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Service Employees International Union, Local 721, et al v. County of Riverside

April 27, 2011

SERVICE EMPLOYEES INTERNATIONAL UNION, LOCAL 721, ET AL., PLAINTIFF,
v.
COUNTY OF RIVERSIDE, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: VIRGINIA A. Phillips United States District Judge

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT; AND DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment ("Plaintiff's Motion") filed by Plaintiff Service Employees International Union, Local 721 ("Plaintiff" or "SEIU") and a Motion for Summary Judgment ("Defendant's Motion") filed by Defendant County of Riverside ("Defendant" or "County"). After considering the papers filed in support of and opposition to the Motions, and the arguments advanced at the April 18, 2011, hearing, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's Motion and GRANTS Defendant's Motion.

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

A. Background

On February 19, 2009, Plaintiff filed its Complaint in the California Superior Court for the County of Riverside, on behalf of itself and its represented members, Mai Moss, Lakeisha Brazile, Tammika Kelly, Glinda Velasquez, and Juan Lucero. (Doc. No. 1 (Not. of Removal) at Ex. A.) Plaintiff's Complaint alleged twelve claims for relief arising from the County's administration of the "County of Riverside 401(a) Retirement Plan for Part Time & Temporary Help Employees" ("the Plan"). (Id.) On March 20, 2009, Defendants County, Ronald Komers, and Don Kent removed the action to this Court.*fn1 (Not. of Removal at 1.) Plaintiff filed its First Amended Complaint on August 28, 2009, removing Defendants Komers and Kent. (Doc. No. 21 (First. Am. Compl.) at 1.)

On November 12, 2010, after the Court granted Plaintiff's motion for leave to amend, Plaintiff filed its Second Amended Complaint ("SAC") on behalf of itself and its represented members, Lakeisha Brazile and Judy Leonard. (Doc. No. 52; see Doc. No. 51 (Nov. 11, 2010, Order granting Pls.' Mot. for leave to file SAC).) Plaintiff's SAC is the operative complaint, and alleges the following three claims for relief arising from the County's administration of the Plan:

1. Declaratory Relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2201(A): Whether Defendant used the proper formula to calculate and pay lump-sum distributions under the Plan.

2. Declaratory Relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2201(A): Whether Defendant used the proper interest rate in determining which plan participants are entitled to normal monthly retirement benefits.

3. Breach of vested contractual pension rights arising from Defendant's failure to use the proper formula to calculate and pay lump-sum distributions under the Plan and Defendant's failure to use the correct proper interest rate to determine whether participants are entitled to normal monthly retirement benefits.

In its prayer for relief, Plaintiff seeks, inter alia:

(1) a declaration "as to the formula for lump sum distributions of Plan participants who do not qualify for normal retirement benefits;" (2) a declaration "as to the correct interest rate that [D]efendant should have used to determine whether participants were eligible for normal retirement benefits;" and (3) "damages in the amount of benefits lost by Plaintiffs and Plan participants due to defendant's violations of the Plan." (SAC at 18:13-19:5.)

Throughout its papers and during the April 18, 2011, hearing on these motions, Plaintiff contended that Ms. Leonard and Ms. Brazile are plaintiffs in their individual capacity and are asserting claims in their own right. (See, e.g., Pl.'s Opp'n at 4-5; Pl.'s Reply at 2-3.) This contention lacks merit, as the SAC does not allege clearly Ms. Leonard or Ms. Brazile are proceeding in their individual capacities.

The caption on the first page of the SAC identifies the Plaintiff as "Service Employees International Union, Local 721, a Labor Organization, on its on [sic] behalf, and on behalf of its represented members, Lakeisha Brazile, and Judy Leonard." (SAC at 1 (emphasis added).) Thus, the caption alone does not indicate that Ms. Brazile or Ms. Leonard are proceeding as individuals; rather, it states that SEIU is proceeding on their behalf.

Moreover, Section II, Paragraph 7 of the SAC avers "Lakeisha Brazile and Judy Leonard are former or current Riverside County Temporary Assignment Program employees, on whose behalf [SEIU] proceeds. . . ." (SAC ¶ 7 (emphasis added).) Again, there is no indication -- even in the section of the SAC defining the parties to the action -- that Ms. Brazile or Ms. Leonard are proceeding as individuals. Rather, paragraph 7 states explicitly that SEIU is proceeding on Ms. Brazile's and Ms. Leonard's behalf. Indeed, neither Paragraph 7 nor any other allegation in the SAC defines Ms. Brazile or Ms. Leonard as "Plaintiffs."

The allegations in the other sections of the SAC do not indicate otherwise, as the SAC's terminology is imprecise and leaves the nature of the parties in this action ambiguous. For example, although SEIU is a named Plaintiff, the SAC describes it periodically as "Petitioner." (See SAC ¶¶ 3, 6.) Additionally, although the SAC in places refers to "Plaintiffs," does not indicate that Ms. Leonard or Ms. Brazile are proceeding as individual Plaintiffs. (See, e.g., SAC ¶¶ 4-5.) Rather, it appears to be an allegation that SEIU is participating as both an individual Plaintiff, and an Associational Plaintiff. This interpretation comports fully with both the caption and Paragraph 7 of the SAC, which define Ms. Brazile and Ms. Leonard as representative members on whose behalf SEIU proceeds. (See SAC ¶ 7.)

In sum, Plaintiff's intimation in its papers, and argument at the April 18, 2011, hearing, that Ms. Brazile and Ms. Leonard are proceeding as individual plaintiffs lacks merit. Accordingly, Ms. Leonard's and Ms. Brazile's claims are only relevant here insofar as the claims confer associational standing on SEIU.*fn2

B. Motions for Summary Judgment

1. Plaintiff's Motion

On March 21, 2011, Plaintiff filed its Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. No. 58.) In support of its Motion, Plaintiff attached the following documents:

* Separate Statement of Uncontroverted Facts and Conclusions of Law ("Plaintiff's SUF");

* Declaration of Jordan D. Mazur ("Mazur Declaration"); and

* Exhibits A through O to the Mazur Declaration.

On March 28, 2011, Defendant filed its Opposition to

Plaintiff's Motion ("Defendant's Motion"). (Doc. No.

60.) In support of its Opposition, Defendant attached the following documents:

* Statement of Genuine Issues ("Defendant's SGI"); and

* Declaration of Eric W. Lapointe ("Lapointe Declaration").

On April 4, 2011, Plaintiff filed its Reply ("Plaintiff's Reply"). (Doc. No. 64.)

2. Defendant's Motion

On March 21, 2011, Defendant filed its Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. No. 59.) In support of its Motion, Defendant attached the following documents:

* Statement of Uncontroverted Facts and Conclusions of Law ("Defendant's SUF");

* Declaration of Shahin Atin ("Atin Declaration");

* Exhibits 1 through 21 to the Atin Declaration;

* Declaration of Edward P. Zappia ("Zappia ...


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