United States District Court, S.D. California
ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT GREGORY BURNETT'S MOTION
FOR RELIEF FROM STAY [DKT. NO. 5568.]
GONZALO P. CURIEL United States District Judge
January 31, 2017, Defendant Gregory Burnett
(“Burnett”) filed a motion for relief from stay
for the limited purpose of allowing him to file a motion to
dismiss the Ramona Band of Cahuilla Indians and Cahuilla Band
of Indians' second amended complaints in intervention.
(Dkt. No. 5568.) Plaintiffs-Intervenors Cahuilla Band of
Indians (“Cahuilla Band”) and Ramona Band of
Cahuilla (“Ramona Band”) (collectively
“Tribes”) filed oppositions. (Dkt. Nos. 5575,
5576.) Burnett filed a reply. (Dkt. No. 5577.) The motions
are submitted on the papers without oral argument pursuant to
Civil Local Rule 7.1(d)(1). Based on the reasoning below, the
Court DENIES Defendant's motion for relief from stay.
January 25, 1951, the United States of America filed a
complaint to “to quiet title to its rights to the use
of waters of the Santa Margarita River systems in San Diego
and Riverside counties, California.” United States
v. Fallbrook Pub. Util. Dist., 347 F.2d 48, 51 (9th Cir.
1965). The Court entered a series of forty-four Interlocutory
Judgments. Id. at 61. Each interlocutory judgment
made findings of fact and conclusions of law regarding the
hydrology and water rights associated with particular
sub-areas within the adjudication. The Court issued a Final
Judgment and Decree on May 8, 1963. (Dkt. No. 4489.) On
appeal, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed in part,
reversed in part and remanded with instructions.
Fallbrook Pub. Util. Dist., 347 F.2d at 61.
November 8, 1962, the Court entered Interlocutory Judgment
No. 41 which addressed the water rights as to the Tribes'
reservations within the Santa Margarita River Watershed.
(Dkt. No. 4430.) At the time, the Court did not quantify the
Tribes' water rights, but reserved jurisdiction “to
make such findings of fact, conclusions of law and judgment
provisions in the future should the need occur.”
(Id. at 24.)
October 6, 2006, the Cahuilla Band of Indians filed a motion
to intervene as Plaintiffs which was granted on January 22,
2007. (Dkt. Nos. 4904, 4919.) On October 18, 2006, the Ramona
Band of Cahuilla Indians filed a motion to intervene as
Plaintiffs which was also granted on January 22, 2007. (Dkt.
No. 4907, 4919.) The Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians
(“Pechanga Band”) has been a plaintiff-intervenor
and a party to this proceeding on its own behalf since 1975.
(Dkt. No. 4790.) Pechanga has not sought to quantify its
water rights but filed a compliant to protect its water
rights. (Dkt. No. 4792.)
January 23, 2007, Cahuilla Band and Ramona Band filed their
complaints in intervention seeking to quantify the
Tribes' water rights. (Dkt. Nos. 4920 at 5; 4921 at 1.)
The Tribes filed first amended complaints in intervention in
July 2007. (Dkt. Nos. 4936, 4937.) Then, the Tribes were
granted leave to file a second amended complaints in
interventions which were filed on September 18, 2009. (Dkt.
Nos. 5181, 5182.)
Band's second amended complaint in intervention seeks,
inter alia, to quantify its “right to
groundwater underlying the Ramona reservation in an amount
sufficient to meet the present and future needs of the Ramona
Band of Cahuilla on the Ramona Reservation.” (Dkt. No.
5181, SAC in Intervention at 5.) It also seeks to enjoin
Defendants from “withdrawing surface and groundwater in
the Anza-Cahuilla Sub-Basin underlying the Ramona Reservation
that are in conflict with the senior federal reserved water
rights of the Ramona Band of Cahuilla and its members as,
declared and decreed by this Court in Interlocutory Judgment
No. 41.” (Id.) Cahuilla Band also seeks to
quantify the “federal reserved rights to the surface
waters and groundwater underlying the Cahuilla Reservation
within the Sub-Basin in an amount sufficient to meet the
present and future needs of the Cahuilla Tribe on the
Cahuilla Reservation, as declared and decreed by this Court
in Interlocutory Judgment 41.” (Dkt. No. 5182 at 9.) It
similarly seeks to enjoin Defendants “from withdrawing
surface waters and groundwater in the Sub-Basin underlying
the Cahuilla Reservation that is in conflict with the senior,
federal reserved water rights of the Cahuilla Tribe and its
members, as declared and decreed by this Court in
Interlocutory Judgment 41.” (Id.)
to the filing of the second amended complaints in
intervention, on June 6, 2008, Plaintiff United States,
Plaintiff-Intervenor Ramona Band, Plaintiff-Intervenor
Cahuilla Band, Plaintiff-Intervenor/Defendant Pechanga Band,
and Defendant Rancho California Water District filed a joint
motion for a temporary stay of the proceedings in order to
negotiate and engage in settlement discussion concerning each
of the Tribes' unquantified water rights without the
“need and cost of protracted litigation.” (Dkt.
No. 5007 at 2-3.) On June 13, 2008, Burnett, specially
appearing since he had not yet been served with the
complaints in intervention, filed an opposition to the stay.
(Dkt. No. 5018.) Part of his argument was that he and
thousands of landowners would be severely prejudiced by the
continued clouding of their land titles due to the
litigation. (Id. at 4.) The moving parties filed a
reply on June 23, 2008 contending that they have demonstrated
sufficient hardship to justify a stay. (Dkt. No. 5036.) A
hearing was held on June 30, 2008 (Dkt. No. 5047), and the
Court granted the joint motion for a temporary stay of
proceedings pending settlement negotiations and in ninety
days, the moving parties were directed to appear before the
Court and provide a status update on the settlement
negotiations including the need for additional time. (Dkt.
No. 5046.) The parties, including Burnett, submitted status
reports, (Dkt. Nos. 5058, 5080, 5245), and at the hearing on
September 29, 2008, the Court granted a further 180 day stay.
(Dtk. No. 5062.) Since that time, the parties continued to
submit status reports, including Burnett, and the Court held
subsequent hearings on the status of the settlement
negotiations. (See e.g., Dkt. No. 5062, 5075, 5095.)
Judge Ruben B. Brooks started holding settlement conferences
beginning in March 2009. (Dkt. No. 5096.) On May 18, 2010, at
the request of Burnett and with the Tribes' support,
Magistrate Judge Brooks was directed to oversee the
settlement process. (Dkt. No. 5250.) The Court granted
subsequent joint motions to stay until the most recent one
filed on January 17, 2017, that expires on July 17, 2017.
(Dkt. Nos. 5562, 5564.)
motion, Burnett asserts he owns over “500 acres of real
property located in the Anza Valley and overlying the Anza
Ground Water Basin.” (Dkt. No. 5568-2, Burnett Decl.
¶ 1.) He is the owner and founder of a residential
development known as Thomas Mountain Ranch overlying the Anza
Ground Water Basin. (Id. ¶ 5 .) H e w a s named
as a defendant in the complaints in intervention filed by the
Ramona Band and the Cahuilla Band. (Id. ¶ 1.)
He states that he has participated in and monitored the
actions in this case since around 2007. (Id. ¶
2.) He personally attended courts hearing, settlement
conferences and filed documents with the Court.
(Id.) Due to being named a defendant in this case,
and the length of time it has been pending and the
uncertainty that has arisen because of the Tribes' claims
to superior water rights, he has been unable to implement a
small water system to support his development and he has been
impeded in his ability to obtain financing to support the
development. (Id. ¶ 5.) He also has spent
countless hours trying to have his voice heard and ensure
that his water rights are preserved which has resulted in
loss of income, emotional distress and loss of goodwill to
Thomas Mountain Ranch due to lack of developmental progress.
seeks a temporary lifting of the stay in order to allow him
to file a motion to dismiss because he claims he has superior
water rights to those of the Tribes that originate “
via the July 27, 1866 Railroad and Telegraph Line Lands
Act”, and therefore he is not a proper party to the
District Court has broad discretion to stay proceedings as an
incident to its power to control its own docket.”
Clinton v. Jones, 520 U.S. 681, 706 (1997) (citing
Landis v. N. Am.Co., 299 U.S. 248, 254 (1936)). In
determining whether to grant a motion to stay, “the
competing interests which will be affected by the granting or
refusal to grant a stay must be weighed.” Lockyer
v. Mirant Corp., 398 F.3d 1098, 1110 (9th Cir. 2005).
These interests include: (1) the possible damage which may
result from the granting of a stay, (2) the hardship or
inequity which a party may suffer in being required to go
forward, and (3) the orderly course of justice measured in