Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians of California, et al v. United States Department of Transportation et al

Filing 84

ORDER GRANTING, IN PART, AND DENYING, IN PART 69 Motion to Dismiss First Amended Complaint filed by California Department of Transportation and CONTINUING Case Management Conference. Case Management Statement due by 2/10/2017. Motion to Amend due by 2/17/2017. Initial Case Management Conference set for 2/17/2017 11:00 AM in Courtroom 5, 2nd Floor, Oakland. Signed by Judge Jeffrey S. White on January 23, 2017. (jswlc3S, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 1/23/2017)

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1 2 3 4 NOT FOR CITATION 5 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 6 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 7 8 9 ROUND VALLEY INDIAN TRIBES OF CALIFORNIA, et al., Plaintiffs, 10 v. United States District Court Northern District of California 11 12 UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, et al., 13 Case No. 15-cv-04987-JSW ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART CALTRANS DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS AND CONTINUING CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE Defendants. Re: Dkt. No. 69 14 15 Now before the Court for consideration is the motion to dismiss filed by the California 16 Department of Transportation and Malcolm Dougherty (collectively the “Caltrans Defendants”). 17 The Court has considered the parties’ papers, relevant legal authority, and the record in this case, 18 and it finds the Caltrans Defendants’ motion suitable for disposition without oral argument. See 19 N.D. Civ. L.R. 7-1(b). The Court VACATES the hearing on this motion, which is scheduled for 20 February 3, 2017, and it HEREBY GRANTS, IN PART, AND DENIES, IN PART, the Caltrans 21 Defendants’ motion. 22 It is FURTHER ORDERED that in light of the pending motion to dismiss filed by United 23 States Department of Transportation, Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, the Federal 24 Highway Administration (“FHWA”), and FHWA Administrator Gregory G. Nadeau (collectively 25 “the Federal Defendants”), which shall remain on calendar on February 3, 2017 at 9:00 a.m., the 26 Court CONTINUES the case management conference scheduled for February 3, 2017 at 11:00 27 a.m. to February 17, 2017, at 11:00 a.m. The parties shall submit a joint case management 28 conference statement on or before February 10, 2017. BACKGROUND 1 This litigation arises out of a proposed highway project around the community of Willits, 2 California (the “Willits Bypass Project”). On October 30, 2016, Plaintiffs, the Coyote Valley 4 Band of Pomo Indians of California (“Coyote Valley”) and the Round Valley Indian Tribes of 5 California (“Round Valley”) (collectively “Plaintiffs”), filed the original complaint in this case. 6 (Dkt. No. 1.) In that complaint, Plaintiffs asserted claims against the Caltrans Defendants for 7 alleged violations of the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”), 42 U.S.C. sections 4321, 8 et seq., the National Historic Preservation Act (“NHPA”), 54 U.S.C. sections 300101, set seq., 9 Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act, 49 U.S.C. section 303(c) (the “Section 4(f) 10 claim”), and Section 18(a) of the Federal-Aid Highway Act, 23 U.S.C. section 138 (the “Section 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 3 18(a) claim”). The Caltrans Defendants answered the Complaint on January 11, 2016. (Dkt. No. 12 26.) 13 On August 2, 2016, the Court granted a motion to dismiss filed by the Federal Defendants. 14 (Dkt. 58, Order Granting Federal Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss (“August 2 Order”).) The Court 15 gave Plaintiffs leave to amend, and it directed them to specifically identify which defendant acted, 16 or failed to act, in a particular manner. (Id. at 7:1-10, 8:11-16.) On August 24, 2016, Plaintiffs filed their First Amended Complaint (“FAC”).1 Plaintiffs 17 18 continue to allege that all Defendants failed to properly identify and protect their “ancestral, 19 sacred, cultural, and archeological sites and resources” and destroyed certain sites during the 20 construction of the Willits Bypass Project. (See, e.g, FAC ¶¶ 1, 45-46, 211.) Plaintiffs also allege 21 that all Defendants failed to “(a) adequately address the direct, indirect, and cumulative cultural, 22 environmental, and historic impacts of the Willits Bypass Project; (b) identify and finalize the 23 details of the mitigation plan or its environmental and cultural impacts; and (c) commit to 24 necessary mitigation measures.” (Id. ¶ 8.) 25 26 27 28 1 The Court ordered Plaintiffs to file their FAC by August 23, 2016. Plaintiffs initially filed the FAC on August 24, 2016, and due to an incorrect case number were required to re-file the document. Plaintiffs filed the corrected FAC on August 26, 2016. Because the Caltrans Defendants have not demonstrated any prejudice as a result of the delay in filing the FAC, the Court accepts the FAC. 2 The Court shall address additional facts as necessary in its analysis. 1 ANALYSIS 2 3 A. 4 The Court Denies the Motion to Dismiss Based on Failure to Comply with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 and/or the Court’s Order. The Caltrans Defendants move to dismiss the FAC pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil 5 6 Procedure 8 and 41(b).2 They argue that Plaintiffs’ FAC fails to comply with Rule 8’s 7 requirement to set forth a short and plain statement of their claims. They also argue Plaintiffs 8 failed to comply with the Court’s August 2 Order, in which the Court directed Plaintiffs not to 9 refer to Defendants collectively in an FAC. In order to determine whether dismissal under Rule 41(b) is appropriate, the Court must consider “(1) the public’s interest in expeditious resolution of 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 litigation; (2) the court’s need to manage its docket; (3) the risk of prejudice to the defendants; (4) 12 the public policy favoring disposition of cases on their merits; and (5) the availability of less 13 drastic alternatives.” Yourish v. California Amplifier, 191 F.3d 983, 990 (9th Cir. 1999). The 14 parties have not addressed these factors in their briefs. 15 The FAC is lengthy and does include citations to statutes or case references that might be 16 more appropriately cited in a legal brief, rather than a pleading. However, the allegations are not 17 “argumentative, prolix, replete with redundancy, and largely irrelevant.” McHenry v. Renne, 84 18 F.3d 1172, 1177 (9th Cir. 1996). Nor is the FAC “verbose, confusing and conclusory.” Nevijel v. 19 North Coast Life Ins. Co., 651 F.2d 671, 674 (9th Cir. 1981). The Court finds the FAC satisfies 20 the requirements of Rule 8. 21 Plaintiffs also have made clear distinctions between the Defendants in other portions of the 22 FAC. (See, e.g., FAC ¶¶ 91, 104, 117, 161, 163.) Plaintiffs do include some collective references 23 to “Defendants,” but they argue that any such mention is “to describe conduct that Plaintiffs 24 believe, in good faith, that all of the Defendants jointly participated[.]” (Dkt. No. 73, Opp. Br. at 25 26 27 28 2 In the alternative, the Caltrans Defendants seek relief under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f) and ask the Court to strike all the references to “Defendants.” The Court finds those references are neither immaterial nor impertinent. It therefore DENIES, IN PART, the Caltrans Defendants’ alternative motion to strike. 3 1 5:8-10.) The Court concludes Plaintiffs have complied with its directives. In addition, to the 2 extent Plaintiffs continue to include references to “Defendants” collectively, the Court has 3 considered the factors set forth in Yourish, and it finds they weigh against dismissal. With respect to public’s interest in expeditious resolution of litigation, the Court’s need to 5 manage its docket, and the public policy in resolving cases on their merits, this case is in the early 6 phases of the litigation, and it has not yet “consumed large amounts of the court’s time[.]” Ferdik 7 v. Bonzelet, 963 F.2d 1258, 1261 (9th Cir. 1992) (affirming dismissal under Rule 41(b) where 8 “case dragged on for over a year and a half before it finally was dismissed”). In addition, this was 9 Plaintiffs first amendment, which distinguishes this case from the McHenry case, in which the 10 plaintiff had been granted several opportunities to amend and continued to violate the court’s 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 4 directive to make his complaint more concise and less argumentative. See McHenry, 84 F.3d at 12 1178-79. 13 There also are less drastic alternatives available to the Court than dismissal. For example, 14 the Court could require the Plaintiffs to file a further amended complaint that expressly states that 15 the Defendants were acting jointly when they are referenced collectively. However, the Court 16 concludes the Plaintiffs have made sufficient distinctions among and between the Defendants to 17 put the Caltrans Defendants on notice of the conduct that gives rise to Plaintiffs’ claims against 18 them. For that same reason, the Court concludes the Caltrans Defendants have not articulated any 19 specific prejudice they have suffered because Plaintiffs did not, in all cases, refer to a particular 20 agency or individual. Accordingly, the Court DENIES the Caltrans Defendants’ motion to dismiss for failure to 21 22 comply with Rule 8 and with the August 2 Order. 23 B. 24 25 The Court Grants the Caltrans Defendants’ Motion to Strike Plaintiffs’ Prayer for Damages. The Caltrans Defendants also move to strike Plaintiffs’ prayer for damages on the basis 26 that their claim for damages is barred by the doctrine of sovereign immunity. Plaintiffs concede 27 that, as drafted, the claim for damages is not viable. Accordingly, the Court GRANTS, IN PART, 28 Caltrans’ motion on this basis. Plaintiffs argue that they could assert a viable claim for damages 4 1 und the Fede Torts Cla der eral aims Act (“F FTCA”) agai Caltrans Plaintiffs have not exp inst s. plained how w 2 Caltrans would be subject to the FTCA In general the Court should be lib d t A. l, beral in gran nting leave 3 a wever, becau the Cour already gra use rt anted Plainti leave to amend their claims iffs r to amend. How 4 onc the Court concludes Plaintiffs should be requ ce, t P uired to file m motion for le eave to amen to add a nd 5 cla against th Caltrans Defendants under the FT aim he D u TCA and to show why a prayer for d damages 6 wo ould be viabl in this case. le CONC CLUSION 7 8 For the foregoing re easons, the Court DENIE the Caltr C ES rans Defenda ants’ motion to dismiss n 9 for failure to co r omply with Rule 8 or wi the Court August 2, 2016 Order. The Cour GRANTS R ith t’s rt Caltrans’ motio to strike the prayer fo damages. If Plaintiffs wish to file a second am on t or s e mended 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 com mplaint to as ssert a claim for damage against the Caltrans D m es e Defendants, th must file a motion hey e 12 for leave to do so by no lat than Febr r ter ruary 17, 201 3 17. IT IS SO ORDER S RED. 13 14 Da ated: January 23, 2017 y ___ __________ ___________ __________ ________ JEF FFREY S. W WHITE Un nited States D District Judg ge 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 3 This ca is related to Center fo Biological Diversity v Federal H ase or v. Highway Adm ministration, No 12-cv-0217 o. 72-JSW. Th herefore, the parties mus notice mot st tions for hea arings on dat available tes for terminal dig 2. r git 5

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