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El-Bey v. Franchot

United States District Court, D. Maryland

November 4, 2019

DEBORAH EL-BEY, pro se, Plaintiff,
v.
PETER FRANCHOT, COMPTROLLER OF MARYLAND Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          PETER J. MESSITTE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Pro se Plaintiff Deborah El-Bey ("El-Bey"), a citizen of Maryland, was previously licensed to work as a dental hygienist by the Maryland State Board of Dental Examiners. ECF No. 1. In her Complaint filed May 2, 2019 (ECF No. 1), El-Bey alleges that the Comptroller of Maryland ("Comptroller") unlawfully placed a lien on her state dental hygienist license. ECF No. 1. The lien was placed after she failed to pay state income taxes for tax year 2012, did not make a timely appeal of the assessment, and was unable to provide a justification to the state for her non-payment. ECF No. 6-1. El-Bey asks the Court to remove the lien on her license and award her compensatory damages and court fees. ECF No 1, p. 2.

         Defendant, Peter Franchot, Comptroller of Maryland, [1] has moved to dismiss this Complaint. ECF No. 6. Relying on Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1), the Comptroller argues that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction because the case is barred by the Tax Injunction Act ("TIA"), codified at 28 U.S.C. § 1341. ECF No. 6.

         No hearing is necessary to resolve the Motion. See Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons that follow, the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         On April 23, 2014, El-Bey was issued an assessment from the Maryland Comptroller for failing to pay state income taxes for the year 2012.[2] ECF No. 1-2. In the same issuance, she was advised that her failure to appeal the decision within 30 days would "constitute a final and nonappealable determination of liability." Id. El-Bey took no action, her original unpaid balance of $9, 679.90 accrued interest, and a penalty was added. ECF No. 6-1, p. 2, 19. On September 14, 2017, the Comptroller issued El-Bey a notice of lien of judgement for her unpaid income taxes for the year 2012. Id. at 1. At the time the notice was issued, El-Bey owed $16, 607. Id. at 2.

         Only after receiving the notice, over three years after she was advised of the 30-day deadline by which to submit an appeal, did El-Bey finally appeal the assessment, on November 6, 2017. ECF No. 1-2.

         On December 12, 2017, the Comptroller responded by letter to El-Bey and explained that her untimely appeal precluded her from receiving a hearing but that he could still "correct an erroneous final assessment." Id. He, thus, requested that she provide "documentation supporting a reduction in the assessment" by January 12, 2018, if, in fact, the assessment was erroneous. Id.

         It appears that El-Bey did not respond to this request, and on February 13, 2018, the Comptroller wrote again to El-Bey asking for "any Maryland statutory law that states [she is] not required to file a state tax return." Id. The Comptroller reiterated that in the absence of any documentation showing that her 2014 assessment had been erroneous, or that she was exempt from taxation, her failure to make a timely appeal within 30 days of receipt of the assessment had barred her from receiving a hearing on the matter and that the assessment was "final" and "nonappealable." Id.

         On March 4, 2018, El-Bey responded, asserting that she was exempt from filing state income taxes by Maryland Tax-General Code Ann. § 10-809.[3] ECF No. 1-3, p. 3. In support of her assertion, El-Bey quoted the following statutory language: "If an individual is not required to file an income tax return under § 10-805, § 10-806, or § 10-813 of this subtitle, the individual: (1) Is not liable for income tax, and (2) May file an income tax withheld or estimated income tax paid or a refund." Id. El-Bey did not explain why the subsections cited apply to her and only stated that "she was never liable nor obligated for income taxes since she has declared that she is not an artificial or corporate person and thus, by legal definition and the Supreme Court, never could have made an 'income'" (emphasis in original). Id. It is unclear whether the Comptroller replied to this response, or, in the alternative, if it found a reply to this peculiar assertion was simply unwarranted.

         On February 26, 2019, the Maryland State Board of Dental Examiners notified El-Bey that her state dental hygienist license would not be renewed until the Board "receive[d] notice from the. . . Comptroller that the State's liability concerns ha[d] been addressed." ECF No. 1-1.

         On May 1, 2019, El-Bey filed her Complaint in this Court.[4] ECF No. 1. She claims her assessment was erroneous because she does "not have any liabilities with the Maryland Comptroller." Id. at 2. She further alleges that the State has taken her "private property," and "for many years. . . has unlawfully removed large quantities of funds from [her] daily wages." Id. El-Bey demands that the Court remove the lien on her occupational license, and she seeks $2 million dollars in compensation, court fees, and a return of any overpayment of Maryland taxes. Id. at 2-3.

         On May 20, 2019, the Comptroller filed a Motion to Dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, asserting that the suit is barred by the TIA and the Eleventh Amendment. ECF No. 6. On June 28, 2019, El-Bey responded, claiming that the TIA does not apply and, alternatively, that the Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 31 U.S.C. § 3124 ("Refund of Internal Revenue Collections") and the Fourth Amendment. ECF No. 9, p. 1. To date, the Comptroller has not filed a Reply.

         II. ...


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