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December 22, 2005.

CAROL HATHAWAY, an individual and RAYMOND D. KITLAS, an individual, Plaintiffs,
MARGARET JANE YOUNG, an individual and JAMES PETER McILLWAIN, Defendants.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOHN HOUSTON, Magistrate Judge

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 marriage. Id.

  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.

  2. Procedural History

  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

  a. Legal Standard

  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 ...

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