United States District Court, C.D. California
April 27, 2015
THOMAS ROBERT McNEIL, Petitioner,
THE SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT, Respondent.
ORDER DENYING PETITION FOR A WRIT OF MANDATE AND DISMISSING ACTION WITHOUT PREJUDICE
DAVID O. CARTER, District Judge.
On April 6, 2015, petitioner Thomas Robert McNeil ("petitioner"), a California prisoner who is proceeding pro se, filed a Petition for a Writ of Mandate ("Petition") with exhibits ("Petition Ex."). Petitioner requests that this Court compel the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department to provide him with information he has sought under the California Public Records Act (Cal. Govt. Code §§ 6250-6258). (Petition at 1). Petitioner previously sought, and was denied such relief by the California Court of Appeal and the California Supreme Court. (Petition at 4).
Based on the record and the applicable law, the Petition is denied and this action is dismissed without prejudice because this Court does not have jurisdiction to issue a writ of mandamus to compel the defendant - a non-federal entity - to take the action requested by plaintiff.
The federal mandamus statute provides: "The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of any action in the nature of mandamus to compel an officer or employee of the United States or any agency thereof to perform a duty owed to the plaintiff." 28 U.S.C. § 1361 (emphasis added). Federal courts have no jurisdiction or authority to issue mandamus to direct non-federal entities or officials in the performance of their duties. See Clark v. State of Washington, 366 F.2d 678, 681 (9th Cir. 1966) ("The federal courts are without power to issue writs of mandamus to direct state courts or their judicial officers in the performance of their duties...."); Fox v. City of Pasadena, 78 F.2d 948 (9th Cir. 1935) (federal district court has no jurisdiction to issue writ of mandamus to compel city officers to perform duties under state law and city charter); see also In re Campbell, 264 F.3d 730, 731-32 (7th Cir. 2001) (denying petition for writ of mandamus that would order state trial court to give plaintiff access to certain trial transcripts which he sought in preparation for filing state post-conviction petition; federal court may not, as a general rule, issue mandamus to a state judicial officer to control or interfere with state court litigation); Davis v. Pagan, 1996 WL 281581, *1 (N.D. Cal. 1996) ("Federal mandamus may not be used to compel a non-federal actor... to perform a duty."); Amisub (PSL), Inc. v. State of Colorado Department of Social Services, 879 F.2d 789, 790 n.2 (10th Cir. 1989) (federal mandamus statute's jurisdictional grant does not apply to state officials/agencies), cert. denied, 496 U.S. 935 (1990); Coniston Corp. v. Village of Hoffman Estates, 844 F.2d 461, 469 (7th Cir. 1988) (federal court had no jurisdiction to issue mandamus against state officials for violating their duties under state law); Cave v. Beame, 433 F.Supp. 172, 175 (E.D.N.Y. 1977) (denying mandamus relief against city/city official as mandamus does not lie against non-federal actors). Accordingly, a petition which seeks a writ of mandamus to compel a non-federal actor to take action is frivolous as a matter of law. See Demos v. U.S. District Court, 925 F.2d 1160, 1161-62 (9th Cir.) (as federal court lacks jurisdiction to issue writ of mandamus to state court, petition for writ of mandamus frivolous to extent it seeks to compel state court to take or refrain from some action), cert. denied, 498 U.S. 1123 (1991).
Moreover, mandamus is an extraordinary remedy "appropriate only when the [petitioner's] claim is clear and certain and the duty of the officer is ministerial and so plainly prescribed as to be free from doubt..." Nova Stylings, Inc. v. Ladd, 695 F.2d 1179, 1180 (9th Cir. 1983) (citations omitted); see also Fallini v. Hodel, 783 F.2d 1343, 1345 (9th Cir.1986) (same). Without passing on the merits of the question, the Court observes that it is not "clear and certain" that the California Public Records Act requires defendant to answer the questions posed by plaintiff which largely seek narrative responses as opposed to documents. See Cal. Govt. §§ 6252(a) (defining "public records" to include "any writing containing information"), 6252(g) (defining "writing").
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that the Petition is denied and this action is dismissed without prejudice. Petitioner's other pending requests are moot and are denied as such.