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Saepoff v. Riehle

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

April 21, 2017

JAY RIEHLE, et al., Defendants.




         Before the court is pro se Plaintiff Jessica Saepoff's motion for a temporary restraining order (“TRO”) and her amended motion for a TRO. (TRO Mot. (Dkt. # 6); Am. TRO Mot. (Dkt. # 20).) Ms. Saepoff seeks relief against two sets of defendants:

(1) Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) Officers Jay Riehle and Thomas A. Byrd, Commissioner of the IRS John Koskinen, Secretary of the Treasury Steven Turner Mnuchin, and the United States of America (collectively, “Government Defendants”); and
(2) Premera Blue Cross (“Premera”), Delta Dental of Washington (“Delta Dental”), Aetna Life Insurance Company (“Aetna”), Wells Fargo Bank NA (“Wells Fargo”), and Bank of America, NA (“Bank of America”) (collectively, “Private Defendants”).

(See Compl. (Dkt. # 1) at 1-2.) Premera filed a motion to dismiss (Premera MTD (Dkt. # 13)), and Wells Fargo, Government Defendants, and Delta Dental filed responses to the TRO motion (WF Resp. (Dkt. # 14); Gov't Resp. (Dkt. # 16); Delta Resp. (Dkt. # 19)). The court has considered the parties' filings in support of and opposition to the motion, the relevant portions of the record, and the applicable law. Considering itself fully advised, [1] the court DENIES the TRO motion, DENIES the amended TRO motion, and ORDERS Ms. Saepoff to show cause why her claims against Government Defendants should not be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.


         Ms. Saepoff challenges the constitutionality of the federal income tax, the actions the IRS has taken to enforce her tax obligations, and Private Defendants' acquiescence to those IRS actions. (See generally Compl.) Although her filings are opaque, it appears that Ms. Saepoff owes $159, 816.87 in overdue taxes, of which the IRS has seized approximately $17, 000.00. (See Saepoff Decl. (Dkt. # 7) ¶ 10; Supp. Saepoff Decl. (Dkt. # 20-5) ¶ 10; TRO Mot. ¶ 13; but see TRO Mot. at 18 (seeking make-whole relief of $18, 359.79); Compl. ¶ 64 (alleging that Ms. Saepoff “has sustained damage in the amount of $12, 038.02”).) Government Defendants are all affiliated with the IRS, and Ms. Saepoff asserts that they have refused to reply to her requests for evidence of their authority to collect income tax from her. (See Saepoff Decl. ¶¶ 3-7; Compl. ¶¶ 30-44, 55-70; TRO Mot. ¶¶ 22-36, 44-46.) Ms. Saepoff alleges that Private Defendants have violated the United States Constitution, the Washington State Constitution, and federal law by allowing Government Defendants to seize her unpaid taxes. (Compl. ¶¶ 71-89; TRO Mot. ¶¶ 37-39.)

         On April 13, 2017, Ms. Saepoff moved for an ex parte TRO to restrain Government Defendants from collecting and Private Defendants from providing her outstanding tax obligations. (See TRO Mot.) After concluding that Ms. Saepoff had not satisfied any of the prerequisites for ex parte relief, see Fed. R. Civ. P. 65(b)(1); Local Rules W.D. Wash. LCR 65(b)(1), the court denied Ms. Saepoff ex parte relief and renoted her TRO motion for April 21, 2017 (4/13/17 Order (Dkt. # 8) at 2-3; see also Id. at 2 n.1 (expressing no opinion on the merits of Ms. Saepoff's TRO motion)). The court also noted that it appeared several defendants had not been served and ordered Ms. Saepoff to promptly effectuate service on the unserved defendants to maximize their opportunity to respond to her motion. (Id. at 2-3.) The court allowed any defendant to respond to the TRO motion no later than April 20, 2017. (Id. at 3.)

         On April 20, 2017, after the parties had fully briefed her initial TRO motion, Ms. Saepoff filed an amended TRO motion. (See Am. TRO Mot.) That motion raises the same arguments as Ms. Saepoff's initial TRO motion and provides greater clarity regarding the basis for those arguments.[2] (Compare TRO Mot., with Am. TRO Mot.) Ms. Saepoff's motion and amended motion are now before the court.

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Legal Standard

         A plaintiff seeking a TRO in federal court must meet the standards for issuing a preliminary injunction. See Stuhlbarg Int'l Sales Co. v. John D. Brush & Co., 240 F.3d 832, 839 n.7 (9th Cir. 2001); Fed.R.Civ.P. 65. To obtain either form of preliminary injunctive relief, Ms. Saepoff must establish that (1) she is likely to succeed on the merits, (2) she is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief, (3) the balance of equities tips in her favor, and (4) an injunction is in the public interest. Winter v. Nat. Res. Def. Council, Inc., 555 U.S. 7, 20 (2008). Preliminary injunctive relief is also “appropriate when a plaintiff demonstrates that serious questions going to the merits were raised and the balance of hardships tips sharply in the plaintiff's favor, ...

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