Reiffin v. Hoey

Filing 47

ORDER GRANTING 24 MOTION TO DISMISS AND DENYING 11 35 41 ALL OTHER PENDING MOTIONS. Signed by Magistrate Judge Howard R. Lloyd on 1/1/2012. (hrllc1, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 1/3/2012)

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1 ** E-filed January 3, 2012 ** 2 3 4 5 6 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 For the Northern District of California NOT FOR CITATION 8 United States District Court 7 SAN JOSE DIVISION 11 MARTIN REIFFIN, Plaintiff, 12 v. 13 BEVERLY HOEY, 14 15 Defendant. ____________________________________/ No. C11-04625 HRL ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT’S MOTION TO DISMISS FOR LACK OF SUBJECT MATTER JURISDICTION AND DENYING ALL OTHER PENDING MOTIONS [Re: Docket Nos. 11, 24, 35, 41] 16 Martin Reiffin sues Beverly Hoey, alleging that she “misrepresented” United States Patent 17 Laws and “committed fraud on the court.” Dkt. No. 16 (“First Amended Complaint” or “FAC”). In 18 June 2006, Reiffin, a patent attorney, retained Hoey, a trusts and estate-planning attorney, to prepare 19 a “trust agreement for plaintiff’s family,” and the parties agreed on a total fee of $4,500, half of 20 21 which Reiffin paid up front. FAC ¶ 7. Some time later, but before completing her work on the trust agreement, Hoey learned that Reiffin had a patent infringement suit against Microsoft which— 22 apparently—had been or was about to be settled. Id. ¶ 11. Reiffin alleges that Hoey at that point 23 24 went beyond the scope of their original contract and included in the agreement unnecessary provisions intended to shield the trust funds from any attempt by the IRS to collect taxes on that 25 settlement agreement before Microsoft tendered payment. Id. ¶ 10. For the additional work of 26 27 developing those provisions, Hoey allegedly charged plaintiff $32,389.80. Plaintiff’s first clam for relief, ineptly pleaded, is for fraud and/or for breach of contract. The 28 second claim, “fraud on the court,” alleges that defendant, in her argument supporting her motion to 1 dismiss the original complaint, “misrepresented” facts to this court. This court sees not even a 2 suggestion there of an actual claim for relief. 3 Hoey moved to dismiss the original complaint on a variety of grounds, including lack of 4 subject matter jurisdiction. Dkt. No. 6. She also moved for sanctions, claiming plaintiff made “false 5 and frivolous allegations” in his complaint in violation of FED. R. CIV. P. 11(b). Dkt. No. 11. 6 Shortly thereafter, plaintiff timely filed a First Amended Complaint (“FAC”). Dkt. No. 16. 7 Defendant then withdrew her original motion to dismiss, but not her motion for sanctions. See Dkt. 8 No. 29. Reiffin subsequently moved (1) for judgment under “FED. R. CIV. P. 8(b),” and (2) to 9 convert Hoey’s motion to dismiss into one for summary judgment. See Dkt. Nos. 35, 41. For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 Defendant now moves to dismiss the FAC for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Both 11 parties have consented to the undersigned’s jurisdiction. After consideration of the moving papers 12 and responses and the parties’ arguments at hearing, the court grants the motion to dismiss for lack 13 of subject-matter jurisdiction and denies all other pending motions. 14 DISCUSSION 15 I. 16 A party may raise a lack of subject-matter jurisdiction by motion prior to filing an answer to DEFENDANT’S MOTION TO DISMISS 17 a complaint. FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(1). If the court determines that it does not have subject-matter 18 jurisdiction, it must dismiss the claim. FED. R. CIV. P. 12(h)(3). A lack of jurisdiction is presumed 19 unless the party asserting jurisdiction establishes that it exists. Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. 20 of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). The court assumes the allegations of the complaint (together with 21 documents attached to the complaint) to be true and draws all inferences in plaintiff's favor. See 22 Wolfe v. Strankman, 392 F.3d 358, 362 (9th Cir. 2004). Because plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the 23 court liberally construes his complaint. Id. 24 Federal courts have original jurisdiction over civil actions “arising under the Constitution, 25 laws, or treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 1331. A claim “arises under” federal law if, 26 based on the “well-pleaded complaint rule,” the plaintiff alleges a federal cause of action. Vaden v. 27 Discovery Bank, 129 S. Ct. 1262, 1272 (2009). Defenses and counterclaims asserting a federal 28 question do not satisfy this requirement. Id. at 1273. The federal courts have original, exclusive 2 1 jurisdiction over suits for patent infringement. 35 U.S.C. § 281. Under the well-pleaded complaint 2 rule, . . . whether a claim ‘arises under’ patent law ‘must be determined from what necessarily 3 appears in the plaintiff's statement of his own claim . . . unaided by anything alleged in anticipation 4 or avoidance of defenses which it is thought the defendant may interpose.’” Christianson v. Colt 5 Indus. Operating Corp., 486 U.S. 800, 809 (1988) (quoting Franchise Tax Board of California v. 6 Construction Laborers Vacation Trust, 463 U.S. 1, 10 (1983)). A claim “based on state law that may 7 require some reference to patents and patent law” does not arise under the patent laws and does not 8 confer federal subject matter jurisdiction. See Black v. Reliant Techs., Inc., 2003 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 9 18002, *6 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 2, 2003) (finding no subject matter jurisdiction when plaintiff’s claim for For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 misrepresentation and breach of contract, among other state law claims, referenced the patent laws 11 but involved no “substantial question of patent law”). Here, plaintiffs' complaint, on its face, does 12 not state a claim that arises under federal law. Rather, both of his claims for relief are based on state 13 law. 14 Plaintiff argues that the “[d]efendant’s justification for her [additional attorney’s fees] was 15 based on her fraudulent misrepresentation of the United States Patent Laws.” FAC ¶ 10. However, 16 the only patent law to which plaintiff cites are two provisions that govern the court’s power to grant 17 remedies in patent infringement actions, 35 U.S.C. §§ 283-84, and a case that holds a court may 18 vacate its own judgment upon discovering that a litigant has perpetrated a fraud upon it. See Hazel- 19 Atlas Glass Co. v. Hartford-Empire Co., 322 U.S. 238 (1944), questioned by Standard Oil v. United 20 States, 429 U.S. 17 (1976). Indeed, even if Reiffin had asserted that Hoey actually, knowingly 21 misrepresented the content or effect of federal patent law, that would not suffice to raise a federal 22 question. Reiffin has not presented a substantial question of patent law that must be resolved, nor 23 has he asserted that anything in the patent laws is a necessary element of any of his claims. See 24 Black, 2003 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 18002 at *6. The state courts retain the power to “construe and 25 enforce contracts relating to patents.” Hartley Pen Co., 16 F.R.D. at 151. 26 Both plaintiff and defendant are residents of California. FAC ¶¶ 4-5. Therefore, neither is 27 there subject-matter jurisdiction based on diversity. Accordingly, the court must GRANT the motion 28 to dismiss the FAC. 3 1 Hoey also argues that the plaintiff’s FAC should be dismissed for failure to state a claim 2 upon which relief can be granted, and for failure to remove a pending state action. Dkt. No. 26. As is 3 not federal subject matter jurisdiction, the court does not reach these arguments. 4 II. DEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR SANCTIONS 5 Defendant moved to sanction the plaintiff, alleging that his original complaint included false 6 and frivolous accusations that were made for an improper purpose, without merit, and based on a 7 lack of information. Dkt. 11. This motion to DENIED. 8 III. PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR JUDGMENT UNDER FED. R. CIV. P. 8(b) 9 Plaintiff moves for judgment pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 8(b) on the basis that defendant For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 failed to respond to the allegations in paragraphs 10-15 of the FAC and therefore “admitted” them. 11 Dkt. No. 35. This motion is DENIED. 12 13 14 15 IV. PLAINTIFF’S MOTION TO TREAT MOTION TO DISMISS AS ONE FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT Plaintiff moves to treat the defendant’s motion to dismiss as one for summary judgment under FED. R. CIV. P. 56. Dkt. No. 41. This motion is DENIED. 16 CONCLUSION 17 Based on the foregoing, IT IS ORDERED THAT: 18 1. Defendant’s motion to dismiss the FAC is GRANTED. 19 2. All other pending motions are DENIED. 20 21 Dated: January 1, 2012 HOWARD R. LLOYD UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 4 1 2 3 C11-04625 HRL Notice will be mailed to: Martin Gardner Reiffin 47 Pheasant Run Terrace Danville, CA 94506 4 5 6 7 Beverly M Hoey 313 Ray Street Pleasanton, CA 94566 Counsel are responsible for distributing copies of this document to co-counsel who have not registered for e-filing under the court’s CM/ECF program. 8 9 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 5

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