A recent ruling by the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico reflects some of the challenges plaintiffs can encounter when naming a city and its mayor as defendants in a federal complaint seeking recourse for allegedly injurious conditions.
Last November a person filed a federal complaint against the City of Albuquerque and its Mayor, asserting claims for unlawful taking under the U.S. and New Mexico Constitutions and related claims for trespass and nuisance. The plaintiff’s lawsuit arose from the city’s alleged catch and release of feral cats and kittens as part of a trap, neuter and release (“TNR”) program. Under the TNR program, the plaintiff alleged, cats and kittens are trapped, sterilized, vaccinated and released. The plaintiff alleged that, as a result, she and her neighbors and children are exposed to an extreme nuisance, disease, property damage and a reduction in property values, and that the problem is continuing because the TNR program is continuing. The complaint attracted the attention of local news outlet KRQE, which ran a story reporting that, as of September 2019, 2,100 cats had been picked up of which 1,700 had been re-released.
The defendants responded to the complaint by filing a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Under this rule a federal court is to review a complaint to assess whether its factual allegations state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.