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Bator v. Dixon

United States District Court, E.D. California

September 4, 2019

ANTHONY BATOR, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
KAREN DIXON, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER AND FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

          EDMUND F. BRENNAN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This case is before the court on defendant Karen Dixon's motion to dismiss plaintiffs Anthony Bator and Irene Bator's complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (“Rule”) 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) (ECF No. 7), and the court's April 23, 2019 order directing plaintiffs' to show cause why sanctions should not be imposed for failure to timely file a response to defendant Dixon's motion (ECF No. 14).[1] Plaintiffs have also filed a first amended complaint, which the court construes as a motion for leave to amend the complaint. ECF No. 15. For the following reasons, the order to show cause is discharged and it is recommended that defendant Dixon's motion to dismiss be granted and plaintiffs' motion be denied.[2]

         I. Background

         Plaintiffs bring this action against defendants Karen Dixon, a state court judge, and Siskiyou County Sheriff Jon Lopez. Their complaint, which is styled as a “Complaint Title 42 Section 1983 Emergency Ex Parte Motion for Injunction to Stay Sale of Mine Scheduled for January 9, 2019, ”[3] concerns a state court action over which defendant Judge Karen Dixon presided. ECF No. 1. Plaintiffs claim that in the state court action Judge Dixon improperly dismissed their cross-complaint and entered judgment against them in the amount of $13 million. Id. at 49, 73. Judge Dixon also allegedly ordered the judgment be satisfied, at least in part, by the sale of a mine and mining equipment owned by plaintiff Anthony Bator and the North American Conservation Trust. Id. Plaintiffs allege that Judge Dixon “ruled in violation of the law and the rights of Anthony J. Bator and North American Conservator Trust” by ordering the sale of the mine, which was scheduled for January 9, 2019. Id. at 3-4. The complaint, which does not identify any specific cause of action, requests that this court enjoin that sale. Id. at 4.

         Judge Dixon filed her motion to dismiss plaintiffs' complaint for lack of jurisdiction and failure to state a claim and noticed it for hearing on March 27, 2019. ECF No. 7. Plaintiffs were subsequently granted an extension of time to respond to the motion, and the hearing was continued to May 1, 2019. Despite receiving an extension, plaintiffs failed to timely file a response to Judge Dixon's motion. Accordingly, the hearing was continued again, and plaintiffs were ordered to show cause why sanctions should not be imposed for their failure to timely respond to pending motion. ECF No. 14. Plaintiffs were also ordered to file an opposition or statement of non-opposition to the motion by no later than May 15, 2019. Id. Plaintiffs filed a response to the court's order to show cause (ECF No. 17), but they did not file an opposition or statement of non-opposition to the motion. Instead, plaintiffs filed a first amended complaint, which the court construes as a motion for leave to amend the compliant. ECF No. 15.

         II. Order to Show Cause

         In response to the court's order to show cause, plaintiffs claim that they were unable to timely file a response to Judge Dixon's motion because Centinela State Prison, where Anthony Bator is currently incarcerated, was on lockdown for a five-week period and Ellen Bator's mother recently passed away. ECF No. 17. In light of those representations, the order to show cause is discharged and no sanctions are imposed.

         III. Motion to Dismiss

         Judge Dixon's motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction argues plaintiffs' claims are barred by the Eleventh Amendment and the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. ECF No. 7 at 3-5. She also argues that the complaint must be dismissed for failure to state a claim because she is entitled to judicial immunity. Id. at 5-6. As discussed below, plaintiffs' claims are clearly barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine as well as absolute judicial immunity. Accordingly, the complaint must be dismissed.

         A. Rule 12(b)(1) Standards

         A federal court is a court of limited jurisdiction, and may adjudicate only those cases authorized by the Constitution and by Congress. Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). The basic federal jurisdiction statutes, 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 & 1332, confer “federal question” and “diversity” jurisdiction, respectively. Federal question jurisdiction requires that the complaint (1) arise under a federal law or the U.S. Constitution, (2) allege a “case or controversy” within the meaning of Article III, § 2 of the U.S. Constitution, or (3) be authorized by a federal statute that both regulates a specific subject matter and confers federal jurisdiction. Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 198 (1962). To invoke the court's diversity jurisdiction, a plaintiff must specifically allege the diverse citizenship of all parties, and that the matter in controversy exceeds $75, 000. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a); Bautista v. Pan American World Airlines, Inc., 828 F.2d 546, 552 (9th Cir. 1987). A case presumably lies outside the jurisdiction of the federal courts unless demonstrated otherwise. Kokkonen, 511 U.S. at 376-78. Lack of subject matter jurisdiction may be raised at any time by either party or by the court. Attorneys Trust v. Videotape Computer Products, Inc., 93 F.3d 593, 594-95 (9th Cir. 1996).

         A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) seeks dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1). On a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, plaintiff bears the burden of proof that jurisdiction exists. See, e.g., Sopcak v. Northern Mountain Helicopter Serv., 52 F.3d 817, 818 (9th Cir. 1995); Thornhill Pub. Co. v. General Tel. & Electronics Corp., 594 F.2d 730, 733 (9th Cir. 1979). Different standards apply to a 12(b)(1) motion, depending on the manner in which it is made. See, e.g., Crisp v. United States, 966 F.Supp. 970, 971-72 (E.D. Cal. 1997). “A Rule 12(b)(1) jurisdictional attack may be facial or factual.” Safe Air For Everyone v. Meyer, 373 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir. 2004). A facial attack “asserts that the lack of subject matter jurisdiction is apparent from the face of the complaint.” Id. If the motion presents a facial attack, the court considers the complaint's allegations to be true, and plaintiff enjoys “safeguards akin to those applied when a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is made.” Doe v. Schachter, 804 F.Supp. 53, 56 (N.D. Cal. 1992).

         Conversely, a factual attack, often referred to as a “speaking motion, ” challenges the truth of the allegations in the complaint that give rise to federal jurisdiction and the court does not presume those factual allegations to be true. Thornhill, 594 F.2d at 733. Although the court may consider evidence such as declarations or testimony to resolve factual disputes, id.; McCarthy v. United States, 850 F.2d 558, 560 (9th Cir. 1988), genuine disputes over facts material to jurisdiction must be addressed under Rule 56 standards. “[W]hen ruling on a jurisdictional motion involving factual issues which also go to the merits, the trial court should employ the standard applicable to a motion for summary judgment. Under this standard, the moving party should prevail only if the material jurisdictional facts are not in dispute and the moving party is entitled to prevail as a matter of law.” Trentacosta v. Frontier Pacific Aircraft Industries, Inc., 813 F.2d 1553, 1558 (9th Cir. 1987) (quotations and citations omitted) (emphasis added).

         Judge Dixon advances a facial attack, arguing that the allegations of plaintiffs' complaint demonstrate jurisdiction is absent and ...


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