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Gilles v. People

United States District Court, S.D. California

November 1, 2019

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA, et al., a.k.a; CITY OF SAN DIEGO a corporate legal individual and municipal corporation; SAN DIEGO POLICE DEPARTMENT a municipal instrumentality; STEPHEN HICKOX SDPD Badge #8330; SDPS ID 7211; “D. COLLINS” SDPD Badge #unknown; SDPD ID 7790 unconfirmed; and DOES 1-10, inclusive Municipal Employees; Real Parties in Interest, Defendants.


          Hon. William Q. Hayes United States District Judge

         The matters before the Court are 1) the Motion to Remand filed by Plaintiff Mark Christopher Gilles (ECF No. 6); and 2) the Amended Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendants City of San Diego (the “City”), the San Diego Police Department (“SDPD”), SDPD Officer Stephen Hickox, and SDPD Officer Dominic Collins (ECF No. 7).

         I. BACKGROUND

         On June 7, 2019, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of San Diego, against the City, SDPD, Officer Hickox, and Officer Collins. (ECF No. 1-2). In the Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that on April 1, 2019, he “set out to conduct a Fourth Amendment audit of the San Diego Police Department's field officers . . . .” Id. ¶ 26. Plaintiff alleges that he procured two aluminum cans to use as “bait.” Plaintiff rinsed the cans clean and filled one can, labeled “MICKEY'S BEER, ” with cream soda. Id. ¶¶ 27-28. Plaintiff took the cans with him to the “Sea Wall” near 1900 Abbot Street in Ocean Beach at approximately 6:00 p.m. Id. ¶ 32. About ten minutes later, Officers Hickox and Collins approached him, and Plaintiff “felt apprehensively compelled” to provide Officer Hickox with two expired forms of identification. Id. ¶¶ 32-34. Plaintiff alleges that Officer Hickox “ran a non-consensual check for wants and warrants” then “aggressively seized the aluminum can” and poured its contents into the sand. Id. ¶¶ 34-35. Plaintiff alleges that Officer Hickox cited Plaintiff for having two open containers of beer in violation of San Diego Municipal Code section 63.20.13. Id. ¶ 38. Plaintiff alleges that Officer Hickox provided Plaintiff with a notice to appear in court, which “Plaintiff signed, Under Duress” Id. ¶ 41. Plaintiff also alleges that he owns the copyright to an original, unpublished work, titled “MARK CHRISTOPHER GILLES; DEARBORN . . . The Man With 2 Family Names . . . Or Is It 3?”. Id. ¶ 108, 112.

         Plaintiff brings claims for 1) deprivation of rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Officers Hickox and Collins; 2) conspiracy under 42 U.S.C. § 1985 against Officers Hickox and Collins; 3) deprivation of rights under § 1983 (Monell) against the City and SDPD; 4) copyright infringement against all Defendants; 5) conversion of personal property against all Defendants; and 6) violation of California's Unfair Competition Law (“UCL”), California Business & Professions Code sections 17200 et seq., against all Defendants. (ECF No. 1-2). Plaintiff seeks damages, including punitive damages; a preliminary and permanent injunction; a declaration that the City's “officially sanctioned policy is unconstitutional;” a declaration that SDPD's “de facto policy, of making any arrest that SDPD officers know is not in accordance with law, is unconstitutional;” restitution and costs; and any other relief to which Plaintiff may be entitled. Id.

         On June 7, 2019, Defendants removed Plaintiff's state court action to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1441(a) and (c). (ECF No. 1 at 2). On July 11, 2019, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Remand this action to state court. (ECF No. 6). On August 2, 2019, Defendants filed a Response in Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion to Remand. (ECF No. 11). Plaintiff did not file a reply.

         On July 12, 2019, Defendants filed an Amended Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (ECF No. 7). On July 29, 2019, Plaintiff filed a Response in Opposition to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. (ECF No. 10). On August 5, 2019, Defendants filed a Reply. (ECF No. 12). On August 12, 2019, Plaintiff filed a Sur-Reply. (ECF No. 14).


         Plaintiff contends that the Court should remand this action to state court, because “Plaintiff chose to assert his claims . . . in the San Diego Superior Court.” (ECF No. 6 at 6-7). Plaintiff contends that Defendants removed this action to cause unnecessary delay or prejudice Plaintiff. Id. at 7. Defendants contend that removal was proper because seven of Plaintiff's eight causes of action could have originally been filed in the district court. (ECF No. 11 at 3). Specifically, Defendants contend that the Court has original jurisdiction over Plaintiff's § 1983 and § 1985 claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Id. at 2-3. Defendants contend that the Court has exclusive jurisdiction over Plaintiff's copyright infringement claim and original jurisdiction over Plaintiff's related unfair competition claim, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1338. Defendants contend the Court may properly exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's state law conversion claim, because “it arises from the same set of facts as the removable claims and its outcome relies on Plaintiff's intellectual property claim.” Id. at 3.

         “Under 28 U.S.C. § 1441, a defendant may remove an action filed in state court to federal court if the federal court would have original subject matter jurisdiction over the action.” Moore-Thomas v. Alaska Airlines, Inc., 553 F.3d 1241, 1243 (9th Cir. 2009); see 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). Federal jurisdiction must exist at the time the complaint is filed and at the time removal is effected. Strotek Corp. v. Air Transp. Ass'n of Am., 300 F.3d 1129, 1131 (9th Cir. 2002). A party can challenge removal based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction through a motion to remand. 28 U.S.C. § 1447. There is a “strong presumption against removal” such that the removing party “always has the burden of establishing that removal is proper.” Gaus v. Miles, Inc., 980 F.2d 564, 566 (9th Cir. 1992). “The removal statute is strictly construed, and any doubt about the right of removal requires resolution in favor of remand.” Moore-Thomas, 553 F.3d at 1244.

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, district courts “have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.” District courts have original and exclusive jurisdiction “of any civil action arising under any Act of Congress relating to . . . copyrights . . . .” 28 U.S.C. § 1338(a). District courts also have original jurisdiction “of any civil action asserting a claim of unfair competition when joined with a substantial and related claim under the copyright . . . laws.” 28 U.S.C. § 1338(b).

         Federal courts have supplemental jurisdiction over state law claims that are so related to the federal claims that they form part of the same case or controversy. 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a). “A state law claim is part of the same case or controversy when it shares a common nucleus of operative fact with the federal claims and the state and federal claims would normally be tried together.” Bahrampour v. Lampert, 356 F.3d 969, 978 (9th Cir. 2004) (quotation omitted). A district court may decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over a state law claim if:

(1) the claim raises a novel or complex issue of State law,
(2) the claim substantially predominates over the claim or claims over which the district court has original jurisdiction,
(3) the district court has dismissed all claims over which it has original jurisdiction, or
(4) in exceptional circumstances, there are other compelling reasons for declining jurisdiction.

28 U.S.C. § 1367(c). The court, however, “is not required to make a § 1367(c) analysis unless asked to do so by a party.” Acri v. Varian Assocs., Inc., 114 F.3d 999, 1000 (9th Cir. 1997) (en banc).

         Plaintiff alleges violations of 28 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985 in his first through fifth causes of action. These are claims under federal laws, which this Court has original subject matter jurisdiction over pursuant to § 1331. See also 28 U.S.C. § 1343 (a district court has original jurisdiction over acts done in furtherance of a conspiracy alleged pursuant to § 1985). This Court has exclusive jurisdiction over Plaintiff's sixth cause of action for copyright infringement under the federal Copyright Act pursuant to § 1338. Plaintiff's ability to recover for alleged UCL violations in the eighth cause of action depends on Plaintiff's copyright infringement claim. See ECF No. 1-2 ¶ 174 (alleging that Defendants violated California's UCL through their “unauthorized use of the main essence of Plaintiff's copyrighted Work . . .”). The Court has original jurisdiction over Plaintiff's eighth cause of action under the UCL, because it is joined with Plaintiff's copyright infringement claim.

         Plaintiff's seventh cause of action for state law conversion rests on the allegation that Defendants “substantially interfered with Plaintiff['s] . . . property by attempting infringement of the main essence” of Plaintiff's copyrighted work. Id. ¶ 162. Plaintiff's conversion claim is based on the same facts as Plaintiff's copyright infringement claim; the claims share a common nucleus of operative fact. Plaintiff's state law conversion claim is, therefore, “part of the same case or controversy” as Plaintiff's copyright infringement and UCL claims. The Court may properly exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's seventh cause of action.

         Removal was proper under § 1441 because the Court has original jurisdiction over seven of Plaintiff's causes of action and supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining claim. Plaintiff has not asserted a proper basis for this Court to remand the action to state court. Plaintiff's Motion to Remand is denied.


         Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint on the grounds that Plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Federal Rule ...

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