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Hunter v. United States

United States District Court, Sixth Circuit

November 4, 2013

WILLIAM B. HUNTER, RHONDA K. HUNTER, Plaintiffs,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

CHARLES R. SIMPSON, III, Senior District Judge.

Plaintiffs William B. Hunter and Rhonda K. Hunter (hereinafter, "Plaintiffs") brought this suit against defendant United States of America (hereinafter, "United States") alleging several claims related to the collection and levy of income taxes. This court previously granted in part and denied in part the United States' motion to dismiss. (DN 14). The United States has now filed a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. (DN 22). Plaintiffs filed a response to the United States' motion. (DN 31). For the reasons stated herein, the United States' motion for summary judgment (DN 22) will be granted.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs filed a pro se complaint with this court, which they subsequently amended. (DNs 1, 13). As this court has previously noted (DN 14), the allegations in Plaintiffs' complaint are somewhat difficult to discern. Plaintiffs state that the Internal Revenue Service ("IRS") claims that they owe more than $100, 000 in taxes. Supposedly, the IRS issued notices of tax levies to Plaintiffs. On January 11, 2006, Plaintiffs had a "Collection Due Process hearing" via telephone with Linda Pannell, an IRS Settlement Officer. Plaintiffs describe the hearing as "unfruitful." On July 15, 2006, the IRS sent a notice of levy to Plaintiff William Hunter's employer, the University of Louisville ("UofL"), alleging that he owed a "1040A tax" for tax years 2001 and 2002 in the amount of $41, 250.45. UofL began garnishing his wages. On November 17, 2008, the IRS sent another notice of levy to UofL alleging that Plaintiffs owed a "1040 tax" for tax year 2005 in the amount of $60, 286.37. Both notices of levy informed UofL that Plaintiffs owed money to the IRS and directed UofL to turn over Plaintiffs' income to the IRS to satisfy the levy. UofL accordingly garnished Plaintiff Rhonda Hunter's, as well as Plaintiff William Hunter's, earnings. On February 28, 2011, Plaintiffs allegedly "filed a claim with the District Director, Internal Revenue Service, demanding a certificate of release of levy and requesting refund of all wrongfully levied earnings." (DN 1, at p. 3).

Plaintiffs then brought this action claiming that the levies were "unauthorized, wrongful and unenforceable." In the initial complaint, Plaintiffs identified 26 U.S.C. §§ 7426 and 7433 and the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution as the source of their claims. The amended complaint added a claim under 26 U.S.C. § 7422. Plaintiffs' complaint is otherwise divided into sections that mostly consist of legal citations and quotations. Those sections are entitled Jurisdiction, Liability, Assessment, Notice and Demand, Levy Form 668-B, Lien Foreclosure Suit, and Notice of Seizure. As far as the court can tell, Plaintiffs argue that the following reasons precluded the United States from issuing the levies: the United States was without jurisdiction to issue the levies because it could only do so pursuant to "admiralty jurisdiction, " to which Plaintiffs were not subject; Plaintiffs are not liable for the taxes in the levies (although the underlying reason why is not explained); Plaintiffs issued Freedom of Information Act requests for various documents that Plaintiffs believe were required for the IRS to impose levies or assess taxes - namely, signed assessments for certain tax years, copies of notices and demands for payment, Levy Form 668-B, and notices of seizure - but the requests did not turn up such documents; and there was no court order authorizing UofL to garnish Plaintiffs' wages for the IRS.

The United States moved to dismiss Plaintiffs' claims (DN 11), which this court granted in part and denied in part (DN 14). We dismissed the following claims: (1) Plaintiffs' claims arising under 26 U.S.C. § 7426; and (2) Plaintiffs' claims arising under 26 U.S.C. § 7433 that fell under the sections of the Complaint entitled Jurisdiction, Liability, Assessment, Levy Form 668-B, and Lien Foreclosure Suit. We allowed the following claims to proceed: (1) Plaintiffs' claims arising under 26 U.S.C. § 7433 that fell under the sections of the Complaint entitled Notice and Demand and Notice of Seizure; (2) Plaintiffs' claims arising under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution; and (3) Plaintiffs' claims arising under 26 U.S.C. § 7422. The United States has filed a motion for summary judgment as to each of Plaintiffs' remaining claims (DN 22), to which Plaintiffs have responded (DN 31).

STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate where no genuine issue of material fact exists, thus entitling the moving party to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The moving party initially bears the burden of demonstrating that an essential element of the nonmoving party's case is lacking. Kalamazoo River Study Grp. v. Rockwell Int'l Corp., 171 F.3d 1065, 1068 (6th Cir. 1999). The nonmoving party may respond by showing that a genuine issue exists. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986). A genuine dispute exists where "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party." Id. at 248. The disputed issue need not be resolved conclusively in favor of the nonmoving party, but that party must present sufficient probative evidence which makes it necessary to resolve the parties' differing versions of the dispute at trial. First Nat'l Bank of Ariz. v. Cities Serv. Co., 391 U.S. 253, 288-289 (1968). Finally, the evidence must be construed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Summers v. Leis, 368 F.3d 881, 885 (6th Cir. 2004).

DISCUSSION

A. The 26 U.S.C. § 7433 Claims[1]

Plaintiffs assert two claims arising under 26 U.S.C. § 7433. Section 7433 provides:

If, in connection with any collection of Federal tax with respect to a taxpayer, any officer or employee of the Internal Revenue Service recklessly or intentionally, or by reason of negligence, disregards any provision of this title, or any regulation promulgated under this title, such taxpayer may bring a civil action for damages against the United States in a district court of the United States.

A plaintiff bringing a claim under this section must identify the specific statutory provisions or regulation that an IRS officer or employee violated. See Snyder v. ...


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