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United States of America v. Robert L. Gavett

May 10, 2011

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ROBERT L. GAVETT, SR., ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Pisano, District Judge.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

This action is brought by the United States of America (the "Government") against defendant Robert L. Gavett, Sr. ("Robert Gavett, Sr."), Robert L. Gavett, Jr. ("Robert Gavett, Jr.") and Sheryl Ann Gavett. Presently before the Court is a motion to dismiss counterclaims and a motion for summary judgment by the Government. Robert Gavett, Sr. opposes the motion for summary judgment, but not the motion to dismiss. The Court decides the matter without oral argument pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78. For the reasons set forth herein, the Government's motion to dismiss and motion for summary judgment are granted.

I. Factual Background

On March 14, 1994, a delegate of the Secretary of the Treasury of the Government made various individual income tax, penalty, and interest assessments against Robert Gavett, Sr. for the years 1980 through 1987. (Government Exhibit 101). Despite notices and demands for the payment of these tax liabilities, the Government claims that Robert Gavett, Sr. has failed to pay the amount owing. (Amended Complaint, ¶ 13). Notice of federal tax liens reflecting Robert Gavett, Sr.'s income tax liabilities for the years 1980 to 1987 were filed with the Office of the County Clerk of Somerset, New Jersey, on December 31, 2003. (Amended Complaint, ¶ 17). On September 20, 2004, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania entered a judgment in favor of the United States and against Robert Gavett, Sr. in the amount of $225,166.55 plus interest accruing from March 1, 1999, as a matter of law until paid. (Government Exhibit 102). An abstract of judgment reflecting this judgment was filed with the Office of the County Clerk of Somerset, New Jersey, on August 14, 2006. (Id.)

As of August 1, 2010, the Government claims that there remains due and owing to the Government the sum of $460,546.00. (Government Exhibit 107).

By a deed dated February 9, 1977, Robert Gavett, Sr. and his now deceased wife acquired an interest in certain real property known as 26 Steinmetz Road, Hillsborough, New Jersey (the "Hillsborough Property"). (Government Exhibit 103). On or about December 14, 1995, Robert Gavett, Sr.'s wife died and he became the sole owner of the Hillsborough Property. (Government Exhibit 104). On or about February 21, 1996, Robert Gavett, Sr. filed a Correction of Deed with the Somerset County Clerk that grants an interest in the Hillsborough Property from "Robert Laurence, Gavett" to "Robert Laurence, Gavett." (Government Exhibit 105). On or about October 4, 2010, Robert Gavett, Jr. and Sheryl Ann Gavett signed an Affidavit of Title claiming that they are the only owners of the Hillsborough Property and have been since February 21, 1996. (Docket Entry No. 8, Exhibit D).

The Government filed the original complaint in this action on August 10, 2010, seeking to foreclose the federal tax liens and judgment liens against the Hillsborough Property. On October 14, 2010, Robert Gavett, Sr. filed a First Amended Answer and Counterclaim making several allegations against the Government including, but not limited to, fraud, racketeering, inland piracy, extortion, denial of due process, collusion, conspiracy and public humiliation. The Government filed a motion to dismiss the counterclaims pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). Robert Gavett, Sr. does not oppose the Government's motion.

The Government filed a motion for summary judgment on October 25, 2010, claiming that it is entitled to foreclose on the Hillsborough Property and asking the Court to order a sale thereof. Robert Gavett, Sr. opposes the Government's motion for summary judgment.

II. Motion to Dismiss

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides a basis by which a party may challenge the sufficiency of a counterclaim. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) (stating that "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted" is a defense to a claim for relief). The Supreme Court set forth the standard for addressing a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) in Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 562 (2007). The Twombly Court stated that, "[w]hile a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, ... a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitle[ment] to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do[.]" Id. at 555 (internal citations omitted); see also Baraka v. McGreevey, 481 F.3d 187, 195 (3d Cir. 2007) (stating that standard of review for motion to dismiss does not require courts to accept as true "unsupported conclusions and unwarranted inferences" or "legal conclusion[s] couched as factual allegation[s]." (internal quotation marks omitted)). Therefore, for Robert Gavett, Sr.'s counterclaims to withstand a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, ... on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact) ..." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal citations and footnote omitted).

A court must distinguish factual contentions and "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009). When evaluating a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, district courts conduct a two-part analysis.

First, the factual and legal elements of a claim should be separated. The District Court must accept all of the complaint's well-pleaded facts as true, but may disregard any legal conclusions. Second, a District Court must then determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a "plausible claim for relief." In other words, a complaint must do more than allege the plaintiff's entitlement to relief. A complaint has to "show" such an entitlement with its facts.

Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949-50). A claim for relief will be dismissed unless it "contain[s] sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.' " Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). This "plausibility" determination will be "a context-specific task that requires the ...


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