

         In addition, the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. The complaint predicates jurisdiction on the Declaratory Judgment Act without raising a federal question or asserting diversity jurisdiction.[3] “[T]he Declaratory Judgment Act ... does not provide an independent basis for federal jurisdiction.” Zutz v. Nelson, 601 F.3d 842, 850 (8th Cir. 2010) (citation and quotation marks omitted); see also Vaden v. Discover Bank, 556 U.S. 49, 70 n.19 (2009) (“[T]he Declaratory Judgment Act does not enlarge the jurisdiction of the federal courts; it is procedural only.”) (citation and quotation marks omitted); Liberty Mut. Fire Ins. Co. v. Acute Care Chiropractic Clinic P.A., 88 F.Supp.3d 985, 1015 (D. Minn. 2015) (“[C]ourts have long understood that the Declaratory Judgment Act is a procedural, not a jurisdictional, statute.”).

         Accordingly, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that:

         1. The motions to dismiss [ECF No. 12, 14] are granted; and

         2. The case is dismissed without prejudice.

         LET JUDGMENT BE ENTERED ACCORDINGLY.

---------

Notes:

[1] In response to the motions, plaintiff initially moved to voluntarily withdraw the action so that it may proceed in state court. ECF No. 21. Plaintiff has now withdrawn that motion, asserting that the court has jurisdiction ...


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