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Hardesty v. Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District

United States District Court, E.D. California

June 27, 2019

JOSEPH HARDESTY, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
SACRAMENTO METROPOLITAN AIR QUALITY MANAGEMENT DISTRICT, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

         A jury found defendants Sacramento County and three county officials sued in their individual capacities liable for more than $100 million based on multiple constitutional violations. Defendants have appealed the judgment and two related motions, and request that the court stay enforcement of the judgment against them pending the resolution of their appeal. For the following reasons, the court GRANTS defendants' motion to stay in part, but DENIES the County's request that the court waive the supersedeas bond requirement. To effectuate the stay, the County will be required to post a bond of 50 percent of the judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         After a lengthy jury trial, the Hardesty and Schneider plaintiffs obtained a verdict exceeding $100 million against defendant Sacramento County and three county officials sued in their individual capacities. The case revolved around defendants' actions leading to the closure of the Hardestys' sand and gravel mine, which the jury found violated plaintiffs' constitutional rights under the First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments.

         Specifically, the jury found the County, but not the individual defendants, violated plaintiffs' Fourteenth Amendment procedural due process rights, and awarded nominal damages of $1 to each set of plaintiffs on these claims. Jury Verdict, ECF No. 469 at 2-3. The jury found all defendants violated plaintiffs' Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process rights and awarded $75 million to the Hardestys and $30 million to the Schneiders. Id. at 4-5. The jury found the County violated the Schneiders' First Amendment right to petition the government for redress and awarded them $30, 000 on this claim. Id. at 6. The jury also awarded punitive damages in connection with the plaintiffs' substantive due process claims in the following amounts: $25, 000 against defendant Dickinson, $1 million against defendant Gamel, and $750, 000 against defendant Sherry. Id. at 7-8.

         After trial, defendants filed a renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law, ECF No. 537, and a motion for a new trial, ECF No. 538, both of which the court denied, Order, ECF No. 559. Defendants have appealed the judgment, the court's order denying the renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law, and the court's order denying defendant's motion for a new trial.[1] Notices of Appeal, ECF Nos. 565-66. On July 23, 2018, the County filed a motion to stay enforcement of the monetary judgment against it, joined by the other defendants. Motion for Stay (“Motion”), ECF No. 586; see also Joinder, ECF No. 587. The County argues the court should grant a stay of enforcement and waive the supersedeas bond requirement. Mot. at 5. The individual defendants also argue that, in the event the County is required to post a bond, they should not be required to post a separate bond. Joinder at 1.

         Defendants first contend they are entitled to an automatic stay of the judgment without the posting of a supersedeas bond under California Code of Civil Procedure § 995.220(b). Mot. at 5. In the alternative, they argue that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 69(a)(1) applies, which requires the court to follow state law on the subject, in which case California law entitles them to an automatic stay of the judgment without a supersedeas bond. Id. If the court declines to apply either the California law or Rule 69, defendants argue the court should order an unsecured stay or a stay secured by a reduced bond amount reflecting the County's financial ability to pay the judgment. Id. Plaintiffs challenge each of defendants' contentions, arguing that Federal Civil Procedure Rule 62 applies and a bond equaling 125 percent of the judgment should be required under the local rules of this court. See Pls.' Mem. in Opp'n to Mot. for Stay (“Opp'n”), ECF No. 591 at 1-2.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         A. Federal vs. State Law

         Defendants' argument that California law should apply to the instant motion is unavailing. Under California law, a municipality is entitled to a stay of enforcement of a money judgment pending appeal without having to provide a bond or other security. Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 995.220(b) (“[T]he following public entities . . . are not required to give the bond and shall have the same rights, remedies, and benefits as if the bond were given . . . (b) A county . . . .”). However, California Civil Procedure Code section 995.220(b) is a procedural rule, so it does not apply in federal court when a federal rule is on point. Vacation Vill., Inc. v. Clark Cty., Nev., 497 F.3d 902, 913-14 (9th Cir. 2007) (applying Fed.R.Civ.P. 62(d) rather than the state statute governing appeals procedure because supersedeas bond requirement is procedural); see also In re Hassan Imports P'ship, 2013 WL 6384649, at *1 (C.D. Cal. 2013) (“Cal. Code P. § 995.220 is preempted by Fed.R.Civ.P. 62, which sets forth the procedures governing supersedeas bonds in federal court.”) (citation omitted).

         Anticipating this conclusion, defendants argue that, even if federal law applies, Rule 69 controls, which directs the court to follow state law on the subject. Mot. at 8-9. Rule 69(a)(1) provides:

Money Judgment; Applicable Procedure. A money judgment is enforced by a writ of execution, unless the court directs otherwise. The procedure on executions-and in proceedings supplementary to and in aid of judgment or execution-must accord with the procedure of the state where the court is located, but a federal statute governs to the extent it applies.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 69(a)(1). As the Ninth Circuit has explained, Rule 69 “governs procedure on execution of a judgment and, for the most part, directs the district court to look at state rules.” Office Depot Inc. v. Zuccarini, 596 F.3d 696, 700 (9th Cir. 2010). In the case of Leuzinger v. Cty. of Lake, a sister court has explained, “[W]hile Rule 69 provides the process for execution . . . Rule 62 provides the process for post-judgment stays.” 253 F.R.D. 469, 475 (N.D. Cal. 2008) (emphasis in original); Vacation Vill., Inc., 497 F.3d at 914 (applying Rule 62 rather than state law because “[t]he County's monetary obligations on appeal is a situation ‘covered by' Rule 62(d)[2]” (quoting Hanna v. Plumer, 380 U.S. 460, 471-72 (1965)). Because the instant motion requests a post-judgment stay, Rule 62 provides the applicable procedural rules. Leuzinger, 253 F.R.D. at 475.

         B. Rule 62(b)[3]

         Rule 62(b) allows an appellant to stay execution of a judgment pending appeal by posting a supersedeas bond. Fed.R.Civ.P. 62(b); Vacation Vill., Inc., 497 F.3d at 914 (“Rule 62(d) [now Rule 62(b)] is a purely procedural mechanism to preserve the status quo during a stay pending appeal of a district court decision . . . ...


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