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Martinez v. San Diego County

United States District Court, E.D. California

April 3, 2017

MARIA EVA MARTINEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
SAN DIEGO COUNTY; and DOES 1-100, Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT SAN DIEGO COUNTY'S MOTION TO DISMISS AND MOTION TO TRANSFER (DOC. NOS. 30 AND 33)

         Plaintiff Maria Eva Martinez filed this action on August 3, 2016 alleging: (1) violations of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments against defendant Tulare County; (2) interference with a constitutionally protected right in violation of California Civil Code § 52.1 against defendant Tulare County; (3) false arrest and imprisonment against defendants Tulare County and San Diego County; (4) negligence against defendants Tulare County and San Diego County; and (5) negligent infliction of emotional distress against defendants Tulare County and San Diego County. (Doc. No. 1.) Pursuant to plaintiff's acceptance of an offer of judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (“Rule”) 68(a), the court entered judgment in favor of plaintiff Maria Eva Martinez and against defendant Tulare County on January 18, 2017. (Doc. Nos. 24 and 25.) After the court corrected a clerical error in that order, only plaintiff's state law claims against defendant San Diego County remained pending. (Doc. No. 27.)

         On January 3, 2017, defendant San Diego County moved to dismiss this action, without prejudice, for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. (Doc. No. 30.) In the alternative, defendant San Diego County moved to transfer the action to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). (Id.) Plaintiff filed an opposition on February 22, 2017 (Doc. No. 38) and defendant San Diego County filed a reply on February 28, 2017 (Doc. No. 40). The motion came before the court for hearing on March 7, 2017. (Doc. No. 42.) Attorney Caitlin Blythe appeared telephonically on behalf of plaintiff. Senior Deputy County Counsel Robert Ortiz appeared telephonically on behalf of defendant San Diego County. The motion was taken under submission. (Id.)

         For the reasons set forth below, defendant San Diego County's motion to dismiss or to transfer will be denied.

         I.Subject Matter Jurisdiction

         All federal claims alleged in this action have been resolved and only plaintiff's state law claims against defendant San Diego County remain pending. Where such is the case, the statute governing supplemental jurisdiction provides that:

The district courts may decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over a claim under subsection (a) if-
(1) the claim raises a novel or complex issue of State law,
(2) the claim substantially predominates over the claim or claims over which the district court has original jurisdiction,
(3) the district court has dismissed all claims over which it has original jurisdiction, or
(4) in exceptional circumstances, there are other compelling reasons for declining jurisdiction.

28 U.S.C.A. § 1367. The court's discretion to decline to exercise jurisdiction over state law claims conferred under § 1367(c) is informed by the values of judicial economy, fairness, convenience, and comity. Acri v. Varian Associates, Inc., 114 F.3d 999, 1001 (9th Cir. 1997) (en banc). In addition, “[t]he Supreme Court has stated, and [the Ninth Circuit] ha[s] often repeated, that ‘in the usual case in which all federal-law claims are eliminated before trial, the balance of factors . . . will point toward declining to exercise jurisdiction over the remaining state-law claims.'”[1] Acri, 114 F.3d at 1001 (quoting Carnegie-Mellon Univ. v. Cohill, 484 U.S. 343, 350 n.7 (1988)); see also Satey v. JP Morgan Chase & Co., 521 F.3d 1087, 1091 (9th Cir. 2008) (recognizing this principle but noting that dismissal of the remaining state law claims is not mandatory).

         Plaintiff argues that § 1367(c)(3) is not applicable here because the court did not dismiss plaintiff's federal claims, but rather entered judgment in favor of plaintiff with respect to those claims, and, accordingly, the court does not have discretion to decline to exercise jurisdiction over the remaining state law claims.[2] (Doc. No. 37 at 10-11.) Plaintiff, however, has not cited any authority for this proposition. However, the court finds the decision in Trustees of Constr. Indus. & Laborers Health & Welfare Trust v. Desert Valley Landscape & Maint., Inc., 333 F.3d 923, 926 (9th Cir. 2003) to be instructive.[3] In that case, the Ninth Circuit found that since the plaintiff's federal claims had not been dismissed, but rather default judgment had been granted at to those claims, the exercise of discretion to decline supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state law claims was not authorized by § 1367(c)(3). Id. The court noted that “our cases upholding the exercise of discretion under § 1367(c)(3) have all involved dismissals for failure to state a claim or a grant of summary judgment to the defendant on the federal claim.” Id. The court reasoned that “[i]n each case, we held that it was appropriate for the district court to decline jurisdiction over the supplemental claims because the federal claim had proven to be unfounded.” Id. The Ninth Circuit found this to be important in light of the fact that § 1367(c)(3) derives from United Mine Workers of Am. V. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715 (1966), which recognized that a complaint making an “unfounded claim of federal right” might nonetheless provide a federal court the opportunity to determine an issue of state law. Trustees of Constr. Indus., 333 F.3d at 926 (quoting Strachman v. Palmer, 177 F.2d 427, 433 (1st Cir. 1949) (Magruder, C.J., concurring)).

         In support of its motion to dismiss, defendant San Diego County relies upon the decision in Sprigmeyer v. Manjiv, No. 2:09-cv-00924-GEB-DAD, 2010 WL 2740178, at *2 (E.D. Cal. July 9, 2010). There the court applied § 1367(c)(3) after a state law cross-claim remained after judgment was entered with respect to plaintiff's federal claims pursuant to the plaintiff's acceptance of a Rule 68 offer. The court in Sprigmeyer, however, did not address the decision in Trustees of Constr. Indus. or its underlying rationale and it appears the parties did not raise that precedent with the court. Indeed, the reasoning of Trustees of Constr. Indus. is just as applicable to the circumstance where a judgment entered against federal claims pursuant to a Rule 68(a) offer of judgment as it does to an instance in which a default judgment is entered as to the federal claims. In neither case have the resolved federal claims been proven to be unfounded.[4] The court therefore finds that § 1367(c)(3) does not apply here and cannot provide a basis for the court to decline jurisdiction over plaintiff's remaining state law claims in this action.

         In any event, even if this court had authority to exercise discretion in this regard, it would not further the objectives of judicial economy, fairness, and convenience to dismiss this federal action. See Wright v. Thrifty Payless, Inc., No. 2:12-cv-01681-KJM-EFB, 2015 WL 128130, at *2-3 (E.D. Cal. Jan. 7, 2015) (continuing to exercise supplemental jurisdiction after the federal claim had been dismissed where the court had already ruled on a motion to dismiss, the discovery deadline set by the court in its scheduling order had expired, the close of expert discovery deadline was imminent, and the claim originally supporting federal question jurisdiction was not frivolous ab initio). Here, this action was filed on August 3, 2016 and the court has since denied a motion to dismiss brought by defendant San Diego County. (Doc. Nos. 1 and 17.) Moreover, discovery is well under way. (See Doc. No. 37-1 at 2-4.) Before the present motion was filed, non-expert discovery was to be completed in this case by February 24, 2017 (Doc. No. 21 at 3).[5]Finally, while there is benefit to having a California court decide the state law claims, the claims that supported federal question jurisdiction were neither “inescapably” frivolous ...


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