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MISSION OAKS MOBILE HOME PARK v. CITY OF HOLLISTER

March 19, 1992

MISSION OAKS MOBILE HOME PARK Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF HOLLISTER, et al Defendants.


WARE


The opinion of the court was delivered by: JAMES WARE

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS

I. INTRODUCTION

 Plaintiff Mission Oaks, an owner of a mobilehome park in the City of Hollister, brought suit in federal court challenging the City of Hollister's mobilehome park rent control ordinance. Mission Oaks previously filed a challenge to the rent control ordinance in state court alleging the same state and federal constitutional and § 1983 violations.

 Defendants, City of Hollister et al, move for dismissal on the grounds that the pending action in state court duplicates the instant action, that the state suit was filed prior to the filing in federal court and that there have been substantial proceedings in the state court. Defendants maintain that dismissal is appropriate under the doctrine of abstention and in order to avoid duplicative and piecemeal litigation.

 For the reasons discussed below, the Court GRANTS Defendants' Motion to Dismiss on the grounds of Younger abstention.

 II. BACKGROUND

 A. State Court Proceedings

 Mission Oaks filed an action in San Benito County Superior Court in September 1990, challenging the City of Hollister's Mobilehome Park Rent Control ordinance. Plaintiff alleged the following causes of action: inverse condemnation; denial of procedural due process; violation of equal protection; preemption; unconstitutional special tax; violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983; preliminary and permanent injunction; declaratory relief; writ of mandate for general plan invalidity.

 In February 1991, Mission Oaks filed a petition with the Hollister Rent Commission for a rent increase pursuant to the hearing process set forth in the Ordinance. Plaintiff was granted an increase in a lesser amount than had been requested. On July 12, 1991, Plaintiff filed a Petition for Writ of Mandate in the Superior Court challenging the Rent Commission's decision. Plaintiff alleged that the Commission failed to make the necessary findings and that the evidence did not support the Commission's decision.

 On July 11, 1991, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on its claims that the Ordinance violated Plaintiff's rights to procedural due process and equal protection and that the Ordinance constituted a special tax.

 On October 1, 1991, subsequent to the Ninth Circuit's decision in another challenge to a mobilehome park rent control ordinance, Sierra Lake Reserve v. City of Rocklin, 938 F.2d 951 (9th Cir. 1991), Mission Oaks filed in the state court a "Reservation to Litigate Federal Claims in the United States District Court." Defendants moved to strike the "Reservation."

 At a hearing on October 22, 1991, the Superior Court denied the Plaintiff's summary judgment motion, and Defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings as well as Defendants' motion to strike the Reservation. The judge did not rule on the legal effect of the Reservation.

 Approximately two months later, on December 20, 1991, a hearing was held on Plaintiff's Writ challenging the Rent Commission's decision on Plaintiff's rent increase request. The Court denied the Writ, finding that "substantial evidence" existed for the Commission to make its decision.

 The trial in Superior court is scheduled to begin in May 1992.

 B. Federal Court Proceeding

 On October 30, 1991, Mission Oaks filed this action in District Court alleging the same claims as those in the state court action and an additional claim for substantive due process violation. Defendants now move for dismissal on the grounds of abstention and the policy rationale of avoidance of duplicative and piecemeal litigation. The Court notes that Defendants seek to cover all bases by arguing that any of the three established abstention doctrines as enunciated in Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 371, 27 L. Ed. 2d 669 (1971); Burford v. Sun Oil Co., 319 U.S. 315, 87 L. Ed. 1424, 63 S. Ct. 1098 (1943); and Railroad Comm'n of Texas v. Pullman Co., 312 U.S. 496, 85 L. Ed. 971, 61 S. Ct. 643 (1941) are applicable. Additionally, Defendants contend that the Supreme Court's decision in Colorado River Water Conservation Dist. v. United States, 424 U.S. 800, 47 L. Ed. 2d 483, 96 S. Ct. 1236 (1976), holding that in exceptional circumstances federal courts may dismiss actions in order to avoid duplicative litigation, is equally appropriate.

 For the reasons discussed more fully below, this Court finds that dismissal under the Younger ...


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