Rodney H Dixon v. NPG Music Publishing, LLC et al

Filing 51


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NO 1 2 JS-6 O 3 4 5 6 7 United States District Court Central District of California 8 9 10 11 RODNEY HERACHIO DIXON, Case № 5:17-cv-00363-ODW (DTB) Plaintiff, 12 v. 13 ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO 14 NPG MUSIC PUBLISHING, LLC; NPG DISMISS [30] AND MOTION TO 15 RECORDS, INC.; COMERICA BANK DEEM PLAINTIFF A VEXATIOUS 16 AND TRUST N.A.; and DOES 1–10, LITIGANT [39] Defendants. 17 18 19 /// 20 /// 21 /// 22 /// 23 /// 24 /// 25 /// 26 /// 27 /// 28 /// 1 I. INTRODUCTION 2 This is one in a series of actions brought by pro se Plaintiff Rodney Herachio 3 Dixon against Prince Rogers Nelson (“Prince”), entities related to Prince, and 4 successors-in-interest to Prince, claiming that he authored all of Prince’s songs and is 5 owed a billion or more dollars under a licensing agreement. Before the Court are 6 Defendants NPG Music Publishing, LLC (“NPG Publishing”), NPG Records Inc. 7 (“NPG Records”), and Comerica Bank and Trust’s (“Comerica”) (collectively 8 “Defendants”) motions to dismiss and to deem Plaintiff a vexatious litigant. (ECF 9 Nos. 30, 39.) For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS both motions. 10 II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND 11 Plaintiff is a self-described songwriter and “producer of musical compositions.” 12 (First Am. Compl. (“FAC”) ¶ 1, ECF No. 26.) According to Plaintiff, he authored or 13 jointly authored all or substantially all of Prince’s songs, including songs on Prince’s 14 popular Purple Rain, Around the World in Day, Sign O’ The Times, and 15 Emancipation albums. (Id. ¶¶ 9, 13, 65.) Plaintiff alleges that he initially gave Prince 16 a license to his works “for three (3) years beginning in the year 1982” in exchange for 17 one million dollars at a later date. (Id. ¶ 33.) He then extended that license for nine 18 years in exchange for one billion dollars payable in 1994. (Id.) In 1995, Plaintiff 19 claims that he extended the license for the remainder of Prince’s life, receiving one 20 dollar as consideration for the extension from Prince’s lawyer Jerry Edelstein. (Id.) 21 The license terminated upon Prince’s death on April 21, 2016. (Id.) This license 22 prohibited “anyone other than Prince from usage” of Plaintiff’s songs. (Id. ¶ 76.) 23 On April 4, 2014, Prince transferred the publishing rights to all or substantially 24 all of his songs (965 songs) to NPG Publishing, of which he was the member- 25 manager. (Id., Ex. I.) This transfer of rights was recorded with the United States 26 Copyright Office on February 4, 2016. (Id.) Since NPG Publishing took “possession” 27 of the songs, Defendants have allegedly exploited Plaintiff’s songs by copying them, 28 2 1 distributing them, and selling them “to consumers around the world” without 2 Plaintiff’s permission. (Id. ¶ 61.) 3 Over the past twenty-three years, Plaintiff has filed a number of actions seeking 4 to recover the billion dollars he is allegedly owed under the licensing agreement. 5 Plaintiff filed the first such action in California Superior Court for the County of Los 6 Angeles on September 23, 1994, against Warner Brothers Records and Prince. 7 (Tavernier Decl., Ex. G, ECF No. 30-2.)1 He alleged two causes of action in the 8 complaint: (1) fraudulent transfer, and (2) conspiracy. (Id. ¶¶ 1–16.) The complaint 9 was largely nonsensical, referring to Plaintiff as the Messiah, discussing the twenty- 10 eight signers of the Declaration of Independence, and mentioning an “educational 11 system” known as “The Game.” (See e.g., id. at 266, 268–269.) On February 6, 1995, 12 the court dismissed Warner Brothers Records after its successful demurrer and 13 Plaintiff’s subsequent failure to amend the complaint. (Id., Ex. I.) The case could not 14 proceed against Prince because he had not been properly served. (See id., Ex. H at 15 275.) 16 On March 24, 1995, Plaintiff filed a nearly identical action against Prince in 17 California Superior Court for the County of San Bernardino. (See id., Exs. K, L.) 18 However, Plaintiff again failed to properly serve Prince. (Id., Ex. K.) Accordingly, 19 the case was dismissed without prejudice on November 29, 1995. (Id.) 20 On April 26, 2016, Plaintiff filed a petition in Carver County District Court (a 21 Minnesota state court) against Prince’s estate asserting ownership of “all” of Prince’s 22 songs and seeking the one billion dollars owed under the licensing agreement.2 (Id., 23 24 25 26 27 28 1 Defendants have filed two requests for judicial notice asking the Court to take into account various state court decisions and briefs filed in connection with those decisions. (ECF Nos. 31, 40.) Plaintiff has not opposed Defendants’ requests. As Defendants’ requests concern documents not subject to reasonable dispute that are directly relevant to the pending motions, the Court grants Defendants’ requests. Trigueros v. Adams, 658 F.3d 983, 987 (9th Cir. 2011) (taking judicial notice of state court orders and briefing filed in connection with state court proceedings). 2 Plaintiff filed a second petition in the Minnesota action titled “Petition Restraining Special Administrator Bremer Trust from Selling Assets of the Estate.” (Tavernier Decl., Ex. 21, ECF 39- 3 1 Ex. A at 7, 12.) Shortly thereafter, The Bremer Trust3 filed a motion to dismiss 2 Plaintiff’s petition. (Tavernier Decl., Ex. 16, ECF No. 39-2.) The Carver County 3 court found that Plaintiff “failed to establish that he ever had a [licensing agreement] 4 with [Prince].” (Tavernier Decl., Ex. D at 251, ECF No. 30-2.) Specifically, the court 5 found that there were no allegations to corroborate the existence of such a licensing 6 agreement or to suggest that there had been adequate consideration for the agreement. 7 (Id.) Plaintiff subsequently appealed the court’s decision. (Order, ECF No. 35). On 8 April 19, 2017, the Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed the Carver County court’s 9 decision finding that Plaintiff failed to “sufficiently allege an implied-in-fact contract 10 claim.” (Id.) 11 Around the same time, on January 19, 2017, Plaintiff attempted to revive the 12 long dormant 1994 Superior Court proceeding against Prince by substituting in The 13 Bremer Trust. (Tavernier Decl., Ex. H at 275, ECF No. 30-2.) However, the court 14 granted The Bremer Trust’s motion to dismiss for failure to prosecute, finding that 15 Plaintiff had not timely served Prince with the complaint. (Id. at 275–276.) A 16 February 7, 2017 order dismissed the action in its entirety. 17 subsequently appealed that order. (See Vexatious Lit. Mot. at 13 n.3, ECF No. 39-1.) (Id.) Plaintiff 18 Plaintiff filed this action on February 24, 2017. (ECF No. 1.) On April 5, 19 2017, Plaintiff filed a first amended complaint alleging: (1) copyright infringement; 20 (2) breach of contract; and (3) intentional interference with contractual relations. 21 (FAC ¶¶ 64–87.) On April 19, 2017, Defendants filed the pending motion to dismiss. 22 (ECF No. 30.) On April 27, 2017, Defendants filed the pending motion to deem 23 24 25 26 27 28 2.) However, this second petition was clearly not meant to take the place of the operative petition in that action. 3 The Bremer Trust acted as the Special Administrator for Prince’s estate after his death. (See Tavernier Decl., Ex. D at 249, ECF No. 30-2.) Defendant Comerica has since assumed those responsibilities as Personal Representative of the Estate. (Tavernier Decl. ¶ 2, ECF No. 30-2.) 4 1 Plaintiff a vexatious litigant. (ECF No. 39.) Both motions are now fully briefed and 2 ready for decision. (ECF Nos. 36, 42, 44, 45.)4 3 III. LEGAL STANDARD 4 A court may dismiss a complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 5 12(b)(6) for lack of a cognizable legal theory or insufficient facts pleaded to support 6 an otherwise cognizable legal theory. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep’t, 901 F.2d 7 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1988). To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint need only 8 satisfy the minimal notice pleading requirements of Rule 8(a)(2)—a short and plain 9 statement of the claim. Porter v. Jones, 319 F.3d 483, 494 (9th Cir. 2003). The 10 factual “allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative 11 level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). That is, the complaint 12 must “contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that 13 is plausible on its face.” 14 quotation marks omitted). Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal 15 The determination of whether a complaint satisfies the plausibility standard is a 16 “context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial 17 experience and common sense.” Id. at 679. A court is generally limited to the 18 pleadings and must construe all “factual allegations set forth in the complaint . . . as 19 true and . . . in the light most favorable” to the plaintiff. Lee v. City of Los Angeles, 20 250 F.3d 668, 688 (9th Cir. 2001) (internal quotation marks omitted). But a court 21 need not blindly accept conclusory allegations, unwarranted deductions of fact, and 22 unreasonable inferences. Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors, 266 F.3d 979, 988 (9th 23 Cir. 2001). 24 Generally, a court should freely give leave to amend a complaint that has been 25 dismissed, even if not requested by the party. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a); Lopez v. 26 Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1130 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc). However, a court may deny 27 leave to amend when it “determines that the allegation of other facts consistent with 28 4 The Court held a June 5, 2017 hearing on the motions. 5 1 the challenged pleading could not possibly cure the deficiency.” Schreiber Distrib. 2 Co. v. Serv-Well Furniture Co., 806 F.2d 1393, 1401 (9th Cir. 1986). 3 IV. 4 DISCUSSION A. Motion to Dismiss 5 1. Copyright Infringement 6 “A plaintiff may not bring an action for infringement unless he . . . has . . . 7 registered the [relevant] work with the U.S. Copyright Office.” 8 Photography, LLC v. John Varvatos of Cal., No. C-11-06702 DMR, 2013 WL 9 3339048, at *5 (N.D. Cal. June 28, 2013) (citing 17 U.S.C. § 411(a)) (emphasis 10 added); see also Exist, Inc. v. Shoreline Wear, Inc., No. LACV1408358JAKRZX, 11 2015 WL 12781409, at *3 (C.D. Cal. Mar. 17, 2015) (citing Reed Elsevier, Inc. v. 12 Muchnick, 559 U.S. 154, 158 (2010)). In other words, registration is a “precondition 13 to suit” for copyright infringement. Epikhin v. Game Insight N. Am., 145 F. Supp. 3d 14 896, 902 (N.D. Cal. 2015) (citing Reed Elsevier, 559 U.S. at 166). 15 Jim Marshall Defendants argue that Plaintiff has not established registration of the relevant 16 works. (Mot. 13–14, ECF No. 30-1.) In an attempt to establish the requisite 17 registration, Plaintiff has attached several documents from the United States 18 Copyright Office to his complaint. One of these documents is a registration for 19 “Rameses XII; Merc [S]upertext; a handy manual for the serious student of 20 spirituality” by Rameses America Mercury. (FAC, Ex. K.) However, this registration 21 does not reference any of the works at issue in this action. 22 Koperwhats, No. C09-1587MMC, 2010 WL 726640, at *3 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 1, 2010) 23 (registration must pertain to the work(s) in question). See Kema, Inc. v. 24 The other Copyright Office documents Plaintiff has attached to the complaint 25 relate to the February 4, 2016 recordation of an April 4, 2014 transfer of rights for the 26 relevant works from Prince to NPG Publishing. (See FAC, Exs. H, I.) Plaintiff 27 alleges that this recordation somehow caused all 965 of the transferred works to 28 become “part of [the] Merc Supertext” referenced in the previous paragraph. (Id. 6 1 ¶¶ 32, 60.) However, this notion is entirely unsupported by the documents 2 themselves. The recordation documents make no reference to Plaintiff, Plaintiff’s 3 alias, or the Merc Supertext. (Id., Ex. H at 62, Ex. I at 65–67.) Likewise, the 4 “Exclusive Songwriter Agreement” underlying these Copyright Office recordation 5 documents makes no reference to Plaintiff, Plaintiff’s alias, or the Merc Supertext. 6 (Id., Ex. I at 68–73.) 7 Outside of these documents and related allegations, the complaint does not 8 otherwise allege any registration of the works at issue in this action—let alone any of 9 the specifics of their registration. See Cosmetic Ideas, Inc. v. IAC/Interactivecorp., 10 606 F.3d 612, 621 (9th Cir. 2010) (allowing an infringement case to move forward 11 where the plaintiff alleged that the Copyright Office received its application for the 12 relevant copyright and provided the date on which the application was received). 13 Therefore, the Court finds that Plaintiff has not met the registration prerequisite for 14 filing an infringement claim and GRANTS Defendants’ motion to dismiss as to 15 Plaintiff’s first cause of action. As there is no indication that Plaintiff can remedy this 16 deficiency, the dismissal is without leave to amend. 17 18 2. Breach of Contract and Intentional Interference with Contractual Relations 19 Defendants argue that Plaintiff’s breach of contract claim and intentional 20 inference with contract claims are precluded by the doctrine of res judicata based on 21 the Minnesota court’s August 29, 2016 decision. (Mot. 11–13.) “Res judicata, or 22 claim preclusion, bars relitigation of claims in a subsequent action between the same 23 parties or their privies if a final judgment has been entered on the merits.” Herrera v. 24 Cnty. of L.A., No. CV097359PSGCWX, 2013 WL 12122287, at *2 (C.D. Cal. Apr. 25 15, 2013) (citing In re Schimmels, 127 F.3d 875, 881 (9th Cir. 1997)). When, as here, 26 a party requests that a federal court give preclusive effect to a state court decision, the 27 federal court must look to the law of the state that rendered the decision to determine 28 whether res judicata applies. Migra v. Warren City Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ., 465 U.S. 7 1 75, 81 (1984) (“It is now settled that a federal court must give to a state-court 2 judgment the same preclusive effect as would be given that judgment under the law of 3 the State in which the judgment was rendered.”). Although typically raised as an 4 affirmative defense, res judicata may be “addressed at the motion to dismiss stage of 5 litigation, and in so doing, the court can take judicial notice of the earlier proceedings 6 that give rise to the defense.” Torn Ranch, Inc. v. Sunrise Commodities, Inc., No. C 7 09-02674 MHP, 2009 WL 2834787, at *3 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 3, 2009). Defendants request that the Court give preclusive effect to the Minnesota 8 9 court’s decision. Therefore, the Court must apply Minnesota law in evaluating 10 whether Plaintiff’s claims are barred by res judicata. See Migra, 465 U.S. at 80. In 11 Minnesota, res judicata bars subsequent claims “when (1) the earlier claim involved 12 the same set of factual circumstances; (2) the earlier claim involved the same parties 13 or their privies; (3) there was a final judgment on the merits; [and] (4) the estopped 14 party had a full and fair opportunity to litigate the matter.” Hauschildt v. Beckingham, 15 686 N.W.2d 829, 840 (Minn. 2004). 16 Defendants argue that the Minnesota decision/action satisfies the four elements 17 necessary to invoke res judicata. (Mot. 12–13.) Defendants first assert that Plaintiff’s 18 petition in the Minnesota action sought recovery based on the same licensing 19 agreement or agreements that Plaintiff now seeks to recover on in the current action. 20 (Id. at 12.) Defendants next assert that the Minnesota action was commenced against 21 the same parties or parties in privity—Comerica has assumed the position of The 22 Bremer Trust and NPG Music and NPG Records are, as they were then, wholly- 23 owned and operated by the estate’s representative. 24 Defendants act as the sole members of NPG Publishing and NPG Records); Tavernier 25 Decl. ¶ 3, ECF No. 30-2.) Defendants also assert that the Minnesota decision was 26 final and on the merits.5 (Mot. 12.) Lastly, Defendants assert that Plaintiff had a full (Id.; FAC ¶ 83 (noting that 27 28 5 There is no indication that Plaintiff has successfully docketed an appeal with the Minnesota Supreme Court. 8 1 and fair opportunity in the Minnesota action to litigate this matter, filing “four 2 declarations, two petitions, various objections and legal memoranda, and hundreds of 3 pages of documentation.” (Id. at 13.) 4 Plaintiff’s sole argument in opposition is that the Minnesota court considered 5 only the 1982 licensing agreement, which was not supported by adequate 6 consideration and not the 1995 agreement, which was supported by adequate 7 consideration in rendering its decision. (See Opp’n 15–16, 42, ECF No. 36.) Plaintiff 8 misreads the Minnesota court’s decision. 9 Rather than viewing each successive licensing agreement as separate, the 10 Minnesota court appears to have analyzed the successive agreements together as part 11 of a larger agreement that was “consummated” in 1995. (Tavernier Decl., Ex. D at 12 250–252, ECF No. 30-2.) 13 agreements together does not mean that it failed to adequately consider the 1995 14 agreement or aspect of the agreement. The Minnesota court explicitly referenced the 15 1995 consummation of the agreement in its decision and considered Plaintiff’s 16 petition and supporting documents that discuss the 1995 agreement in reaching its 17 decision. (See id. at 249 (listing the documents on which the Minnesota court relied); 18 see also Tavernier Decl., Ex. A ¶ 24; Tavernier Decl. Ex. 17 ¶ 7, ECF No. 39-2; 19 Tavernier Decl. Ex. 20 at 20, ECF No. 39-2.) Further, the critical language of the 20 decision does not limit the court’s holding to a specific agreement: “[Plaintiff] fails 21 . . . to establish that he ever had a valid contract with [Prince].” (Tavernier Decl., Ex. 22 D at 251, ECF No. 30-2.) That the Minnesota court addressed the successive 23 The Court also notes that the portion of Plaintiff’s argument relating to 24 consideration is misleading. Plaintiff’s Minnesota petition does not appear to have 25 contained the allegation about receiving consideration from Jerry Edelstein that the 26 present pleadings now contain. Therefore, the Minnesota court was correct in stating 27 that the agreement or agreements (depending on how one views them) were not 28 supported by adequate consideration. (See Tavernier Decl. Ex. D at 251.) Finding 9 1 that the four elements of res judicata are met for the reasons described by Defendants, 2 and finding Plaintiff’s argument unavailing, the Court holds that Plaintiff’s breach of 3 contract claim is barred by the doctrine of res judicata.6 4 The Court also finds that Plaintiff’s intentional interference with contract claim 5 is barred by the doctrine of res judicata. Although Plaintiff did not seek to recover 6 from the estate on this basis during the Minnesota action, Plaintiff could have done so: 7 the estate owns the entities accused of interference, Minnesota courts hearing probate 8 matters have general jurisdiction to hear claims related to estates, and Minnesota 9 recognizes an analogous cause of action. (FAC ¶ 83 (noting that the estate’s personal 10 representative acts as the sole member of NPG Publishing and NPG Records); 11 Tavernier Decl. ¶ 3, ECF No. 30-2; see also In re RIJ Revocable Trust Agreement 12 Dated Mar. 16, 2006, No. A13-1305, 2014 WL 684698, at *5 (Minn. Ct. App. Feb. 13 24, 2014) (explaining that probate courts in Minnesota were consolidated with district 14 courts and as a result have general jurisdiction over matters involving estates); Minn. 15 Stat. Ann. § 524.1-302 (noting that probate courts have jurisdiction “over all subject 16 matter relating to estates”); Sysdyne Corp. v. Rousslang, 860 N.W.2d 347, 351 (Minn. 17 2015) (recognizing tortious interference with contract as a cause of action and 18 outlining the elements). When a claim could have been brought in the previous 19 proceeding, it is subject to the doctrine of res judicata. Laase v. Cty. of Isanti, 638 20 F.3d 853, 856 (8th Cir. 2011). Therefore, the Court also holds that Plaintiff’s 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 6 The fact that the Minnesota action was a probate proceeding based on a petition without formal causes of action and not a traditional civil proceeding based on a complaint with formal causes of action makes no difference for purposes of res judicata. See Hauschildt, 686 N.W.2d at 840 (noting that res judicata does not turn on the way that the plaintiff chooses to title or frame his causes of action but rather on whether the plaintiff previously sought recovery based on the same underlying nucleus of facts); see also Bengtson v. Setterberg, 227 Minn. 337, 347–48, 35 N.W.2d 623, 628 (1949) (noting that probate proceedings may have res judicata effect); In re Pearson, No. C5-991397, 2000 WL 519246, at *1 (Minn. Ct. App. May 2, 2000) (“The district court’s decision in a probate case is res judicata and binding unless reversed or modified on appeal or in a direct proceeding.”). 10 1 intentional interference with contractual relations claim is barred by the doctrine of res 2 judicata. 3 The Court notes in closing that this case presents a textbook example of why 4 the doctrine of res judicata is necessary. The doctrine of res judicata was created to 5 “protect [parties] from the expense and vexation attending multiple lawsuits, to 6 conserve judicial resources, and to foster reliance on judicial action by minimizing the 7 possibility of inconsistent decisions.” Americana Fabrics, Inc. v. L & L Textiles, Inc., 8 754 F.2d 1524, 1529 (9th Cir. 1985). Plaintiff has maintained cases against Prince, 9 entities related to Prince, and Prince’s successors-in-interest for nearly a quarter of a 10 century based on essentially the same claims without ever getting past the motion to 11 dismiss stage, in the process wasting hundreds of hours of court time and causing 12 opponents to incur significant expense in preparing responses to meritless, and at 13 times nonsensical, pleadings and briefs. Plaintiff will not be allowed to avoid the 14 consequences of his previous actions in this proceeding—the Court GRANTS 15 Defendants’ motion to dismiss as to Plaintiff’s second and third causes of action 16 without leave to amend. 17 B. Motion to Deem Plaintiff a Vexatious Litigant 18 In bringing their vexatious litigant motion, “Defendants seek an order that, 19 absent prior leave of the presiding judge of the Central District of California, Mr. 20 Dixon shall be prohibited from filing any new actions relating to the same set of facts 21 or legal claims as the present action against any of the following parties: Comerica 22 Bank and Trust, N.A. as Personal Representative for the Estate of Prince Rogers 23 Nelson, NPG Music Publishing, LLC, NPG Records, Inc., and any other entity 24 controlled by the Personal Representative.” (Not. of Vexatious Lit. Mot. 2, ECF No. 25 39.) 26 “Federal courts can ‘regulate the activities of abusive litigants by imposing 27 carefully tailored restrictions under . . . appropriate circumstances.’” 28 Lockhart v. Cnty. of L.A., 761 F.3d 1057, 1061 (9th Cir. 2014) (quoting De Long v. 11 Ringgold- 1 Hennessey, 912 F.2d 1144, 1147 (9th Cir. 1990)); see also C.D. Cal. Local Rule 83-8 2 (governing vexatious litigants). 3 restrictions, they must: (1) give litigants notice and “an opportunity to oppose the 4 order before it [is] entered”; (2) compile an adequate record for appellate review, 5 including “a listing of all the cases and motions that led the district court to conclude 6 that a vexatious litigant order was needed”; (3) make substantive findings of 7 frivolousness or harassment; and (4) tailor the order narrowly so as “to closely fit the 8 specific vice encountered.” Ringgold-Lockhart, 761 F.3d at 1062 (quoting De Long, 9 912 F.2d at 1148). The Court considers each factor in turn. 10 When district courts seek to impose pre-filing 1. Notice and an Opportunity To Be Heard 11 Defendants filed a noticed motion to deem Plaintiff a vexatious litigant on April 12 27, 2017, approximately six weeks before the scheduled hearing on the motion. (See 13 ECF No. 39.) Plaintiff filed a timely fifty-page opposition to that motion which the 14 Court has duly considered. (ECF No. 42.) The Court held a hearing on the motion on 15 June 5, 2017. Therefore, Plaintiff has had adequate notice and an opportunity to be 16 heard. See Ringgold-Lockhart, 761 F.3d at 1063 (finding the notice and opportunity 17 to be heard element satisfied where Plaintiff had an opportunity to file an opposition 18 and the court held a hearing on the motion). 19 2. Adequate Record for Review and Substantive Frivolous Findings 20 In their motion to deem Plaintiff a vexatious litigant, Defendants provided a 21 detailed record of Plaintiff’s filings in the 1994 Superior Court action, the 1995 22 Superior Court action, and the 2016 Carver County District Court action. (Vexatious 23 Lit. Mot. 2–7, ECF No. 39.) In doing so, Defendants have clearly described the 24 bizarre statements contained in Plaintiff’s submissions, the voluminous nature of those 25 submissions, and the repetitive quality of the successive proceedings. (Id.) The Court 26 finds Defendants’ procedural history to be highly accurate and well organized. (Id.) 27 However, due to its length, the Court must resort to a summary of that procedural 28 history here. 12 1 a. Plaintiff’s Bizarre Statements 2 A court may consider the content of a party’s submissions in making a 3 vexatious litigant determination. See De Long, 912 F.2d at 1148 (noting the “content” 4 of a party’s filing may serve as “indicia” of vexatiousness). As Defendants point out, 5 Plaintiff’s submissions have at times left behind reality in addition to sound legal 6 theory. 7 statements: (1) “Rameses America Mercury became the first person in America to be 8 subject to The Higher Authority,” (2) “on July 13, 1994 . . . [Prince] became subject to 9 the Messiah, and sealed thereof of the First Amendment, The Emancipation 10 Proclamation, The Declaration of Independence, The State of California, and The 11 Holy Bible,” and (3) “[Plaintiff has a] master plan . . . to teach Prince[], as well as the 12 rest of society a valuable lesson about suppression, submission and faith.” (Tavernier 13 Decl., Ex. 2 ¶¶ 3, 11, ECF No. 39-2.) The declarations supporting the complaint and 14 Plaintiff’s briefs continue in a similar vein. 15 declarations indicates that he is “Pharaoh of the World,” includes lengthy biblical 16 passages, refers to Judge Aurelio Muñoz as “Scorpio,” and explains that Plaintiff is 17 pursuing a parallel petition to “change his name from Rameses America Mercury to 18 Love.” (Tavernier Decl., Ex. C (Declaration of Pharaoh Rameses America Mercury, 19 Pharaoh of the World), Introduction, ¶¶ 1, 10, ECF No. 30-2.) In another of his 20 declarations from the 1994 action, Plaintiff refers to himself as a “son of God” and 21 quotes biblical passages without any mention whatsoever of facts pertinent to the case. 22 (Tavernier Decl., Ex. 12 at 95–99, ECF No. 39-2.) Plaintiff also includes other bizarre 23 supporting documentation, such as a fax he sent to Janet Jackson discussing the 24 concept of “Cosmic Hopscotch to Self-realization,” Egyptian gods, and his desire for 25 her to participate in a music video for his song “Queen Hottie.” (Tavernier Decl., Ex. 26 C at 83–85, ECF No. 30-2.) For instance, the complaint in the 1994 action includes the following For instance, one of Plaintiff’s 27 Declarations made in the course of the Minnesota action likewise include some 28 “far out” statements, including mentions of Plaintiff’s dealings with Saudi Arabian 13 1 royalty, his attempt to be legally adopted as a “Son of God and Earth,” and his 2 creation of “The Game,” which involves a Las Vegas mail order contest, themes of 3 ancient Egypt, and safety deposit boxes that hold “answers.” (Tavernier Decl. Ex. 18, 4 at 162, 166, 167, 184, ECF No. 39-2.) 5 Plaintiff’s filings in this action also raise red flags. For instance, Plaintiff seeks 6 an opportunity for evidentiary discovery in part “to dive deeper into his relationship 7 with Prince and their mothers respectively.” (Opp’n to Vexatious Lit. Mot. 22, ECF 8 No. 42.) Plaintiff also continues to cite biblical passages. (Id. at 25.) Further, 9 Plaintiff attempts to equate or tie in a finding of legal vexatiousness with racism, 10 including statements such as “Impoverished African-American’s are not considered 11 ‘vexatious’ for believing in themselves, or standing up for their rights.” (Id. at 23.) 12 After reviewing Plaintiff’s submissions, the Court finds much of their content 13 irrelevant, if not deeply troubling. The content of Plaintiff’s submissions weighs in 14 favor of deeming Plaintiff a vexatious litigant. 15 b. Voluminous Nature of Plaintiff’s Submissions 16 In addition to considering the content of a party’s submissions, the Court may 17 also consider the quantity and length of those submissions. See De Long, 912 F.2d at 18 1148 (number of submissions); Ringgold-Lockhart, 761 F.3d at 1063 (noting with 19 seeming approval the district court’s discussion of page lengths). Plaintiff has filed 20 numerous, lengthy, unsolicited submissions inappropriate for the motion to dismiss 21 stage of proceedings in this and the previous three relevant actions.7 The following is 22 a partial summary of the submissions that fall within this category. 23 One week after filing his complaint in the 1994 Superior Court action, Plaintiff 24 submitted what appears to have been an unsolicited declaration. (Tavernier Decl., Ex. 25 26 27 28 7 Generally, only documents attached to the complaint or referenced therein may be considered in connection with a motion to dismiss. See Lee, 250 F.3d at 688 (motion to dismiss review typically limited to complaint); Hsu v. Puma Biotech., Inc., No. SACV150865AGJCGX, 2016 WL 5859000, at *3 (C.D. Cal. Sept. 30, 2016) (discussing instances where review may be expanded beyond complaint). 14 1 3, ECF No. 39-2.) Plaintiff then submitted what appears have been another 2 unsolicited declaration on July 9, 1996, after Judge Aurelio Muñoz granted Warner 3 Brothers Records’ demurrer. (Id., Ex. 12.) 4 Two months after filing his initial petition in the 2016 Minnesota action, 5 Plaintiff filed what appears to have been an unsolicited 179 page case summary. (Id., 6 Ex. 19.) Approximately, two weeks later, Plaintiff filed what appears to have been 7 unsolicited declaration. (Id., Ex. 20.) Plaintiff then submitted an unsolicited fifty- 8 three page memorandum after Judge Kevin Eide entered an order dismissing the case. 9 (Id., Ex. 27.) 10 In this proceeding, Plaintiff grossly exceeded the relevant page limit in both of 11 his opposition briefs (each brief was fifty pages long) and filed an unsolicited fifty- 12 page declaration after briefing was complete. (See ECF Nos. 36, 42, 47; see also Civil 13 Standing Order.) 14 These unsolicited and inappropriate declarations, memoranda, and supporting 15 documents have caused this Court, previous courts, and Defendants many hours of 16 unnecessary review. 17 weighs in favor of deeming Plaintiff a vexatious litigant. 18 As such, the voluminous nature of Plaintiff’s submissions c. Repetitive Quality of the Successive Proceedings 19 As outlined in the res judicata section above, Plaintiff has essentially filed the 20 same action with minor variations on four separate occasions: all actions concerned 21 the same licensing agreement/agreements and sought recovery of a billion or more 22 dollars based on that agreement. While the Ninth Circuit has strongly implied that the 23 filing of two successive actions would not be sufficient to warrant the imposition of a 24 vexatious litigant designation, it has not opined on whether four successive actions, as 25 here, would be sufficient. Ringgold-Lockhart, 761 F.3d at 1065 (noting that it would 26 be “extremely unusual” to make a vexatious litigant finding on the basis of two 27 successive actions). 28 15 1 However, as Defendants point out, another court in this district has found that 2 four successive removals of an unlawful detainer action were a sufficient basis for a 3 vexatious litigant finding. See Schneider v. Roberts, No. CV 14-1668-UA, 2014 WL 4 1891416, at *6 (C.D. Cal. May 9, 2014). The Court finds that the four successive 5 actions here are sufficiently repetitive and numerous to serve as the foundation for a 6 vexatious litigant claim. 7 After reviewing the papers submitted in support of this motion and all relevant 8 evidence, the Court finds that there is an extensive record on which to base a 9 vexatious litigant finding. The Court also finds that the bizarre statements made by 10 Plaintiff and the repetitive quality of the successive actions provide a strong 11 substantive foundation for such a finding. 12 3. Narrow Tailoring 13 As the Court finds that there is a basis for a vexatious litigant order, it must 14 consider the appropriate breadth of that order. The Ninth Circuit has made clear that 15 any vexatious litigant order must have defined boundaries and be “narrowly tailored to 16 closely fit the specific vice encountered” so as not to deprive the litigant of more 17 generalized access to the judicial system. De Long, 912 F.2d at 1148. Defendants 18 request an order with the language “Mr. Dixon shall be prohibited from filing any new 19 actions relating to the same set of facts or legal claims as the present action against 20 any of the following parties: Comerica Bank and Trust, N.A. as Personal 21 Representative for the Estate of Prince Rogers Nelson, NPG Music Publishing, LLC, 22 NPG Records, Inc., and any other entity controlled by the Personal Representative.” 23 (Not. of Vexatious Lit. Mot. 2.) 24 The Court believes the proposed order is too broadly worded. A more 25 appropriate order focuses on the factual specifics: the contract and the intellectual 26 property at issue. See Azam v. Fed. Deposit Ins. Corp., No. CV 15-3930-JLS (ASX), 27 2016 WL 4150762, at *14 (C.D. Cal. July 19, 2016) (providing an example of a 28 16 1 vexatious litigant order focusing on factual specifics). Therefore, the Court adopts the 2 amended order below. 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 Plaintiff, or any person acting on his behalf, must first obtain written authorization from a magistrate judge before initiating a new action against Comerica Bank and Trust, N.A. as Personal Representative for the Estate of Prince Rogers Nelson; NPG Music Publishing, LLC; NPG Records, Inc.; or any other entity controlled by the Personal Representative that is related to (1) a contract, of any type, to which Prince was a party, or (2) any of the 965 songs included in the April 4, 2014 transfer of rights (the “Exclusive Songwriter Agreement”). Plaintiff will be allowed to file a complaint if a magistrate judge finds that the proposed complaint is not frivolous and not duplicative of any claim Plaintiff has already filed in state or federal court. If the magistrate judge allows the filing but determines, based on the pleadings and any evidence provided by the parties, that there is no reasonable probability Plaintiff will prevail in the litigation, the magistrate may order Plaintiff to first post security in an appropriate amount to be determined by the magistrate. 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 4. Alternative Basis for Vexatious Litigant Finding: State Law Per Local Rule 83-8.4 As an alternative to the analysis outlined above, Central District of California Local Rule 83-8.4 authorizes district courts to rely on the California state vexatious litigant statute codified in California Civil Procedure section 391 to make a vexatious litigant finding. Williams v. Super. Ct. of L.A. Cnty., No. CV 13-7759 GW JCG, 2014 WL 9923635, at *5 (C.D. Cal. Dec. 18, 2014), report and recommendation adopted as modified, No. CV-13-7759-GW JCGX, 2015 WL 3866032 (C.D. Cal. June 19, 2015) (noting that there are two viable vexatious litigant tests, one based on case law and one based on California Code of Civil Procedural section 391). California Code of Civil Procedure 391(b)(4) allows for a vexatious litigant finding where a party was previously designated “a vexatious litigant by any state . . . court.” Here, the record clearly indicates that Plaintiff was declared a vexatious litigant by the Minnesota 28 17 1 court. (Tavernier Decl., Ex. E at 253–255, ECF No. 30-2.) Thus, the Court would 2 also designate him a vexatious litigant on that basis.8 3 V. CONCLUSION 4 In light of the foregoing, the Court GRANTS Defendants’ motion to dismiss 5 without leave to amend and GRANTS Defendants’ motion to deem Plaintiff a 6 vexatious litigant. (ECF Nos. 30, 39.) 7 8 IT IS SO ORDERED. 9 June 6, 2017 10 ____________________________________ OTIS D. WRIGHT, II UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 8 In reaching its decision to deem Plaintiff a vexatious litigant, the Court considered whether sanctions or other less restrictive methods might be effective in preventing Plaintiff from filing further actions. The Court finds that these methods would not be effective. Plaintiff has already been deemed a vexatious litigant in another court, has filed virtually the same case in multiple venues, and has previously filed for bankruptcy. (See Vexatious Lit. Mot. 9.) Further, the Court sees a thousand dollar fine as being of little import to a plaintiff seeking one billion dollars. 18

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