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Safari Club International v. Harris

United States District Court, E.D. California

April 29, 2015

SAFARI CLUB INTERNATIONAL, Plaintiff,
v.
KAMALA D. HARRIS, in her official capacity as the Attorney General of California, and CHARLTON H. BONHAM, in his official capacity as the Director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS PLAINTIFF'S COMPLAINT

GARLAND E. BURRELL, Jr., Senior District Judge.

Defendants seek dismissal of Plaintiff's Complaint with prejudice, arguing Plaintiff's "Complaint is comprised of little more than boilerplate legal conclusions that fail to satisfy the pleading burden under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)." (Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss ("Mot.") 2:11-12, ECF No. 15.) Plaintiff alleges in its Complaint that California Fish & Game Code § 4800 ("the Import Ban") violates the federal Equal Protection Clause and dormant Commerce Clause, and asserts it "adversely and significantly harms interstate commerce and serves no legitimate state or local interest." (Compl. ¶ 1, ECF No. 2.) Plaintiff also seeks an injunction enjoining state officials from enforcing the Import Ban.

Defendants argue "plaintiff neither identifies the nature of the burden'" on interstate commerce, "nor suggests how it outweighs the putative benefits of the [Import Ban]." (Mot. 11:9-10.) The Human Society of the United States ("HSUS") filed an amicus curiae brief in support of the dismissal motion in which it argues, inter alia, that the Import Ban is rationally related to the government's interest in preventing cruelty to mountain lions.

The Import Ban was approved by California voters in 1990 as Proposition 117. It states in relevant part: "it is unlawful to take, injure, possess, import, or sell any mountain lion or any part or product thereof." Fish and Game Code § 4800(b)(emphasis added). Plaintiff challenges the ban's prohibition of "the importation, transportation, and possession in California of mountain lions hunted outside of California." (Compl. ¶ 1.)

I. FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS

Plaintiff alleges in its Complaint that the Import Ban discriminates against "hunters who wish to legally hunt mountain lions" outside of California as compared to "[h]unters of other species... [who] are not subject to the complete ban on the importation, transportation, and possession of their harvested animals in California." (Compl. ¶ 51.) Plaintiff also allege its members "desire to... participate in mountain lion hunts outside of California with the intent of importing any harvested mountain lion into California, " and that "[b]ut for the Import Ban" they could do so. (Compl. ¶¶ 5, 2.) Plaintiff further alleges that once a mountain lion is "reduced to possession by [a] hunter... [it] becomes an article of interstate commerce, " and that the Import Ban prevents the movement of harvested mountain lions into California where they would generate income through, inter alia, taxidermy, demonstrating that "[t]he adverse impacts on interstate commerce [from the Import Ban] outweigh any local interests... Defendants might claim [are] advanced by the Import Ban." (Compl. ¶¶ 7, 44, 47.)

II. LEGAL STANDARD

"To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Caviness v. Horizon Cmty. Learning Ctr., Inc., 590 F.3d 806, 812 (9th Cir. 2010) (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009)). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 1949 (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007)). "For purposes of a motion to dismiss, we accept all well-pleaded allegations of material fact as true and construe them in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Sateriale v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., 697 F.3d 777, 783 (9th Cir. 2012). However, the court does "not accept legal conclusions in the complaint as true, even if cast in the form of factual allegations." Lacano Inv., LLC v. Balash, 765 F.3d 1068, 1071 (9th Cir. 2011) (internal quotation marks omitted).

III. CONSIDERATION OF DOCUMENTS BEYOND THE PLEADINGS

Defendants support their motion with a request that judicial notice be taken of Exhibit A attached to the Gordon Declaration, which is the text of the California Ballot Pamphlet for Proposition 117. (ECF No. 15-2). As a general rule, a district court "may not consider any material beyond the pleadings in ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion.'" United States v. Corinthian Colls., 655 F.3d 984, 998 (9th Cir. 2011) (quoting Lee v. City of L.A., 250 F.3d 668, 688 (9th Cir. 2001)). However, "[a] court may, ... consider certain materials [including] documents attached to the complaint, documents incorporated by reference in the complaint, or matters of judicial notice-without converting the motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment." U.S. v. Ritchie, 342 F.3d 903, 908 (9th Cir. 2003). Judicial notice is taken of the California Ballot Pamphlet for Proposition 117 since this information about the Import Ban was publicly available to voters and includes the argument that "mountain lion hunting is cruel and unnecessary." (Def. RJN Ex. A, p. 42, ECF No. 15-2.)

Plaintiff seeks judicial notice of Exhibits A, B, D, and E attached to the Burdin Declaration; the exhibits are printouts of the website for the following entities: the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (Exs. A and B), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (Ex. D), and the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics (Ex. E). (ECF No. 28.) Exhibit A attached to the Burdin Declaration is considered since it is incorporated by reference into the Complaint. (See Compl. ¶ 32.) However, it has not been shown that the contents of the remaining portion of the request concerns the decision below; therefore this portion of Plaintiff's request is denied. Santa Monica Food Not Bombs v. City of Santa Monica, 450 F.3d 1022, 1025 n.2 (9th Cir. 2006) ("We decline to take judicial notice of the [requested materials], as they are not relevant to the resolution of this appeal.").

IV. DISCUSSION

A. Equal Protection Clause

Defendants argue Plaintiff's Equal Protection Clause claim should be dismissed since Plaintiff has not, and cannot, plausibly allege that the Import Ban bears no rational relationship to the government's interests in enacting it. HSUS argues the ban ...


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