ST. LOUIS—The District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri has dismissed a complaint against the U.S. government for allegedly violating a plaintiff's constitutional rights.
Judge Audrey Fleissig authored a Dec. 11 motion to dismiss a complaint against the U.S. government filed by Terry Lee Hinds, who argued the government has created an institutionalized faith and religion of taxism, which violates the U.S. Constitution's establishment and free exercise clauses.
After filing a 548-page complaint, and 34 notices and declarations in February, the court ordered Hinds to amend his complaint to conform with the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8, which mandates a simple and short statement of the grounds and demand for relief.
In May, Hinds challenged the court's direction, which was denied by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, but he followed with a hybrid pleading arguing religious-based tax documents cause a religion centered on the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), which inevitably burdens Hind's First Amendment rights to both free speech and exercise of religion.
On Sept. 11, the government filed a motion to dismiss, arguing “that sovereign immunity bars Plaintiff’s claims, that the declaratory and injunctive relief sought is precluded by statute, and that Plaintiff failed to exhaust administrative remedies. The United States further argues that if the Court finds that it has subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s case, Plaintiff failed to state a claim for the violation of his right to free exercise of religion.”
Citing Barnes vs. Ford 2006, Fleissig stated that federal courts most often lack the right to hear claims against the U.S. due to sovereign immunity. Further citing U.S. v. Mitchell 1980, Fleissig stated the immunity can be waived if it is clear and unmistakable.
"Here, the Court has not found, nor has Plaintiff pointed the Court to any case law indicating that the First Amendment is strictly construed to waive sovereign immunity," Fleissig wrote in the opinion. "While the United States has, for instance, waived sovereign immunity for claims in suits for a tax refund, that waiver is conditioned upon the taxpayer first exhausting administrative remedies."
Citing Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Fed. Bureau of Narcotics, 1971 and Servs. Corp. v. Malesko, 2001 regarding the right of Hinds to bring a cause of action for damages instigated by an individual federal official’s violations of his constitutional rights, the government used Bivens to defend its argument, contending “sovereign immunity is no bar because a Bivens claim is not made against the federal government, but rather against an individual official for conduct outside of their official capacities,” according to the appeal.
Fleissig cited Shaw v. Samuels 2015, to explain that “the courts have long dismissed Bivens actions against IRS agents for assessment and collection of taxes,” according to the appeal. She ended her opinion stating that Hinds claim is again "barred by sovereign immunity because the United States has not waived its sovereign immunity for Bivens-type constitutional tort claims alleging damages caused by the government’s violation of the plaintiff’s constitutional rights," according to the opinion.
The case was dismissed without prejudice.