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Reverge Anselmo and Seven Hills Land and Cattle Company, LLC v. Russ Mull

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA


March 15, 2013

REVERGE ANSELMO AND SEVEN HILLS LAND AND CATTLE COMPANY, LLC, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
RUSS MULL, LESLIE MORGAN, A SHASTA COUNTY ASSESSOR-RECORDER,
COUNTY OF SHASTA, BOARD OF SUPERVISORS OF THE COUNTY OF SHASTA, LES BAUGH AND GLEN HAWES, DEFENDANTS. COUNTY OF SHASTA, AND COUNTY OF SHASTA, FOR THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA, CROSS-COMPLAINANT,
v.
REVERGE ANSELMO; SEVEN HILLS LAND AND CATTLE COMPANY LLC; NANCY HALEY; MATTHEW RABE; MATTHEW KELLEY; ANDREW JENSEN; AND ROES 1 THRU 50, CROSS-DEFENDANTS. REVERGE ANSELMO; SEVEN HILLS LAND AND CATTLE COMPANY LLC; COUNTER-CLAIMANTS,
v.
COUNTY OF SHASTA, AND COUNTY OF SHASTA, FOR THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA, COUNTER-DEFENDANTS. COUNTY OF SHASTA, AND COUNTY OF SHASTA, FOR THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA, COUNTER-CLAIMANTS,
v.
REVERGE ANSELMO; SEVEN HILLS LAND AND CATTLE COMPANY LLC; COUNTER-DEFENDANTS.

ORDER

This action was removed from Shasta County Superior Court on May 25, 2012 and included, in plaintiffs' Third Amended Complaint ("TAC"), claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 based on defendants' allegedly wrongful interference with plaintiffs' use of their land. (Notice of Removal, Ex. B (Docket No. 1-2).)*fn1

On November 14, 2012, plaintiffs filed counterclaims against Shasta County seeking declaratory relief regarding the restaurant, winery, and land's compliance with various Shasta County Codes and use permits, Shasta County's failure to provide administrative hearings on permit applications under county and state law, and plaintiffs' compliance with their Williamson Act Contract. (Docket No. 99-1.) In response, Shasta County filed another set of counterclaims against plaintiffs on December 5, 2012, alleging public nuisance and violations of California's Unfair Competition Law ("UCL"), California Business and Professions Code §§ 17200, for new buildings under construction. (Docket No. 102.)

Courts have discretion to consider sua sponte whether to continue exercising supplemental jurisdiction over state law claims. See Acri v. Varian Assocs., Inc., 114 F.3d 999, 1003 n.3 (9th Cir. 1997) (en banc). Section 1367(c)(2) authorizes a district court to decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction when state claims "substantially predominate[] over the claim or claims over which the district court has original jurisdiction."

28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(2).

Where "the state issues substantially predominate, whether in terms of proof, of the scope of the issues raised, or of the comprehensiveness of the remedy sought, the state claims may be dismissed without prejudice and left for resolution to state tribunals." United Mine Workers of Am. v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 726 (1966). "Generally, a district court will find substantial predomination 'where a state claim constitutes the real body of a case, to which the federal claim is only an appendage---only where permitting litigation of all claims in the district court can accurately be described as allowing a federal tail to wag what is in substance a state dog.'" De Asencio v. Tyson Foods, Inc., 342 F.3d 301, 309 (3d Cir. 2003) (quoting Borough of W. Mifflin v. Lancaster, 45 F.3d 780, 789 (3d Cir. 1995)).

"[T]he issue of whether pendent jurisdiction has been properly assumed is one which remains open throughout the litigation." Gibbs, 383 U.S. at 727. "Once it appears that a state claim constitutes the real body of a case . . . the state claim may fairly be dismissed." Id. "'District courts [should] deal with cases involving pendent claims in the manner that best serves the principles of economy, convenience, fairness, and comity which underlie the pendant jurisdiction doctrine.'" City of Chicago v. Int'l College of Surgeons, 522 U.S. 156, 172-73 (1997) (alteration in original) (quoting Carnegie-Mellon Univ. v. Cohill, 484 U.S. 343, 357 (1988)). "A district court has discretion to remand to state court a removed case involving pendent claims upon a proper determination that retaining jurisdiction over the case would be inappropriate." Carnegie-Mellon, 484 U.S. at 357.

Here, the court has jurisdiction over this action under § 1331 based on plaintiffs' § 1983 claims and has been exercising supplement jurisdiction over the state law claims. It has become apparent, however, that the increasing number and complexity of state law claims are substantially predominating this case, calling upon the court to construe various local and state ordinances and procedures related to plaintiffs' property use. The scope of the litigation has expanded considerably from the determination of whether defendants' actions constituted deprivations of the plaintiffs' First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights under § 1983. The parties now seek declaratory judgment*fn2 on a variety of state law matters that are beyond the scope of plaintiffs' original allegations and continue to bring claims based on actions occurring after late 2008---the approximate date of the final factual allegation in the TAC. Plaintiffs' § 1983 claims, now lurking behind the expanding state law issues, are merely the "federal tail [that] wag[s] what is in substance a state dog."*fn3 De Asencio, 342 F.3d at 309; accord W. Coast, Inc. v. Snohomish Cnt'y, 33 F. Supp. 2d 924, 925 (W.D. Wash. 1999).

Remanding the parties' state law claims will serve the principles of economy, convenience, fairness, and comity. The court is spending an increasing amount of its scarce judicial resources on plaintiffs' state law claims, even as those claims have an increasingly tenuous relationship with plaintiffs' § 1983 claims over which the court is vested original jurisdiction. As plaintiffs have persuasively argued, this court is now inundated with purely state and local law issues that state courts routinely and competently handle.

Other than dismissing contribution and indemnity claims related to plaintiffs' § 1983 claim, the court has yet to issue any dispositive orders regarding the parties' state law claims and has denied a preliminary injunction as to those claims. (Docket No. 96.) The court's decision also does not conflict with § 2679(d)(2)'s aim of "'foreclos[ing] needless shuttling of a case from one court to another.'" Osborn v. Haley, 549 U.S. 225, 242 (2007) (quoting Gutierrez de Martinez v. Lamagno, 515 U.S. 417, 433 n.10 (1995)). By retaining jurisdiction over the § 1983 claims that formed the basis for the Westfall Act certification of Army Corps employees for indemnity and contribution, should any further disputes over Westfall Act certification arise, the dispute will be handled in this court.

Accordingly, while the court continues to exercise original jurisdiction over the plaintiffs' § 1983 claims in the TAC, the court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the parties' state law claims. The court, therefore, will remand those claims to Shasta County Superior Court.*fn4

IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that the first and second crossclaims brought by Shasta County in its First Amended Cross-Complaint, (Docket No. 1-1), all counterclaims filed by plaintiffs on November 14, 2012, (Docket No. 99), and all counterclaims filed by Shasta County on December 5, 2012, (Docket No. 102), be, and the same hereby are, REMANDED to the Superior Court of the State of California in and for the County of Shasta.*fn5


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