United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
CHARLES B. GOODWIN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
BNSF Railway Company has filed this lawsuit challenging the
constitutionality of Oklahoma's recently enacted
“Blocked Crossing Statute, ” Okla. Stat. tit. 66,
§ 190. Plaintiff's Complaint seeks declaratory and
injunctive relief and names five Defendants. Two are
municipal corporations: (1) City of Edmond, Oklahoma; and (2)
City of Davis, Oklahoma. Three are individuals sued in their
capacity as officials of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission
(“OCC”): (3) Todd Hiett (OCC Chairman); (4) Bob
Anthony (OCC Vice-Chairman); and (5) Dana Murphy (OCC
Commissioner) (collectively, the “OCC
Defendants”). See Compl. (Doc. No. 1) at 1-2.
before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss Improper Parties
(Doc. No. 26) filed by the OCC Defendants. Plaintiff has
filed a Response (Doc. No. 33), to which the OCC Defendants
have replied (Doc. No. 34). Neither of the other Defendants
July 1, 2019, the Blocked Crossing Statute provides in
A. As it is immediately necessary for the safety and welfare
of the people, no railcar shall be brought to rest in a
position which blocks vehicular traffic at a railroad
intersection with a public highway or street for longer than
ten (10) minutes.
B. Municipalities, county sheriffs and the Oklahoma Highway
Patrol shall have the authority to issue a citation to any
person or corporation that violates a provision of this
section. Such person or corporation shall be subject to a
fine of up to One Thousand Dollars ($1, 000.00) for each
violation. Seventy-five percent (75%) of the collected fine
shall be deposited to the credit of the general fund of the
entity that issued the citation and the remaining twenty-five
percent (25%) shall be credited to the Corporation Commission
Revolving Fund established in Section 180.7 of Title 17 of
the Oklahoma Statutes. A copy of the citation, along with any
information regarding train identification, shall be sent to
the Corporation Commission for enforcement of the penalty at
a hearing before an administrative law judge of the
Commission. The violating entity or individual may appeal the
administrative law judge's decision to the Commission en
banc. The Commission shall annually deliver an electronic
report detailing the number of violations, number of rulings,
number of appeals and amount of fines assessed under this
section. Commission reports shall be delivered to the Speaker
of the Oklahoma House of Representatives, the President Pro
Tempore of the Oklahoma State Senate and the Governor. The
Commission shall promulgate rules and procedures to
effectuate the provisions of this section.
Okla. Stat. tit. 66, § 190.
The OCC Defendants' Motion
in its Complaint alleges that the Blocked Crossing Statute is
unconstitutional because it is preempted by and inconsistent
with governing federal statute. See Compl.
¶¶ 15-29. Citing Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6), the OCC Defendants argue that they are
improperly named as defendants on this lawsuit because they
“only adjudicate” the challenged statute and
“do not enforce” its provisions. OCC Defs.'
Mot. to Dismiss Improper Parties at 1-2. The OCC Defendants
also argue that they should be dismissed from this lawsuit
based upon considerations of federal-state comity. See
Id. at 4-5.
Dismissal Under Rule 12(b)(1)
Defendants first argue that dismissal is required due to a
“lack of subject-matter jurisdiction” pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1). Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(1). “A facial attack on the complaint's
allegations regarding subject matter jurisdiction questions
the complaint's sufficiency and requires the court to
accept the allegations as true.” Smith v. United
States, 561 F.3d 1090, 1097 (10th Cir. 2009).
Defendants essentially assert that no justiciable “case
or controversy” exists between Plaintiff and these
Defendants. See United States v. Wilson, 244 F.3d
1208, 1213 (10th Cir. 2001) (“Under Article III of the
Constitution, federal courts have subject matter jurisdiction
only over ‘cases and controversies.'”). The
OCC Defendants contend that they act merely as
“judicial officers, ” not enforcers, and thus are
not proper parties to a suit challenging a statute. OCC
Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss Improper Parties at 2-4 (citing
In re Justices of Sup. Ct. of P.R., 695 F.2d 17 (1st
Court rejects the OCC Defendants' overly narrow
construction of the “case or controversy”
requirement, however. Plaintiff's Complaint plausibly
supports a finding that the issues in this case are
“live” and that Plaintiff has “a legally
cognizable interest in the outcome.” Citizens for
Responsible Gov't State Political Action Comm. v.
Davidson, 236 F.3d 1174, 1182 (10th Cir. 2000)
(“The crucial question is whether granting a present
determination of the issues offered will have some effect in
the real world.” (omission and internal quotation marks
omitted)). Accepting the Complaint's factual allegations
as true, as required at this stage, the pleading adequately
demonstrates a controversy that is “definite and
concrete, touching on the legal relations of the parties
having adverse legal interests”-i.e., the relations of
Plaintiff and the OCC Defendants. Aetna Life Ins. Co. v.
Haworth, 300 U.S. 227, 240-41 (1937); see,
e.g., Compl. ¶¶ 8-11, 21, 29. Whether
Plaintiff ultimately can prevail upon its claims against the
OCC Defendants is a separate matter. Cf. Cramer v. Okla.
Cty. Bd. of Cty. ...