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Epperly v. State

United States District Court, D. Alaska

November 5, 2015



Sharon L. Gleason, United States District Judge

There are several motions pending before the Court as follows:

1. At Docket 22, Respondent State of Alaska filed a motion to dismiss under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 7(b), 12(b)(1), and 12(b)(6).

2. At Dockets 24 and 25, Petitioner Gordon Warren Epperly filed his “Opposition to State of Alaska’s Motion to Dismiss And Petitioner’s Motion for Summary Judgment.” 3. At Dockets 29 and 30, the State of Alaska filed the “State’s Reply to Opposition to Motion to Dismiss, and Opposition to Motion for Summary Judgment.” 4. At Docket 31, Respondent United States of America filed a motion to dismiss, in which it joined the State of Alaska’s motion to dismiss. Mr. Epperly responded at Docket 33.[1] The United States replied at Docket 34. Because the United States has joined the State of Alaska’s motion to dismiss and largely echoes its arguments, the Court will address them together.[2]

Mr. Epperly, a self-represented litigant, may well have invested a considerable amount of time and energy in researching and preparing his court filings. Or perhaps his voluminous production of quotations from state and federal statutes, case law, treaties, and websites-including extensive italicization, capitalization, and underlining-reflects little more than access to the internet and a facility for cut-and-paste advocacy. Regardless, these efforts do not overcome the unavoidable conclusion that Mr. Epperly lacks the standing under Article III of the U.S. Constitution that is necessary to maintain this action in federal court. And without standing, all of Mr. Epperly’s legal and quasi-legal theories for relief will be dismissed.[3]

At its core, Mr. Epperly’s petition seems to express an interest in obtaining the ability to legally ingest marijuana. He indicates that despite health problems, he has been unable to locate a physician that is willing to prescribe marijuana to him.[4] Mr. Epperly’s extensive petition focuses on certain marijuana laws of the State of Alaska and certain policies of the United States, and culminates in two causes of action.[5] First, Mr. Epperly seeks a declaratory judgment that all existing marijuana laws enacted by the State of Alaska are invalid because they are preempted by federal law. Alternatively in this regard, Mr. Epperly seeks a declaratory judgment that accords him “access to and the authority to use ‘Marijuana’ for medical and recreational purposes.”[6] Second, Mr. Epperly seeks a declaratory judgment invalidating certain “Marijuana Policies” adopted by the United States Department of Justice, which he believes purport to authorize States to legalize marijuana.[7]


I. Legal Standard

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), a party may move to dismiss a court case if the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. “A federal court is presumed to lack jurisdiction in a particular case unless the contrary affirmatively appears.”[8] The United States Supreme Court has recently reemphasized that “no principle is more fundamental to the judiciary’s proper role in our system of government than the constitutional limitation of federal-court jurisdiction to actual cases or controversies.”[9] A key element of the case-or-controversy requirement is that a party who initiates a court case has standing to sue.[10]

To establish Article III standing, Mr. Epperly must show that (1) he has suffered an “injury in fact” that is concrete, particularized, actual, and imminent as opposed to conjectural or hypothetical; (2) the injury must be fairly traceable to the challenged actions of the named respondents-here the State of Alaska and the United States; and (3) it must be likely, as opposed to speculative, that the requested relief would redress the injury.[11] A party that initiates a lawsuit-in this case Mr. Epperly-has the burden of establishing this “irreducible constitutional minimum” for standing: injury, causation, and redressability.[12] When that burden has not and cannot be met, a federal court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the suit and the action must be dismissed.[13]

II. Injury

For purposes of Article III standing, an injury-in-fact must invade a legally protected interest.[14] Mr. Epperly asserts two injuries: an inability to obtain a medical marijuana card under Alaska law, and his state of “Perplexity and Confusion” caused by his perception of a “direct conflict” between Alaska’s marijuana laws and federal marijuana laws.[15] The State of Alaska asserts that Mr. Epperly fails to show how either of these asserted injuries amounts to the invasion of a legally protected interest. The State asserts that to whatever extent Mr. Epperly has a legally protected interest in ingesting marijuana, its statutes authorizing both medical and recreational marijuana use create no obstacle. The Court agrees. With regard to federal law, Mr. Epperly devotes the bulk of his petition to acknowledging that there is no legally protected interest in marijuana consumption-a position at apparent odds with his other arguments.[16] There is also no legally protected interest in being free from perplexity and confusion. Accordingly, Mr. Epperly’s asserted injuries are not concrete, particularized, actual, and imminent; and they do not support Article III standing.

Mr. Epperly alternatively seeks a declaration “stating the ‘Rights’ of the Petitioner as having access to and the authority to use ‘Marijuana’ for medical and recreational purposes.” It appears Mr. Epperly is seeking a court order that he has an unrestricted right to use marijuana for both medical and recreational purposes, presumably for pre-enforcement immunization from his perceived threat of federal prosecution if he uses marijuana under Alaska law. But to satisfy Article III’s standing requirement, there must be a credible threat of imminent prosecution under the challenged law.[17] Mr. Epperly lives in a state that allows medical and recreational marijuana use, and a country that declines to prosecute certain related federal crimes. Mr. Epperly raises no legally cognizable injury, no credible ...

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