Orion Wine Imports, LLC et al v. Appelsmith

Filing 52

ORDER signed by District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller on 8/15/2019 GRANTING 33 Motion to Dismiss plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint. The court GRANTS Plaintiffs leave to amend only as to the issues identified. Plaintiffs are ORDERED to file any amended complaint within 21 days of the date this order is filed. (Reader, L)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 12 ORION WINE IMPORTS, LLC and PETER E. CREIGHTON, Plaintiffs, 13 14 15 16 17 No. 2:18-cv-01721-KJM-DB ORDER v. JACOB APPLESMITH, in his official capacity as Director of the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, Defendant. 18 19 Plaintiffs Orion Wine Imports, LLC (“Orion”) and Peter E. Creighton bring this 20 action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 challenging the constitutionality of California Business & 21 Professions Code section 23661 (“section 23661”) and related California statutes, which permit 22 alcoholic beverages to be imported into California only when consigned and delivered to a 23 licensed importer at the importer’s licensed premises or at a licensed public warehouse. Second 24 Am. Compl. (“SAC”), ECF No. 32. Defendant Jacob Applesmith moves to dismiss plaintiffs’ 25 Second Amended Complaint under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). Mot., 26 ECF No. 33-1. Plaintiffs filed an opposition, ECF No. 35, and defendant a reply, ECF No. 42. 27 The court held a hearing on the motion to dismiss, at which James Tanford appeared for 28 plaintiffs, Lykisha Beasley appeared for defendant, and Brian Rocca and Robert Brundage 1 1 appeared for amici California Beer and Beverage Distributors (“CBBD”) and Wine and Spirits 2 Wholesalers of California (“WSWC”). As explained below, the court GRANTS defendant’s 3 motion to dismiss and grants plaintiffs leave to amend. 4 I. 5 BACKGROUND A. 6 Plaintiffs’ Claims Plaintiff Orion is a Florida-based and -licensed importer and wholesaler of wine 7 that would like to import, sell and deliver its products directly to California retailers. SAC ¶¶ 4, 8 17–20. Plaintiff Peter Creighton is a Florida resident and a Florida-licensed wine importer and 9 wholesaler, as well as the owner and operator of Orion. Id. ¶¶ 5, 23. Creighton seeks to practice 10 his profession and market, sell and deliver wine directly to California retailers. Id. ¶ 27. 11 Defendant Jacob Applesmith is sued in his official capacity as the Director of the California 12 Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. Id. ¶ 6. 13 Plaintiffs seek a declaratory judgment that section 23661 discriminates against 14 interstate commerce in violation of the Commerce Clause and the Privileges and Immunities 15 Clause of Article IV of the U.S. Constitution. Id. at 7. Plaintiffs also seek to enjoin California 16 from enforcing section 23661 and to require the State to permit out-of-state wine importers and 17 wholesalers to obtain licenses under the same or similar licensure terms as in-state importers and 18 wholesalers, as well as to import, sell and deliver wine directly to California retailers. Id. at 7–8. 19 Section 23661 is a provision of California’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Act (“ABC Act”) 20 regulating where imported alcoholic beverages are to be consigned and delivered upon arrival in 21 California. Specifically, the statute provides in pertinent part that: 22 [A]lcoholic beverages may be brought into this state from without this state for delivery or use within the state only by common carriers and only when the alcoholic beverages are consigned to a licensed importer, and only when consigned to the premises of the licensed importer or to a licensed importer or customs broker at the premises of a public warehouse licensed under this division. 23 24 25 26 Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 23661. 27 /// 28 /// 2 1 2 B. California’s Three-Tiered Distribution and Licensing Scheme As a provision of the ABC Act, section 23661 is part of California’s three-tiered 3 licensing scheme for the sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages. The three tiers refer to: 4 (1) manufacturers of alcoholic beverages, (2) wholesalers and (3) retailers. Id. § 23320(a). Under 5 the three-tier system, a manufacturer generally sells its wine to a licensed wholesaler, who then 6 sells and delivers the wine to a licensed in-state retailer. Id. §§ 23356(b), 23378. The retailer, in 7 turn, sells the wine to consumers. Id. §§ 23026, 23394, 23402. Importers typically fit into this 8 system at the manufacturer and wholesaler tiers. Id. § 23017. The holder of an importer’s license 9 cannot sell or deliver wine to retailers unless it also has a wholesaler’s license. Id. §§ 23374, 10 23374.5, 23374.6, 23775. If an importer also holds a wholesaler’s license, then the importer can 11 transfer the imported beverages to itself under the wholesaler’s license and use the wholesaler’s 12 license to sell to retailers. Id. §§ 23374, 23378, 23402. 13 Section 23661, the statute at issue here, requires imported alcoholic beverages to 14 be consigned only to licensed importers and delivered to licensed importers either at their 15 licensed premises or at a licensed public warehouse. Id. § 23661. The statute thus regulates 16 where in the three-tier structure alcoholic beverages are to be consigned and delivered upon 17 arrival in California, funneling imported alcoholic beverages into California’s three-tier system at 18 the manufacturer or wholesaler levels. The statute also regulates where imported alcoholic 19 beverages may be physically delivered: to a licensed importer either at its licensed premises or at 20 a licensed public warehouse. A public warehouse is “any place licensed for the storage of, but 21 not for sale of, alcohol, or alcoholic beverages, for the account of other licensees.” Id. §§ 23036, 22 23375 (“A public warehouse license authorizes the storage of alcoholic beverages for the account 23 of another licensee . . . .). California law allows an “out-of-state business” to obtain a license to 24 have alcoholic beverages come “to rest, [be] stored, and [be] shipped from” a licensed public 25 warehouse. Id. § 24041. 26 Plaintiffs allege California’s three-tiered scheme discriminates against out-of-state 27 wholesalers and importers of wine. SAC at 2. They allege a business located within California 28 can obtain a combination of licenses allowing it to import, sell and deliver wine directly to 3 1 California retailers, while a business located outside California cannot obtain the same 2 combination of licenses and must instead sell its wine to in-state importers or wholesalers, who 3 may then deliver the wine to California retailers. Id. ¶¶ 7–10. 4 C. Procedural Background 5 Plaintiffs filed their original complaint on June 14, 2018. ECF No. 1. On July 10, 6 2018, before defendant filed an answer, plaintiffs filed a First Amended Complaint. ECF No. 10. 7 Defendant then moved to dismiss. ECF No. 15-1. On August 10, 2018, while defendant’s 8 motion to dismiss was pending, plaintiffs filed a motion seeking leave to file a second amended 9 complaint. ECF No. 17-1. The court granted plaintiffs’ motion to amend and denied defendant’s 10 motion to dismiss as moot. ECF No. 31. Plaintiffs filed their Second Amended Complaint on 11 October 3, 2018, ECF No. 32, and defendant refiled his motion to dismiss on October 17, 2018, 12 ECF No. 33-1. Plaintiffs filed their opposition to the motion to dismiss on November 7, 2018, 13 ECF No. 35, and a response to CBBD and WSWC’s amicus brief on January 29, 2019, ECF No. 14 40. Defendant filed his reply on February 1, 2019. ECF No. 42. Following the hearing on the 15 motion, plaintiffs filed a supplemental memorandum, ECF No. 44, to which defendant filed 16 objections, ECF No. 45. Plaintiffs then opposed the objections, ECF No. 46, and the court 17 permitted defendant to respond, ECF Nos. 47 (Minute Order), 48 (Response). 18 On June 27, 2019, plaintiffs filed a Notice of Relevant Decision by the Supreme 19 Court in Tennessee Wine & Spirits Retailers Association v. Thomas, 139 S. Ct. 2449 (2019). ECF 20 No. 49. Defendant filed a Statement of Non-Opposition to plaintiffs’ Notice of Relevant 21 Decision. ECF No. 51. While the court has reviewed the new Supreme Court decision, that 22 decision does not affect the court’s decision here. Moreover, the court does not rely on plaintiffs’ 23 arguments in connection with their Notice, and so need not allow defendant the opportunity for a 24 response. Assuming plaintiffs amend their complaint as provided by this order, the Tennessee 25 Wine & Spirits Retailers Association decision may of course inform future motion practice before 26 the court. 27 28 4 1 II. 2 LEGAL STANDARD A. 3 Rule 12(b)(1) The U.S. Constitution “limits the jurisdiction of federal courts to ‘Cases’ and 4 ‘Controversies.’” Lujan v. Defs. of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 559 (1992). “Standing to sue is a 5 doctrine rooted in the traditional understanding of a case or controversy.” Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, 6 136 S. Ct. 1540, 1547 (2016); see also Lujan, 504 U.S. at 560 (“[T]he core component of 7 standing is an essential and unchanging part of the case-or-controversy requirement of Article 8 III.”). 9 A plaintiff possesses Article III standing only if he or she has “(1) suffered an 10 injury in fact, (2) that is fairly traceable to the challenged conduct of the defendant, and (3) that is 11 likely to be redressed by a favorable judicial decision.” Spokeo, 136 S. Ct. at 1547 (citing Lujan, 12 504 U.S. at 560). To establish an injury in fact, the plaintiff must show the defendant infringed 13 on the plaintiff’s legally protected interest in a “concrete and particularized” manner that is 14 “actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical.” Lujan, 504 U.S. at 560 (internal quotations 15 and citations omitted). “A ‘concrete’ injury must be ‘de facto’; that is, it must actually exist.” 16 Spokeo, 136 S. Ct. at 1548 (citing Black's Law Dictionary 479 (9th ed. 2009)). 17 Lack of standing is “properly raised in a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of 18 Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), not Rule 12(b)(6).” White v. Lee, 227 F.3d 1214, 1242 (9th Cir. 2000). 19 “Rule 12(b)(1) jurisdictional attacks can be either facial or factual.” Id. “In a facial attack, the 20 challenger asserts that the allegations contained in a complaint are insufficient on their face to 21 invoke federal jurisdiction.” Safe Air for Everyone v. Meyer, 373 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir. 22 2004). “[I]n a factual attack, the challenger disputes the truth of the allegations that, by 23 themselves, would otherwise invoke federal jurisdiction.” Id. A “district court resolves a facial 24 attack as it would a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6): Accepting the plaintiff’s allegations as 25 true and drawing all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff’s favor, the court determines whether 26 the allegations are sufficient as a legal matter to invoke the court’s jurisdiction.” Leite v. Crane 27 Co., 749 F.3d 1117, 1121 (9th Cir. 2014) (citing Pride v. Correa, 719 F.3d 1130, 1133 (9th Cir. 28 2013)). In a factual attack, however, the court may review evidence outside the pleadings to 5 1 resolve factual disputes concerning the existence of jurisdiction. McCarthy v. United States, 2 850 F.2d 558, 560 (9th Cir. 1988). “Once the moving party has converted the motion to dismiss 3 into a factual motion by presenting affidavits or other evidence properly brought before the court, 4 the party opposing the motion must furnish affidavits or other evidence necessary to satisfy its 5 burden of establishing subject matter jurisdiction.” Savage v. Glendale Union High Sch., 6 343 F.3d 1036, 1039 n.2 (9th Cir. 2003) (citing St. Clair v. City of Chico, 880 F.2d 199, 201 (9th 7 Cir. 1989)). 8 9 Plaintiffs, as the parties invoking federal jurisdiction, bear the burden of establishing the elements to satisfy Article III standing. See Spokeo, 136 S. Ct. at 1547. “Where, 10 as here, a case is at the pleading stage, the plaintiff must ‘clearly . . . allege facts demonstrating’ 11 each element.” Id. (alteration in original) (quoting Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 518 (1975)). 12 B. Rule 12(b)(6) 13 Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a party may move to dismiss a 14 complaint for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” A court may dismiss 15 “based on the lack of cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a 16 cognizable legal theory.” Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep’t, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990), 17 overruled on other grounds, Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). 18 Although a complaint need contain only “a short and plain statement of the claim 19 showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2), to survive a motion to 20 dismiss this short and plain statement “must contain sufficient factual matter . . . to ‘state a claim 21 to relief that is plausible on its face.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting 22 Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A complaint must include something more than “an 23 unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation” or “‘labels and conclusions’ or ‘a 24 formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.’” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 25 555). Determining whether a complaint will survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a 26 claim is a “context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial 27 experience and common sense.” Id. at 679. Ultimately, the inquiry focuses on the interplay 28 6 1 between the factual allegations of the complaint and the dispositive issues of law in the action. 2 See Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984). 3 In making this context-specific evaluation, this court must construe the complaint 4 in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and accept its factual allegations as true. Erickson v. 5 Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93–94 (2007) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555–56). This rule does not 6 apply to “a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation,” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (quoting 7 Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)), “allegations that contradict matters properly 8 subject to judicial notice,” Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors, 266 F.3d 979, 988 (9th Cir. 2001), 9 opinion amended on denial of reh’g, 275 F.3d 1187 (9th Cir. 2001), or material attached to or 10 incorporated by reference into the complaint, see id. A court’s consideration of documents 11 attached to a complaint, documents incorporated by reference in the complaint, or matters of 12 judicial notice will not convert a motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment. United 13 States v. Ritchie, 342 F.3d 903, 907–08 (9th Cir. 2003); Parks Sch. of Bus., Inc. v. Symington, 14 51 F.3d 1480, 1484 (9th Cir. 1995); cf. Van Buskirk v. Cable News Network, Inc., 284 F.3d 977, 15 980 (9th Cir. 2002) (even though court may look beyond pleadings on motion to dismiss, 16 generally court is limited to face of the complaint on 12(b)(6) motion). 17 III. DISCUSSION 18 Plaintiffs’ Second Amended Complaint alleges section 23661 and related state 19 statutory provisions violate the Commerce Clause and the Privileges and Immunities Clause of 20 Article IV of the U.S. Constitution. SAC ¶¶ 7–32. Defendant moves to dismiss the Second 21 Amended Complaint, asserting plaintiffs have failed to state either claim under Rule 12(b)(6) and 22 lack standing to bring their Privilege and Immunities claim under Rule 12(b)(1). Mot. at 1–2. 23 24 A. Commerce Clause Claim Plaintiffs allege California’s three-tier regulatory scheme discriminates against 25 interstate commerce in violation of the Commerce Clause. See SAC ¶¶ 7–16. Defendant moves 26 to dismiss plaintiffs’ Commerce Clause claim under Rule 12(b)(6), arguing plaintiffs have not 27 alleged facts establishing unconstitutional discrimination. Mot. at 3. 28 7 1 The Commerce Clause both expressly grants Congress the power to regulate 2 commerce among the several states, see U.S. Const. art. I, § 8, cl. 3, and implicitly limits the 3 states’ power to discriminate against interstate commerce. See, e.g., New Energy Co. of Ind. v. 4 Limbach, 486 U.S. 269, 273 (1988). The Commerce Clause “encompasses an implicit or 5 ‘dormant’ limitation on the authority of the States to enact legislation affecting interstate 6 commerce.” Healy v. The Beer Inst., Inc., 491 US. 324, 326 n.1 (1989). The Dormant Commerce 7 Clause typically applies when a state attempts to regulate or control economic conduct wholly 8 outside its borders with the goal of protecting in-state economic interests from out-of-state 9 competitors. See New Energy, 486 U.S. at 273–74 (citing cases). “[I]n all but the narrowest 10 circumstances, state laws violate the Commerce Clause if they mandate ‘differential treatment of 11 in-state and out-of-state economic interests that benefits the former and burdens the latter.’” 12 Granholm v. Heald, 544 U.S. 460, 472 (2005) (quoting Or. Waste Sys., Inc. v. Dep’t of Envtl. 13 Quality of Or., 511 U.S. 93, 99 (1994)). 14 Dormant Commerce Clause challenges proceed under a two-step analysis. Brown- 15 Forman Distillers Corp. v. N.Y. State Liquor Auth., 476 U.S. 573, 578–79 (1986). In the first 16 step, a court determines whether “a state statute directly regulates or discriminates against 17 interstate commerce, or [whether] its effect is to favor in-state economic interests over out-of- 18 state interests.” Id. at 579. When a plaintiff shows a state statute discriminates against out-of- 19 state interests on its face, in its purpose or in its practical effect, then the statute is generally 20 invalid per se and subject to strict scrutiny. Id. If a plaintiff satisfies this burden, then the 21 discriminatory law may survive only if the state can demonstrate the law “advances a legitimate 22 local purpose that cannot be adequately served by reasonable nondiscriminatory alternatives.” 23 New Energy, 486 U.S. at 278. At the second step, if the challenged state statute applies “even- 24 handedly” to in-state and out-of-state interests and only incidentally burdens interstate commerce, 25 then a court applies the Supreme Court’s balancing test set forth in Pike v. Bruce Church, Inc., 26 397 U.S. 137, 142 (1970). See Brown-Forman, 476 U.S. at 579. Under Pike, a court should 27 uphold the challenged state statute unless the burden imposed on interstate commerce is “clearly 28 excessive in relation to the putative local benefits.” 397 U.S. at 142 (citing Huron Portland 8 1 Cement Co. v. City of Detroit, 362 U.S. 440, 443 (1960)). “The burden remains on the party 2 challenging the statute to establish that the burden on interstate commerce is clearly excessive in 3 relation to the putative local benefits.” Black Star Farms, LLC v. Oliver, 544 F. Supp. 2d 913, 4 920 (9th Cir. 2008) (citing Kleenwell Biohazard Waste v. Nelson, 48 F.3d 391, 399 (9th Cir. 5 1995)). 6 1. 7 Plaintiffs assert certain provisions of California’s ABC Act regulating the Whether Section 23661 and Related Statutes Are Discriminatory 8 importation of wine discriminate against out-of-state interests. See Opp’n at 4–6. Specifically, 9 plaintiffs allege that under California Business & Professions Code sections 23374, 23378, 23661 10 and 23775, an in-state importer can legally import wine under its importer license, transfer it to 11 itself under its wholesaler license and distribute it to retailers, but out-of-state importers may not. 12 SAC ¶¶ 7–10; Opp’n at 5–6. Plaintiffs further allege out-of-state importers cannot obtain this 13 combination of licenses and must instead sell their wine to an in-state importer or wholesaler and 14 let the in-state entity distribute it to retailers. SAC ¶¶ 8–11; Opp’n at 5–6. Defendant disagrees 15 with plaintiffs’ characterization of the law, asserting California law requires all importers to 16 deliver wine to a physical premises in the state; any entity lacking its own licensed wholesale 17 business premises in California, including non-resident importers, may distribute directly to 18 California retailers if it leases space in a licensed public warehouse. Reply at 5–6. 19 On their face, none of the challenged provisions mandates “differential treatment 20 of in-state and out-of-state economic interests that benefits the former and burdens the latter.” 21 Or. Waste Sys., 511 U.S. at 99. The four statutes cited in plaintiffs’ Second Amended Complaint 22 do not distinguish between in-state and out-of-state entities, let alone prescribe unequal treatment 23 based on geographic location. See Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code §§ 23374, 23378, 23661, 23775. 24 Section 23661, in particular, requires that all alcohol imported into California be consigned for 25 delivery at either the importer’s premises or a licensed public warehouse; because these premises 26 are places for delivery of alcohol imported into California, they necessarily must be located in 27 California. Under California Business & Professions Code section 24041, Orion or any other 28 “out-of-state business” may apply for and obtain either or both an importer’s and/or wholesaler’s 9 1 “license” in California to have alcohol come to rest, be stored, and be shipped from a licensed 2 public warehouse. Therefore, the law, by its terms, applies equally to in-state and out-of-state 3 importers because the statutes at issue require all importers to have a physical premises in 4 California at which to receive delivery of imported alcohol. Accordingly, plaintiffs’ challenge 5 rests on the assertion that the statutory provisions at issue are discriminatory in effect. 6 Plaintiffs argue section 23661 and the related ABC Act provisions create an 7 economic barrier that benefits in-state importers and burdens out-of-state importers because the 8 “only way the Plaintiffs could sell the wine they have imported . . . directly to California retailers 9 would be to open a new import/wholesale business in California with physical premises in the 10 state.” Opp’n at 6. In effect, plaintiffs argue section 23661 requires them to establish a physical 11 presence in California to sell their wine on an equal basis with California-based importers. To 12 support their contention, plaintiffs cite Granholm v. Heald for the proposition that “the high cost 13 of opening a second facility in a distant state is relevant in assessing discriminatory effect” and 14 “requiring an out-of-state firm to establish in-state premises in order to compete on equal terms” 15 violates the Commerce Clause. Opp’n at 6 (citing Granholm, 544 U.S. at 475). 16 At hearing on the motion, however, it became apparent that the basis for plaintiffs’ 17 Commerce Clause claim is unclear, as the parties expressed confusion as to whether plaintiffs can 18 obtain the licenses they seek as out-of-state importers. Both defense counsel and counsel for 19 amici asserted plaintiffs could obtain the combination of importer’s and wholesaler’s licenses 20 allowing plaintiffs to import wine, transfer it to themselves by leasing space in a public 21 warehouse and sell it directly to California retailers on equal terms as California-based entities. 22 Plaintiffs’ counsel, in contrast, argued for the first time that plaintiffs cannot obtain this 23 combination of licenses even if they lease public warehouse space in California. Further 24 compounding this confusion is the fact that the threadbare allegations in the Second Amended 25 Complaint do not focus the issue to make clear how the California law at issue here is 26 discriminatory other than to generally allege that because plaintiff Orion “is located in Florida 27 and has no premises in California, it is prohibited from importing, selling and delivering wine 28 directly to California-licensed retailers.” SAC ¶ 11; see also id. ¶¶ 8, 10 (alleging out-of-state 10 1 entities cannot get license allowing them to “import, sell and deliver wine directly to California- 2 licensed retailers”). Taking into account the arguments made by plaintiffs’ counsel at hearing, 3 especially on the public warehouse option, which do not appear to be consistent with the 4 allegations in plaintiffs’ Second Amended Complaint, plaintiffs have not clearly advanced a 5 coherent claim regarding the alleged discriminatory economic burden imposed by section 23661. 6 The post-hearing memoranda submitted by the parties do not clarify whether 7 plaintiffs could obtain the licenses they seek by leasing public warehouse space. Plaintiffs 8 provided citations to additional authority and asserted they can gain the privilege of distributing 9 wine directly to retailers only by opening a permanent business in California, not by leasing 10 warehouse space. Pls.’ Mem. Providing Citations for New Authority Raised at the Hearing, ECF 11 No. 44, at 2–3. Defendant responded that plaintiffs misstate the law regarding their ability to 12 conduct business on the same basis as California-based importers. Def.’s Resp. to Pls.’ Post- 13 Hearing Mem., ECF No. 48, at 3–4. 14 The inconsistency between and among the pleadings, briefing and arguments in 15 this case regarding whether and to what extent plaintiffs must establish a physical presence in 16 California to obtain the licenses they seek precludes the court’s reasoned evaluation of plaintiffs’ 17 claim, such as it is, and determination of its viability. Moreover, plaintiffs’ barebones pleading 18 exposes the absence of a full understanding of the regulatory structure and where there is a 19 possibility of obtaining licenses after leasing public warehouse space. 20 For these reasons, the court GRANTS defendant’s motion to dismiss plaintiffs’ 21 Commerce Clause claim, but with leave to amend if possible subject to Federal Rule of Civil 22 Procedure 11. 23 24 B. Privileges and Immunities Claim In their second claim, plaintiffs argue section 23661 and the related ABC Act 25 statutes violate the Privileges and Immunities Clause of Article IV, Section 2 of the U.S. 26 Constitution. SAC ¶¶22–32. Under that Clause, “[t]he Citizens of each State [are] entitled to all 27 Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States.” U.S. Const. art. IV, § 2, cl. 1. The 28 Clause protects those privileges and immunities that are “fundamental,” meaning it does not 11 1 categorically prevent states from using state citizenship or residency as a distinguishing factor. 2 McBurney v. Young, 569 U.S. 221, 226 (2013). Defendant first moves to dismiss plaintiffs’ 3 Privileges and Immunities claim under Rule 12(b)(1), arguing neither Orion nor Creighton has 4 standing. Mot. at 6–7. Defendant also moves to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), asserting plaintiffs 5 have failed to state a claim because the Second Amended Complaint does not allege an interest 6 belonging to Creighton that is protected by the Privileges and Immunities Clause and plaintiffs 7 have not identified any disparate treatment. Mot. at 7–8. 8 1. 9 Defendant argues both plaintiffs lack standing to bring their Privileges and 12(b)(1) Lack of Standing 10 Immunities claim. Mot. at 6–7; Reply at 7–8. Specifically, defendant asserts Orion has no 11 standing under the Privileges and Immunities Clause because it is a corporation and Creighton 12 lacks standing because his alleged prospective injuries flow directly and solely from the alleged 13 injury to Orion. Mot. at 6–7; Reply at 7–8. Plaintiffs counter that after the Supreme Court’s 14 decision in Citizens United v. FEC, 558 U.S. 310 (2010), a corporation may have standing under 15 the Privileges and Immunities Clause. Opp’n at 8. Plaintiffs also attempt to distinguish the cases 16 cited by defendant for the proposition that Creighton lacks standing by arguing those cases 17 involved shareholders attempting to bring personal claims based solely on an injury to the 18 corporation when the shareholders had no other stakes in the dispute, while Creighton personally 19 wants to do business in California independently of whether Orion may do so. Opp’n at 8–9. 20 Addressing first the standing of Orion, the Supreme Court has held the Privileges 21 and Immunities Clause of Article IV does not apply to corporations. W. & S. Life Ins. Co. v. State 22 Bd. of Equalization of Cal., 451 U.S. 648, 656 (1981). Neither the Supreme Court nor the Ninth 23 Circuit has extended the rule barring corporations from bringing a Privileges and Immunities 24 claim to unincorporated associations, such as a limited liability company (“LLC”) like Orion. 25 Some circuit courts have elected to do so, however. See, e.g., W.C.M. Window Co., Inc. v. 26 Bernardi, 730 F.2d 486, 493 (7th Cir. 1984) (unincorporated association “is not a natural person” 27 and thus “not a citizen” for purposes of Privileges and Immunities Clause); Am. Trucking Ass’ns, 28 Inc. v. Larson, 683 F.2d 787, 790 (3d Cir. 1982) (declining to consider Privileges and Immunities 12 1 claim asserted by federation of trucking associations). Plaintiffs cite no authority for the 2 proposition that the bar should not also apply to an LLC. Nothing in Citizens United, in which 3 the Court confronted the issue of whether the government may suppress political speech by 4 corporations or other associations, suggests the holding of that case extends beyond the First 5 Amendment context. See Citizens United, 558 U.S. at 319, 365. Accordingly, the court 6 concludes, Orion cannot raise a Privileges and Immunities claim. 7 Turning to Creighton’s standing, at least two circuit courts have held the Privileges 8 and Immunities Clause does not protect injuries to individual plaintiffs flowing directly and solely 9 from the corporation’s injury. See Chance Mgmt., Inc. v. South Dakota, 97 F.3d 1107, 1115–16 10 (8th Cir. 1996); Smith Setzer & Sons, Inc. v. S.C. Procurement Review Panel, 20 F.3d 1311, 1317 11 (4th Cir. 1994). In Chance Management, South Dakota denied a corporation a license to operate 12 a video lottery machine because the corporation could not meet the requirement that South 13 Dakota residents hold a majority ownership interest in the corporation. 97 F.3d at 1108. The 14 Eighth Circuit held the individual plaintiff, a Wyoming resident who did not apply individually 15 for a license, lacked standing under the Privileges and Immunities Clause because his only injury 16 flowed from his status as a shareholder of a corporation. Id. at 1115–16. In Smith Setzer & Sons, 17 the individual plaintiff was the president and a shareholder of a corporation claiming the 18 corporation’s loss of profits injured him as well. 20 F.3d at 1316–17. The Fourth Circuit held the 19 individual plaintiff did not have standing to bring a claim under the Clause because his injury was 20 merely “derivative” of the injury to the corporation. Id. at 1317. 21 Here, plaintiff’s allegations compel the same result. The Second Amended 22 Complaint alleges California law precluded “Plaintiffs” from entering into a contract with the 23 “Pour House,” a wine shop in Truckee, California. SAC ¶¶ 17–20. Plaintiffs allege no other 24 injury specific to Creighton. Therefore, although plaintiffs claim Creighton suffered an 25 individual injury because he personally wants to engage in the wine distribution business in 26 California, Opp’n at 9, the alleged injury suffered by Creighton in this case, as pled, arises 27 directly and solely out of his status as the owner of Orion. 28 13 1 Plaintiffs attempt to distinguish this case by relying on Council of Insurance 2 Agents & Brokers v. Molasky-Arman, 522 F.3d 925, 932 (9th Cir. 2008), to argue that individual 3 plaintiffs do not lose their right to bring a claim under the Privileges and Immunities Clause 4 simply because they own a business. Opp’n at 9. The individual plaintiff in Molasky-Arman, a 5 California resident, insurance agent and managing director of an insurance broker who sought to 6 do business in Nevada, alleged Nevada law precluded her from doing business on substantially 7 equal terms as Nevada-based agents. Molasky-Arman, 522 F.3d at 932. The Ninth Circuit held 8 the individual plaintiff had standing. Id. But unlike in this case, that plaintiff alleged a 9 particularized injury to herself as an individual separate from any injury to the entity. See id. at 10 11 929, 932. The court similarly finds plaintiffs’ out-of-circuit authority unpersuasive. In A.L. 12 Blades & Sons, Inc. v. Yerusalim, 121 F.3d 865, 868 n.4, 871 (3rd Cir. 1997), the Third Circuit 13 held the individual plaintiffs, nonresident construction workers, had standing to bring a Privileges 14 and Immunities claim challenging a Pennsylvania law that required contractors to employ only 15 Pennsylvania residents as laborers and mechanics on Commonwealth-funded work projects. 16 Unlike in the instant case, however, not only were the individual plaintiffs not the owners of the 17 corporation, but their claimed injury also was not derivative of the injury to the contractor; under 18 the law, the contractor could still receive payment for public works projects if it did not employ 19 nonresident workers, but the individual plaintiffs could not work on these projects. See id. at 20 867–68. In McBurney v. Cuccinelli, 616 F.3d 393, 398, 404 (4th Cir. 2010), the Fourth Circuit 21 held one of the individual plaintiffs challenging a Virginia law that denied nonresidents access to 22 its Freedom of Information process had standing, even though he was the sole proprietor of the 23 business that had contracted to supply the requested information. The court concluded the 24 individual plaintiff’s allegations that he was the sole proprietor of the business and that the law 25 made it impossible for him to pursue his common calling stated sufficient facts to support 26 standing. Id. at 404 & n.8. Even if the court were persuaded by this nonbinding precedent, 27 however, plaintiffs have not alleged Creighton is the sole proprietor of Orion or that he suffered a 28 direct and independent injury. See Woods View II, LLC v. Kitsap County, 484 F. App’x 160, 161 14 1 (9th Cir. 2012) (sole member of LLC engaged in real estate development lacked standing to bring 2 individual § 1983 claims against County and County officials when member’s financial losses 3 were “derivative of [the LLC’s] own losses” and member “was not injured directly and 4 independently of the limited liability company”). 5 For the reasons set forth above, the court finds both Orion and Creighton lack 6 standing to pursue their Privileges and Immunities claim. The court GRANTS defendant’s 7 motion to dismiss plaintiffs’ Privileges and Immunities claim under Rule 12(b)(1). Because 8 neither plaintiff has standing, the court declines to reach the merits of plaintiffs’ claim under Rule 9 12(b)(6) at this stage, although it will allow leave to amend to the extent possible. 10 11 C. Leave to Amend Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(2) provides, “[t]he court should freely give 12 leave [to amend pleadings] when justice so requires” and the Ninth Circuit has “stressed Rule 13 15’s policy of favoring amendments,” Ascon Props. Inc. v. Mobil Oil Co., 866 F.2d 1149, 1160 14 (9th Cir. 1989) (citing DCD Programs, Ltd. v. Leighton, 833 F.2d 183, 186 (9th Cir. 1987); 15 United States v. Webb, 655 F.2d 977, 979 (9th Cir. 1981)). “In exercising its discretion [to grant 16 or deny leave to amend] ‘a court must be guided by the underlying purpose of Rule 15—to 17 facilitate decision on the merits rather than on the pleadings or technicalities.’” Leighton, 18 833 F.2d at 186 (quoting Webb, 655 F.2d at 979). However, “the liberality in granting leave to 19 amend is subject to several limitations.” Ascon Props., 866 F.2d at 1160 (citing Leighton, 20 833 F.2d at 186). “Leave need not be granted where the amendment of the complaint would 21 cause the opposing party undue prejudice, is sought in bad faith, constitutes an exercise in futility, 22 or creates undue delay.” Id. (citing Leighton¸ 833 F.2d at 186). In addition, a court should look 23 to whether the plaintiff has previously amended the complaint, as “the district court’s discretion is 24 especially broad ‘where the court has already given a plaintiff one or more opportunities to amend 25 [its] complaint.’” Id. at 1161 (alteration in original) (quoting Leighton, 833 F.2d at 186 n.3). 26 Plaintiffs’ Second Amended Complaint contains threadbare allegations that, 27 among other things, do not explain the claimed discrimination under California’s ABC Act in a 28 way that allows the court to accurately assess the viability of plaintiffs’ claim that the law claimed 15 1 has a discriminatory effect, if any. Further, plaintiffs’ allegations do not provide sufficient 2 information about any distinct injury to Creighton as an individual to support his standing to raise 3 a Privileges and Immunities claim. For these reasons, the court grants plaintiffs leave to amend 4 their complaint to address these issues, if they can while complying fully with Rule 11. 5 IV. CONCLUSION 6 As explained above, the court ORDERS as follows: 7 1. Defendant’s motion to dismiss plaintiffs’ Second Amended Complaint, 8 ECF No. 33-1, is GRANTED. The court grants plaintiffs leave to amend 9 only as to the issues identified by the court above. 10 11 12 13 2. Plaintiffs are ordered to file any amended complaint within twenty-one (21) days of the date this order is filed. IT IS SO ORDERED. DATED: August 15, 2019. 14 15 UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 16

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