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Rust v. Chino Prison Healthcare Providers

United States District Court, C.D. California

September 10, 2019

FRANK A. RUST, Plaintiff,





         Frank Rust (“Plaintiff”), a prisoner in state custody, filed this civil rights action challenging medical care he received in prison. He filed the action in state court, and Defendants removed it to this Court. The Court granted summary judgment for Defendants, finding some of Plaintiff's claims unexhausted and finding that, as to the exhausted claims, Plaintiff failed to demonstrate that his constitutional rights were violated.

         Plaintiff appealed to the Ninth Circuit and, while that appeal was pending, he filed a motion asking this Court to remand “the state law issues/action” to the state court. (Dkt. 95 [“Motion for Remand”].) The Ninth Circuit stayed the appeal “pending the district court's consideration of whether” Plaintiff's Motion for Remand “constitutes one of the motions listed in Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 4(a)(4) and, if so, whether the motion should be granted or denied.” (Dkt. 96.)

         For the reasons explained below, the Court construes Plaintiff's Motion for Remand as a motion to alter or amend the judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59 and/or 60, which is a motion listed in Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure (4)(a)(4). Furthermore, Plaintiff is not entitled to relief on the Motion for Remand.



         A. Removal and Initial Complaint

         Defendants removed this action to this Court on the basis of federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). (Dkt. 2 [notice of removal]; Dkt. 2-1 [Complaint].) Plaintiff moved to remand the action to state court, arguing (among other things) that his Complaint did not raise any federal questions and, even if it did, then the state law claims “predominated” over the federal questions. (Dkt. 8 at 3.) The Court discussed the “predominance” issue as follows:

Plaintiff's legal theories are neither clearly labeled nor listed. His state court civil case cover sheet says that his Complaint contains six causes of action. (Dkt. 2-1 at 33.) The Complaint's caption, however, lists five causes of action: (1) slander, (2) elder abuse, (3) violations of the Americans with Disability Act (“ADA”), see 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., (4) violations of the Rehabilitation Act (“RA”), see 29 U.S.C. § 701 et seq., and (5) violations of the Bane Act. (Id. at 34, 47.)
Claims under the ADA and RA are causes of action created by federal law and, if they were actually alleged in Plaintiff's Complaint, they would be sufficient to establish federal question jurisdiction. The body of the Complaint, however, contains no allegations that can be liberally construed as ADA or RA claims. ...
... The gist of Plaintiff's allegations is that after a verbal altercation with Defendant [Licensed Vocational Nurse or “LVN”] Warfield (which Plaintiff alleges made him look vulnerable to the other inmates, prompting them to harass him), the other Defendants failed to protect him and retaliated against him by denying him medical care and equipment. ...
While Plaintiff never expressly pleads claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, he alleges that his lawsuit “evolves from the failure of defendants to follow … federal and state law” and the “U.S. Constitution, ” and he “seeks to redress the deprivation, under the color of state law, of rights secured by acts of Congress ….” (Id. at 34, 36.) He repeatedly references the First and Eighth Amendments of the federal Constitution and prays for a declaration that Defendants violated his federal constitutional rights. (Id. at 42, 51.) Plaintiff divided his “Factual Statement” into parts A and B (both labeled “Failure to Protect … Deliberate Indifference”) and alleged in both violations of his First and Eighth Amendment rights by different Defendants. (Id. at 42-43.) Under the heading “Claims for Relief, ” Plaintiff incorporates his earlier allegations and discusses the [California] Bane Act[1] along with alleged supervisory liability based on “official customs and policies.” (Id. at 46-50.)
One possible interpretation of the Complaint is that all the references to Defendants' violating federal statutes and constitutional amendments are only alleged as elements of Plaintiff's Bane Act claim, such that none of Plaintiff's causes of action are created by federal law. Even if the Court were to adopt this dubious interpretation, however, federal question jurisdiction would still exist if Plaintiff's Bane Act claim “arises under” federal law, because his right to relief necessarily depends on the adjudication of federal questions.
... Plaintiff has not alleged any alternative, state-law basis for the alleged civil rights violations underlying his Bane Act claim. He alleges Defendants violated his rights under the First and Eighth Amendments of the United States Constitution, and he does not cite any similar provisions in the California Constitution or elsewhere in California law. ... [A]djudicating Plaintiff's Bane Act claim will necessarily depend on determining the federal questions of whether Defendants violated Plaintiff's rights under the First or Eighth Amendments. These are the pivotal issues in the case. The Court therefore finds that at the time of removal, the Complaint's allegations created federal question jurisdiction.

(Dkt. 20 at 11-13 [Report and Recommendation or “R&R”].) On July 7, 2017, the Court denied Plaintiff's motion to remand. (Dkt. 22 [order accepting R&R].)

         The Court also screened the initial Complaint under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”) and dismissed it with leave to amend. (Dkt. 14.) Regarding the claims sounding in state law, the Court found that: (a) the Complaint failed to state a claim under the California Bane Act, because the allegations that LVN Warfield refused him his medication and yelled at him failed to demonstrate deliberate indifference to a serious medical need under the Eighth Amendment (id. at 13); and (b) the criminal statutes and civil regulations cited in the Complaint (California Penal Code sections 147, 667.9, and 673 and California Code of Regulations Title 15, Article 2, section 3391) did not give rise to a private right of action (id. at 13-15).

         B. First Amended Complaint

         Plaintiff then filed the operative First Amended Complaint (“FAC” at Dkt. 26), voluntarily dismissing all Defendants except Drs. Farooq and Dr. Vu. The FAC stated that the action was “brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 per the District Court's order of July 07, 2017, by the reasons so explained by Judge Kronstadt.” (Id. at 2 ¶ 2.) The FAC brought claims for: (1) deliberate indifference in medical care in violation of the Eighth Amendment (id. at 12); and (2) retaliation under the First Amendment (id. at 17). Thus, the FAC did not plead any claims under state law. The FAC “continue[d] to allege that removal from state court violated” 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b), Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4, and 28 U.S.C. § 1915(d). (Id. at 2 ¶ 3.)

         In a subsequent order directing Defendants to respond to the FAC, the Court noted that, because the FAC named only Drs. Farooq and Vu, Plaintiff had “voluntarily dismissed his claims against the other Defendants.” (Dkt. 31.)

         C. Discussion of State Law Claims During Summary ...

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