United States District Court, N.D. California
For Paul Rein, doing business as Law Offices of Paul R. Rein, Plaintiff: Paul Leslie Rein, Law Offices of Paul L. Rein, Oakland, CA.
For Leon Ainer, Pamela Keith, Defendants: Endy Ukoha-Ajike, The Ukoha-Ajike Law Group, P.C., Oakland, CA.
ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS AND DENYING MOTION FOR SANCTIONS Re: Dkt. Nos. 12, 13
JAMES DONATO, United States District Judge.
This is an action brought by plaintiff Paul Rein, a disability rights lawyer, against defendants Pamela Keith and Leon Ainer. Pamela Keith is the daughter of Mr. Rein's deceased wife, Brenda Keith Rein, from a prior marriage. Mr. Rein has sued Ms. Keith as an individual and in her capacities as trustee of the Brenda Keith Rein Living Trust and as executor of the Estate of Brenda Rein. Mr. Ainer is an attorney who is alleged to have acted on Ms. Keith's behalf. Mr. Rein alleges four causes of action against Ms. Keith and Mr. Ainer, including one federal claim brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Before the Court are (1) defendants' motion to dismiss the federal ADA claim for failure to state a claim and to dismiss the pendant state claims for lack of jurisdiction, and (2) defendants' motion for Rule 11 sanctions and injunctive relief. The Court grants the motion to dismiss and denies the motion for sanctions.
As alleged in the operative complaint, Paul Rein is a 69-year-old lawyer who has focused his practice on " public interest cases representing physically disabled persons in disability rights lawsuits." Dkt. No. 6 ¶ ¶ 6, 11. These cases have included " access lawsuits to enforce the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990." Id. ¶ 11. Mr. Rein operates a law firm, the Law Offices of Paul L. Rein, that has been located at 200 Lakeside Drive in Oakland since 1990. Id. After renting an office there for six years, Mr. Rein purchased it in 1996 " in joint tenancy with his late wife, the late Brenda Rein, " who died from cancer in May 2010. Id.
Pamela Keith is the late Mrs. Rein's 45-year-old daughter from a prior marriage. Id. ¶ 7. Ms. Keith " has been a corporate attorney for approximately 15 years, working for large corporate law firms in Washington D.C., Indianapolis, Chicago and Florida." Id. Mr. Rein alleges on information and belief that Ms. Keith's law practice " has focused on representing large corporations and defending these corporations against civil rights discrimination actions, including actions by disabled persons under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990." Id. ¶ 14 (emphasis in original).
The parties are currently engaged in litigation elsewhere, too -- there is a " probate action now pending in Alameda County Superior Court." Id. ¶ 25. For the action before this Court, the factual gravamen of Mr. Rein's complaint is that defendants allegedly " entered into a plan to defraud Paul Rein of his rights to the joint tenancy properties of his home and office upon Brenda's death, by use of grant deeds, creation of a 'trust' and a 'pour-over will, ' all to be signed by Brenda and making Keith and her brother Vincent the only beneficiaries." Id. ¶ 16. Mr. Rein alleges that pursuant to this plan, defendants " induce[d] Brenda to sign [a] Will and Trust disinheriting Paul, " and that they also recently sought in the probate action " to have the court turn over to Keith half of the value of Paul's law practice (as well as half of his house and half of his law office condominium)." Id. ¶ 30. Importantly, in light of the claims alleged in this action, Mr. Rein alleges that these actions by defendants were taken in order " to retaliate against Paul Rein for representing disabled persons in ADA disability rights discrimination cases against corporations, and to weaken and destroy Paul's law practice." Id.
Based on these allegations, Mr. Rein asserts four causes of action against defendants: (1) violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq.; (2) violation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act, California Civil Code Sections 51 and 52, on the basis of disability; (3) financial elder abuse by encumbering the property rights of a person aged 65 or over; and (4) fraud (" as an alternative depending on factual findings at trial"). Id. at 18-26.
The complaint asserts that federal jurisdiction exists here " pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331" because plaintiff has alleged " violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act." Id. ¶ 3. In other words, his first claim under the ADA is the only basis upon which Mr. Rein invokes the Court's federal question jurisdiction. He contends the Court has " pendant jurisdiction" over his remaining three claims, which are brought under California state law. Id.
In the motion to dismiss, defendants argue that " plaintiff's sole federal cause of action fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted" and is subject to dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Dkt. No. 12 at 3-4. They also argue that " Mr. Rein's pendant state law claims are also not justiciable, and must be dismissed." Id. Defendants have additionally brought a motion for Rule 11 sanctions and injunctive relief which contends, among other things, that plaintiff's complaint " advances a ludicrous legal theory" and was filed " with malice and intent to abuse civil process." Dkt. No. 13. Defendants request on that basis that Mr. Rein be sanctioned and prohibited from filing further " frivolous claims." Id.
I. GOVERNING STANDARD