Kolbek et al v. Twenty First Century Holiness Tabernacle Church, Inc. et al
ORDER re Memorandum Opinion 715 and Order 716 ; Vacating 716 Order on Summary Judgment Motions 493 , 499 , 515 and 522 ; Court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction therefore 717 and 719 Motions to Dismiss are granted; a ll state claims in Fifth Amended Complaint against defendants Tony Alamo, Sharon Alamo, Twenty First Century and Jeanne Estates Apartments, Inc. are dismissed without prejudice; Summary Judgment Motions 493 , 499 , 515 and 522 are all granted and denied in part; Case Terminated. Signed by Honorable Susan O. Hickey on January 2, 2014. (cnn)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
DESIREE KOLBEK, et al.
CASE NO. 10-CV-4124
TWENTY FIRST CENTURY HOLINESS
TABERNACLE CHURCH, INC., et al.
JEANNE ESTATES APARTMENTS, INC, et al.
JENNIFER KOLBEK, et al.
Before the Court are Motions to Dismiss Remaining State Law Claims filed on behalf of
Twenty First Century Holiness Tabernacle Church, Inc., Tony Alamo, and Sharon Alamo. (ECF
No. 717 & 719). Plaintiffs have filed a response. (ECF No. 718). Twenty First Century and
Tony Alamo have filed a reply.
(ECF No. 720).
The Court finds this matter ripe for
On December 24, 2013, the Court entered an order (ECF No. 716) granting Defendant
Jeanne Estates Apartments, Inc.’s Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 493) and granting in
part and denying in part the Motions for Summary Judgment filed on behalf of Defendants Tony
Alamo, Sharon Alamo, and Twenty First Century Holiness Tabernacle Church. (ECF Nos. 499,
522, & 515). In the Order, the Court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants as to all
of Plaintiffs’ federal claims. The Court’s order also completely disposed of a large portion of
Plaintiffs’ state claims, including negligent entrustment, negligent hiring, mandatory reporter
liability, and defamation.
The Court held that the following state claims against certain
Defendants remain for trial: negligence, outrage, battery, false imprisonment, and invasion of
In their Motion to Dismiss, Defendants argue that the Court should decline to exercise
supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state claims and dismiss the claims without
Their position appears to be that the Court properly exercised supplemental
jurisdiction over the state claims it disposed of on summary judgment but that the Court should
not continue to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the claims that remain. In their response,
Plaintiffs go a step further than Defendants. Plaintiffs agree that the Court should not exercise
supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state claims, but they also maintain that the Court
committed error by disposing of some state claims in its summary judgment order. Plaintiffs
argue that the Court should have declined to exercise jurisdiction over all state claims after the
federal claims were disposed of. In essence, Plaintiffs have asked the Court to reconsider its
decision to exercise jurisdiction over Plaintiffs’ state claims that were disposed of on summary
judgment. Upon consideration, the Court finds it necessary to revisit its ruling to address these
crucial jurisdictional issues.
Plaintiffs filed this civil action on August 27, 2010. Plaintiffs’ Fifth Amended Complaint
asserts claims of negligence, negligent entrustment, negligent hiring, outrage, battery, mandatory
reporter liability, invasion of privacy, defamation, false imprisonment, transporter liability under
18 U.S.C. § 2255, and trafficking liability under 18 U.S.C. § 1595. Due to the federal claims
raised in the complaint, the Court has federal question jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331.
The Court also has supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiffs’ state claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1367. Section 1367(a) provides that “the district courts shall have supplemental jurisdiction over
all other claims that are so related to claims in the action within such original jurisdiction that
they form part of the same case or controversy.” The core of Plaintiffs claims, both state and
federal, are the acts of sexual and physical abuse allegedly perpetrated by Tony Alamo and
allegedly facilitated by the other Defendants in this suit. None of the parties have disputed that
the state claims are related enough to the federal claims for this Court to exercise supplemental
jurisdiction over them.
The question the Court must address at this time is whether it should continue to exercise
supplemental jurisdiction over any of Plaintiffs’ state claims when Plaintiffs’ federal claims have
been disposed of on summary judgment.
In the Court’s order on summary judgment, we
neglected to explicitly address this issue. We addressed Plaintiffs’ state claims on summary
judgment believing that the exercise of supplemental jurisdiction was appropriate despite the
dismissal of Plaintiffs’ federal claims.
Upon further consideration, the Court finds that
exercising supplemental jurisdiction was in error.
Section 1367(c) provides that a court may decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction
over state claims if “the district court has dismissed all claims over which it has original
jurisdiction.” To be clear, this Court certainly has the power to exercise jurisdiction over
Plaintiffs’ remaining state claims even though the federal claims have been resolved. See
Osborn v. Haley, 549 U.S. 225, 245, 127 S.Ct. 881, 166 L.Ed.2d 819 (2007). The question is
whether the Court should exercise that power in this particular case. When determining whether
to exercise supplemental jurisdiction, the court must consider factors such as judicial economy,
convenience, fairness, and comity. See Carnegie-Mellon Univ. v. Cohill, 484 U.S. 343, 357
(1988); Quinn v. Ocwen Fed. Bank FSB, 470 F.3d 1240, 1249 (8th Cir. 2006) (per curiam).
The factors of judicial economy and convenience seem to weigh in favor of this Court
exercising supplemental jurisdiction over all of Plaintiffs’ state claims. This highly complex
litigation has been pending in this Court for over three years.
In this action’s original
configuration, there were seven plaintiffs, twenty-five defendants, and fifteen third-party
There were also a very large number of counter-claims and cross-claims.
October of 2012, the Court issued a final scheduling order in this case setting a trial date of
January 13, 2014. (ECF No. 442). Because of the extensive number of parties and claims, a
seven-week period was set aside for trial. Sixteen motions for summary judgment were filed by
Defendants in February of 2013. 1 Subsequently, the parties began a months-long mediation
process that effectively stayed the Court’s consideration of the pending motions for summary
judgment. The mediation finally resulted in the voluntary dismissal of most of the claims in this
action. Those dismissals, for the most part, did not begin to occur until October of 2013.
Subsequent to these dismissals, the Court issued its order on the remaining Defendants’ motions
for summary judgment.
This Court, having dealt with this case for years, is well-versed in its complicated
procedural and factual history. Furthermore, the litigation is in its final stages—discovery has
been completed for over a year and the trial date is just around the corner.
remaining claims in this very advanced case would have to be completely re-litigated in state
court, dismissal would result in increased costs to the parties, delays in the adjudication of the
claims, and the expenditure of additional judicial resources. 2 With these considerations in mind,
the Court elected to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiffs’ state claims in its
summary judgment order. However, upon further consideration, the Court finds that its focus on
judicial economy and convenience was misplaced. In short, the Court failed to give proper
weight to the factor of comity and the predominance of state issues.
In the Eighth Circuit, the preference is for a court to decline to exercise supplemental
jurisdiction when all federal claims have been eliminated before trial.
Johnson v. City of
Shorewood, Minnesota, 360 F.3d 810, 819 (8th Cir. 2004) (“‘[I]n the usual case in which all
No substantive motions to dismiss were filed by any Defendant prior to motions for summary judgment
The Court notes that Plaintiffs and Defendants themselves do not appear to be all that concerned about
costs or delays. While the parties differ about the extent to which the Court can exercise supplemental
jurisdiction, they all agree that as least some of Plaintiffs’ claims should be dismissed and re-litigated in
federal-law claims are eliminated before trial, the balance of factors to be considered under the
pendent jurisdiction doctrine ... will point toward declining to exercise jurisdiction over the
remaining state-law claims.’”) (quoting Carnegie–Mellon Univ. v. Cohill, 484 U.S. 343, 350 n. 7,
108 S.Ct. 614, 98 L.Ed.2d 720 (1988)); Williams v. Hobbs, 658 F.3d 842, 853 (8th Cir. 2011).
This preference is rooted in a desire to avoid encroaching upon a state court’s jurisdiction over
matters of state law. See Curtis v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 754 F.2d 781, 786-87 (8th Cir. 1985)
(explaining that exercising jurisdiction over purely state law claims is disfavored and noting that
“if the federal court goes ahead and tries the state-law claim, it will conduct a full-blown trial and
enter judgment on a claim over which it could not constitutionally have been given independent
jurisdiction.”). In addressing issues of supplemental jurisdiction, the Supreme Court has stated
that “[n]eedless decisions of state law should be avoided both as a matter of comity and to
promote justice between the parties, by procuring for them a surer-footed reading of applicable
law.” United Mine Workers of Am. v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 726, 86 S. Ct. 1130, 1139, 16 L. Ed.
2d 218 (1966). See also Gregoire v. Class, 236 F.3d 413, 420 (8th Cir.2000) (stating that “[w]e
stress the need to exercise judicial restraint and avoid state law issues wherever possible.”).
In this case, it is undisputed that Plaintiffs’ state claims depend solely on determinations
of state law. While the state claims and federal claims are based on the same acts of alleged
physical and sexual abuse by Tony Alamo, the state claims are based on independent theories of
recovery that are wholly separate from Plaintiffs’ federal causes of action. 3
circumstances, the Court finds that it would be inappropriate to exercise supplemental
Not only are Plaintiffs’ state claims rooted solely in state law, in some instances, they are novel issues of
state law. For example, the Court was faced with determining whether Arkansas’ tolling statute for
claims based on childhood sexual abuse, Ark. Code Ann. § 16-56-130, was applicable in this case. No
court in Arkansas has ever interpreted or applied this tolling statute. See Gibbs, 383 U.S. at 726 (holding
that federal courts should try to refrain from needlessly deciding novel issues of state law).
jurisdiction over any of Plaintiffs' state claims. 4 See Curtis v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 754 F.2d
781, 785 (8th Cir. 1985) (Stating that exercising supplemental jurisdiction is likely improper
when dealing with state claims that could have been asserted on their own without raising any
theory of recovery under federal law). Moreover, if the Court continues to exercise supplemental
jurisdiction, it will be forced to conduct a multi-week trial to address remaining fact questions
arising from these state claims. All of the parties seem to agree that further expenditures of the
Court’s judicial resources would not be warranted under these circumstances.
The Court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction with some hesitancy. However,
the weight of authority indicates that exercising jurisdiction over claims involving purely state
law issues would be an abuse of the Court’s discretion. Accordingly, Defendants’ Motions to
Dismiss (ECF No. 717 & 719) are GRANTED. Additionally, the Court’s order of summary
judgment (ECF No. 716) is hereby VACATED as to the Court’s rulings on Plaintiffs’ state
All of the state claims set forth in Plaintiffs’ Fifth Amended Complaint against
Defendants Tony Alamo, Sharon Alamo, Twenty First Century, and Jeanne Estates Apartments,
Inc. are hereby DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE.
The Court’s grant of summary judgment remains in effect as to Plaintiffs’ claims for
transporter liability under 18 U.S.C. § 2255 and trafficking liability under 18 U.S.C. § 1595.
(See Memorandum Opinion, ECF No. 715, pp. 22-24, 27-30).
Accordingly, Defendant Tony
Alamo’s Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 522) is GRANTED in part and DENIED in
part; Defendant Sharon Alamo’s Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 499) is GRANTED
Defendants appear to have taken the position that the Court properly exercised supplemental jurisdiction
over the state claims that were disposed of in the Court’s order on summary judgment. However, the
Court is at a loss to reconcile this position with Defendants’ request that the Court now decline to exercise
supplemental jurisdiction over the state claims that were not disposed of. Issues of state law predominate
as to all of Plaintiffs’ state claims. Accordingly, it would be very inconsistent for the Court to exercise
supplemental jurisdiction over some state claims and not others. In this case, exercising supplemental
jurisdiction is an all-or-none proposition.
in part and DENIED in part; Defendant Twenty First Century’s Motion for Summary
Judgment (ECF No. 515) is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part; and Defendant Jeanne
Estates’ Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 493) is GRANTED in part and DENIED in
IT IS SO ORDERED, this 2nd day of January, 2014.
/s/ Susan O. Hickey
Susan O. Hickey
United States District Judge
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