United States District Court, E.D. California
Madison Gunter-Ritter and Nathan Vazquez have filed an
application for a temporary restraining order to enjoin
unlawful detainer proceedings in Sacramento County Superior
Court case number 18UD01057. TRO, ECF No. 1 at 1, 11. For the
following reasons, the court DENIES the motion.
has been a tenant at defendant Robarts Properties, LP's
Emerald Vista Apartments, located at 8661 Elk Grove, Elk
Grove, California 95624 since February 3, 2017. TRO, ECF No.
1 at 2-3. She alleges she has suffered emotional distress
from her tenancy and has “become unemployed due to
emotional distress and mental disabilities.”
Id. at 2. Vazquez is a veteran with multiple
disabilities, and he “temporarily lives separately from
[Gunter-Ritter] and their Children while he is in a treatment
program for disabled combat veterans.” Id. at
3. Gunter-Ritter has made multiple complaints to defendant
throughout her tenancy, including complaints about a
neighbor's abusive behavior, false reports to police,
trespass, unlawful entry, biohazards on the property,
discrimination and unlawful lease clauses. Id.
Defendant did not respond to several of Gunter-Ritter's
complaints, and sometimes responded by making allegedly
unlawful entries to her home, threatening to call the police
on Vazquez, threatening her with eviction and making false
accusations against her. Id. at 4. Although Vazquez
was injured by a neighbor, he has never been violent on the
property. Id. Gunter-Ritter called the police in
April 2017 for assistance when Vazquez experienced a mental
health crisis. Id. Charges arising from a
“misunderstanding” when police arrived were later
dropped and will be expunged when Vazquez graduates from
Veterans Treatment Court this year. Id. Defendant
served Vazquez with a trespass notice after his mental health
crisis, though he was Gunter-Ritter's authorized guest.
Id. at 5; see Id. at 46. Defendant also
threatened to have Vazquez arrested multiple times and then
offered to allow Gunter-Ritter to break her lease without
penalty. Id. at 5; see Id. at 49. Defendant
served Gunter-Ritter with a termination notice on an
unspecified date. Id. at 5.
March 5, 2018, Gunter-Ritter filed a motion to quash service
of summons in defendant's state court unlawful detainer
proceeding against her. Id. at 5-6; see Id.
at 30-35. The motion was granted after a March 15 hearing.
Id. at 6. Defendant re-served Gunter-Ritter with the
same termination notice, summons and complaint. Id.
She again moved to quash. Id.; see Id. at
36-38. At the hearing, “[t]he new judicial officer was
very hostile towards [Gunter-Ritter].” Id. He
denied her motion. Id. at 7. He gave her until the
end of the day to file an answer, and after unsuccessfully
seeking assistance, she “was forced to hastily draft an
answer in less than 15 minutes without leave to amend.”
Id. Gunter-Ritter attended an April 19th settlement
conference where defendant's attorney claimed to be the
mediator. Id.; see Id. at 38. Although she
complained to the commissioner and the court's advisory
clinic, she was told “‘That's allowed in
Sacramento' or something very similar.”
Id. at 7.
then began “researching how to request a federal
restraining order” to remedy “these numerous
violations of her civil rights.” Id. at 7-8.
After she discussed this with defendant, defendant agreed to
continue the trial date and reenter negotiations.
Id. at 8. The settlement discussions were
unproductive and defendant refused to respond to her
discovery requests. Id. Gunter-Ritter then advised
defendant she would pursue a temporary restraining order in
federal court. Id. Plaintiffs filed their TRO
request on March 24, 2018. TRO, ECF No. 1.
purpose of a TRO is to preserve the status quo pending the
complete briefing and thorough consideration contemplated by
full preliminary injunction proceedings. See Granny Goose
Foods, Inc. v. Teamsters, 415 U.S. 423, 438-39 (1974)
(TROs “should be restricted to serving their underlying
purpose of preserving the status quo and preventing
irreparable harm just so long as is necessary to hold a
hearing, and no longer”). In general, the showing
required for a TRO and a preliminary injunction are the same.
Stuhlbarg Int'l Sales Co., Inc. v. John D. Brush
& Co., Inc., 240 F.3d 832, 839 n.7 (9th Cir. 2001).
The party requesting preliminary injunctive relief must show
that “he is likely to succeed on the merits, that he is
likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of
preliminary relief, that the balance of equities tips in his
favor, and that an injunction is in the public
interest.” Winter v. Natural Res. Defense
Council, 555 U.S. 7, 20 (2008); Stormans, Inc. v.
Selecky, 586 F.3d 1109, 1127 (9th Cir. 2009) (quoting
Winter). A TRO is an extraordinary remedy, and
plaintiffs have the burden of proving the propriety of such a
remedy. See Mazurek v. Armstrong, 520 U.S. 968, 972
(1997) (citation omitted).
the Anti-Injunction Act, “[a] court of the United
States may not grant an injunction to stay proceedings in a
State court except  as expressly authorized by Act of
Congress, or  where necessary in aid of its jurisdiction,
or  to protect or effectuate its judgments.” 28
U.S.C. § 2283. The Anti-Injunction Act “is an
absolute prohibition against enjoining state court
proceedings, unless the injunction falls within one of three
specifically defined exceptions.” Negrete v.
Allianz Life Ins. Co. of N. Am., 523 F.3d 1091, 1100
(9th Cir. 2008) (quoting Atl. Coast Line R.R. Co. v. Bhd.
of Locomotive Eng'rs, 398 U.S. 281, 286 (1970)).
Courts construe the three exceptions narrowly. See
Montana v. BNSF Ry. Co., 623 F.3d 1312, 1315 (9th Cir.
2010) (“Any doubts as to the propriety of a federal
injunction against state court proceedings should be resolved
in favor of permitting the state court action to
proceed.”) (quoting Blalock Eddy Ranch v. MCI
Telecommunications Corp., 982 F.2d 371, 375 (9th Cir.
1992)). Even when the Anti-Injunction Act does not prohibit
an injunction, “[t]he decision to issue an injunction
that does not violate the Anit-Injunction Act . . . is
committed to the discretion of the district court.”
Blalock, 982 F.2d at 375.
have not demonstrated that the first exception for an
injunction authorized by an Act of Congress applies.
See 28 U.S.C. § 2283. As relevant here,
plaintiffs allege defendant violated 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Fair
Housing Act (FHA). TRO at 8-10. Civil rights actions under 42
U.S.C. § 1983 generally fall within the first exception
to the Anti-Injunction Act because “[t]he very purpose
of § 1983 was to interpose the federal courts between
the States and the people, . . . to protect the people from
unconstitutional action under color of state law.”
Goldie's Bookstore, Inc. v. Super. Court of State of
Cal., 739 F.2d 466, 468 (9th Cir. 1984) (citation and
internal quotation marks omitted). Plaintiffs allege
defendant violated 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by (1) having police
serve Vazquez with a trespass notice and attempting to have
him arrested; (2) depriving Gunter-Ritter “of her right
to quash summons that was precluded from relitigation through
res judicata”; (3) denying Gunter-Ritter of her right
to file an answer to defendant's complaint within five
days of the court's denial of her motion to quash; and
(4) presenting defendant's lawyer as a neutral mediator.
TRO at 9. Plaintiffs have not explained how they will prevail
on their § 1983 claim against defendant, a private
party, as § 1983 requires that “the conduct
allegedly causing the deprivation of a federal right be
fairly attributable to the State.” Lugar v.
Edmondson Oil Co., 457 U.S. 922, 937 (1982). Police
officers' mere performance of their “peace-keeping
purposes” at a defendant's request does not,
standing alone, constitute state action. See Johnson v.
Napa Valley Wine Train, Inc., No. 15-CV-04515-TEH, 2016
WL 493229, at *11 (N.D. Cal. Feb. 9, 2016) (citations
omitted). And “merely resorting to the courts . . .
does not make a party a co-conspirator or a joint actor with
the judge.” Dennis v. Sparks, 449 U.S. 24, 28
(1980). Moreover, even if equitable relief under ADA and AHA
falls within the first exception to the Anti-Injunction Act,
plaintiffs make only bare, conclusory assertions in support
of their ADA and FHA claims and thus have not demonstrated
their likelihood of success on those claims. See TRO
at 9 (alleging defendant violated the ADA and FHA by refusing
to reasonably accommodate plaintiffs' disabilities,
inflicting emotional distress on plaintiffs and exacerbating
their disabilities, and discriminating against and abusing
Vazquez for his disabilities). In short, even if the first
exception to the Anti-Injunction Act applies, plaintiffs have
not demonstrated that they are likely to prevail on their
claims and thus have not shown they are entitled to the
extraordinary remedy of a temporary restraining order.
See Mazurek, 520 U.S. at 972.
remaining two exceptions to the Anti-Injunction Act are
inapplicable here. While a federal court may enjoin a state
proceeding “to protect or effectuate the court's
judgment, ” 28 U.S.C. § 2283, there is no such
judgment to protect in this matter, see Le v. 1st Nat.
Lending Servs., No. 13-CV-01344-LHK, 2013 WL 2555556, at
*2 (N.D. Cal. June 7, 2013). Further, the exception
permitting an injunction when “necessary in aid of a
court's jurisdiction” generally applies only
“to in rem proceedings where subsequent state court
proceedings might interfere with previously filed federal
court jurisdiction over a res, in cases of advanced
federal in personam litigation, or where a case is
removed from state court.” Le, 2013 WL
2555556, at *2 (citing Negrete, 523 F.3d at 1101).
Accordingly, courts have repeatedly determined the exception
is inapplicable where a party seeks to enjoin an ongoing
unlawful detainer action. Id. (collecting cases).
object of this action is clear: plaintiffs seek to
temporarily restrain the state court unlawful detainer action
from proceeding. To that end, plaintiffs indicate that
“[i]f granted relief, [Gunter-Ritter] will resume
paying rent . . . . [Vazquez] will be able to spend time with
his family and take comfort in knowing they are not homeless
while he is working on recovery from war injuries, ”
and both plaintiffs “will stop being stressed by the
harms from Defendant and the stress of litigation.” TRO
at 11. Interfering with a state court proceeding is an
extraordinary remedy that this court applies only when
necessary. Plaintiffs have not demonstrated such action is
warranted here. Accordingly, plaintiffs' request for a
temporary restraining order is DENIED without prejudice to