The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOHN HOUSTON, Magistrate Judge
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS [DOC. # 6] AND
DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SANCTIONS [DOC. # 12]
Now before the Court are defendants' motions to dismiss and for
sanctions. The motions have been fully briefed by the parties.
After a thorough review of the pleadings presented, and for the
reasons set forth below, this Court GRANTS defendants' motion to
dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and DENIES
defendants' motion for sanctions.
I. Factual Background*fn1
Thelma McIllwain ("Thelma") was married to James William
McIllwain ("James") from 1958 to 1998. FAC ¶ 9. Plaintiffs
Raymond D. Kitlas ("Kitlas") and Carol Hathaway ("Hathaway")
(collectively "plaintiffs") are the adult natural children of
Thelma from a prior marriage. Id. Defendant Margaret Jane Young ("Young") is Thelma
and James' natural child. Id. ¶ 10. Defendant James Peter
McIllwain ("McIllwain") is James' natural child from a prior
Thelma executed a will in 1996 that left her estate to all four
children equally and contained no provision for her husband,
James. Id. ¶ 11. Prior to the execution of Thelma's 1996 will,
James and Thelma agreed that, should one spouse predecease the
other, all jointly held assets would pass to the surviving
spouse. Id. ¶ 12. Thelma passed away on January 13, 1998,
predeceasing James. Id. ¶ 11. James executed a new will on
February 17, 1998, which left the entire estate to McIllwain and
Young, except for a separate monetary provision to Hathaway.
Id. ¶ 17. Kitlas received nothing. Id. The estate was
estimated to be worth approximately $496,000.00. Id. ¶ 18.
On September 30, 2002, plaintiffs filed a petition seeking
relief from the terms of James' will in the California Probate
Court. See Doc. # 16, Exh. 3. The petition contained two causes
of action: quasi-specific performance of a contract to make a
will and tortious interference with the right to inherit. See
Defts' Req. for Jud. Not., Exh. 2. The probate court denied the
petition in its entirety on November 25, 2003, finding the
evidence presented "fails to establish that any agreement or
understanding was reached between [James] and Thelma regarding
the property." Defts' Req. for Jud. Not., Exh. 3. The probate
court explained that "the evidence shows . . . Thelma understood
exactly what . . . property was . . . affected by her Will, . . .
that [James] would have complete control if he survived her and
that she had choices available to her that would permit her to
deal differently with that property, which she failed to do."
Id. Plaintiffs' appeal of the probate court order was
subsequently affirmed on March 22, 2004. See id., Exh. 4.
Plaintiffs filed a complaint in this Court on November 10,
2004. Plaintiffs' first amended complaint, the operative pleading
here, was filed on March 10, 2005. Defendants' motion to dismiss,
seeking dismissal based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction
or, alternatively, dismissal by abstention based on the "wise
judicial administration" doctrine, was filed on April 27, 2005 and defendants' motion seeking the
imposition of sanctions was filed on May 19, 2005. Defendants, on
June 15, 2005, filed a supplement to their motion to dismiss,
asserting failure to state a claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure as an additional ground for
dismissal. Plaintiffs' oppositions to both motions, including the
supplement, was filed on June 30, 2005. Defendants filed reply
briefs to plaintiffs' oppositions on July 7, 2005. The motions
were subsequently taken under submission without oral argument.
See CivLR 7.1 (d.1).
1. Defendants' Motion to Dismiss
Defendants move to dismiss plaintiffs' first amended complaint
pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure, asserting this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction
over plaintiffs' claims.*fn2
The federal court is one of limited jurisdiction. See Gould
v. Mutual Life Ins. Co. of New York, 790 F.2d 769, 774 (9th Cir.
1986). As such, it cannot reach the merits of any dispute until
it confirms its own subject matter jurisdiction. Steel Co. v.
Citizens for a Better Environment, 523 U.S. 83, 93-94 (1998).
"`Without jurisdiction the court cannot proceed at all in any
cause. Jurisdiction is power to declare the law, and when it
ceases to exist, the only function remaining to the court is that
of announcing the fact and dismissing the cause.'" Id. (quoting
Ex parte McCardle, 74 U.S. (7 Wall.) 506, 514 (1868)); see
In re Mooney, 841 F.2d 1003, 1006 (9th Cir. 1988) ("Nothing is
to be more jealously guarded by a court than its jurisdiction.
Jurisdiction is what its power rests upon. Without jurisdiction
it is nothing."), overruled on other grounds by Partington v.
Gedan, 923 F.2d 686, 688 (9th Cir. 1991).
Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), the Court can
dismiss a complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). The
plaintiff bears the burden of establishing subject matter
jurisdiction. See Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of
America, 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994) (stating that the burden of
establishing jurisdiction rests on the party asserting it). When
considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1), the district
court "is free to hear evidence regarding jurisdiction and to
rule on that issue prior to trial, resolving factual disputes
where necessary." Augustine v. United States, 704 F.2d 1074,
1077 (9th Cir. 1983). "In such circumstances, `[n]o presumptive
truthfulness attaches to plaintiff's allegations, and the
existence of disputed facts will not ...