United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS; AND
DENYING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO STRIKE DOCKET NOS.
M. CHEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Marcus Crawley has filed suit against the City of Oakland
(“City”). Currently pending before the Court is the
City's motion to dismiss and Mr. Crawley's related
motion to strike. Having considered the parties' briefs
and accompanying submissions, the Court finds the motions
suitable for disposition without oral argument and thus
VACATES the hearing on the motion. The Court
hereby GRANTS the motion to dismiss and
DENIES in part the motion to strike.
FACTUAL & PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
the complaint is not a model of clarity, Mr. Crawley has, in
his opposition to the pending motion to dismiss, given
further details explaining the basis of his lawsuit. Taken
together, the complaint and opposition brief indicate as
follows: (1) in November 2016, the City voters passed a bond
measure known as Measure KK; (2) Mr. Crawley sued the City in
state court challenging Measure KK but, ultimately, was not
successful in that litigation, including through the appeals
process; (3) his current lawsuit - in federal court - is
predicated on the claim that the state courts (both superior
and appellate) failed to address a specific argument he made
before them regarding the measure and therefore the state
courts deprived him of his due process rights. See,
e.g., Compl. at 4 (“The [Measure] KK Cause of
Action has not received a due process hearing.”);
Opp'n at 4 (“The Court Order SKIPPED the Decision
on Petition's First Cause of Action.”); Opp'n
at 11 (“The state Court Order/Judgement failed to
decide . . . the issue . . . .”).
City initially moved to dismiss Mr. Crawley's complaint
on two grounds: (1) the Rooker-Feldman doctrine and
(2) res judicata. After Mr. Crawley filed his opposition and
clarified the basis of his complaint, the City narrowed its
argument in favor of dismissal to the Rooker-Feldman
Rooker-Feldman doctrine is based on Rooker v.
Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413 (1923), and
District of Columbia Court of Appeals v. Feldman,
460 U.S. 462 (1983). “[T]he Rooker-Feldman
doctrine . . ., in general terms, prevents ‘a party
losing in state court . . . from seeking what in substance
would be appellate review of the state judgment in a United
States district court.'” Henrichs v. Valley
View Dev., 474 F.3d 609, 611 (9th Cir. 2007).
Essentially, the doctrine bars “state-court losers
complaining of injuries caused by state-court judgments
rendered before the district court proceedings
commenced” from asking district courts to review and
reject those judgments. Absent express statutory
authorization, only the Supreme Court has jurisdiction to
reverse or modify a state court judgment. The clearest case
for dismissal based on the Rooker-Feldman doctrine
occurs when “a federal plaintiff asserts as a legal
wrong an allegedly erroneous decision by a state court, and
seeks relief from a state court judgment based on that
decision . . . .”
Id. at 613.
it was invoking the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, the
City asked the Court to take judicial notice of the state
court rulings that had been issued, both superior and
appellate. When Mr. Crawley filed his opposition to the
City's motion, he did not object to the request for
judicial notice or otherwise contest the admissibility of the
state court decisions. However, after the City filed its
reply, in which it narrowed its focus to the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine, Mr. Crawley filed the
pending motion to strike, in which he argues, inter
alia, that the Court cannot consider the (unpublished)
California Court of Appeal's decision on his state court
motion to strike is denied. Contrary to what Mr. Crawley
argues, the state court decision is not irrelevant. Mr.
Crawley is challenging the state courts' actions,
claiming a failure to rule on an issue that he raised with
the courts. Therefore, the Court must necessarily understand
what the state court rulings were. In addition, the City has
raised a Rooker-Feldman defense. Thus, again, the
Court must necessarily understand what the state court
rulings were. Cf. Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b) (providing
that “[p]arties may obtain discovery regarding any
nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's
claim or defense”).
Crawley also contends that the state court decision is
hearsay. But hearsay is defined as an out-of-court statement
that “a party offers in evidence to prove the truth
of the matter asserted in the statement.”
Fed.R.Evid. 801(c)(2) (emphasis added). Here, the City is not
asking the Court to accept the truth of the matters asserted
in the state court decision (e.g., the correctness
of the state court's analysis). Rather, the City is
simply asking the Court to consider what the state court
held, regardless of whether that holding was correct. Cf.
Reyn's Pasta Bella, LLC v. Visa USA, Inc., 442 F.3d
741, 746 n.6 (9th Cir. 2006) (taking judicial notice of
briefs and a hearing transcript filed in another lawsuit
“[t]o determine what issues were actually
litigated” in that lawsuit). Compare Bertuglia v.
City of N.Y., 133 F.Supp.3d 608, 631 n.14 (S.D.N.Y.
2015) (stating that, “[b]ecause Judge Zweibel's
opinions are hearsay and no hearsay exception applies, the
opinions are inadmissible on this motion for the truth of
whether there was sufficient probable cause for the first or
second indictments” and “whether there was
prosecutorial misconduct”; but “the decisions are
admissible . . . for the fact that the prosecution terminated
in favor of the plaintiffs”). The Court therefore may
consider the state appellate court order (as well as the
state superior court order). The record before the Court thus
reflects as follows.
Crawley initiated his state court action - a petition for a
writ of mandamus - in February 2017. See Cal. AG
RJN, Ex. 1 (petition). In his petition, he asserted several
causes of action against, inter alia, the City. (The
California Attorney General was named as a real party in
first cause of action, Mr. Crawley claimed that Measure KK
violated the California Constitution because:
• the California Constitution “guarantees property
owners the right to vote on all property taxes, ” Cal.
AG RJN, Ex. 1 (Pet. ¶ 21); see also Cal. Const.
art. 13C, § 2(c) (providing that “[n]o local
government may impose, extend, or increase any special tax
unless and until that ...