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Sabri Properties, LLC v. City of Minneapolis

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

May 9, 2019

Sabri Properties, LLC, Plaintiff,
City of Minneapolis, Defendant.

          Robert M. Speeter, Speeter & Johnson, for Sabri Properties, LLC

          Sarah C. S. McLaren, Office of the Minneapolis City Attorney, for the City of Minneapolis



         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff Sabri Properties, LLC’s Motion for Leave to File Amended Complaint [Doc. No. 32]. The motion is denied as set forth below.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff Sabri Properties, LLC (“Sabri”) is a limited liability company organized under the laws of Minnesota. (Compl. ¶ 3 [Doc. No. 1].) Sabri brought suit against the Defendant City of Minneapolis (“the City”) for allegedly violating its right to due process under the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S Constitution, violating its right to due process under the Minnesota Constitution and Minnesota state law, and depriving it of the right to a jury trial as guaranteed by the Minnesota Constitution. (Compl. ¶¶ 10–19.)

         On March 6, 2019, this Court issued a Report and Recommendation recommending that all claims be dismissed. (R. & R. at 18 [Doc. No. 29].) The District Court adopted the Report and Recommendation on April 10, 2019, and dismissed all claims with prejudice. (Order at 2 [Doc. No. 44].) The District Court did not enter judgment, however, because Sabri filed the motion to amend the complaint in the meantime.

         Through the motion to amend, Sabri asks for leave to bring a claim that the City violated the Excessive Fines Clause of the Eighth Amendment. Sabri contends that an administrative fine levied against it in the amount of $3,200[1] and the City’s administrative “fine schedule are unreasonable in light of the lack of severity of the offenses for which they are imposed or authorized.” (Proposed Am. Compl. ¶ 13 [Doc. No. 32-1].) Sabri relies on Timbs v. Indiana, 139 S. Ct. 682, 686–87 (2019), as providing the legal basis for its new claim. (Id. ¶ 14.) The City opposes the motion on the basis of futility.

         II. Legal Standards

         Under Rule 15(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, “a party may amend its pleading only with the opposing party’s written consent or the court’s leave,” and “[t]he court should freely give leave when justice so requires.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(2). “[T]here is no absolute right to amend,” however, and a court may deny leave to amend “based upon a finding of undue delay, bad faith, dilatory motive, repeated failure to cure deficiencies in previous amendments, undue prejudice to the non-moving party, or futility.” Baptist Health v. Smith, 477 F.3d 540, 544 (8th Cir. 2007) (citation omitted). When a party challenges a proposed amendment on futility grounds, as the City does here, the Court considers whether the amendment could withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. See Cornelia I. Crowell GST Trust v. Possis Med., Inc., 519 F.3d 778, 782 (8th Cir. 2008).

         On a motion to dismiss filed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the Court “must take the well-pleaded allegations of the complaint as true, and construe the complaint, and all reasonable inferences arising therefrom, most favorably to the pleader.” Morton v. Becker, 793 F.2d 185, 187 (8th Cir. 1986). “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is facially plausible “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id.

         III. Discussion

         The Excessive Fines Clause of the Eighth Amendment prohibits the imposition of excessive fines by the government. U.S. Const. amend. VIII. The Clause checks the government’s power to impose a fine “as punishment for some offense.” Austin v. United States, 509 U.S. 602, 609–10 (1993) (quotation omitted) (emphasis in Austin). The applicability of the Excessive Fines Clause does not depend whether the fine is civil or criminal in nature, but “whether it is punishment.” Id. at 610. Furthermore, the court need not exclude the possibility that the fine serves remedial purposes to find that it is subject to the Excessive Fines Clause. If a civil sanction “cannot fairly be said solely to serve a remedial purpose, but rather can only be explained as also serving either retributive or deterrent purposes,” it is punishment. Id. (quoting United States v. Halper, 490 U.S. 435, 448 (1989)).

         Very recently, the United States Supreme Court held in Timbs v. Indiana, 139 S. Ct. 682 (2019), that the Excessive Fines Clause was incorporated by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and thus applicable to the States. Id. at 686–87. Sabri argues that Timbs “at least impliedly held the excessive fines prohibition to be implicated under very similar facts.” (Pl.’s Mem. Supp. Mot. Amend at 3 [Doc. No. 33].) The Court respectfully disagrees with this characterization of Timbs. Not only was Timbs decided on very different facts, but its ...

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