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Sheldrew v. United States Postal Service

United States District Court, D. Nevada

August 21, 2019




         Plaintiffs Richard and Judy Sheldrew have filed a motion for a preliminary injunction against defendant United States Postal Service (“USPS”) to prevent it from installing additional communal mailboxes on their property. (ECF No. 8). USPS responded to that motion (ECF No. 10) and also filed a motion to dismiss the Sheldrews' action (ECF No. 9). Upon a review of the motions, the Court determined that oral argument would not be necessary to resolve either the preliminary injunction or the motion to dismiss. For the reasons stated below, the Court grants USPS's motion to dismiss and will dismiss the Sheldrews' complaint with prejudice.

         I. Factual Background and Procedural History

         This action concerns a decision by USPS to relocate several community mailboxes from a nearby street onto an USPS easement on the Sheldrews' property. The Sheldrews own a home in Gardnerville, Nevada, in the Ponderosa subdivision, which they purchased in 1996. (ECF No. 6-3 at 2). The subdivision is comprised of eight lots, with the Sheldrews' home designated as Lot 7. (Id.) At the time they purchased the home, Lot 7 had a 16'x12' USPS easement containing one USPS “cluster mailbox” (16 individual mailboxes) and four package boxes. (Id. at 3). Given the number of lots in the subdivision and number of individual mailboxes in the cluster mailbox, some of the mailboxes were not assigned to any resident in the Ponderosa subdivision. The easement is located on the edge of the Sheldrews' property “immediately adjacent” to the entrance to their driveway. (Id.) USPS did not alter the mailbox configuration from 1996 to 2019, although the Sheldrews suspect that at some point, USPS assigned the unused mailboxes to individuals not living in the Ponderosa subdivision. (Id.)

         In April 2019, the Sheldrews “heard rumors” that USPS intended to move a nearby cluster mailbox from East Valley Road to the easement on their property. (ECF No. 6-3 at 3). When they contacted the USPS “maintenance man” to voice their concerns, he told them that USPS planned to install several cluster mailboxes back-to-back on the easement and that there was “nothing [they] could do about it.” (Id.) In May, the Sheldrews sent a letter to the local USPS Postmaster objecting to the proposed changes. (Id.) They argued that: (1) the easement only allows for the placement of mailboxes for people living in the Ponderosa subdivision; (2) the easement is too small to support additional mailboxes; (3) more mailboxes will result in more traffic congestion for members of the subdivision, and (4) more people picking up their mail would interfere with their use and enjoyment of their property. (Id. at 4) Despite their concerns, USPS installed an additional cluster mailbox on the easement on May 14, 2019. (Id.) The Sheldrews believe that UPSP intends to assign the new mailboxes to residents living in the East Valley area outside the Ponderosa subdivision. (Id.)

         The Sheldrews originally filed their action in state court in Douglas County, whereafter USPS properly removed it to this Court. They put forward two causes of action: (1) “for temporary restraining order, preliminary injunction, and permanent injunction, ” and (2) for declaratory relief. (ECF No. 6-3 at 4-5). While the matter was pending in state court, Judge Thomas W. Gregory denied the Sheldrews' request for a temporary restraining order because they did not post the requisite security or serve a copy of their motion on USPS. (ECF No. 6-5 at 2). Pending before the Court are the Sheldrews' motion for a preliminary injunction and USPS's motion to dismiss.

         II. Legal Standard

         USPS seeks dismissal pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted and 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. To survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, a complaint must satisfy Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2)'s notice pleading standard. See Mendiondo v. Centinela Hosp. Med. Ctr., 521 F.3d 1097, 1103 (9th Cir. 2008). That is, a complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). The Rule 8(a)(2) pleading standard does not require detailed factual allegations; a pleading, however, that offers “ ‘labels and conclusions' or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action' ” will not suffice. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).

         Furthermore, Rule 8(a)(2) requires a complaint to “contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.' ” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 667 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). A claim has facial plausibility when the pleaded factual content allows the court to draw the reasonable inference, based on the court's judicial experience and common sense, that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. Id. “The plausibility standard is not akin to a probability requirement, but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully. Where a complaint pleads facts that are merely consistent with a defendant's liability, it stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief. Id.

         In reviewing a motion to dismiss, the court accepts the facts alleged in the complaint as true. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 667. Even so, “bare assertions. . .amount[ing] to nothing more than a formulaic recitation of the elements of a. . .claim. . .are not entitled to an assumption of truth.” Moss v. U.S. Secret Serv., 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 681) (brackets in original) (internal quotation marks omitted). The court discounts these allegations because “they do nothing more than state a legal conclusion-even if that conclusion is cast in the form of a factual allegation.” Id. (citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 681.) “In sum, for a complaint to survive a motion to dismiss, the non-conclusory ‘factual content,' and reasonable inferences from that content, must be plausibly suggestive of a claim entitling the plaintiff to relief.” Id.

         Although the defendant is the moving party in a motion to dismiss, the plaintiff is the party invoking the Court's jurisdiction. As a result, the plaintiff bears the burden of proving that the case is properly in federal court. McCauley v. Ford Motor Co., 264 F.3d 952, 957 (9th Cir. 2001). A Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction can be either facial or factual. Safe Air for Everyone v. Meyer, 373 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir. 2004). In a facial attack, the defendant asserts that the allegations within the complaint are insufficient on their face to invoke federal jurisdiction. Id. In a factual attack, the defendant disputes the truth of the allegations that, by themselves, would otherwise invoke federal jurisdiction. Id. With factual attacks, the Court is permitted to review evidence beyond the complaint without converting the motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment. Id. (citing Savage v. Glendale Union High Sch., 343 F.3d 1036, 1039 n. 2 (9th Cir. 2003)).

         III. Discussion

         USPS makes two alternative arguments as to why dismissal is proper. It first argues that that the Sheldrews' two claims for injunctive and declaratory relief are improper because they only request a remedy instead of stating a claim to support a remedy. (ECF No. 9 at 9). Its second argument is that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over both of the Sheldrews' claims because the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (“PAEA”) requires that such claims be brought before the Postal Regulatory Commission (“PRC”) rather than in federal court. (Id. at 14). The Court will address USPS's second argument first.

         A. ...

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