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Andrews v. Pride Industries

United States District Court, E.D. California

November 22, 2017

PRIDE INDUSTRIES, et al., Defendants.



         This matter was referred to the undersigned by U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller for an evidentiary hearing to determine facts related to jurisdiction. ECF No. 118. The jurisdictional question is “whether the claims giving rise to this suit occurred on a federal enclave.” See ECF No. 110 at 5.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, Napoleon Andrews, filed this employment discrimination and hostile work environment action against his former employer, PRIDE Industries, Inc. and supervisor, Jean Zurbuchen, in the Superior Court of Sonoma County on April 22, 2014. ECF No. 2. All claims arise from plaintiff's employment with PRIDE, a non-profit corporation that employs disabled individuals, as a grounds maintenance worker at Travis Air Force Base. On September 16, 2014, defendants removed the action to federal court on the basis of federal enclave jurisdiction. ECF No. 2.

         On September 23, 2014, defendants moved to dismiss on grounds that all six of plaintiff's state law claims were barred by the federal enclave doctrine. ECF No. 6. Plaintiff contended in opposition that there was a significant question as to whether Travis Air Force Base is a federal enclave in its entirety, and that if the employment decisions on which plaintiff's claims are based arose outside the area designated as Travis AFB, this court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. ECF No. 12. The court denied defendants' motion to dismiss, without prejudice. ECF No. 18. Judge Mueller accepted that “the land designated officially as Travis Air Force Base qualifies for federal enclave status, ” but found that this did not resolve the jurisdictional question. Id. at 7:14-16. Because it appeared that some tracts of land at or around Travis may be subject to exclusive federal jurisdiction, while others may not be, Judge Mueller denied defendants' motion, ordered discovery limited to the jurisdictional issue, and granted plaintiff leave to amend the complaint. Id. at 10.

         Following discovery and the filing of a Second Amended Complaint (ECF No. 25), defendants moved for summary judgment on April 8, 2016. ECF No. 65. Defendants again asserted, among other things, that plaintiff's state law claims were not viable because of the federal enclave doctrine. Id. The motion was granted in part on other grounds, and denied as to application of the federal enclave doctrine. ECF Nos. 95, 110.[1] On that issue, Judge Mueller found that neither party had presented new evidence despite full discovery, and that defendants' “mere recitation of their previously unsupported argument does not assist the court or make their case.” ECF No. 95 at 12. On reconsideration, Judge Mueller corrected a single factual error in the original order, [2] but reaffirmed her previous finding that defendants had failed to establish the applicability of the federal enclave doctrine:

Defendants have submitted no real evidence establishing one way or another where the events underlying this suit occurred, and accordingly, whether such events occurred on federal enclave land. At hearing, defense counsel conceded that his position was based solely on plaintiff's counsel recordation of the word “Admit” in response to defendants' first two undisputed facts. Given the totality of the record, the court is not prepared to resolve a critical legal question based on this bare appearance of an admission. Accordingly, the record supports the court's prior conclusion that the federal enclave question is unresolved. Defendants' motion in this respect is DENIED.

ECF No. 110 at 5.

         The district judge ordered an evidentiary hearing to “determine whether the claims giving rise to this suit occurred on a federal enclave.” ECF No. 110 at 5. That hearing was subsequently referred to the undersigned, ECF No. 118, and took place on August 22, 2017. ECF No. 128. The parties having filed their post-hearing briefs and proposed or stipulated findings of fact (ECF Nos. 137, 138, 140), the undersigned submits the following report and findings of fact.


         The federal enclave doctrine provides that only federal law applies on a federal enclave. See Paul v. United States, 371 U.S. 245, 263-64 (1963) (interpreting Art. I, § 8, cl. 17 of the U.S. Constitution[3]).[4] Defendants' invocation of this doctrine has twice been rejected by the district judge because it was unclear “where exactly at or around Travis the events underlying this action occurred and whether those locations are areas over which the United States has exclusive jurisdiction.” ECF No. 18 at 8-9 (ordering discovery directed to federal enclave issue). Precision regarding location matters because military installations can be acquired for federal use on a tract-by-tract basis, and both the dates of acquisition and the status of jurisdiction may vary accordingly for different areas within a single base and its environs. See Paul, 371 U.S. at 269- 70. As both the U.S. Supreme Court and the Ninth Circuit have indicated, application of the federal enclave doctrine requires particularized findings as to where the events at issue occurred and whether those specific tracts are areas over which the United States has exclusive jurisdiction. Id. (remanding for such findings in case about application of state price regulations to milk sold at California military installations); Willis v.Craig, 555 F.2d 724, 726 (9th Cir. 1977) (remanding for such findings in negligence case brought by civilian employee of Naval Weapons Station regarding on-the-job injury).

         The evidentiary hearing ordered by Judge Mueller, and subsequently assigned to the undersigned, was intended to make the particularized factual findings required under Paul and Willis. ECF No. 110 at 5. The question of how the federal enclave doctrine applies to plaintiff's claims was not referred to the magistrate judge, and the undersigned has disregarded any legal arguments on that matter. To the extent that the relevance of any evidence proffered at the hearing was disputed by the parties on grounds related to the scope and proper application of the doctrine, the undersigned admitted the evidence subject to the district judge's ultimate determination of relevance.


         The evidentiary hearing was held on August 22, 2017. The transcript of proceedings (“Transcript”) is found at ECF No. 132.

         Plaintiff Napoleon Andrews testified about his employment with PRIDE at Travis AFB, and the physical locations where he performed his duties and where various events related to the case occurred.

         Michael Buchanan was the grounds maintenance supervisor for PRIDE at Travis AFB during the period of plaintiff's employment. He testified about the locations of various buildings, landmarks, and work assignments.

         James Frey testified as an expert witness, pursuant to the stipulation of the parties. Mr. Frey is an attorney who has spent his entire legal career (from 1982 to present) at the California State Lands Commission. The Commission is responsible, among other things, for effectuating and documenting transfers of the state's legislative jurisdiction over specific lands to the United States (cession of jurisdiction) and returns of legislative jurisdiction by the United States to California (retrocession). As former Senior Staff Counsel for the Commission, now serving the Commission as a retired annuitant, Mr. Frey is an expert in determining the jurisdictional status of federal lands within the State of California.

         The following exhibits were admitted into evidence: Plaintiff's Exhibits 1 and 5 through 19; Defendants' Exhibits A (including A-1 and A-2) and F through T. The two sets of exhibits are largely duplicative; citations below are to Defendants' Exhibits unless otherwise specified.

         The enlarged map of Travis Air Force Base and its environs, the accuracy of which is stipulated, was marked both as Plaintiff's Exhibit 1 and Defendants' Exhibit A. Defendants' Exhibits A-1 and A-2 are transparent overlays to the map. All three witnesses referred to the map during their testimony, and Mr. Andrews and Mr. Buchanan marked various locations directly on the map. References below to “the Map, ” or to Defendants' Exhibit A, include A-1 and A-2 as marked by the witnesses. The underlying Map is divided into square Sections by a grid printed in red; the Sections are identified by number. For ease of reference, the court will use these Section numbers in its findings of fact regarding the location of events.[5]


         Background Jurisdictional Facts

         The court fully credits the testimony and expert opinion of James Frey regarding the jurisdictional status of land comprising Travis Air Force Base. Mr. Frey's testimony was based on his personal and comprehensive review of property records, legislative history, and official communications between the United States and California governments regarding cession and retrocession of jurisdiction over lands at Travis. Mr. Frey is fully qualified to evaluate those materials and determine the status of the tracts at issue. Accordingly, based on Mr. Freys's testimony and the supporting exhibits, [6] the court finds as follows:

         1. A cession is a transfer of some or all of a state's legislative jurisdiction to the United States. Cession is effectuated and governed by state law, as state consent is required for the United States to obtain jurisdiction over property it acquires from the states.[7]

         2. There are four categories of federal jurisdiction over property acquired from states:

a. Where a state cedes exclusive jurisdiction to the United States, the state retains only the power to serve criminal and civil process. Transcript at 51:3-7.
b. Where a state cedes partial legislative jurisdiction, the United State has all jurisdiction except that specifically reserved by the state. In California this is the most common form of cession, and California chooses to retain only the state's right to tax (in addition to the authority to serve process). Transcript at 51:21-52:5.
c. Where a state cedes concurrent jurisdiction, it cedes all legislative jurisdiction to the United States and simultaneously reserves back the right to exercise the same jurisdiction. In that case jurisdiction is co-extensive. Transcript at 52:14-18. In California, cession of concurrent jurisdiction is limited by statute to concurrent criminal jurisdiction. Transcript at 53:5-13.
d. Where the United States has proprietorial jurisdiction, it has none of the state's legislative jurisdiction. California retains all of it. In such cases the United States has proprietorial rights to use of the land, but the state has exclusive legislative jurisdiction. Transcript at 51:3-7; 53:17-22.

         3. California statutes enacted in 1852 and 1872 ceded exclusive jurisdiction to the United States over lands it had purchased and used for military purposes pursuant to Article I, § 8, cl. 17 of the Constitution. The state statutory scheme was modified in 1939 to reserve back to California the power to tax. Accordingly, since 1939 the state has ceded at most partial legislative jurisdiction rather than exclusive legislative jurisdiction over such lands to the United States. Transcript at 57:4-9; Defendants' Exhibits J through N.

         4. Travis AFB (“Travis”) was established in 1942 as the Fairfield-Suisun Army Air Field. In 1942 and 1943 the United States acquired approximately 2, 500 acres by purchase or condemnation. Also in 1942 and 1943, California ceded partial legislative jurisdiction over these lands to the United States pursuant to California Government Code § 111, the cession statute in effect at that time. Defendants' Exhibit S (Frey Decl.) at ¶¶ 4, 5.

         5. Pursuant to 40 U.S.C. § 255 (since repealed and recodified as 40 U.S.C. § 3112) a cession is only valid if affirmatively accepted by the United States. Defendants' Exhibits O, P. There is a conclusive presumption that California's cession was not accepted, and therefore is a nullity, unless the United States notified California of its acceptance of cession. 40 U.S.C. § 3112(c). Two 1944 letters from the U.S. Secretary of War accepted California's cession of jurisdiction over lands previously acquired for military purposes, expressly including the Fairfield-Suisun Army Air Field. A third letter, dated May 23, 1945, accepted California's cessions of jurisdiction over all lands previously acquired for military purposes within the state, title to which had already vested in the United States. Defendants' Exhibit S (Frey Decl.) at ¶¶ 6, 7; Defendants' Exhibit T. Accordingly, all lands acquired for what is now Travis AFB from 1942 to May 23, 1945 are subject to partial federal legislative jurisdiction. Legislative jurisdiction over these tracts rests with the United States, with the sole exceptions of state taxation and service of process. Id.

         6. In 1947, California Government Code § 111 was repealed and replaced by § 126, which is still in force. Defendants' Exhibits M, N. There is no record of any United States request for cession of legislative jurisdiction, or acceptance of such cession, regarding any lands at Travis under this statute. Accordingly, any tracts acquired by the United States for military use at Travis after May 23, 1945, are not subject to partial federal legislative jurisdiction. ...

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