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Premier Pawn, Inc. v. City of Jackson

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division

July 22, 2015

PREMIER PAWN, INC., Plaintiff,


DANIEL P. JORDAN, III, District Judge.

This zoning dispute is before the Court on the Motion for Summary Judgment [10] filed by Defendant City of Jackson, Mississippi ("the City"). Because the Court finds that a rational basis exists for the City's zoning decision and that it is not estopped from preventing Plaintiff Premier Pawn's operations in the disputed location, the City's motion is granted.

I. Facts and Procedural History

According to its Complaint [1-1], Premier Pawn leased property at 1072 High Street in Jackson, Mississippi, for use as a pawn shop. The property is located in an area controlled by Ordinance 1104, the "High Street Overlay District, " which expressly prohibits the operation of pawn shops. Def.'s Mot. [10] Ex. F at 170. Nevertheless, a desk clerk in the zoning office approved Premier Pawn's building permit allowing necessary renovations to the existing building. Approximately two months later, and after Premier Pawn incurred expenses, the City discovered the error and issued a stop-work order.

Premier Pawn contends that it detrimentally relied on the City's "actions, inactions, misrepresentations and negligence." Compl. [1-1] ¶ 79. It further contends that the City's alleged conduct violated Premier Pawn's state and federal constitutional rights to "free speech, due process of law and equal protection under the law." Id. ¶ 29. And as relief, Premier Pawn seeks a temporary restraining order, a preliminary injunction, a permanent injunction, and alternatively, monetary damages.

The City is the only remaining defendant in this matter, and it moved for summary judgment [10] on May 21, 2015. Premier Pawn initially failed to respond but did so [13] following the Court's Show Cause Order [12]. The City has replied [15]. The Court has personal and subject-matter jurisdiction and is prepared to rule.

II. Standard

Summary judgment is warranted under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure when evidence reveals "no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). "The party moving for summary judgment bears the initial burden of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of [the record] which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.'" Washburn v. Harvey, 504 F.3d 505, 508 (5th Cir. 2007) (alteration in original) (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)); see also Custer v. Murphy Oil USA, Inc., 503 F.3d 415, 422 (5th Cir. 2007) (noting that the moving party bears the "burden of demonstrating that there is no genuine issue of material fact"); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A). "The non-moving party must then come forward with specific facts showing there is a genuine issue for trial." Washburn, 504 F.3d at 508; see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A), (B). Finally, when, as here, "a party fails to properly support an assertion of fact..., the court may... grant summary judgment if the motion and supporting materials including the facts considered undisputed show that the movant is entitled to it." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(3).

III. Analysis

The parties have narrowed the dispute to two issues: (1) whether the City violated Premier Pawn's constitutional rights; and (2) whether the City is estopped from enforcing the Overlay District.

A. Constitutional Claims

It is somewhat difficult to tell which constitutional claims Premier Pawn advances. The City focuses its initial memorandum on the equal-protection claim pleaded in the Complaint. But Premier Pawn responds that its claims are not limited "as stated in Defendants [sic] memoranda." Pl.'s Resp. [14] at 9. Unfortunately, Premier Pawn never articulates any specific constitutional claim in its brief, arguing instead that the City holds the burden of proving a rational basis for its decision and has failed to do so. See id. at 2 3. Regardless, Premier Pawn did plead an equal-protection claim in its Complaint id. at 3, and the Court therefore starts with that claim.

1. Equal Protection[1]

To succeed on a class-of-one claim, "the plaintiff must establish (1) [it] was intentionally treated differently from others similarly situated and (2) there was no rational basis for any such difference." Wilson v. Birnberg, 667 F.3d 591, 599 (5th Cir. 2012) (internal quotation marks omitted). Premier Pawn offers no supporting facts and little argument establishing these prongs. Instead, it simply argues that ...

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