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Howery v. International Association of MacHinists and Aerospace Workers

United States District Court, N.D. California

November 21, 2014

CRYSTAL HOWERY, Plaintiff,
v.
INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF MACHINISTS AND AEROSPACE WORKERS, DISTRICT LODGE 751, Defendant.

ORDER RE MOTION TO DISMISS FOR LACK OF PERSONAL JURISDICTION AND IMPROPER VENUE AND ORDER TO TRANSFER TO ANOTHER DISTRICT

WILLIAM ALSUP, District Judge.

STATEMENT

Pro se plaintiff Crystal Howery alleges that defendant International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, District Lodge 751 discriminated against her as a union member under Title VII and refused to "grieve, arbitrate, intervene, or fairly represent" her in discrimination claims arising out of her employment with The Boeing Company in Washington state. District Lodge 751 filed a motion to dismiss the complaint under FRCP 12(b)(2) and (3), alleging lack of personal jurisdiction and improper venue. Ms. Howery then failed to respond to the motion by the deadline. Nonetheless, an order extended her deadline to respond and she did.

The hearing was originally set for October 30, 2014. On October 20, however, the Clerk rescheduled the hearing so that it would take place one day earlier ( i.e., at 8:00 AM on October 29). Notice of that rescheduling was mailed that day to Ms. Howery. She did not appear for the hearing, however, even though this matter was called at the beginning of the October 29 calendar, and then again at the end of that calendar. As a result, the undersigned judge proceeded with the hearing only with defense counsel present.

Ms. Howery called and left a voice message with the Clerk later that afternoon, saying that she had been on a two-week, out-of-state trip, and only recently returned to read her mail (which included the notice rescheduling the hearing). An October 30 order acknowledged this unfortunate circumstance and requested that both parties provide supplemental briefing regarding the application of venue statutes 29 U.S.C. 185(c) and 28 U.S.C. 1391(b) by November 14, 2014, the main issue discussed at the hearing. This order now follows.

ANALYSIS

District Lodge 751 moves to dismiss based on lack of personal jurisdiction and improper venue.

1. PERSONAL JURISDICTION.

Personal jurisdiction may be either general or specific to the allegations in the complaint, and when a defendant moves to dismiss a complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction, the plaintiff bears the burden of demonstrating that jurisdiction is appropriate. Schwarzenneger v. Fred Martin Motor Co., 374 F.3d 797, 800 (9th Cir. 2004) (citation omitted).

Under general jurisdiction, a non-resident defendant whose contacts with a state are "substantial" or "continuous and systematic" may be haled into court in that state in any action, even if the action is unrelated to those contacts. Bancroft & Masters, Inc. v. Augusta Nat. Inc., 223 F.3d 1082, 1086 (9th Cir. 2000). All of a defendant's activities are to be considered in assessing contacts with the forum, including "whether the defendant makes sales, solicits or engages in business, serves the state's markets, designates an agent for service of process, holds a license, has employees, or is incorporated there." Ibid.

While it is undisputed that District Lodge 751 maintains its principal office in Seattle, Ms. Howery avers in her signed declaration that District Lodge 751 represents workers in California and maintains assets with Wells Fargo Bank headquartered in California. District Lodge 751 concedes that it represents approximately 20 machinists in Southern California (Reply 2). Ms. Howery also appended to her declaration a copy of the District Lodge 751 website, which states that District Lodge 751 "represents the 45, 000 active, retired and laid-off workers at the Boeing Company in Puget Sound and California."

Ms. Howery has presented facts showing that District Lodge 751 maintains substantial or continuous and systematic contacts with California. District Lodge 751's admitted representation of employees in California approximates a physical presence in the state. Additionally, its website states that District Lodge 751 represents California employees, an indication that District Lodge 751 solicits and engages in California business. Taking Ms. Howery's allegations as true for now (subject to proof at trial), this showing is sufficient at this stage to justify the exercise of general personal jurisdiction over District Lodge 751.

2. VENUE.

District Lodge 751 next alleges that venue is improper in this district under three separate venue statutes: (1) the general venue statute, 28 U.S.C. 1391(b); (2) the Title VII venue statute, 42 U.S.C. 2000e-5(f)(3); and (3) the Labor Management Relations Act venue ...


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