United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, London
CHRISTOPHER R. CLASS, Plaintiff,
STATE OF KENTUCKY, et al., Defendants.
OPINION & ORDER
E. Wier United States District Judge
se Plaintiff Christopher Class challenged Kentucky's
imposition of state taxes on his federal employment income.
DE 1. The Court, on sua sponte review, dismissed
Class's complaint for lack of jurisdiction and entered
judgment in favor of the Defendants. See DE 19
(Opinion & Order); DE 20 (Judgment). Class now objects to
the dismissal pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 702. See
DE 21 (Motion to Object). The cited statute provides for
review of agency acts, not district court judgments.
See 5 U.S.C. § 702 (“A person suffering
legal wrong because of agency action, or adversely affected
or aggrieved by agency action within the meaning of a
relevant statute, is entitled to judicial review
thereof.”). However, given Plaintiff's pro
se status, the Court will construe the filing as a
motion to alter or amend under Rule 59(e). See Davis v.
Prison Health Servs., 679 F.3d 433, 437-38 (6th Cir.
2012) (describing liberal construction obligations).
Sixth Circuit narrowly defines appropriate circumstances for
Rule 59(e) relief. A movant must show: “(1) a clear
error of law; (2) newly discovered evidence; (3) an
intervening change in controlling law; or (4) a need to
prevent manifest injustice.” Michigan Flyer, LLC v.
Wayne County Airport Authority, 860 F.3d 425, 431 (6th
Cir. 2017). As the Court reads the filing, Class alleges 4
errors that are not simply restatements of his original
claims. See Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa
Indians v. Engler, 146 F.3d 367, 374 (6th Cir. 1998)
(“A motion under Rule 59(e) is not an opportunity to
re-argue a case.”). He contends the Court erred: (1) in
assuming that Class failed to exhaust his administrative
remedies; (2) by minimizing the amount in controversy; (3) in
assuming that Class could not successfully prove his claims
before a jury; (4) and by finding the parties lacked complete
diversity. See DE 21 at 1-4.
again “and as a foundational flaw of the entire case,
[failed] to address the most relevant federal statute: 28
U.S.C. § 1341.” DE 19 at 5. Class failed to show
any error in the Court's application of the Tax
Injunction Act. This deficiency renders Class's pending
attack on the Court's judgment entirely ineffective. For
clarity, the Court reproduces the relevant discussion, in
The Tax Injunction Act, divests, rather than bestows,
jurisdiction on this Court. See [28 U.S.C. §
1341] (“The district courts shall not enjoin, suspend
or restrain the assessment, levy or collection of any tax
under State law where a plain, speedy and efficient remedy
may be had in the courts of such State.”). The Act
erects a “broad jurisdictional barrier, ” see
Moe v. Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes, 96
S.Ct. 1634, 1640 (1976), and “has its roots in equity
practice, in principles of federalism, and in recognition of
the imperative need of a State to administer its own fiscal
operations.” Tully v. Griffin, Inc., 97 S.Ct.
219, 222 (1976). The Act bars claims that a state tax is
illegal or unconstitutional. Id. (finding that the
Act prevented federal litigation of a claim that a New York
state tax violated the Commerce, Due Process, and Equal
Protection Clauses); Thiokol Corp. v. Dep't of
Treasury, State of Mich., Revenue Div., 987 F.2d 376,
378 (6th Cir. 1993) (“Th[e] exclusion of federal courts
from the state taxation area is so far reaching it precludes
federal courts from declaring state tax laws
unconstitutional.”). “[I]t is generally
recognized that federal suits for state tax refunds are also
barred by the Act.” Coleman v. Campbell Cnty.
Library Bd. of Tr., 901 F.Supp.2d 925, 929-30 (E.D. Ky.
2012) (collecting cases); see also Northwest Airlines,
Inc. v. Tennessee State Bd. of Equalization, 11 F.3d 70,
73 (6th Cir. 1993) (“[T]here is a strong presumption
against district court jurisdiction over claims seeking to
enjoin state tax collection procedures.”).
The Tax Injunction Act thus bars Class's challenges to
Kentucky's taxation policy so long as the Commonwealth
offers a plain, speedy, and efficient remedy. See 28
U.S.C. § 1341. While Class vaguely alludes to failed
attempts at administrative relief, see DE 1 at 9-10,
12, Class does not allege that the state remedies are
sluggish or inefficient. See Colonial Pipeline Co. v.
Morgan, 474 F.3d 211, 218 (6th Cir. 2007) (“State
procedures that call for an appeal to a state court from an
administrative decision meet these minimal criteria.”
(citation and quotation marks omitted)). “A state
remedy is plain, speedy and efficient if it provides the
aggrieved party with a ‘full hearing and judicial
determination at which a taxpayer may raise any and all
constitutional objections to the tax,' with ultimate
review available in the United States Supreme Court.”
Id. (citation omitted).
Kentucky courts routinely resolve tax questions like those
Class presents. For example, courts in the Commonwealth have
resolved declaratory judgment actions based on constitutional
attacks against state and city taxes. See, e.g.,
St. Ledger v. Revenue Cabinet, et al., 942 S.W.2d
893 (Ky. 1997) (resolving validity of state tax statutes);
City of Bromley v. Smith, 149 S.W.3d 403 (Ky. 2004)
(holding a city tax unconstitutional). Kentucky courts also
have adjudicated tax-refund propriety. See, e.g., Revenue
Cabinet v. Gossum, 887 S.W.2d 329 (Ky. 1994) (resolving
plaintiffs' class action, which sought refunds of taxes
paid pursuant to an unconstitutional statute). In short,
Kentucky courts offer Class a plain, speedy, and efficient
remedy. See Coleman, 901 F.Supp.2d at 934 (rejecting
argument that “Kentucky offers no adequate
remedy”); Cf. Colonial Pipeline Co., 474 F.3d
at 218 (“The likelihood of plaintiff's
success in the state court is not a factor to be considered
when determining whether the jurisdictional prohibition of
§ 1341 applies.” (citation and quotation
marks omitted)); Am. Landfill, Inc. v.
Stark/Tuscarawas/Wayne Joint Solid Waste Mgmt. Dist.,
166 F.3d 835, 837 n.1 (6th Cir. 1999) (declining to address
adequacy of state remedy where the party bearing the
jurisdictional burden did not argue the point). In turn, the
Tax Injunction Act bars this Court's consideration of
DE 19 at 5-7 (emphasis added).
only current claim bearing any resemblance to a dispute
regarding TIA application is his exhaustion allegation.
See DE 21 at 1-2. However, availability, not
exhaustion of remedies is the relevant question for TIA
purposes. Cf. Colonial Pipeline Co., 474 F.3d at 218
(A plaintiff's relative likelihood of success in the
state system is irrelevant “when determining whether
the jurisdictional prohibition of § 1341 applies.”
(citation and quotation marks omitted)). Class did not and
does not here challenge the speed or efficiency of
Kentucky's remedial scheme.
the motion provides no reason to call the Court's prior
dismissal into question, the Court DENIES DE
 Additionally, the Court notes that
Class's claim that Kentucky “failed to comply with
administrative process” does not amount to a dispute
regarding the availability of state remedies. DE 21 at ¶
7. When, as Class claims, a party has administratively
exhausted, the Commonwealth provides for state court review.
See, e.g., KRS 13B.140 (“A party may file a