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Tuttle v. Lee

Supreme Court of Wyoming

September 5, 2018

TERRANCE M. TUTTLE, Appellant (Plaintiff),
v.
DEBRA K. LEE, in her official capacity as Laramie County Clerk, Appellee (Defendant).

          Appeal from the District Court of Laramie County The Honorable Steven K. Sharpe, Judge.

          Representing Appellant: Terrance M. Tuttle, Pro se

          Representing Appellee: J. Mark Stewart of Davis & Cannon, LLP, Cheyenne, Wyoming

          Before DAVIS, C.J., and BURKE, FOX, KAUTZ, and BOOMGAARDEN, JJ.

          DAVIS, Chief Justice.

         [¶1] In 2007, the United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS) filed a Notice of Federal Tax Lien (NFTL) against real property owned by Terrance Tuttle. In 2017, Mr. Tuttle filed a declaratory judgment action against the Laramie County Clerk, asking that the NFTL be declared invalid and that the clerk be ordered to remove the NFTL from Mr. Tuttle's property record. The district court dismissed the complaint as barred by the statute of limitations and for failure to state a cognizable claim. We agree that the complaint failed to state a cognizable claim and affirm.[1]

         ISSUES

         [¶2] Mr. Tuttle, appearing pro se, presents two issues on appeal. We find a single issue dispositive and state that issue as:

Did the district court err in dismissing Mr. Tuttle's complaint pursuant to W.R.C.P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim for which relief may be granted?

         FACTS

         [¶3] Accepting the allegations in Mr. Tuttle's complaint as true, see Whitham v. Feller, 2018 WY 43, ¶ 4, 415 P.3d 1264, 1265 (Wyo. 2018), the pertinent facts are as follows. In 2007, the IRS filed an NFTL against Mr. Tuttle's Laramie County property. The IRS did not thereafter file a tax lien against the property, but the presence of the NFTL itself interfered with Mr. Tuttle's ability to refinance. On numerous occasions over the ten years following the recording of the NFTL, Mr. Tuttle asked the county clerk, then Debra Lathrop, to remove it from his property record. Ms. Lathrop refused to do so and informed Mr. Tuttle that the NFTL could not be removed without a court order.

         [¶4] On April 12, 2017, Mr. Tuttle filed a declaratory judgment complaint against Debra Lee, Ms. Lathrop's successor. The complaint did not allege that Ms. Lee violated the law or any procedural requirement by recording the NFTL. It instead alleged, in relevant part:

15. The Plaintiff talked to Ms. Lathrop many times since 2007 about having the NFTL stricken from the record because it is incorrect and it contains false information that harms the Plaintiff's credit rating.
* * * *
21. The NFTL was placed of record by mistake. The NFTL constitutes a slander of the Plaintiff's title as no federal tax lien has ever been filed and no action has ever ...

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