The opinion of the court was delivered by: Katharine S. Hayden, U.S.D.J.
In this action for injunctive relief, plaintiff Curt Geisler ("Geisler") seeks an order vacating the sale of a liquor license sold by the Internal Revenue Service ("IRS") at a public auction on June 20, 2006, and directing the IRS to conduct another public auction to sell the license. The IRS and defendant Anthony Neri ("Neri"), an IRS Property Appraisal Liquidation Specialist (collectively "the federal defendants"), have filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. (12)(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. For the reasons explained below, the motion is granted.
The complaint involves the sale of New Jersey Plenary Retail Consumption License #2019-33-05-007 ("the License"), issued by defendant Township of Union, New Jersey. The IRS seized the License from a bar and grill in Union pursuant to its authority under 26 U.S.C. § 6331, which permits the IRS to seize and sell property for failure to pay taxes. On May 10, 2006, the IRS issued a notice of public auction sale for the License. The notice indicated that the sale was scheduled for June 20, 2006, at 10:00 a.m. at the IRS office located at 200 Sheffield Street, Mountainside, New Jersey. The notice did not specifically identify where in the IRS office the auction would be held. The notice also indicated that the winning bidder must pay 20% of the purchase price upon acceptance of the bid, and the remaining balance within 24 hours.
On June 20, 2006, Geisler traveled to the IRS office at 200 Sheffield Street in Mountainside for the purpose of bidding on the License. However, at approximately 9:30 a.m., while he was en-route to the auction, Geisler realized that his driving directions were inaccurate. He called his secretary, who then contacted Neri. Geisler's secretary obtained directions from Neri and informed Neri that Geisler was on his way.
The complaint does not indicate precisely what time Geisler arrived at 200 Sheffield Street, but when he arrived, he had difficulty determining where the public auction was being held. Geisler proceeded to the second floor of the building after being advised by a building security guard that the IRS was located on the second floor, but once he was in the main lobby of the IRS' office, he was still unable to determine where the auction was. At 10:05 a.m. Geisler eventually found where the auction was being conducted, but as soon as he entered the room Neri advised him that the auction had already been completed. Neri admitted speaking to Geisler's secretary, but he told Geisler that the sale commenced promptly at 10:00 a.m., in accordance with the IRS' policy to enforce deadlines strictly.
Geisler's attorney contacted Neri after 10:00 a.m. on June 21, 2006, to inquire as to whether the successful bidder had paid the balance of the purchase price as required by the notice of public auction sale. Neri informed the attorney at that time that the winning bidder had not yet paid the balance.
Citing 28 U.S.C. § 1340 (providing district courts jurisdiction over "any civil action arising under any Act of Congress providing for internal revenue") as the basis for federal jurisdiction, Geisler filed suit in this Court on July 28, 2006. Geisler filed an amended complaint as of right on September 27, 2006. The amended complaint seeks an order vacating the sale of the License and directing the IRS to conduct another public auction on three grounds: (1) the notice of public auction sale did not sufficiently specify the place of sale as required by 26 U.S.C. § 6335; (2) the successful bidder did not pay the balance of the purchase price within 24 hours as required by the notice of public auction sale; and (3) the auction should have been adjourned in accordance with Internal Revenue Service Rule 56(14)3.1, because there was not a sufficient number of prospective bidders present at the auction. In addition to Neri, the IRS, and the Township of Union, the complaint names the winning bidder, Joken Enterprises, LLC, and its representative, John Zawoyski,*fn1 as defendants.
The federal defendants have filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the suit is barred by sovereign immunity because while 28 U.S.C. § 1340 provides a general grant of jurisdiction for cases involving the IRS, it does not constitute a waiver of sovereign immunity by the United States. Furthermore, the federal defendants assert that even if the suit is not barred by sovereign immunity, the complaint must be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. In a letter filed on March 14, 2007, defendants Joken Enterprises, LLC and John Zawoyski filed a letter in support of the federal defendants' motion to dismiss.
A court may grant a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) "if it appears to a certainty that no relief could be granted under any set of facts which could be proved." Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 351 (3d Cir. 2005) (quoting D.P. Enters., Inc. v. Bucks County Cmty. College, 725 F.2d 943, 944 (3d Cir. 1984)). At the motion to dismiss phase, the Court must "accept as true the factual allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn from them." Schuylkill Energy Res., Inc. v. Pa. Power & Light Co., 113 F.3d 405, 417 (3d Cir. 1997).
The standard for a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) is different. The Court must "review only whether the allegations on the face of the complaint, taken as true, allege facts sufficient to invoke the jurisdiction of the district ...