The opinion of the court was delivered by: David O. Carter United States District Judge
ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS' REQUEST FOR THE REMOVAL, DISMISSAL, OR CONSOLIDATION OR RELATED STATE AND FEDERAL CASES
Before the Court is Defendants Brittany and Michael Koper's (Defendants') request for an order from this Court pursuant to the All Writs Act, 28 U.S.C. 1651, either requiring Plaintiff Trinity Christian Center of Santa Ana, Inc. (Trinity) to consolidate all its related state and federal cases before this Court or issuing an injunction ordering the dismissal of duplicative state claims. Koper Req. (Dkt. 21) at 3-5. Specifically, Defendants ask that this Court either remove International Christian Broadcasting Inc. V. Michael Koper et al (referred to as ICB I), Orange County Superior Court, case no. 30-2012-00565340, and Trinity Christian Center of Santa Ana, Inc. v. Koper (referred to as Trinity I), filed in Orange County Superior Court, case no. 30-2012-00566620, or order their dismissal, and order the transfer of International Christian Broadcasting Inc. v. Michael Koper et al. (referred to as ICB II), E.D.N.Y. CV-12-3570-LDW(GRB), to this Court. After consideration, the Court DENIES Defendants' request.
The unwieldy conflagration of litigation currently before various state and federal courts centers on Defendants Brittany and Michael Koper; Brittany Koper is the granddaughter of Paul and Janice Crouch, two of the founders of Christian television network Trinity Broadcasting Network, and she and her husband Michael Koper were employed by Plaintiff Trinity Christian Center of Santa Ana until on or about September 30, 2011. Pl's Brief Re Application of the All Writs Act (Trinity III Dkt. 94) at 16. Trinity alleges that the firing of the Kopers was the result of Trinity's discovery of repeated acts of fraud, embezzlement, and theft, and that their terminations led to the Kopers' theft and dissemination of internal documents in an attempt to create a "media frenzy" that would distract from the Kopers' illegal acts. Id. at 15-19. The Kopers allege, inter alia, that they are being targeted with harassing and vexatious litigation as a result of their decision to become corporate "whistleblowers" who exposed the financial improprieties of various Trinity executives (including the Crouches). Def's Reply to July 25, 2012, OSC (Dkt. 61) at 1-2.
a. Cases Brought by Trinity
Plaintiff Trinity has, by taking various different corporate forms, sued the Kopers six times across 3 jurisdictions: Orange County Superior Court, the Central District of California, and the Eastern District of New York. The suits are as follows:
1.Oct 18, 2011: Redemption Strategies Inc. v. Michael Koper et al., SA CV 12-0041 DOC(RNBx) (RSI).
Plaintiff Redemption Strategies, Inc. (RSI), identified in the RSI complaint as the assignee of the claims of two unnamed corporations, alleged, among other things, fraud and embezzlement and sought the return of over $1.3 million from the Kopers, in addition to injunctive relief. See Not. of Removal (RSI Dkt. 1). Plaintiff Trinity concedes that RSI is a "collection company formed by" Plaintiff Trinity to bring suit as the assignee of Trinity's claims against the Kopers. See Pl's Response to July 25, 2012, OSC (Trinity III Dkt. 38) at 1. Defendants removed the case to this Court on January 10, 2012, but did not answer the complaint. See Not. of Removal. Plaintiff RSI filed a Notice of Dismissal (RSI Dkt. 7) one day after the case was removed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a); no order of dismissal was needed from the Court because no responsive pleading had yet been served. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(a)(1)(A). While at the time no reason for the dismissal was provided, Trinity asserts that the original purpose of the complaint had been to spur the Kopers to disgorge various embezzled funds, and that at the time of dismissal the Kopers had voluntarily returned what Trinity believed to be the bulk of the disputed money. See Pl's Brief Re Application of the All Writs Act (Trinity III Dkt. 94) at 18. Pursuant to Rule 41, the dismissal was without prejudice. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(a)(1)(B). There is no ongoing action in this matter.
2.April 30, 2012: International Christian Broadcasting Inc. v. Michael Koper et al. (ICB I), filed in Orange County Superior Court as case no. 30-2012-00565340.
The complaint in this ongoing state court case alleges, among other things, fraud and embezzlement, based on the same events in dispute in RSI. See ICB I Compl. Plaintiff Trinity concedes that the plaintiff in this case (ICB) was "founded . . . by Dr. Paul Crouch," who is also the founder of Plaintiff Trinity, and in its fillings Plaintiff Trinity refers to itself and the plaintiff in this case as if they are one and the same. See Pl's Response to July 25, 2012, OSC (Trinity III Dkt. 38) at 1 (referring to "TCCAB/ICB"). In addition to the Kopers, Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company (Northwestern Mutual) is also named a Defendant.
The Defendants moved in state court to strike Plaintiff's complaint, arguing that the federal court retained jurisdiction over the matter because RSI had not been remanded. Defendants cited Allstate Ins. Co. v. Superior Court, 132 Cal.App.3d 670 (1982), for the proposition that Trinity should not be allowed to re-file essentially the same RSI complaint in state court without a remand order. The state court denied Defendants' motion, noting first that Defendants had failed to show that RSI was indeed an alter ego for Trinity, since, "[n]owhere in the original or FAC, is International Christian Broadcasting Inc. or Trinity Christian Center of Santa Ana, Inc., mentioned." Minute Order, Case No. 30-2012-00565340-CU-FR-CJC (Gastelum, J.) (Trinity III Dkt. 80-5) at 7. The state court went on to opine that "[e]ven if Redemption Strategies Inc. was 'controlled' by IBC [sic] and Trinity, Defendant has still not established the Federal Court had jurisdiction over them. Furthermore, as argued by Plaintiff, Allstate did not involve a voluntarily dismissed action in Federal Court. To prevent a dismissal, defendants should have filed an answer with their notice of removal." Id. Finally, the state court pointed out that "the Quackenbush Case [cited by the Kopers] does not apply because it did not deal with the filing of a 2nd 'new' case after the federal action is voluntarily dismissed." Id. (citing Quackenbush v. Allstate Ins. Co., 121 F.3d 1372 (9th Cir. 1997)).
3.May 4, 2012: Trinity Christian Center of Santa Ana v. Michael Koper et al., (Trinity I), filed in Orange County Superior Court case no. 30-2012-00566620.
This complaint seeks injunctive relief regarding trade secrets and family confidences. See Trinity I Compl. It arises from the same set of facts as ICB I and was deemed "related" to that case and transferred before the same state court judge. Minute Order, Case No. 30-2012-00565340-CU-FR-CJC (Gastelum, J.) (Trinity III Dkt. 80-5) at 6.
4.June 8, 2012: Trinity Christian Center of Santa Ana v. Michael Koper et al. (Trinity II), ...