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Hilltop Ranch and Vineyard, LLC v. County of Monterey

United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division

February 23, 2018

COUNTY OF MONTEREY, et al., Defendants.



         On December 15, 2017, Plaintiff Hilltop Ranch and Vineyard, LLC (“Hilltop”) filed a Verified Petition for Writ of Administrative Mandamus and Complaint in the Monterey County Superior Court. See ECF 1 at 7-20. On January 19, 2018, Defendant County of Monterey (hereafter, the “County”) removed the case to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331, federal question jurisdiction, because the Complaint contains a cause of action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, as well as alleged violations of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. See ECF 1.

         On January 26, 2018, this Court issued an Order to Show Cause (“OSC”) Why the Court Should not Sever and Remand the Petition for Writ of Mandate to State Court, and set a briefing schedule. See ECF 9. The Court informed the parties that if it determines that partial remand is appropriate, it would stay the federal claims pending resolution of the writ of mandate proceeding. Id. The County responded, arguing that Hilltop's constitutional claims are so intertwined with its claim for administrative mandamus, that to sever and stay the federal due process claims would result in duplicative litigation and risk obtaining conflicting results. See ECF 14.[1] The County does not explain how there would be potentially duplicative results if the federal claims were stayed while the overlapping issues in relation to the mandamus action proceeded in state court.

         Hilltop responded to the OSC as well, and requested that the Court sever and remand the administrative mandamus action brought pursuant to California Code of Civil Procedure (“CCP”) § 1094.5 because it is an exclusively state procedural remedy involving complex issues of state law. See ECF 18. Moreover, Hilltop pointed out that its claims not only implicate the federal Constitution but also arise under Article I, § 7 of the California Constitution. Id. at 3 (“That Hilltop insists its due process rights were violated under the United States Constitution does not vitiate or obfuscate Hilltop's claims brought pursuant to the California Constitution and CCP § 1094.5.”)

         The parties agree that it is within the discretion of the Court to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the California mandamus action. See ECF 14, 18. CCP § 1094.5 “is a state remedy, not a federal remedy, ” and this Court therefore “has no jurisdiction to hear [a 1094.5] claim.” Clemes v. Del Norte County Unified School District, 843 F.Supp. 583, 596 (N.D.Cal. 1994), overruled on other grounds by Maynard v. City of San Jose, 37 F.3d 1396, 1403 (9th Cir. 1994). The only basis for the Court to exercise jurisdiction over Hilltop's administrative mandamus claim is to exercise supplemental jurisdiction.

         A federal court's exercise of supplemental jurisdiction is governed by 28 U.S.C. § 1367. Section 1367(a) provides that “in any civil action of which the district courts have original jurisdiction, the district courts shall have supplemental jurisdiction over all other claims that are so related to claims in the action within such original jurisdiction that they form part of the same case or controversy under Article III of the United States Constitution.” 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a). Under § 1367(c), however, a district court has the discretion to decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over a state law claim where one or more of the following circumstances exists:

(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. § 1367(c). The Ninth Circuit has held that § 1367 requires that the court exercise supplemental jurisdiction pursuant to § 1367(a) unless such exercise would destroy diversity jurisdiction or one of the specifically enumerated exceptions set forth in § 1367(c) applies. Executive Software N. Am., Inc. v. U.S. Dist. Court for the Cent. Dist. of Cal., 24 F.3d 1545, 1555-56 (9th Cir. 1994). While discretion to decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over state law claims is triggered by the presence of one of the conditions in § 1367(c), that discretion is further informed by “judicial economy, convenience, fairness, and comity”-the Gibbs factors. Acri v. Varian Assocs., Inc., 114 F.3d 999, 1001 (9th Cir. 1997); see United Mine Workers of Am. v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 726 (1966).

         The Court finds that § 1367(c)(1) and (4) apply to the administrative mandamus claim in this case. Hilltop's petition for a writ of mandate pursuant to CCP § 1094.5 involves complex issues of state law. 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(1). CCP § 1094.5 provides a state procedure by which to challenge an administrative decision through a writ of administrative mandamus. See, e.g., Environmental Prot. Info. Ctr. v. California Dept. of Forestry & Fire Prot., 44 Cal.4th 459, 516, 80 Cal.Rptr.3d 28, 187 P.3d 888 (2008) (“Administrative agency decisions in which discretion is exercised may generally be challenged by a writ of administrative mandamus pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 1094.5.”). This is exclusively a state procedural remedy, and involves complex issues of state law. See, e.g., Tomlinson v. County of Monterey, 2007 WL 2298038, at *2 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 7, 2007) (declining to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over a mandamus claim, noting that “grounds to decline jurisdiction over plaintiff's mandamus action exist under 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(1), ” and “[s]imply because other courts have elected to decide state mandamus claims ... does not persuade this court that it should do the same”); City Limits of N. Nev., Inc. v. County of Sacramento, 2006 WL 2868950, at *3, (E.D. Cal. Oct.5, 2006) (declining to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over a mandamus claim pursuant to § 1367(c)(1) because the “state claim involves mandamus proceedings that are uniquely in the interest and domain of state courts.”)

         Accordingly, even if Hilltop is ultimately able to plead a federal civil rights claim in this Court, the Court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Hilltop's state law mandamus claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(1).

         The Court further finds that issues of “judicial economy, convenience, fairness, and comity” weigh in favor of remanding the administrative mandamus action to state court. “A California citizen is suing a California governmental entity under California law.” Mory v. City of Chula Vista, 2011 WL 777914 at *2 (S.D. Cal. March 1, 2011). As such, California has an overwhelming interest in adjudicating the administrative mandamus action in its state courts. Id. Even if this Court may exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the California mandamus action while the federal claims are pending, doing so “raises serious considerations regarding comity and federalism.” Clemes, 843 F.Supp. at 596. Federal district courts routinely decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over California writ of mandate claims for reasons of judicial economy, convenience, fairness, and comity. See ...

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