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River North Properties, LLC v. City and County of Denver

United States District Court, D. Colorado

December 30, 2014

THE CITY AND COUNTY OF DENVER, and MIKE ROACH, in his individual and official capacities, Defendants.



In March of 2014, this Court granted Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (as to Plaintiff's federal claims), but permitted Plaintiff to amend its Complaint to address the deficiencies the Court outlined in its Order. (Doc. # 35.) Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint in April of 2014, and this matter is now before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint. (Doc. # 45.) For the reasons described below, Plaintiff's Amended Complaint fails to state a federal claim, and the Court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's remaining state law claims. Accordingly, the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss is granted, and the instant case is dismissed with prejudice.


This case's somewhat lengthy factual background is provided in this Court's prior order granting Defendants' (first) Motion to Dismiss (Doc. # 35), and it will not be reiterated in full here. However, some basic factual context is necessary for resolution of the instant Motion.

Plaintiff, River North Properties, LLC ("River North"), owns two parcels of real property located on North Brighton Boulevard in Denver, Colorado ("the Property"). River North alleges that the City of Denver's Chief Building Official, Mike Roach, and the City itself (collectively, "Defendants"), have utilized various regulatory processes to improperly prevent River North from using the Property for commercial purposes that are consistent (in its view) with Denver's zoning laws and municipal codes, i.e., leasing the Property to a tenant who grows medical marijuana.

Specifically, Plaintiff's Amended Complaint alleges seven claims, including four 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims (for violations of procedural due process, equal protection, the Contract Clause, and the takings clause), and three state law claims (a takings claim brought under the Colorado constitution, a claim for a declaratory judgment, and a claim for a violation of a Colorado state statute (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-1-101)). (Doc. # 39.)


A. Legal Standard

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a claim may be dismissed due to the plaintiff's "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." A dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) may be based on the lack of a cognizable legal theory or on the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory. See id.; see also Golan v. Ashcroft, 310 F.Supp.2d 1215, 1217 (D. Colo. 2004). The Rule 12(b)(6) standard tests "the sufficiency of the allegations within the four corners of the complaint after taking those allegations as true." Mobley v. McCormick, 40 F.3d 337, 340 (10th Cir. 1994).

Additionally, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a pleading must contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." This pleading standard "does not require detailed factual allegations, but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation. A pleading that offers labels and conclusions or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-78 (2009) (quoting and citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted; alterations incorporated)).

Further, "only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss [under Rule 12(b)(6)]. Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will... be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense. But where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged - but it has not shown - that the pleader is entitled to relief." Id. at 679 (quotation marks omitted).

The purpose of this pleading requirement is two-fold: "to ensure that a defendant is placed on notice of his or her alleged misconduct sufficient to prepare an appropriate defense, and to avoid ginning up the costly machinery associated with our civil discovery regime on the basis of a largely groundless claim." Kan. Penn Gaming, LLC v. Collins, 656 F.3d 1210, 1214 (10th Cir. 2011) (internal quotation marks omitted).

B. Application

Plaintiff's federal claims do not survive the above-enunciated standard principally because Plaintiff has failed to state a cognizable claim of a constitutionally protected interest under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983"). Plaintiff argues that "[t]he fact that federal law does not recognize the right to grow medical marijuana is irrelevant, " because the Medical Marijuana Amendment of the Colorado Constitution, see Colo. Const., art. XVIII, sect. 14, "created and granted that right." (Doc. # 49 at 5-6.) Plaintiff's argument, however, is too clever by half. To successfully state a claim under Section 1983, a plaintiff must allege the violation of an interest which is not merely created by state law, but also protected by federal law - i.e., the federal Constitution and laws of the United States. Cook v. Baca, 512 F.Appx. 810, 821 (10th Cir. 2013) (quoting West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988)); see also Gonzaga Univ. v. Doe, 536 U.S. 273, 283 (2002) ("Section 1983 provides a remedy only for the deprivation of rights, privileges, or ...

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