McCoy v. Holland et al

Filing 11

FINDINGS and RECOMMENDATIONS to Grant Plaintiff's 7 Motion to Remand Action to State Court, signed by Magistrate Judge Jennifer L. Thurston on 2/9/17. Referred to Judge Drozd. Objections to F&R Within Fourteen Days. (Gonzalez, R)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 LAKIETH LEROY McCOY, 12 13 14 Plaintiff, v. HOLLAND, et al., 15 Defendants. Case No. 1:16-cv-01333-DAD-JLT (PC) FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION TO GRANT PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO REMAND ACTION TO STATE COURT (Doc. 7) 14-DAY DEADLINE 16 17 18 I. FINDINGS Plaintiff initially filed this action in Kern County Superior Court, (Doc. 1, pp. 8-19), and 19 Defendants removed it to this Court (Id., pp. 1-6). Plaintiff filed a motion for remand which 20 should be GRANTED since federal subject matter jurisdiction is lacking. 21 A. Legal Standards 22 Section 1441(a) of Title 28 provides that a defendant may remove from state court any 23 action Aof which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction.@ The vast 24 majority of lawsuits “arise under the law that creates the cause of action.” Am. Well Works Co. v. 25 Layne & Bowler Co., 241 U.S. 257, 260 (1916) (Holmes, J.); Merrell Dow Pharm., Inc. v. 26 Thompson, 478 U.S. 804, 808 (1986). Federal courts Ashall have original jurisdiction of all civil 27 actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.@ 28 U.S.C. ' 1331. 28 However, “a case may [also] arise under federal law ‘where the vindication of a right under state 1 1 law necessarily turn[s] on some construction of federal law,’ ” Merrell Dow, 478 U.S. at 808 2 (quoting Franchise Tax Bd. v. Const. Laborers Vac. Trust, 463 U.S. 1, 9 (1983) (emphasis 3 added)), but “only [if] . . . the plaintiff's right to relief necessarily depends on a substantial 4 question of federal law,” Franchise Tax Bd., 463 U.S. at 28 (emphases added). 5 For removal to be proper, it must be clear from the face of the complaint that federal 6 subject matter jurisdiction exists. Oklahoma Tax Comm'n. v. Graham, 489 U.S. 838, 840-41 7 (1989) (per curiam). The presence or absence of federal-question jurisdiction is governed by the 8 well-pleaded complaint rule, which provides that federal jurisdiction exists only when a federal 9 question is presented on the face of the plaintiff=s properly pleaded complaint. Caterpillar, Inc., 10 v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987); Hunter v. Phillip Morris USA, 582 F.3d 1039, 1042 (9th 11 Cir. 2009); Marin General Hosp. v. Modesto Empire Traction Co., 581 F.3d 941, 944 (9th Cir. 12 2009); Hall, 476 F.3d at 687. 13 The removal statute is strictly construed against removal and the defendant bears the 14 burden of establishing grounds for removal. Syngenta Crop Protection, Inc. v. Henson, 537 U.S. 15 28, 32 (2002); Nevada v. Bank of America Corp., 672 F.3d 661, 667 (9th Cir. 2012); Fossen v. 16 Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Montana, Inc., 660 F.3d 1102, 1107 (9th Cir. 2011); Hunter, 582 17 F.3d at 1042 (citations omitted). Courts must consider whether federal jurisdiction exists, Rains 18 v. Criterion Systems, Inc., 80 F.3d 339, 342 (9th Cir. 1996), and must reject federal jurisdiction if 19 there is any doubt as to the right of removal in the first instance, Duncan v. Stuetzle, 76 F.3d 20 1480, 1485 (9th Cir. 1996) (quotation marks and citation omitted); Hunter, 582 F.3d at 1042 21 (citations omitted). 22 B. Discussion 23 Plaintiff makes two arguments to support his motion to remand: (1) that Defendants 24 removal violated the “rule of unanimity” (Doc. 7, pp. 4-5); and (2) that this Court lacks subject 25 matter jurisdiction since his claims do not arise under federal law (id., p. 5).1 Defendants respond 26 that Plaintiff's Complaint “is primarily a constitutional civil rights claim that must remain in 27 1 28 Since federal subject matter jurisdiction is lacking, it is dispositive and the unanimity of defendants need not be addressed. 2 1 Federal Court.” (Doc. 8, p. 1.) 2 The pivotal question is whether the Complaint presents a federal question on its face. 3 Caterpillar, 482 U.S. at 392; Hunter, 582 F.3d at 1042 (citations omitted); Marin General 4 Hosp,.581 F.3d at 944 ; Hall, 476 F.3d at 687 (citation omitted). State-law causes of action 5 “invoke[ ] federal-question jurisdiction only if [they] necessarily raise a stated federal issue, 6 actually disputed and substantial.” Nevada, 672 F.3d at 674 (alteration and internal quotation 7 marks omitted). 8 In the Complaint, Plaintiff contends that the “Guard One” welfare checks2 were 9 negligently implemented at CCI which amount to a breach of duty, harassment, and intentional 10 infliction of emotional distress. (Doc. 1, pp. 8-19.) Plaintiff argues that he did not intend his 11 pleading to present any federal questions; that he only pled state law claims and did not plead any 12 claims for relief under 42 U.S.C. §1983; and that he intentionally did not mention the 13 Constitution or any federal constitutional rights in the Complaint. (Doc. 7, p. 5.) Defendants counter that while Plaintiff’s stated causes of action arise under California 14 15 law, the central focus of the Complaint is “constitutional” and that the Complaint states causes of 16 action for unconstitutional conditions of confinement and retaliation. (Doc. 8, p.2.) However, 17 this contention is not supported by a review of Plaintiff=s complaint. Libhart v. Santa Monica 18 Dairy Co., 592 F.2d 1062, 1065 (9th Cir. 1979) (existence of federal jurisdiction determined by 19 the complaint at the time of removal). None of Plaintiff’s allegations show that the “Guard One” procedure was implemented in 20 21 deliberate indifference to a serious risk of harm to Plaintiff as required for a “conditions of 22 confinement” claim as Defendants assert. See Labatad v. Corrections Corp. of America, 714 F.3d 23 1155, 1160 (9th Cir. 2013) (citing Gibson v. County of Washoe, 290 F.3d 1175, 1187 (9th Cir. 24 2002). In fact, Plaintiff alleges that the “Guard One” procedure was implemented to provide for 25 inmates’ safety by ensuring prison staff conducted welfare checks to see if suicidal and otherwise 26 emotionally fragile inmates were not in need of “dire medical attention” or had harmed 27 2 28 The “Guard One” system utilizes a metal mechanism in the center of the cell door that is touched with a wand by correctional staff, triggering a loud “bang” every 30 minutes. (Doc. 1, pp. 10-12.) 3 1 themselves. (Doc. 1, pp. 10-11.) Plaintiff’s allegations also do not show that the “Guard One” procedure was implemented 2 3 out of retaliatory animus for Plaintiff’s protected conduct to state a retaliation claim as 4 Defendants assert. Rhodes v. Robinson, 408 F.3d 559, 568 (9th Cir. 2005). Plaintiff’s allegations 5 actually show that the “Guard One” procedure was implemented to advance a legitimate goal of 6 the correctional institution -- ensuring the safety of suicidal and emotionally fragile inmates. 7 Plaintiff states no allegations to show that he had engaged in protected conduct, let alone that 8 either of the Defendants were aware he engaged in any such activities. Further, Plaintiff alleges 9 that correctional staff encouraged Plaintiff and other inmates who complained about the “Guard 10 One” procedure to file inmate grievances as a potential means for effecting change. 11 The only mention of federal law in the Complaint is on the page before the last, under the 12 “Prayer for Relief” where Plaintiff requests an order granting him “a declaration that the acts and 13 omissions described herein violated his rights under both state and federal law.” (Doc. 1, p. 18.) 14 However, requests for declaratory relief do not provide subject matter jurisdiction and are 15 regularly dismissed from §1983 actions because they are subsumed by determinations on claims 16 for damages. See Rhodes, 408 F.3d at 565-66 n.8. 17 Plaintiff could have filed this action under 42 U.S.C. ' 1983 and attempted to state 18 cognizable claims for violation of his federal constitutional rights, as well as violations of 19 California law, but he chose not to. The Complaint delineates five state law claims for relief: 20 negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, breach of duty, and harassment. (Doc. 1, 21 pp. 15-16.) None of these causes of action are cognizable, or require elements similar to claims 22 which would be cognizable under federal law to “necessarily raise a stated federal issue, actually 23 disputed and substantial.” Nevada, 672 F.3d at 674. Further, Plaintiff exercised his right to rely 24 exclusively on state law by filing suit in state court utilizing the state legal process. Caterpillar, 25 Inc., 482 U.S. at 392. Thus, this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over this action and it 26 should therefore be remanded to the Kern County Superior Court.3 27 28 3 Since subject matter jurisdiction is lacking and so dispositive, unanimity of defendants need not be addressed. 4 1 2 3 4 II. RECOMMENDATION Accordingly, the Court RECOMMENDS that Plaintiff=s motion to remand the action to state court, filed September 29, 2016 (Doc. 7), be GRANTED. These Findings and Recommendations will be submitted to the United States District 5 Judge assigned to the case, pursuant to the provisions of Title 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(l). Within 14 6 days after being served with these Findings and Recommendations, the parties may file written 7 objections with the Court. Local Rule 304(b). The document should be captioned “Objections to 8 Magistrate Judge’s Findings and Recommendations.” The parties are advised that failure to file 9 objections within the specified time may result in the waiver of rights on appeal. Wilkerson v. 10 Wheeler, 772 F.3d 834, 839 (9th Cir. 2014) (citing Baxter v. Sullivan, 923 F.2d 1391, 1394 (9th 11 Cir. 1991)). 12 13 14 IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: February 9, 2017 /s/ Jennifer L. Thurston UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 5

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