California Fire Chiefs Association, Inc. v. Backer, et al

Filing 17

ORDER signed by District Judge Troy L. Nunley on 12/26/16 ORDERING that Defendants' MOTION TO DISMISS 10 is GRANTED without leave to amend for lack of subject matter jurisdiction; The Clerk of the Court is directed to close the case. CASE CLOSED. (Mena-Sanchez, L)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 7 EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 8 9 10 No. 2:15-cv-02351-TLN-DB CALIFORNIA FIRE CHIEFS ASSOCIATION, INC., 11 Plaintiff ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS’ 12 v. MOTION TO DISMISS 13 14 15 16 17 HOWARD BACKER, in his Official Capacity as Director of the California Emergency Medical Services Authority, and DANIEL R. SMILEY, in his Official Capacity as Deputy Director of the California Emergency Medical Services Authority, 18 Defendants. 19 20 This matter is before the Court pursuant to Defendants Howard Backer and Daniel R. 21 Smiley’s (jointly “Defendants”) Motion to Dismiss. (ECF No. 10.) Plaintiff California Fire 22 Chiefs Association, Inc. (“Plaintiff”) filed an opposition to Defendants’ motion. (ECF No. 13.) 23 Defendants filed a reply. (ECF No. 14.) The Court, having carefully considered the briefing filed 24 by both parties, hereby GRANTS Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 10). 25 I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND 26 Plaintiff brings this action on behalf of California Cities, Fire Protection Districts, and 27 Joint Power Authorities (“Districts and Authorities”). (ECF No. 1 at 1.) The Districts and 28 Authorities provide prehospital emergency medical services, primarily ambulance transportation, 1 1 as regulated by the EMS Act, California Health and Safety Code § 1979, etc seq (“Section 201”). 2 (ECF No. 1 at 2.) This section allows eligible cities and Fire Protection Districts to exclude 3 competing emergency service providers from their jurisdictions. (ECF No. 1 at 3.) The Districts 4 and Authorities exclude competing providers under this section and Plaintiff claims they are 5 entitled to antitrust immunity under Parker v. Brown, 317 U.S. 341 (1943). (ECF No. 1 at 3.) 6 Plaintiff asks the Court for declaratory relief to determine the parties’ rights and obligations under 7 Parker v. Brown. (ECF No. 1 at 2.) In that case, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Sherman 8 Antitrust Act’s, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1, et seq, antitrust laws did not apply to state actions, whereas if 9 private individuals made the same act, such actions would be in violation of the law. Brown, 317 10 U.S. at 351. Plaintiff alleges the Districts and Authorities can exclude competing providers of 11 prehospital emergency services because it is permitted under Section 201 and antitrust laws do 12 not apply to them under Parker v. Brown. (ECF No. 1 at 2.) Plaintiff asks the Court to confirm 13 Plaintiff’s reading of Section 201 in anticipation of potential lawsuits by third party EMS 14 providers against the Districts and Authorities under the Sherman Antitrust Act. (ECF No. 1 at 15 2.) 16 Plaintiff filed its complaint on November 12, 2015. (ECF No. 1.) Defendants filed a 17 Motion to Dismiss on January 11, 2016, asserting that Plaintiff’s claim is not ripe for 18 adjudication, federal jurisdiction is not proper, Plaintiff lacks associational standing, sovereign 19 immunity bars Plaintiff’s claim, and that Plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief can be 20 granted. (ECF No. 10-1 at 1.) On February 11, 2016, Plaintiff filed an opposition. (ECF No. 21 13.) Defendants filed a reply on February 18, 2016. (ECF No. 14.) 22 II. LEGAL STANDARD 23 A party may bring a motion to challenge a court’s subject matter jurisdiction under 24 Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1). Thornhill Publ’g Co. v. Gen. Tel. & Elec. Corp., 594 25 F.2d 730, 733 (9th Cir. 1979). The objection that a federal court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction 26 may be raised by a party, or by a court on its own initiative, at any stage in the litigation, even 27 after trial and the entry of judgment. Arbaugh v. Y&H Corp., 546 U.S. 500, 506 (2006). The 28 challenge can be either facial or factual. White v. Lee, 227 F.3d 1214, 1242 (9th Cir. 2000). 2 1 “When subject matter jurisdiction is challenged under Federal Rule of [Civil] Procedure 2 12(b)(1), the plaintiff has the burden of proving jurisdiction in order to survive the motion.” 3 Tosco Corp. v. Communities for a Better Env’t, 236 F.3d 495, 499 (9th Cir.2001) (abrogated on 4 other grounds by Hertz Corp. v. Friend, 559 U.S. 77 (2010)). “‘Unless the jurisdictional issue is 5 inextricable from the merits of a case, the court may determine jurisdiction on a motion to dismiss 6 for lack of jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1)[.]’” Robinson v. U.S., 586 F.3d 683, 685 (9th Cir. 7 2009) (internal citations omitted). “A suit brought by a plaintiff without Article III standing is not 8 a ‘case or controversy,’ and an Article III federal court therefore lacks subject matter jurisdiction 9 over the suit.” Cetacean Community v. Bush, 386 F.3d 1169, 1175 (9th Cir.2004). If the court 10 determines at any time that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction, “the court must dismiss the 11 action.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(h)(3). 12 III. 13 Defendants argue that Plaintiff’s claim is not ripe for adjudication, federal jurisdiction is 14 not proper, Plaintiff lacks associational standing, sovereign immunity bars Plaintiff’s claim, and 15 that Plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. (ECF No. 10-1 at 1.) 16 Because the Court finds Plaintiff’s claim is not ripe for adjudication, the Court need not decide 17 Defendants’ remaining arguments. Defendants assert Plaintiff’s claim is not ripe because 18 Plaintiff is seeking declaratory judgment for a speculative future harm. (ECF No. 10-1 at 15.) 19 Plaintiff contends that the claim is ripe because the parties dispute whether Section 201 permits 20 excluding EMS providers, that Defendants misconstrue federal antitrust law underlying the 21 parties’ dispute, and that Defendants’ position “could cost a Section 201 Eligible Provider its 22 exclusivity and Parker immunity.” (ECF No. 13 at 12.) 23 24 25 26 27 28 ANALYSIS Article III standing has three elements: First, the plaintiff must have suffered an “injury in fact” — an invasion of a legally protected interest which is (a) concrete and particularized, . . . and (b) “actual or imminent, not ‘conjectural’ or ‘hypothetical,’” . . . Second, there must be a causal connection between the injury and the conduct complained of — the injury has to be “fairly . . . trace[able] to the challenged action of the defendant, and not . . . th[e] result [of] the independent action of some third party not before the court.” . . . Third, it must be “likely,” as opposed to merely “speculative,” that 3 the injury will be “redressed by a favorable decision.” 1 Lujan v. Defs. of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560–61 (1992) (alterations in original) (internal citations 2 3 4 5 6 omitted). “The party invoking federal jurisdiction bears the burden of establishing these elements.” Id. “At the pleading stage, general factual allegations of injury resulting from the defendant’s conduct may suffice, for on a motion to dismiss we presum[e] that general allegations embrace those specific facts that are necessary to support the claim.” Id. at 561 (alteration in original) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). “Whether the question is viewed as one 7 of standing or ripeness, the Constitution mandates that prior to our exercise of jurisdiction there 8 9 10 exist a constitutional ‘case or controversy,’ that the issues presented are ‘definite and concrete, not hypothetical or abstract.’” Thomas v. Anchorage Equal Rights Comm’n, 220 F.3d 1134, 1139 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc) (quoting Ry. Mail Ass’n v. Corsi, 326 U.S. 88, 93 (1945)). 11 Plaintiff brings a claim for declaratory relief to determine whether the Parker state-action 12 immunity doctrine would allow Districts and Authorities to exclude EMS service providers from 13 their jurisdictions without violating federal antitrust law. Plaintiff asserts that Defendants hold a 14 different legal view on this point. However, Plaintiff has not shown an imminent, let alone 15 actual, injury that will be inflicted on Districts and Authorities by Defendants. Plaintiff alleges 16 that Districts and Authorities could face suit from competing third party providers if Parker state17 action immunity does not apply to the jurisdictions. (See ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 42, 45, 53.) While 18 Plaintiff was served with a demand letter from the counsel of two EMS providers who had been 19 excluded from the EMS system, Plaintiff has offered no evidence showing these providers would 20 have chosen to follow through with filing an antitrust suit against Plaintiff. (ECF No. 1 at 13.) 21 At most, Plaintiff alleges Districts and authorities may be worse off in the case of possible future 22 litigation, which has not actually commenced. Plaintiff cites no authorities that stand for the 23 proposition that being situated worse off in future litigation is enough to demonstrate imminent 24 and actual injury. 25 Furthermore, these allegations do not satisfy the case or controversy requirement. “Such 26 unasserted . . . and unknown claims do not present an immediate or real threat to [Districts and 27 Authorities] such that declaratory relief is proper.” Orix Credit All., Inc. v. Wolfe, 212 F.3d 891, 28 4 1 896 (5th Cir. 2000). “[T]he mere existence of . . . a generalized threat of prosecution [does not] 2 satisf[y] the ‘case or controversy’ requirement.” Thomas, 220 F.3d at 1139. Therefore, 3 Plaintiff’s claim is not ripe for adjudication and it would be premature for the Court to decide 4 whether Plaintiff has antitrust immunity under Section 201. 5 IV. 6 7 8 CONCLUSION Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED without leave to amend for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Clerk of the Court is directed to close the case. IT IS SO ORDERED. 9 10 Dated: December 26, 2016 11 Troy L. Nunley United States District Judge 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 5

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