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Harris v. S. Escamilla

United States District Court, E.D. California

September 4, 2019

DARRELL E. HARRIS, Plaintiff,
v.
S. ESCAMILLA, in his individual capacity, Defendant.

          ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S REQUEST FOR RECONSIDERATION OF DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS OR STRIKE PLAINTIFF'S SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT (DOC. NO. 208)

         Plaintiff Darrell E. Harris is a state prisoner proceeding with counsel in this civil rights action brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This matter was referred to a United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rule 302.

         Before the court is defendant's request for reconsideration of the assigned magistrate judge's order denying defendant's motion to dismiss or strike plaintiff's second amended complaint. (Doc. No. 208.)

         The court has reviewed the magistrate judge's order, as well as the parties' briefing, and for the reasons set forth below, will deny defendant's motion for reconsideration.

         BACKGROUND

         This court previously granted summary judgment in favor of defendant Escamilla on plaintiff's Free Exercise and Equal Protection claims and dismissed plaintiff's Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”) and Bane Act claims. On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed the grant of summary judgment on the Free Exercise and Equal Protection claims and affirmed the RLUIPA and Bane Act dismissals but remanded to this court with instruction to grant plaintiff leave to amend his Bane Act claim. Harris v. Escamilla, 736 Fed.Appx. 618 (9th Cir. 2018).

         Following remand, plaintiff's new counsel[1] filed a second amended complaint (“SAC”) on September 7, 2018. (Doc. No. 191.) The magistrate judge noted that “the amendments were substantial, but did not include a Bane Act claim.” (Doc. No. 206.) On September 21, 2018, defendant filed a motion to dismiss or strike the SAC on the grounds that (1) the amendments exceeded the mandate provided by the court of appeals, and (2) contained “impertinent, immaterial and scandalous matter” that should be struck under Rule 12(f) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Doc. No. 192) On August 12, 2019, the magistrate judge denied defendant's motion to strike or dismiss the SAC. (Doc. No. 206) Defendant now requests reconsideration of the magistrate judge's order.

         STANDARDS OF REVIEW

         On a request for reconsideration, a district court reviews a magistrate judge's ruling under the “clearly erroneous or contrary to law” standard. E.D. Cal. L.R. 303(f) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a)).

         “A finding is clearly erroneous when although there is evidence to support it, the reviewing [body] on the entire evidence is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed.” Concrete Pipe & Prods. of Cal., Inc. v. Constr. Laborers Pension Tr. for S. Cal., 508 U.S. 602, 622 (1993) (citation and quotations omitted). “[R]eview under the ‘clearly erroneous' standard is significantly deferential, ” id. at 623, and “the reviewing court may not simply substitute its judgment for that of the deciding court.” Grimes v. City & Cty. of San Francisco, 951 F.2d 236, 241 (9th Cir. 1991).

         “The ‘contrary to law' standard allows independent, plenary review of purely legal determinations by the magistrate judge.” Estate of Stephen E. Crawley v. Robinson, 2015 WL 3849107, at *2 (E.D. Cal. June 22, 2015). “An order is contrary to law when it fails to apply or misapplies relevant statutes, case law, or rules of procedure.” Id. (citation omitted).

         Jurisdictional challenges, however, are a question of law and are reviewed de novo; this includes the question of whether a magistrate judge complied with the rule of mandate. See United States v. Thrasher, 483 F.3d 977, 982 (9th Cir. 2007). “The rule of mandate provides that any district court that has received the mandate of an appellate court cannot vary or examine that mandate for any purpose other than executing it. The district court, may, however, decide anything not foreclosed by the mandate. But the district court commits jurisdictional error if it takes actions that contradict the mandate.” Stacy v. Colvin, 825 F.3d 563, 567-68 (9th Cir. 2016) (citations and quotations omitted).

         A court's discretionary ruling is only reversed for an abuse of discretion when the court is “firmly convinced that the reviewed decision lies beyond the pale of reasonable justification under the circumstances.” McCollough v. Johnson, Rodenburg & Lauinger, LLC, 637 F.3d 939, 953 (9th Cir. 2011).

         DISCUSSION

         A. The Scope of the Court of ...


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