Bjork v. County of Placer District Attorney's Office

Filing 28

MEMORANDUM and ORDER granting 12 Motion to Dismiss signed by Chief Judge Morrison C. England, Jr on 4/23/15. (Kaminski, H)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 KARIN BJORK, No. 2:14-cv-01983-MCE-EFB 12 Plaintiff/Petitioner, 13 v. 14 15 16 17 18 19 COUNTY OF PLACER DISTRICT ATTORNEY’S OFFICE, and DOES 1 through 10, inclusive, MEMORANDUM AND ORDER Defendant/Real Party in Interest. _______________________________ PLACER COUNTY CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION, Respondent. 20 21 22 In this action, Respondent Placer County Civil Service Commission (“the 23 Commission”) moves to dismiss the state claim filed against it by Plaintiff/Petitioner Karin 24 Bjork (“Plaintiff”) on grounds that this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over said 25 claim pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1). ECF No. 11. For the 26 following reasons, the Commission’s motion is GRANTED. 1 27 28 1 Because oral argument would not have been of material assistance, the Court ordered this matter submitted on the briefs. E.D. Cal. Local Rule 230(g). 1 BACKGROUND2 1 2 3 Plaintiff is a female attorney who worked with the Placer County District Attorney’s 4 Office (“County”) for over 21 years. For 11 years, Plaintiff served as a Supervising 5 District Attorney. On October 25, 2012, Plaintiff was demoted, allegedly in retaliation for 6 refusing to participate in the discrimination of a male subordinate attorney who was over 7 40 years old. Thereafter, Plaintiff claims that she complained, including via an internal 8 complaint to County, of discrimination and retaliation against herself and other women. 9 On August 5, 2013, Plaintiff filed her first civil action against County, alleging 10 gender discrimination and retaliation. Bjork v. Cnty. of Placer Dist. Attorney’s Office, 11 2:13-cv-01616-MCE-EFB (“Bjork I”). County continued to engage in other acts of 12 discrimination, and while her initial action was pending, on January 28, 2014, County 13 terminated Petitioner’s employment. Approximately a week later, Plaintiff appealed her 14 termination to the Commission, and an evidentiary hearing was conducted over five days 15 between April 29 and May 8, 2014. 16 Plaintiff did not present her claims of retaliation and discrimination to the 17 Commission, nor did she present any evidence connected to those allegations. Indeed, 18 Plaintiff expressly stipulated at the outset of the hearing that the merits of the federal 19 lawsuit, with its claims of retaliation and discrimination, were beyond the Commission 20 hearing’s scope. Moreover, Plaintiff, in her opposition to the present motion, concedes 21 that she presented no evidence of any alleged discrimination and retaliation at the 22 hearing. Pl.’s Opp., 3:25-27. On May 28, 2014, the Commission issued its decision, 23 reducing her discipline from termination to a demotion and a 120-day suspension. 24 On August 26, 2014, Plaintiff filed a second case for gender discrimination and 25 retaliation against County. Bjork v. Cnty. of Placer Dist. Attorney’s Office, 2:14-CV- 26 01983-MCE-EFB (“Bjork II”). Shortly thereafter, she filed her operative First Amended 27 28 2 The following recitation of facts is taken, at times verbatim, from Petitioners’ Opposition to Commission’s Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 14) and her FAC (ECF No. 7). 2 1 Complaint (“FAC”) and added a state writ of mandamus claim directed to the 2 Commission, seeking to overturn its decision. Plaintiff contends jurisdiction over the 3 state claim is based on supplemental jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367.3 On 4 September 30, 2014, the Commission filed a Motion to Dismiss based on lack of subject 5 matter jurisdiction.4 ECF No. 12. Plaintiff filed a timely Opposition. ECF No. 14. 6 7 STANDARD 8 9 Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure5 12(b)(1), a motion to dismiss may be 10 made on the basis of a “lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.” A Rule 12(b)(1) motion tests 11 “whether the plaintiff has a right to be in the particular court....” Trs. of Screen Actors 12 Guild–Producers Pension & Health Plans v. NYCA, Inc., 572 F.3d 771, 775 (9th Cir. 13 2009) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). Federal courts are limited in 14 jurisdiction, and it is presumed that a case lies outside the jurisdiction of the court unless 15 the plaintiff proves otherwise. Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 16 377 (1994); Stock W., Inc. v. Confederated Tribes, 873 F.2d 1221, 1225 (9th Cir. 1989). 17 18 19 ANALYSIS 20 21 In her Fourth Claim for Relief, Plaintiff seeks a writ of mandamus, pursuant to 22 section 1094.5 of the California Code of Civil Procedure, ordering the Commission to 23 alter or vacate its disciplinary decision in the hearing on Plaintiff’s appeal of her 24 25 3 The Court ordered Bjork I and II to be related on grounds that the two cases share common questions of law and fact. ECF No. 9. 4 26 27 Additionally, Plaintiff has filed a Motion to Consolidate this action with Bjork I (ECF No. 13), and Defendant County has filed a separate Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 11). Those motions will be decided by a separate order. 5 28 All further references to “Rule” or “Rules” are to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure unless otherwise noted. 3 1 termination. FAC at ¶ 52-60. The Commission moves to dismiss Plaintiff’s state writ of 2 mandamus claim for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Plaintiff argues that the Court 3 has supplemental jurisdiction over the state claim because the claim is supplemental to 4 her federal discrimination claim brought under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e. The Court 5 disagrees and finds that the state claim is wholly independent of Petitioner’s federal 6 claim against County. 7 Federal district courts have original jurisdiction over “all civil actions arising under 8 the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 1331. In this case, 9 the Court has original jurisdiction over the Title VII gender discrimination claim because it 10 arises out of federal law, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e. If the Court has original jurisdiction over a 11 case, it also has supplemental jurisdiction “over all other claims that are so related to 12 claims in the action within such original jurisdiction that they form part of the same case 13 or controversy.” 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a). A single case or controversy exists if the state 14 and federal claims “derive from a common nucleus of operative fact” such that the 15 petitioner “would ordinarily be expected to try them all in one judicial proceeding.” 16 United Mine Workers v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 725 (1966). 17 In her Opposition, Plaintiff argues that the Court has supplemental jurisdiction 18 over her writ of mandamus claim because it is part of the same case or controversy as 19 her federal discrimination claim. That argument is unpersuasive. Plaintiff herself 20 concedes that she did not discuss or present evidence on gender discrimination at the 21 hearing before the Commission. Therefore, even though her termination is a common 22 event between the allegedly unlawful hearing and the discrimination, all the other facts of 23 the two claims diverge significantly. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that the Commission 24 failed to rule in her favor at the evidentiary hearing appealing her termination and that 25 the Commission erroneously admitted prejudicial evidence at the hearing. FAC at ¶¶ 56- 26 58. In contrast, Plaintiff’s discrimination claim turns on her proving there is a “pattern 27 and practice of gender discrimination” by County, and that Plaintiff suffered adverse 28 acts, including her termination, as a result of that discrimination. There are little to no 4 1 facts that overlap between these two claims. Indeed, Plaintiff alleges no facts that the 2 Commission discriminated against her based on her gender, and, in fact, Plaintiff herself 3 made the decision not to raise gender discrimination as an issue at the evidentiary 4 hearing before the Commission. True, County’s decision to terminate Plaintiff’s 5 employment triggered her appeal of that decision and the subsequent evidentiary 6 hearing by the Commission. However, any overlap in the facts ends there, and the facts 7 surrounding the evidentiary hearing stand independently of any allegations of gender 8 discrimination. Moreover, the two matters are procedurally distinct since the state claim 9 would be decided by a judge, while Plaintiff seeks a jury trial for the gender 10 discrimination and retaliation claims against County. Based on these substantial 11 differences in the two cases, the state and federal claims do not derive from the same 12 case or controversy. As a result, the Court does not have supplemental jurisdiction over 13 Plaintiff’s state mandamus claim directed at the Commission. See 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a). 14 In addition, even if the claims do arise from a common case or controversy, the 15 Court, in its discretion, may decline to exercise jurisdiction over a state claim. A federal 16 district court may decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction in four situations 17 enumerated in 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c): 18 (1) the claim raises a novel or complex issue of State law, (2) the claim substantially predominates over the claim [ ] 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. 19 20 21 22 “[Supplemental] jurisdiction is a doctrine of discretion, not of Petitioner's right.” 23 Gibbs, 383 U.S. at 726. Before exercising supplemental jurisdiction, the Court should 24 weigh considerations of “economy, convenience, fairness and comity.” Acri v. Varian 25 Assocs., Inc., 114 F.3d 999, 1001 (9th Cir. 1997) (en banc) (internal quotation marks 26 omitted). 27 /// 28 /// 5 1 Here, Plaintiff’s state claim involves mandamus proceedings “that are uniquely in 2 the interest and domain of state courts.” Clemes v. Del Norte County Unified Sch. Dist., 3 843 F. Supp. 583, 596 (N.D. Cal. 1994), overruled on other grounds by Maynard v. City 4 of San Jose, 37 F.3d 1396, 1403 (9th Cir. 1994). Nevertheless, Plaintiff argues that the 5 Court should retain the state law claim because it does not raise any unique issues of 6 state law. Once again, the Court disagrees. Because state mandamus claims raise 7 “serious considerations regarding comity and federalism,” federal courts appropriately 8 exercise their discretion in declining to hear state mandamus claims. Fresno Unified 9 Sch. Dist., 980 F. Supp. 2d, 1160, 1184-85 (“Where a state law claim is inextricably tied 10 to a request for a writ of mandamus, a federal district court appropriately declines 11 supplemental jurisdiction.”) (internal citations omitted); see City Limits of N. Nevada, Inc. 12 v. Cnty. of Sacramento, No. 2:06-cv-1244-GEB-GGH, 2006 WL 2868950, at *3 (E.D. 13 Cal. Oct. 6, 2006); Tomlinson v. Cnty. of Monterey, No. C-07-00990 RMW, 2007 WL 14 2298038, at *2 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 8, 2007)). Plaintiff has failed to indicate why 15 supplemental jurisdiction is warranted in this particular case, and grounds exist under 16 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(1) to decline jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s mandamus action. 17 Accordingly, Plaintiff's mandamus claim is DISMISSED without prejudice so that plaintiff 18 may renew the claim in state court. See, e.g., Gibbs, 383 U.S. at 726-27 (holding that if 19 supplemental jurisdiction is not exercised over a state claim, then the state claims may 20 be dismissed without prejudice and left for resolution to state tribunals). 21 /// 22 /// 23 /// 24 /// 25 /// 26 /// 27 /// 28 /// 6 1 CONCLUSION 2 3 For the foregoing reasons, the Motion to Dismiss filed on behalf of Respondent 4 Placer County Civil Service Commission (ECF No. 12) is GRANTED without prejudice. 5 The Fourth Claim against the Commission, as set forth in Plaintiff’s First Amended 6 Complaint, is accordingly DISMISSED. 7 8 IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: April 23, 2015 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 7

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