Weiss v. Perez et al

Filing 78

ORDER GRANTING 31 MOTION TO DISMISS WITH LEAVE TO AMEND IN PART; DENYING 8 MOTION FOR PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION by Judge Beth Labson Freeman. (blflc2, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 5/10/2022)

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Case 5:22-cv-00641-BLF Document 78 Filed 05/10/22 Page 1 of 29 1 2 3 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 4 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 5 SAN JOSE DIVISION 6 7 ELIZABETH WEISS, Plaintiff, 8 9 10 United States District Court Northern District of California 11 Case No. 22-cv-00641-BLF v. STEPHEN PEREZ, et al., Defendants. ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS WITH LEAVE TO AMEND IN PART; DENYING MOTION FOR PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION [Re: ECF No. 8, 31] 12 13 In this case, Elizabeth Weiss, a tenured professor of physical anthropology at San Jose 14 State University, alleges that the University enacted Interim Presidential Directive PD 2021-03, 15 which restricted access to and use of Native American remains housed at the University. The 16 University claims the provisions in the Directive are required by recently amended state law and 17 enacted as part of a process to prepare for repatriation of remains to a local Native American tribe, 18 but Professor Weiss asserts that the policy was in fact promulgated in retaliation for her speech 19 expressing opposition to repatriation of Native American remains. Professor Weiss brings two 20 claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violation of her First Amendment rights and seeks an injunction 21 barring the University from enforcing the Directive against her or retaliating against her for her 22 views on repatriation. 23 Now before the Court are two motions: Professor Weiss’s motion for a preliminary 24 injunction (ECF No. 8) and Defendants’ motion to dismiss (ECF No. 31). The Court held a 25 hearing on these motions on April 28, 2022. ECF No. 73. The Court finds that the Muwekma 26 Ohlone Tribe is a required party under Rule 19 to adjudication of Professor Weiss’s claims about 27 the Directive. Because the Tribe has sovereign immunity from suit and thus cannot be joined, 28 Professor Weiss’s claims regarding the Directive must be dismissed with prejudice. The Court Case 5:22-cv-00641-BLF Document 78 Filed 05/10/22 Page 2 of 29 1 will, however, give Professor Weiss leave to amend her complaint as to her allegations about 2 retaliation in the form of restricting access to and use of non-Native American remains and 3 retaliation for her protected speech as it may pertain to her teaching and curational responsibilities. 4 Accordingly, Defendants’ motion to dismiss is GRANTED WITH LEAVE TO AMEND IN 5 PART and Professor Weiss’s motion for a preliminary injunction is DENIED. 6 I. BACKGROUND 7 A. 8 Professor Elizabeth Weiss is a tenured professor of physical anthropology at San Jose State 9 Professor Weiss and Her Controversial Views on Repatriation University where she specializes in osteology, the study of human skeletal remains. ECF No. 1 (“Compl.”) ¶ 15. Since 2004, she has served as the University’s Collections Coordinator who is in 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 charge of establishing protocols for and facilitating research on the University’s collection of 12 skeletal remains. Id. ¶¶ 16–17. The University’s collection includes Native American remains, 13 cultural items, and x-rays of these remains. Compl. ¶ 18. This includes remains of ancestors of 14 the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe, which comprises “all of the known surviving American Indian 15 lineages aboriginal to the San Francisco Bay region who trace their ancestry through the Missions 16 Santa Clara, San Jose, and San Francisco.” See Compl. ¶¶ 18, 43–45; ECF No. 31-9 (“Wilcox 17 Rpt.”) at 10. 18 Both federal and state law impose restrictions on the treatment of Native American 19 remains. Congress passed the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act 20 (“NAGPRA”) in 1990. See 25 U.S.C. §§ 3001–3013. California has passed its own state 21 legislation—the California Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. See Cal. 22 Health & Safety Code §§ 8011–8030 (“CalNAGPRA”). Both sets of statutes restrict the use and 23 handling of Native American remains and cultural items and establish a process through which 24 Native American tribes can file requests for the return of remains or cultural items through what is 25 known as “repatriation.” Professor Weiss alleges that she has “always complied strictly with 26 NAGPRA and [CalNAGPRA]” and has ensured that researchers have communicated with 27 members of the relevant Tribes to “ensure culturally appropriate research.” Compl. ¶ 18. 28 Professor Weiss is a critic of repatriation. Compl. ¶ 19. In 2020, she published a book 2 Case 5:22-cv-00641-BLF Document 78 Filed 05/10/22 Page 3 of 29 1 entitled “Repatriation and Erasing the Past,” which criticizes NAGPRA, CalNAGPRA, and 2 similar state laws that require universities and museums to return Native American remains to 3 tribal descendants. Id. Professor Weiss believes that these laws “undermine objective scientific 4 inquiry and violate the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution by favoring religion 5 over science.” Id. The book generated controversy among academics and on social media. Id. 6 ¶ 20. About a thousand professors and graduate students signed an open letter calling the book 7 “anti-indigenous” and “racist.” Id. Professor Weiss alleges that she has made these arguments about repatriation for several 8 9 years without controversy at the University. Compl. ¶ 21. A few years prior, she was “commended” by Defendant Roberto Gonzalez, Chair of the Univeristy’s Anthropology 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 Department, for her ability to “spark lively discussions among various stakeholders” and to “boost 12 the department’s national reputation as a center that fosters creative and unorthodox viewpoints on 13 important issues.” Id. The University gave her the Austin D. Warburton Award of Merit in 2019. 14 Id. 15 In the wake of the publication of her book, however, Professor Weiss alleges that she faced 16 “an escalating series of threats and retaliatory actions.” Compl. ¶ 22. In June 2021, Defendant 17 Walt Jacobs, Dean of the College of Social Sciences and the University, hosted a Zoom webinar 18 entitled “What to Do When a Tenured Professor is Branded a Racist.” Id. ¶ 23. At the Zoom 19 event, Professor Weiss alleges she was “repeatedly branded . . . a white supremacist” for her views 20 on repatriation. Id. ¶ 24. Defendant Gonzalez allegedly implied at the Zoom event that he would 21 take adverse action against her if she was not tenured, suggested that she was “professionally 22 incompetent,” and agreed that it would be “unethical” to allow her to teach her views to students. 23 Id. ¶ 25. Gonzalez said he would try to prevent Professor Weiss from teaching her viewpoint in 24 the classroom, but that he “could not do anything about her employment status until her tenure 25 review came up several years down the road.” Id. ¶ 26. Professor Weiss has always taught and 26 plans to teach her views (as well as contrary views) on repatriation in her classes. Id. ¶ 27. After 27 the Zoom event, Professor Weiss requested a letter from Gonzalez and Jacobs assuring her that she 28 would be allowed to assign her book, speak about her research in class, and access skeletal 3 Case 5:22-cv-00641-BLF Document 78 Filed 05/10/22 Page 4 of 29 1 remains for research purposes. Id. ¶ 28. Jacobs told her that Defendant Vincent Del Casino, the 2 Provost of the University, and the Office of Faculty Affairs would not let him provide her a letter. 3 Id. Jacobs further said that Gonzalez would not retract his statements and that Jacobs was 4 receiving pressure from others to take action against her. Id. Counsel for Professor Weiss then 5 sent a letter to Del Casino, Jacobs, and Gonzalez warning of potential legal action. Id. ¶ 29. 6 On August 31, 2021, Professor Weiss published an op-ed in The Mercury News and The 7 East Bay Times outlining her critique of AB 275, which had amended CalNAGPRA. Compl. 8 ¶ 31. After the op-ed was published, the University received “multiple vitriolic emails” from 9 academics and the public demanding discipline against Professor Weiss. Id. 10 On September 18, 2021, Professor Weiss posted a tweet to her Twitter account. Compl. United States District Court Northern District of California 11 ¶ 32; see also ECF No. 17 (“Weiss Decl.”) Ex. 9 (screenshot of tweet). The tweet stated, “So 12 happy to be back with some old friends @SJSU #anthrotwitter #archaeotwitter”. Weiss Decl. Ex. 13 9. Attached to the tweet was a photo of Professor Weiss smiling and holding without gloves a 14 Native American skull from the University’s collection. Compl. ¶ 32; Weiss Decl. Ex. 9. 15 Professor Weiss alleges that she and other “renowned anthropologists and journalists have 16 frequently posted similar images of scientists holding skeletal remains without controversy,” and 17 that the Anthropology Department had several similar photographs posted on its website at the 18 time of the tweet. Compl. ¶ 32. 19 The tweet ignited a firestorm of controversy. Eleven days later, Del Casino published an 20 open letter declaring that the tweet “ha[d] evoked shock and disgust from our Native and 21 Indigenous community on campus and from many people within and outside of [the University].” 22 Compl. ¶ 33. Del Casino stated that the image was contrary to social science ethics and “laws 23 such as AB 275.” Id. Professor Weiss sent an email in response explaining that her handling of 24 remains was consistent with University practice and NAGPRA and CalNAGPRA. Id. ¶ 34. The 25 same day, Professor Kimberly Robertson of California State University, Long Beach, a member of 26 the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, wrote a letter to the Native American Heritage Commission 27 (“NAHC”)—the body that oversees repatriation of Native American remains—demanding that the 28 University remove Professor Weiss from her teaching post and bar her from further interaction 4 Case 5:22-cv-00641-BLF Document 78 Filed 05/10/22 Page 5 of 29 1 with Native American remains. Id. ¶ 35. 2 On November 30, 2021, a University professor circulated a letter entitled “Statement of 3 Support with the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe for Respectful Return of Ancestors at San Jose State 4 University and in the CSU.” Compl. ¶¶ 42–44. The letter was written by the California State 5 University East Bay Indigenous Acknowledgment Collective, an organization of tribal members, 6 students, and faculty in the CSU system. Id. ¶ 43. The letter calls Professor Weiss’s actions 7 “prime examples of colonial violence against the [Tribe].” Id. ¶ 45. The letter asserts support for 8 “the barring of [Professor] Weiss from access to the remains as well as to related archaeological 9 materials for the duration of the return of ancestors from SJSU.” Id. B. 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 On October 6, 2021, the University announced Interim Presidential Directive PD-2021-03, The Directive and Its Effects on Professor Weiss 12 entitled “San Jose State University’s Interim Protocol for Curation Spaces in Alignment with 13 NAGPRA, CalNAGPRA, AB275” (the “Directive”). Compl. ¶¶ 36–37; see also Weiss Decl. Ex. 14 14. The Directive has four provisions governing the University’s “curated collections of human 15 remains, artifacts, and funerary objections” (the “Collections”): • The curation spaces at SJSU that house the Collections will be exclusively managed by the SJSU NAGPRA Coordinator and the SJSU Tribal Liaison, supplemented by student assistants who are appropriately trained and supervised to assist with the inventory process. • The Collections will continue to remain in a locked, secure area on campus, and all access will be overseen by the SJSU NAGPRA Coordinator and the SJSU Tribal Liaison. • Any physical access to or use of the Collections, including for research or teaching, will require written approval of the NAGPRA Coordinator and Tribal Liaison. • 24 Audio, video, or photographic devices are prohibited in the curation spaces, as is taking photo images or videos of human remains, funerary objects, or the boxes in which these materials are held. 25 Compl. ¶ 37; Weiss Decl. Ex. 14. Professor Weiss alleges that the Directive, while defended as a 26 facially neutral protocol implementing legal duties, was enacted to retaliate against her for her 27 views on repatriation and is not required by NAGPRA or CalNAGPRA. Compl. ¶¶ 36, 38. 28 Professor Weiss alleges that she is the University’s only physical anthropologist and only faculty 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 5 Case 5:22-cv-00641-BLF Document 78 Filed 05/10/22 Page 6 of 29 1 member who regularly accesses skeletal remains for research. Id. ¶ 39. The University admits 2 that the Directive was a “direct result . . . of consultation that [it] had with the affected [T]ribe” 3 and the NAHC. Id. ¶ 40. Professor Weiss alleges that other California universities’ NAGPRA- 4 related policies are not so strict. Id. ¶¶ 56, 66. The Directive has affected Professor Weiss in several ways. First, since the Directive was 5 6 announced, Professor Weiss has been locked out of the curational facility that houses all skeletal 7 remains. Compl. ¶ 49. Professor Weiss made a written request, pursuant to the Directive, for 8 access to the facility to research and take x-rays, but Defendant Charlotte Sunseri (the NAGPRA 9 Coordinator) denied the request. Id. ¶ 51. Sunseri informed Professor Weiss that she would not be given access prior to the repatriation of the remains to the Tribe, depriving her of any 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 opportunity to study the remains.1 Id. This has prevented Professor Weiss from conducting 12 academic research, including two studies that she had been intending to conduct prior to the 13 repatriation. Id. ¶¶ 58–64. Professor Weiss is also barred from accessing x-rays that were already 14 taken of the remains in the collection. Id. ¶¶ 74–75. Second, it cut her out of her contractually assigned leadership duties over the University’s 15 16 collection of human remains. Compl. ¶ 48. Part of these duties included a curational project 17 regarding the proper sorting of remains that was disrupted by COVID-19 and which Professor 18 Weiss says is critical to compliance with AB 275. Id. ¶ 54. Because these curational duties have 19 been eliminated or limited, Professor Weiss says she may not receive teaching credit for those 20 duties, which would force her to take on a greater teaching load and may affect her academic 21 standing at her next tenure review. Id. ¶¶ 76–78. Third, Professor Weiss was for a time denied access to non-Native American remains that 22 23 are not covered by NAGPRA or CalNAGPRA, including the Carthage Collection. Compl. ¶ 65, 24 67. Gonzalez denied Professor Weiss’s request to access the Carthage Collection from the time 25 the Directive was enacted until November 15, 2021. Id. ¶¶ 68–69. When she was finally allowed 26 access to the Carthage Collection, she was not permitted to access it in the curational facility. Id. 27 28 1 Professor Weiss alleges on information and belief that repatriation will occur in June 2022. Compl. ¶ 52. 6 Case 5:22-cv-00641-BLF Document 78 Filed 05/10/22 Page 7 of 29 1 ¶ 70. Instead, the Carthage Collection was moved to two adjoining rooms outside the curational 2 facility. Id. Professor Weiss says these locations are inferior—one is a classroom in active use, 3 and the boxes in which the remains are stored are poorly organized. Id. ¶¶ 70–72. The Carthage 4 Collection itself, in any case, is an inadequate substitute for the University’s collection of Native 5 American remains because it is much smaller and in worse condition. Id. ¶ 73. 6 Finally, Professor Weiss alleges that the Directive indicates that the University and the 7 Anthropology Department plan future retaliatory actions against her. On November 17, 2021, 8 Gonzalez emailed the Department’s standing committee to offer a statement on human remains 9 that denounces Professor Weiss’s tweet. Compl. ¶ 79. The statement was posted on the Department’s website, along with a dissenting statement from Professor Weiss. Id. ¶¶ 82–83. 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 Professor Weiss alleges that Gonzalez plans to put forward additional resolutions targeting her and 12 curtailing her teaching and research. Id. ¶¶ 84–85. 13 C. 14 On January 31, 2022, Professor Weiss filed this lawsuit against Stephen Perez (the Interim This Lawsuit 15 President of the University), Alisha Marie Ragland (the Tribal Liaison), Del Casino, Jacobs, 16 Gonzalez, and Sunseri. See Compl. Professor Weiss brings two claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983— 17 the first for retaliation in violation of her First Amendment Right to Freedom of Speech, see id. 18 ¶¶ 86–101; and the second for violation of her First Amendment Right to be Free from 19 Unconstitutional Conditions, id. ¶¶ 102–106. Professor Weiss seeks injunctive relief and 20 declaratory relief, nominal damages, and costs and attorneys’ fees. Id. at Prayer for Relief. 21 22 23 Professor Weiss immediately filed a motion for a preliminary injunction. See ECF No. 8. She seeks an injunction with the following terms: • Defendants are enjoined from enforcing Interim Presidential Directive, PD-2021-03 to restrict Professor Weiss’s access to the curation facilities to conduct research and ban her photography of remains. • . . . Defendants are barred from engaging in any further retaliatory actions against Professor Weiss in response to the exercise of her academic freedom such as removing Professor Weiss from the classroom, altering her courses, or preventing her from expressing her views on repatriation to students. 24 25 26 27 28 7 Case 5:22-cv-00641-BLF Document 78 Filed 05/10/22 Page 8 of 29 1 ECF No. 12. On February 24, 2022, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss. See ECF No. 31. 2 II. MOTION TO DISMISS Defendants’ motion to dismiss raises two separate arguments. See ECF No. 31 (“MTD”); 3 4 see also ECF Nos. 57 (“Opp.”), 60 (“Reply”). First, Defendants argue that Professor Weiss’s 5 Complaint must be dismissed with prejudice under Rule 12(b)(7) for failure to join a required 6 party. MTD at 7–16. Second, Defendants argue that Professor Weiss fails to state a claim under 7 Rule 12(b)(6) as she currently pleads her complaint. Id. at 16–25. Because these arguments have 8 separate legal frameworks (including different rules regarding consideration of material outside 9 the pleadings), the Court considers the arguments separately. Rule 12(b)(7) – Failure to Join a Required Party A. 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 A party may move under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(7) to dismiss a claim for 12 “failure to join a party under Rule 19.” Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 19 governs the joinder of 13 “required parties.” Courts engage in a three-step process to determine whether claims must be 14 dismissed due to the absence of a required party. First, the Court must determine if the party is a 15 “necessary” party under Rule 19(a).2 Salt River Project Agr. Imp. & Power Dist. v. Lee, 672 F.3d 16 1176, 1178–79 (9th Cir. 2012). Second, if so, the Court must decide whether it is feasible to order 17 joinder of the necessary party. Id. Finally, if joinder is not feasible, the Court must evaluate if the 18 absent party is “indispensable” under Rule 19(b), or whether “in equity and in good conscience” 19 the claims can proceed without the party. Id. “In order to determine whether Rule 19 requires the 20 joinder of additional parties, the court may consider evidence outside the pleadings.” Hammons v. 21 Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 2015 WL 9258092, at *7 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 18, 2015). Defendants argue that Professor Weiss’s Complaint must be dismissed with prejudice 22 23 because of the absence of a required party—the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe. Defendants argue that 24 the Tribe is a “necessary” party under Rule 19(a) because the Tribe’s ability to protect its interest 25 in the remains of the ancestors of its members would be impaired if this lawsuit proceeds without 26 27 28 Rule 19 used the terms “necessary” and “indispensable” prior to amendments in 2007. These changes were “stylistic only,” so pre-2007 precedents still apply. Republic of Phil. v. Pimentel, 553 U.S. 851, 855 (2008). The Court uses the terms “necessary” and “indispensable” in light of those precedents. 8 2 Case 5:22-cv-00641-BLF Document 78 Filed 05/10/22 Page 9 of 29 1 it, and the University can’t represent its interests and may face inconsistent obligations if the suit 2 is adjudicated. MTD at 8–12. Defendants say that the Tribe has sovereign immunity and thus 3 can’t be joined. Id. at 12–13. Finally, Defendants say the Tribe is indispensable under a “wall of 4 circuit authority” dismissing actions where a party cannot be joined due to sovereign immunity. 5 Id. at 14–16. Professor Weiss challenges Defendants’ showing on each of the prongs of the Rule 6 19 analysis. Opp. at 2–13. The Court considers each part of the analysis in turn. 7 8 i. Rule 19(a) – “Necessary Party” A party is required—or under the traditional terminology, “necessary”—if that party “claims an interest relating to the subject of the action” and adjudicating the action in that party’s 10 absence would either “(i) as a practical matter impair or impede the person’s ability to protect the 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 9 interest, or (ii) leave an existing party subject to a substantial risk of incurring double, multiple, or 12 otherwise inconsistent obligations because of the interest.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 19(a)(1)(B). The Court 13 agrees with Defendants that the Tribe satisfies both Rules 19(a)(1)(B)(i) and 19(a)(1)(B)(ii). 14 a. Rule 19(a)(1)(B)(i) – Impaired Ability to Protect Interest 15 Pursuant to Rule 19(a)(1)(B)(i), an absent party must be joined if they “claim an interest 16 relating to the subject of the action” and proceeding in the party’s absence would “as a practical 17 matter impair or impede the person’s ability to protect the interest.” An absent party has a “claim” 18 to an interest within Rule 19(a) if the claim is legal in nature and not “patently frivolous.” White 19 v. Univ. of Cal., 765 F.3d 1010, 1027 (9th Cir. 2014); see also Shermoen v. United States, 982 20 F.3d 1312, 1317–18 (9th Cir. 1992) (“Just adjudication of claims requires that courts protect a 21 party’s right to be heard and to participate in adjudication of a claimed interest, even if the dispute 22 is ultimately resolved to the detriment of that party.”). 23 24 1. “Claim [to] an Interest Relating to the Subject of the Action” That Would Be “Impair[ed] or Imped[ed]” 25 The Court agrees with Defendants that the Tribe has a “claim [to] an interest relating to the 26 subject of [this] action” that would be impaired or impeded by adjudication in the Tribe’s absence. 27 At the center of Professor Weiss’s Complaint are her allegations that the Directive went beyond 28 the requirements of CalNAGPRA, as amended by AB 275, and NAGPRA. See, e.g., Compl. ¶ 38 9 Case 5:22-cv-00641-BLF Document 78 Filed 05/10/22 Page 10 of 29 1 (University had “no legal duty to implement the [D]irective”), 66 (Directive goes beyond policies 2 at other universities, “further demonstrat[ing] its retaliatory nature”), 93 (statutes did not require 3 University to remove Professor Weiss from custodial duties over Native American remains). 4 Professor Weiss urges the Court to conclude that the Tribe’s interest under CalNAGPRA is 5 limited to the inventory and repatriation process and does not extend at all to “minimizing 6 handling” in the context of scientific research. Opp. at 4–6 (citing, inter alia, Cal. Health & 7 Safety Code §§ 8013(a), (b)(1)–(2), (c)(1)–(2), 8016(a), (d), 8018). And in her preliminary 8 injunction motion, Professor Weiss argues extensively that she is likely to prevail on the merits of 9 her case because NAGPRA and CalNAGPRA “do not compel [the] [D]irective.” ECF No. 16 at 15–16; see also id. at 17–19 (arguing that “at most [CalNAGPRA] requires the University to 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 simply consult with tribes and defer to them on how to ‘minimize[] handling’ while preparing the 12 remains for repatriation”). 13 Defendants strenuously disagree with Professor Weiss’s reading of what CalNAGPRA 14 requires. Defendants argue that the Court is required to construe CalNAGPRA “liberally in favor 15 of the Indians, resolve all ambiguities in the law in favor of the Indians, and preserve tribal 16 property rights and sovereignty unless a contrary intent is clearly stated.” Reply at 2 (quoting Cal. 17 Health & Safety Code § 8011(b)). Defendants say that Professor Weiss’s interpretation of the 18 law—that consultation with and deference to the Tribes in the handling of remains is required for 19 inventory and repatriation but not research—is a “cramped and unreasonable” reading of the law. 20 Id. Instead, Defendants contend, the law requires the same deference in the context of research, 21 which itself is specifically limited by CalNAGPRA in other ways as well. Id. at 2–3. 22 The Court need not—and should not—resolve who engages in the better statutory 23 interpretation. What is clear from the dispute is that there is a significant and bona fide dispute 24 over what is required by CalNAGPRA and whether the Directive goes beyond those requirements. 25 If the Court were to decide that Professor Weiss was correct about the scope of CalNAGPRA, the 26 Court would extinguish the Tribe’s right in arguing for their (presumably contrary) interpretation 27 of the statute. All that the Court need decide at this juncture is that the Tribe has an interest in part 28 of the subject of this lawsuit—the proper interpretation and scope of NAGPRA and 10 Case 5:22-cv-00641-BLF Document 78 Filed 05/10/22 Page 11 of 29 1 CalNAGPRA—that is not “patently frivolous” and would be impeded if the Court were to proceed 2 with adjudicating this lawsuit. See White, 765 F.3d at 1027 (tribe’s interest would be impeded in 3 suit seeking to determine whether remains were “Native American” within meaning of NAGPRA 4 because if the scientists prevailed in their claim that the remains were not “Native American,” the 5 tribe’s claims would “be extinguished without the opportunity for them to be heard”). The interest 6 is specific and concrete because it affects the handling of the human remains of ancestors of 7 members of the Tribe. 8 9 Professor Weiss’s arguments otherwise do not hold up to scrutiny. First, Professor Weiss makes several arguments against Defendants’ (and presumably the Tribe’s) interpretation of CalNAGPRA. See Opp. at 3–4 (urging a “preliminary assessment of the merits” of the claimed 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 interest), 4–5 (presenting the arguments discussed above regarding the statutory interpretation of 12 CalNAGPRA). But as the Court has already found, the Tribe holds a “claim” to a legal interest in 13 this lawsuit—the proper interpretation of CalNAGPRA—that is not “patently frivolous.” To the 14 extent Professor Weiss urges the Court to take a “preliminary assessment” of the statutory 15 construction that opposes her own, the Court has already done so and had concluded that it is not 16 “patently frivolous” such that the “claim” can be disregarded under a Rule 19 analysis. See 17 Pimentel, 553 U.S. at 868–69 (“improper to issue a definitive holding regarding a nonfrivolous, 18 substantive claim made by an absent, required entity that was entitled by its sovereign status to 19 immunity from suit”). 20 Second, Professor Weiss attempts to distinguish the interest the tribes held in White, a 21 Ninth Circuit case affirming dismissal of a NAGPRA complaint on Rule 19 grounds, from the 22 interest of the Tribe here, but the Court finds the case quite similar to the case at bar. In White, the 23 court considered a dispute over the classification of remains as “Native American” under the terms 24 of NAGPRA. A field excavation project at the residence of the Chancellor of the University of 25 California, San Diego unearthed two human skeletons which were estimated to be between 8977 26 and 9603 years old, making them among the earliest known human remains in North or South 27 America. White, 765 F.3d at 1015. The land on which the remains were discovered was 28 “aboriginally occupied by members of the Kumeyaay Nation” consisting of a number of federally 11 Case 5:22-cv-00641-BLF Document 78 Filed 05/10/22 Page 12 of 29 1 recognized tribes. Id. The lawsuit involved the custody of the remains. The Kumeyaay Nation 2 requested, pursuant to NAGPRA, that the remains be repatriated to one of its member tribes. Id. at 3 1018. After a lengthy administrative process and changes in the regulatory landscape, the UC 4 president authorized disposition of the remains to the tribe, concluding that they were “Native 5 American” within the meaning of NAGPRA, despite significant dissention within the 6 administrative process. Id. at 1019–21 (describing the dissention and varying viewpoints). 7 Professors within the UC system filed a complaint, alleging in part a violation of their First 8 Amendment rights when they requested and were denied an opportunity to study the remains prior 9 to the repatriation. Id. at 1021–22. After finding that the plaintiffs had Article III standing and that NAGPRA did not abrogate 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 the tribes’ sovereign immunity, White, 765 F.3d at 1022–26, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district 12 court’s dismissal of the Complaint on Rule 19 grounds. First, the court found there was “no 13 doubt” that the tribes had a legally protected interest under Rule 19. Their claim to the remains 14 was “at the heart of the dispute” because the Tribes had “made formal claims” to the remains 15 through the required administrative process. Id. at 1027. This interest would “unquestionably” be 16 impaired or impeded if the suit proceeded without the tribes because if the plaintiffs prevailed and 17 stopped the repatriation of remains to the tribes, the tribes’ claims would “be extinguished without 18 the opportunity for them to be heard.” Id. 19 Professor Weiss argues that the Tribe’s interest here is de minimus because she “does not 20 challenge the legality of CalNAGPRA or the validity of the Tribe’s interest in repatriation,” or 21 seek to delay any repatriation, as was the case in White. Opp. at 4–5. But Professor Weiss reads 22 White far too narrowly. It is true that Professor Weiss does not seek in her complaint to stop or 23 delay the repatriation. But White stands for the proposition that NAGPRA vests in tribes legally 24 protected interests that would be impaired in such a way that proceeding in their absence would 25 violate Rule 19. Just as the tribes in White had a non-frivolous claim in the subject matter of the 26 lawsuit, the Tribe has one here. The Tribe has an interest in the proper interpretation of 27 CalNAGPRA, which arguably requires the University to consult with and defer to the Tribe 28 regarding the handling and treatment of human remains in inventory, research, and repatriation. 12 Case 5:22-cv-00641-BLF Document 78 Filed 05/10/22 Page 13 of 29 1 This interest would “unquestionably” be impaired if the Court proceeded with claims regarding 2 whether the Directive exceeded those requirements because the Tribe’s right to argue for that 3 interpretation would “be extinguished without the opportunity for them to be heard.” Id. at 1027. 4 White thus leads to the Court’s conclusion in this case. 5 Third and finally, Professor Weiss cites to Cachil Dehe Band of Wintun Indians of the 6 Colusa Indian Cmty. v. California to argue that the Tribe’s interest here is not sufficiently 7 “substantial” because interests like “[m]ere concern over ‘compliance with administrative 8 procedures’ cannot suffice.” 547 F.3d 962, 971 (9th Cir. 2008). Opp. at 3, 4. But that case is 9 distinguishable. In Cahcil Dehe Band, the Ninth Circuit found that tribes had no “legally protected” interest in a lawsuit concerning the interpretation of a gaming compact because the 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 outcome of the litigation would only “have some financial consequences for the non-party tribes” 12 due to the issuance of more gaming licenses. Id. at 971–72. Preservation of the absent tribes’ 13 market share in the gaming industry was not a sufficient “legally protected interest,” the Court 14 held. Id. at 972. This case is different. The Tribes’ interest here is much more than an abstract 15 interest in “compliance with administrative procedures” or an attenuated economic interest. The 16 Tribe’s “legally protected interest” is in the consultation and deference to which the Tribe argues it 17 is entitled in the context of inventory, repatriation, and research under CalNAGPRA. The interest 18 in the proper interpretation of CalNAGPRA is not abstract or a mere interest in compliance with 19 the law, but has concrete consequences for the handling of the human remains of ancestors of 20 members of the Tribe. Cachil Dehe Band is thus distinguishable. 21 22 2. Adequacy of Existing Representation In some cases, the Ninth Circuit has held that even where an absent party’s interest is 23 threatened, the case may proceed without joinder if an existing party adequately represents the 24 absent party’s interest. White, 765 F.3d at 1027. A present alignment of interests is insufficient to 25 find adequate representation. Id. (“[T]he different motivations of the two parties could lead to a 26 later divergence of interests.”). 27 The Court finds that, contrary to Professor Weiss’s argument otherwise, White is on-point 28 here and leads to the conclusion that representation of the Tribe is not adequate. Professor Weiss 13 Case 5:22-cv-00641-BLF Document 78 Filed 05/10/22 Page 14 of 29 1 says that the University has a “complete alignment of interests” and that Defendants have 2 “concluded that they will defer to [T]ribal interests in every respect.” Opp. at 7. Any “potential 3 future conflict” is inadequate, she says. Id. at 7–8. But these arguments were rejected in White, 4 where the interests were aligned “at present” but could diverge in the future. The university in 5 White had a broader obligation to “serve the interests of the people of California,” rather than a 6 “subset of those people” such as the absent tribes. White, 765 F.3d at 1027. That is certainly the 7 case here as well. If this case were to proceed without the Tribe, the University’s interests could 8 diverge from the Tribe’s at a later stage of the litigation. The Tribe will have the distinct interest 9 in ensuring a particular form of handling and use of the human remains, while the University’s interest would be solely in complying with the Court’s hypothetical ruling regarding the handling 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 of the remains (even if that diverges from the Tribe’s preferred methods). These “different 12 motivations of the two parties could lead to a later divergence of interest,” id., so the Tribe is not 13 adequately represented by the current Defendants. 14 Professor Weiss also posits that other parties could be joined to adequately represent the 15 Tribe’s interests, such as “the Commissioner or other officers of the California Native American 16 Heritage Commission, or officers of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe who could be sued in their 17 official capacities.” Opp. at 8. This is incorrect for two reasons. First, if Tribal officers could be 18 sued in their official capacities or the NAHC could be joined as a party to adequately represent a 19 Tribe, then “all the Ninth Circuit cases dismissed for failure to name a [t]ribe were wrongly 20 decided” because those parties could have been joined in those cases. Reply at 6. And second, 21 permitting joinder in that fashion would “allow a plaintiff to circumvent sovereign immunity by 22 naming some arbitrarily chosen . . . officer” with only “general responsibility” for tribal action. 23 Jamul Action Comm. v. Simermeyer, 974 F.3d 984, 994 (9th Cir. 2020). Because Professor Weiss 24 cannot point to “threatened or ongoing unlawful conduct by a particular [Tribal] officer,” id. at 25 994 (citing Ex parte Young, 290 U.S. 123, 157 (1908)) (emphasis added), she cannot avoid the 26 consequences of the Tribe’s sovereign immunity in this way. 27 28 Because the Tribe claims a non-frivolous interest in the outcome of claims about the Directive that would be impeded if this case proceeds and no existing parties can represent the 14 Case 5:22-cv-00641-BLF Document 78 Filed 05/10/22 Page 15 of 29 1 Tribe, the Tribe is a “required”—or in the traditional terminology, “necessary”—party under Rule 2 19(a)(1)(B)(i) to those claims. 3 4 b. Rule 19(a)(1)(B)(ii) – Inconsistent Obligations for Defendants Although the Tribe’s claim of an interest in this lawsuit that would be impaired if the case 5 went forward is sufficient to make it a required party, the Court also finds that the Tribe is a 6 required party under Rule 19(a)(1)(B)(ii) because that claim of an interest would “leave an 7 existing party subject to a substantial risk of incurring double, multiple, or otherwise inconsistent 8 obligations because of the interest.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 19(a)(1)(B)(ii). The Court agrees that the 9 situation posited by Defendants in their opening brief presents that very risk. See MTD at 12. If this Court were to adjudicate claims involving the Directive and enjoin its enforcement against 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 Professor Weiss, the Tribe (as a non-party) could still file a lawsuit against the University seeking 12 a declaration that the failure to enforce the Directive violated NAGPRA or CalNAGPRA’s 13 requirements that the University “defer to tribal recommendations” regarding handling of human 14 remains and cultural items. See id. The risk goes beyond legal action by the Tribe itself. The 15 NAHC has demanded the University’s compliance with CalNAGPRA and by implication 16 threatened civil penalties for non-compliance. See Cal. Health & Safety Code § 8029 (civil 17 penalties provision). If a dispute arose “in relation to the repatriation process” as a result of non- 18 enforcement of the Directive, then CalNAGPRA further contemplates a mediation process 19 involving the University, the Tribe, and the NAHC. Id. § 8016(d)(2). 20 The confluence of these provisions leads to an inevitable conclusion: if the Court 21 proceeded with adjudicating claims about the Directive, the University could find itself in the 22 unenviable position of “inconsistent obligations” in the form of (1) an injunction or other order 23 from this Court, and (2) either (i) a lawsuit from the Tribe or (ii) enforcement action or civil 24 penalties under CalNAGPRA. Rule 19(a)(1)(B)(ii) exists to avoid this very situation of putting 25 Defendants between a rock and a hard place. This is thus an independent reason supporting the 26 conclusion that the Tribe is a required party here to claims regarding the Directive. 27 * 28 * * The Court concludes that the Tribe is a required party under Rule 19(a) to claims regarding 15 Case 5:22-cv-00641-BLF Document 78 Filed 05/10/22 Page 16 of 29 1 the Directive. 2 ii. Feasibility of Joinder of the Tribe Having concluded that the Tribe is a required party under Rule 19(a), the Court next 4 considers whether the Tribe can be joined to this lawsuit. Salt River Project, 672 F.3d at 1178–79. 5 The answer is clearly no. “Suits against Indian tribes are . . . barred by sovereign immunity absent 6 a clear waiver by the tribe or congressional abrogation.” Deschutes River All. v. Portland GE, 1 7 F.4th 1153, 1159 (9th Cir. 2021) (quoting Okla. Tax Comm’n v. Citizen Band Potawatomi Indian 8 Tribe of Okla., 498 U.S. 505, 509 (1991)). NAGPRA did not abrogate tribal sovereign immunity. 9 White, 765 F.3d at 1023. Because the Tribe is a Native American tribe3 entitled to sovereign 10 immunity, it cannot be joined to his lawsuit. See, e.g., Jamul Action Comm., 974 F.3d at 998 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 3 (because Native American village entitled to sovereign immunity, “joinder in [that] action [was] 12 therefore infeasible”). Professor Weiss’s only response is that tribal sovereign immunity is limited to “activities 13 14 affecting tribal self-governance and economic development, not activities affecting the 15 government and development of another sovereign.” See Opp. at 9 (quoting Fair Political 16 Practices Comm’n v. Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, 2003 WL 733094, at *4 (Cal. 17 Super. Ct. Feb. 27, 2003)). Granting immunity here would “improperly give tribes unreviewable 18 control over the management of a state’s personnel and property and undermine civil rights,” she 19 says. Id. This argument runs headlong into White, in which the Ninth Circuit held that university 20 professors’ First Amendment claims in a case involving NAGPRA could not proceed in the face 21 of tribal sovereign immunity. White, 765 F.3d at 1023. Professor Weiss’s unpublished state court 22 case is inapplicable here because this case does not involve “a suit by [a state] to enforce its laws 23 24 25 26 27 28 3 Defendants argue that the Tribe is entitled to sovereign immunity notwithstanding that the Tribe is not presently federally recognized. See MTD at 12–13 (citing Native Village of Tyonek v. Puckett, 957 F.2d 631, 635 (9th Cir. 1992) (Indian community entitled to sovereign immunity if it is federally recognized or it is “a body of Indians of the same or a similar race, united in a community under one leadership or government, and inhabiting a particular though sometime illdefined territory,” and the “modern-day successor[]” to a “historical sovereign entity that exercised at least the minimal functions of a governing body”)); see also Wilcox Rpt. (expert report from Professor Michael Wilcox explaining why Tribe qualifies). Professor Weiss does not contest that the Tribe qualifies under this test, so the Court need not analyze the point. 16 Case 5:22-cv-00641-BLF Document 78 Filed 05/10/22 Page 17 of 29 1 regulating all persons who seek to influence [a state’s] political processes,” which may not 2 implicate a tribe’s sovereign immunity. See Fair Political Practices Comm’n, 2003 WL 733094, 3 at *8 (state court case involving “campaign contributions and legislative lobbying activities” 4 outside of scope of sovereign immunity). 5 6 7 The Tribe thus cannot feasibly be joined to this case due to its sovereign immunity. iii. Rule 19(b) – “Indispensable Party” The final part of the Rule 19 analysis examines whether the absent party is “indispensable” 8 under Rule 19(b), or whether “in equity and in good conscience” the claims can proceed without 9 the party. Salt River Project, 672 F.3d at 1178–79. The Court finds that the Tribe is 10 United States District Court Northern District of California 11 12 indispensable. a. Rule 19(b) Factors Before weighing factors under Rule 19(b) to determine if a party is “indispensable,” the 13 Court notes that “there is a ‘wall of circuit authority’ in favor of dismissing actions in which a 14 necessary party may not be joined due to tribal sovereign immunity—‘virtually all the cases to 15 consider the question appear to dismiss under Rule 19, regardless of whether [an alternate] remedy 16 is available, if the absent parties are Indian tribes invested with sovereign immunity.” Dine 17 Citizens Against Ruining Our Env’t v. Bureau of Indian Affairs, 932 F.3d 843, 857 (9th Cir. 2020) 18 (quoting White, 765 F.3d at 1028); see also Kescoli v. Babbitt, 101 F.3d 1304, 1311 (9th Cir. 19 1996) (“If the necessary party is immune from suit, there may be little need for balancing Rule 20 19(b) factors because immunity itself may be viewed as the compelling factor.”). Because the 21 Tribe is a necessary party to claims regarding the Directive and holds sovereign immunity from 22 suit, there “may be little need” to balance the factors given the “wall of circuit authority” 23 dismissing relevant claims in these circumstances. Kescoli, 101 F.3d at 1311; Dine Citizens, 932 24 F.3d at 857. Against that backdrop, the Court will nevertheless balance the factors, which show 25 that the Tribe is indispensable and dismissal of certain parts claims is warranted. Confederated 26 Tribes of Chehalis Indian Reservation v. Lujan, 928 F.2d 1496, 1499 (9th Cir. 1991) (“We have 27 nonetheless consistently applied the four-part test to determine whether Indian tribes are 28 indispensable parties.”) (citing cases). The factors guide the Court’s determination of “whether, in 17 Case 5:22-cv-00641-BLF Document 78 Filed 05/10/22 Page 18 of 29 1 equity and good conscience, the action should proceed among the existing parties or should be 2 dismissed.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 19(b). 3 The first factor looks at “the extent to which a judgment rendered in the person’s absence might prejudice that person or the existing parties.” Id. R. 19(b)(1). This factor involves 5 essentially the same question as the analysis conducted in Rule 19(a). See Confederated Tribes, 6 928 F.2d at 1499 (“The prejudice to the [tribe] if the plaintiffs are successful stems from the same 7 legal interests that make[] the [tribe] a necessary party to the action.”). As stated previously, the 8 Tribe would be prejudiced from a judgment in Professor Weiss’s favor because the judgment 9 would extinguish Tribe’s right in arguing for their contrary interpretation of CalNAGPRA that, in 10 their view, mandates the provisions of the Directive and is necessary to protect the human remains 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 4 of their ancestors prior to the repatriation. See supra Section II.A.i.a. Furthermore, the University 12 defendants would be prejudiced by the possibility of inconsistent obligations in the form of (1) a 13 judgment from this Court, and (2) possible lawsuits or civil penalties from the Tribe or the NAHC. 14 See supra Section II.A.i.b. Professor Weiss’s position—that the Tribe’s interest is “attenuated” 15 and “minimal,” Opp. at 8—is insultingly dismissive of the significant interests the Tribe has in the 16 deference to its views of the proper handling and treatment of the human remains of its ancestors. 17 This factor thus favors dismissal of the claims regarding the Directive. 18 The second factor examines “the extent to which any prejudice could be lessened or 19 avoided by: (A) protective provisions in the judgment; (B) shaping the relief; or (C) other 20 measures.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 19(b)(2)(A)–(C). At least as to claims regarding the Directive, the 21 Court divines no way to avert prejudice to the Tribe. Professor Weiss’s requested relief— 22 enjoining enforcement of the Directive as to her—is directly contrary to the Tribe’s position—that 23 CalNAGPRA requires consultation with and deference to the Tribe’s position on handling and 24 treatment of remains, which is reflected in the provisions of the Directive. See Dawavendewa v. 25 Salt River Project Agric. Improvement Power Dist., 276 F.3d 1150, 1162 (9th Cir. 2002) (“Any 26 decision mollifying [plaintiff] would prejudice the [tribe].”). Professor Weiss expresses 27 willingness to “abide by any reasonable policies or time limits” on her research and photography, 28 with the caveat that Defendants must “not deprive her of her First Amendment rights.” Opp. at 18 Case 5:22-cv-00641-BLF Document 78 Filed 05/10/22 Page 19 of 29 1 10–11. But it is the research and handling itself to which the Tribe objects, and the parties have a 2 fundamental disagreement about whether the First Amendment requires Professor Weiss to have 3 access to the remains at all. The Court finds that it is not in a position to craft a judgment 4 regarding claims on the Directive that can lessen or avoid prejudice to the Tribe. The possibility 5 of a compromise is better left to the parties and the Tribe to explore independently. This factor 6 thus favors dismissal. 7 The third factor is “whether a judgment rendered in the person’s absence would be 8 adequate.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 19(b)(3). It would not be. “[A]dequacy refers to the ‘public stake in 9 settling disputes by wholes, whenever possible.’” Pimentel, 553 U.S. at 870 (quoting Provident Tradesmens Bank & Trust Co. v. Patterson, 390 U.S. 102, 111 (1968)). But the Tribe here “would 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 not be bound by the judgment in an action where they were not [a] part[y].” Id. As Defendants 12 say and the Court has already found, see supra Section II.A.i.a.1, because the Tribe is not a party 13 here, following judgment it could file its own lawsuit against the University seeking a declaration 14 that CalNAGPRA requires them to enforce the Directive against Professor Weiss. Professor 15 Weiss argues that the remains are in the custody of the University, so no injunction against the 16 Tribe is necessary, and that she does seek to prevent the University from “consulting with” the 17 Tribe on repatriation. Opp. at 10. But this argument contradicts White, in which a university also 18 had custody of the remains at issue but the tribe was nonetheless found to be an indispensable 19 party. White, 765 F.3d at 1028. This third factor thus also supports dismissal of claims regarding 20 the Directive. 21 The fourth and final factor is “whether the plaintiff would have an adequate remedy if the 22 action were dismissed for nonjoinder.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 19(b)(4). This factor favors Professor 23 Weiss because dismissing claims regarding the Directive would leave her without a remedy that 24 would grant her access to the remains for research and photography prior to the repatriation. See 25 White, 765 F.3d at 1028 (fourth factor “strongly favors the plaintiffs, who would be prevented 26 from obtaining redress for their claims”). The prejudice to Professor Weiss, however, is 27 outweighed by the other factors. “Courts have recognized that a plaintiff’s interest in litigating a 28 claim may be outweighed by a tribe’s interest in maintaining its sovereign immunity.” 19 Case 5:22-cv-00641-BLF Document 78 Filed 05/10/22 Page 20 of 29 1 Confederated Tribes, 928 F.2d at 1500; see also Pimentel, 553 U.S. at 872 (prejudice to party 2 “outweighed by prejudice to the absent entities invoking sovereign immunity,” nothing that this 3 “result is contemplated under the doctrine of foreign sovereign immunity”). Although this factor 4 favors Professor Weiss, it is outweighed by the other factors. 5 6 b. Public Interest Exception Professor Weiss argues that the public rights exception to Rule 19 applies to bar dismissal 7 of her claims regarding the Directive. Opp. at 12–13. “The contours of the public rights exception 8 have not been clearly defined,” but generally “the litigation must transcend the private interests of 9 the litigants and seek to vindicate a public right.” Kescoli, 101 F.3d at 1311. Professor Weiss characterizes her case as seeking to “vindicate a public right . . . to academic freedom without fear 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 of retaliation for their research, publications, and speech.” Opp. at 12. But the Court finds that 12 this case is more properly characterized as “a private one focused on the merits of [Professor 13 Weiss’s] dispute rather than on vindicating a larger public interest.” Kescoli, 101 F.3d at 1311; 14 see also White, 765 F.3d at 1028 (public rights exception did not apply in NAGPRA case in which 15 professors asserted First Amendment rights). Professor Weiss seeks access to the remains for her 16 personal research efforts. While the Court does not doubt that Professor Weiss’s academic 17 interests are genuine and her research important, those interests do not reach broadly enough to 18 “seek to vindicate a public right” as contemplated in the private rights exception. * 19 20 21 22 23 * * The Rule 19(b) factors lead the Court to conclude that the Tribe is an indispensable party to claims regarding the Directive. iv. Scope of Dismissal Professor Weiss’s final argument is that the proper remedy is not to dismiss her entire case 24 with prejudice. Opp. at 13. Professor Weiss says that her claims also encompass other actions 25 that Defendants took or threatened to take, including “eliminating course release credit, tarnishing 26 her academic standing and reputation, and . . . retaliat[ing] against her if she teaches her views on 27 repatriation in her classroom.” Id. As such, the Court “should allow the case to proceed focused 28 on the future threats against Professor Weiss.” Id. Defendants do not respond to this argument in 20 Case 5:22-cv-00641-BLF Document 78 Filed 05/10/22 Page 21 of 29 1 their reply brief. The Court agrees with Professor Weiss that the Tribe is not an indispensable party to her 2 3 entire case. The Court’s analysis in this section has been focused on Professor Weiss’s claims to 4 the extent they concern the Directive and Professor Weiss’s access to the collection of Native 5 American remains and cultural items. The Tribe’s “claim [to] an interest” in the proper 6 interpretation of CalNAGPRA (which implicates the handling and treatment of their ancestors’ 7 remains) extends to the Directive and its implementation. The Tribe, however, does not have a 8 “claim [to] an interest” in the University’s alleged restriction of access to or use of non-Native 9 American remains4 or the alleged retaliation for her protected speech as it may pertain to her teaching and curational responsibilities. Because the Tribe does not have a “claim [to] an interest” 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 in those parts of Professor Weiss’s case, the Tribe is not a necessary party to those parts of the 12 case and Rule 19 does not require dismissal. Accordingly, the Court concludes that Professor Weiss’s claims regarding the Directive 13 14 must be dismissed with prejudice because the Tribe is an indispensable party to those claims. The 15 Tribe is not a required party, however, to Professor Weiss’s claims that do not involve the 16 Directive—namely, claims regarding (1) alleged retaliation in the form of restricting access to or 17 use of non-Native American remains, and (2) alleged retaliation for her protected speech as it may 18 pertain to her teaching and curational responsibilities. The Court will consider whether Professor 19 Weiss has adequately pleaded those claims in the context of Defendant’s Rule 12(b)(6) motion. Rule 12(b)(6) – Failure to State a Claim 20 B. 21 “A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a 22 claim upon which relief can be granted ‘tests the legal sufficiency of a claim.’” Conservation 23 Force v. Salazar, 646 F.3d 1240, 1241–42 (9th Cir. 2011) (quoting Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 24 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001)). When determining whether a claim has been stated, the Court accepts 25 26 27 28 4 It is unclear if the Directive applies to remains that are not Native American. See Weiss Decl. Ex. 14 (Directive extends to “curated collections of human remains, artifacts, and funerary objections,” not expressly cabined to Native American remains). In an amended complaint, Professor Weiss may allege that the Directive applies to non-Native American remains and challenge the Directive to that extent only. 21 Case 5:22-cv-00641-BLF Document 78 Filed 05/10/22 Page 22 of 29 as true all well-pled factual allegations and construes them in the light most favorable to the 2 plaintiff. Reese v. BP Expl. (Alaska) Inc., 643 F.3d 681, 690 (9th Cir. 2011). However, the Court 3 need not “accept as true allegations that contradict matters properly subject to judicial notice” or 4 “allegations that are merely conclusory, unwarranted deductions of fact, or unreasonable 5 inferences.” In re Gilead Scis. Sec. Litig., 536 F.3d 1049, 1055 (9th Cir. 2008) (internal quotation 6 marks and citations omitted). While a complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, it 7 “must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible 8 on its face.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 9 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is facially plausible when it “allows the court to draw the 10 reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. An “obvious 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 1 alternative explanation” may render claims implausible and thus subject to dismissal. Id. at 682. 12 Because the Court has already found that claims regarding the Directive must be dismissed 13 with prejudice under Rule 12(b)(7), it will only consider whether Professor Weiss’s claims are 14 plausibly pled as to (1) alleged retaliation in the form of restricting access to or use of non-Native 15 American remains, and (2) alleged retaliation for her protected speech as it may pertain to her 16 teaching and curational responsibilities. 17 “[T]o state a claim against a government employer for violation of the First Amendment, 18 an employee must show (1) that he or she engaged in protected speech; (2) that the employer took 19 ‘adverse employment action’; and (3) that his or her speech was a ‘substantial or motivating 20 factor’ for the adverse employment action.” Turner v. City & Cnty. of San Francisco, 788 F.3d 21 1206, 1210 (9th Cir. 2015) (quoting Coszalter v. City of Salem, 320 F.3d 968, 973 (9th Cir. 22 2003)). Defendants contend that Professor Weiss’s complaint does not adequately plead elements 23 (2) and (3)—that they took an “adverse employment action” against her or unconstitutionally 24 conditioned her employment; or that Professor Weiss’s speech was a “substantial or motivating 25 factor” for their actions. MTD at 18–25. The Court evaluates these two elements. 26 i. Adverse Employment Action / Unconstitutional Conditions 27 An adverse employment action is an action taken by an employer that is “reasonably likely 28 to deter employees from engaging in protected activity [under the First Amendment].” Coszalter, 22 Case 5:22-cv-00641-BLF Document 78 Filed 05/10/22 Page 23 of 29 1 320 F.3d at 976. Being “bad-mouthed and verbally threatened” are not adverse employment 2 actions, “even if taken in response to protected speech.” Id. at 975. Neither are “[m]ere threats or 3 and harsh words.” Nunez v. City of Los Angeles, 147 F.3d 867, 875 (9th Cir. 1998); see also 4 Skidmore v. Gilbert, 2022 WL 464177, at *7 (N.D. Cal. Feb. 15, 2022), appeal filed, No. 22- 5 15394 (9th Cir. 2022) (no retaliation claim where university Ph.D. student alleged only “‘de facto 6 discipline’ in the form of shunning by the university community and ‘threatening to deprive’ [her] 7 of her Ph.D. and ‘future career opportunities’” in response to offensive comments student made on 8 Facebook). Professor Weiss fails to allege sufficient facts for an adverse employment action or 10 unconstitutional conditions. First, any argument that the “University’s adoption and enforcement 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 9 of the Directive” is an adverse employment action is foreclosed by the Court’s holding that the 12 Tribe is an indispensable party to that claim. See supra Section II.A. 13 Second, several instances of Defendants expressing disagreement with Professor Weiss’s 14 viewpoints on repatriation are not adverse employment actions. The open letter condemning her 15 book as “anti-indigenous and racist,” Compl. ¶ 20; Del Casino’s statement declaring that there 16 were “many things in the [tweet] image itself that do not align with the values of SJSU or of 17 academic inquiry,” id. ¶ 33; a University professor’s email to a faculty listserv attaching a 18 statement of support for the Tribe, id. ¶¶ 43–46; and the Anthropology Department’s online 19 statement regarding Professor Weiss’s tweet, id. ¶ 79, are each instances of Defendants or other 20 University officials expressing their own disagreement with Professor Weiss’s positions. None of 21 them amount to an adverse employment action. As this Court has previously held, the First 22 Amendment cannot be “simultaneously use[d] . . . as a shield (to protect her own statements) and a 23 sword (to silence the First Amendment rights of professors to respond).” Skidmore, 2022 WL 24 464177, at *11 (“The academic freedom doctrine protects the professors’ rights to comment [in 25 response to plaintiff’s] Facebook post, just as the First Amendment protects [plaintiff’s] right to 26 make her Facebook post in the first place.”). 27 Professor Weiss makes much of Gonzalez’s statements on a Zoom event in early June 28 2021 entitled “What to Do When a Tenured Professor is Branded a Racist,” but as Defendants 23 Case 5:22-cv-00641-BLF Document 78 Filed 05/10/22 Page 24 of 29 1 argue she has not plausibly pleaded these remarks amounted to an adverse employment action or 2 imposition of unconstitutional conditions. See MTD at 24–25; see also Weiss Decl. Ex. 5 3 (transcript of the event).5 Furthermore, the Court agrees with Defendants that Professor Weiss has 4 mischaracterized Gonzalez’s statements. Gonzalez begins his remarks by stating his personal 5 disagreement with her position and his opinion that her argument “borders on . . . professional 6 incompetence” because it was “scientifically shaky.” Weiss Decl. Ex. 5 at 8:1–4, 17–19; 40:9. 7 While Professor Weiss alleges that Gonzalez was threatening to prevent her teaching her views on 8 repatriation in the classroom, Gonzalez in fact defended her right to speak and teach on the topic. 9 Id. at 10:1–7 (“[S]he writes a controversial book . . . that [is], you know, at the heart of – of the idea of academic freedom is that even ideas that are impolitic or unpopular, you know, need to be 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 voiced or need to be . . . expressed.”); id. at 14:1–2 (email to listserv conveyed “a reminder that 12 this is what academic freedom is”). Gonzalez’s statements about restricting teaching topics were 13 in fact responding to a question about whether he would take action if someone was “exposing 14 students to . . . white supremacy . . . in the classroom.” Id. at 39:20–22 (question about white 15 supremacy), 39:23–40:20 (response about “a very different approach to this” if that was the case). 16 Finally, even if Professor Weiss’s characterization of Gonzalez’s remarks was plausible, she has 17 not alleged that Gonzalez is in any position to act upon the alleged threats and actually take 18 concrete adverse employment action against her (or impose concrete conditions on her teaching). 19 When Professor Weiss expressed concerns to Gonzalez, he told her that University policy “ensures 20 the preservation of academic freedom” and that he would “continue upholding it as long as [he 21 was] affiliated with the University.” Weiss Decl. Ex. 6; see also Compl. ¶ 28. Third, Professor Weiss also alleges that she has lost curational responsibilities as a result of 22 23 the Directive, which may result in losing teaching credit that she previously received for curation 24 25 26 27 28 The Court may consider documents not attached to the complaint “if the documents’ authenticity . . . is not contested and the plaintiff’s complaint necessarily relies on them.” Lee v. City of Los Angeles, 250 F.3d 668, 688 (9th Cir. 2001). The Court agrees with Defendants that the full transcript of Gonzalez’s remarks at this webinar and Gonzalez’s email response to Professor Weiss are incorporated into the Complaint by reference. Professor Weiss has submitted the transcript and email herself with her motion for a preliminary injunction, so their “authenticity . . . is not contested.” Id.; see also Weiss Decl. Exs. 5, 6. And she refers to Gonzalez’s remarks and email specifically in her complaint. See Compl. ¶¶ 23–29. 24 5 Case 5:22-cv-00641-BLF Document 78 Filed 05/10/22 Page 25 of 29 1 and lead to her having to take on additional teaching responsibilities. Compl. ¶¶ 76–78. But 2 Professor Weiss has not adequately alleged whether the loss of her curational responsibilities 3 relates solely to Native American remains and cultural items or extends to other collections 4 maintained by the University. Furthermore, Professor Weiss does not allege any actual loss of 5 teaching credit or adequate facts supporting a plausible inference that she will lose them in the 6 future. Professor Weiss must fix these deficiencies in an amended complaint to take this course of 7 conduct outside the scope of the Directive. Finally, Professor Weiss alleges that she has also been denied access to non-Native 9 American remains (the Carthage Collection), and when she was granted access, that she was only 10 allowed to access the remains outside the curational facility in “poor research conditions.” Compl. 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 8 ¶¶ 65–73. Because Professor Weiss seeks only injunctive relief and nominal damages in her 12 existing complaint, the Court focuses the analysis on Professor Weiss’s current restrictions on 13 access to the Carthage Collection in “poor research conditions.” Professor Weiss alleges that the 14 Directive covers non-Native American remains, Compl. ¶ 65, but she also alleges (and the Court 15 has found) that there can be no plausible claims that restrictions on non-Native American remains 16 are within the scope of NAGPRA or CalNAGPRA such that the Tribe would be an indispensable 17 party to those claims. See supra Section II.A.iv; Compl. ¶¶ 65–66. Still, Professor Weiss has 18 alleged that the curational facilities house Native American remains and are thus within the scope 19 of the restrictions imposed by the Directive. In an amended complaint, Professor Weiss must 20 attempt to state a claim based on restrictions not applicable to Native American remains. 21 Professor Weiss has not sufficiently alleged an adverse action or unconstitutional conditions. 22 ii. Substantial or Motivating Factor 23 Moreover, even assuming that Professor Weiss had adequately alleged an adverse 24 employment action or unconstitutional conditions, she has not adequately alleged that her speech 25 was a “substantial or motivating factor” in taking those actions. There are three ways to show that 26 speech was a “substantial or motivating factor” for an adverse employment action: (1) proximity 27 in time between the protected action and the adverse employment action; (2) expression of 28 opposition to speech; or (3) false and pretextual explanations for the adverse employment action. 25 Case 5:22-cv-00641-BLF Document 78 Filed 05/10/22 Page 26 of 29 1 See Keyser v. Sacramento City Unified Sch. Dist., 265 F.3d 741, 751 (9th Cir. 2001). The Court 2 examines each in turn. 3 Proximity in Time. The parties focus much of their argument regarding the proximity factor on the proximity between Professor Weiss’s tweet and adoption of the Directive. See MTD 5 at 18–19, Opp. at 14–17. The Court has found claims regarding the Directive are subject to 6 dismissal, and so need not address those arguments. For other courses of conduct, the Court finds 7 that Professor Weiss’s own allegations create an “obvious alternative explanation” for the 8 University’s actions. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 682. Professor Weiss alleges that she has made her views 9 on repatriation clear “for years without controversy” at the University. Compl. ¶ 21. Indeed, 10 Professor Weiss says that she was “commended” by Gonzalez for her “ability to ‘spark lively 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 4 discussions among various stakeholders’ and to ‘boost the departments national reputation as a 12 center that fosters creative and unorthodox viewpoints on important issues.’” Id. Defendants’ 13 alleged statements expressing opposition to her speech—which the Court has already found are 14 not adverse employment actions—began after her 2020 book was published. See id. ¶¶ 22–31. 15 The concrete actions that Professor Weiss has alleged—reduction in curational responsibilities, 16 possible reduction in teaching credit, and restricted access to the non-Native American remains 17 outside of the curational facilities—all took place after her tweet was posted and the Directive was 18 adopted. As currently pleaded, the “obvious alternative explanation” is that her tweet prompted 19 the University to reevaluate compliance with CalNAGPRA and institute additional restrictions that 20 caused incidental effects on Professor Weiss. In an amended complaint, Professor Weiss must 21 allege additional facts supporting the alternative inference that any adverse employment action or 22 imposition of unconstitutional conditions were in proximity to protected speech. 23 Expression of Opposition. For this method of alleging that speech was a substantial or 24 motivating factor in an adverse employment action, Professor Weiss must allege that Defendants 25 expressed opposition to Professor Weiss’s speech itself, not that they expressed opposition to the 26 opinions she actually expressed. Warnings to cease speaking on a topic are expressions of 27 opposition to speech. See Schwartzman v. Valenzuela, 846 F.2d 1209, 1212 (9th Cir. 1988) 28 (memorandum from employer “warning him that he was not authorized to speak out” was 26 Case 5:22-cv-00641-BLF Document 78 Filed 05/10/22 Page 27 of 29 1 sufficient evidence that employer expressed opposition to speech); see also Allen v. Scribner, 812 2 F.2d 426, 434–35 (9th Cir. 1987) (same, as to evidence that employer told co-workers of plaintiff 3 that plaintiff should be terminated because he expressed his opinions). But here again Professor 4 Weiss’s own allegations that Defendants supported her expressing her opinions “for years” doom 5 her arguments on this element. Defendants’ expressions of disagreement about the content of her 6 speech are not expressions to the fact of her speaking out. Contra Opp. at 17–18 (citing 7 expressions of disagreement). As the Court has previously found, Gonzalez’s statements when 8 taken in context do not create a plausible claim that he was seeking to limit her ability to teach her 9 views on repatriation in the classroom, and thus do not amount to expression of opposition to speaking out on those opinions. See supra Section II.B.i. This method is not plausibly pleaded. 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 False and Pretextual Explanations. Here again the parties’ briefing focuses on the 12 allegations regarding the Directive that the Court has found are subject to dismissal. See MTD at 13 21–23; Opp. at 18–19. The sole mention of pretext in the Complaint is a quote to a case in a 14 paragraph citing the Directive. See Compl. ¶ 38. Accordingly, the Court finds that Professor 15 Weiss has not adequately alleged a false or pretextual explanation for the University’s actions 16 unrelated to the Directive. 17 18 iii. Leave to Amend The Court will now consider whether to grant Professor Weiss leave to amend. The 19 factors considered when determining whether to grant leave to amend include: “(1) bad faith on 20 the part of the movant; (2) undue delay; (3) prejudice to the opposing party; and (4) futility of the 21 proposed amendment.” Ciampi v. City of Palo Alto, 2010 WL 5174013, at *2 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 15, 22 2010) (citing Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962)). The Court finds that Professor Weiss 23 has not engaged in bad faith or undue delay, and that an opportunity to amend within a certain 24 scope will not prejudice Defendants. 25 Nor does the Court find that amendment on certain types of allegations would be futile. As 26 the Court has already stated, the Tribe is an indispensable party to any claims regarding the 27 adoption or implementation of the Directive insofar as it applies to Native American remains. 28 Amendment of the claims challenging those courses of action would be futile, and so leave to 27 Case 5:22-cv-00641-BLF Document 78 Filed 05/10/22 Page 28 of 29 1 amend those types of allegations will be denied. Leave to amend her allegations regarding (1) 2 retaliation in the form of restricting access to or use of non-Native American remains, and (2) 3 retaliation for her protected speech as it may pertain to her teaching and curational responsibilities, 4 however, would not be futile. Professor Weiss may face challenges in asserting factual support for 5 these courses of conduct to take them outside of the scope of the Directive, but leave to amend 6 “should be granted if it appears at all possible that [Professor Weiss] can correct the defect[s]” 7 identified. Vess v. Ciba-Geigy Corp. USA, 317 F.3d 1097, 1108 (9th Cir. 2003). Leave to amend 8 will accordingly be granted to allow Professor Weiss to take those alleged actions outside the 9 scope of the Directive. 10 United States District Court Northern District of California 11 III. MOTION FOR A PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION A plaintiff seeking preliminary injunctive relief must establish “[1] that [s]he is likely to 12 succeed on the merits, [2] that [s]he is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of 13 preliminary relief, [3] that the balance of equities tips in h[er] favor, and [4] that an injunction is in 14 the public interest.” Winter, 555 U.S. at 20. “[I]f a plaintiff can only show that there are serious 15 questions going to the merits – a lesser showing than likelihood of success on the merits – then a 16 preliminary injunction may still issue if the balance of hardships tips sharply in the plaintiff’s 17 favor, and the other two Winter factors are satisfied.” Friends of the Wild Swan v. Weber, 767 18 F.3d 936, 942 (9th Cir. 2014) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). 19 The Court need not extensively discuss Professor Weiss’s motion for a preliminary 20 injunction. Her motion seeks an injunction (1) preventing enforcement of the Directive “to restrict 21 [her] access to the curation facilities to conduct research and ban her photography of remains;” 22 and (2) barring Defendants from “engaging in any further retaliatory actions against [her] . . . such 23 as removing Professor Weiss from the classroom, altering her courses, or preventing her from 24 expressing her views on repatriation to students.” See ECF No. 8 (proposed order). 25 “Failure to plausibly allege a claim can bar a finding of likelihood of success on the merits 26 in the preliminary injunction inquiry.” Nicolosi Distrib., Inc. v. FinishMaster, Inc., 2018 WL 27 4904918, at *5 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 9, 2018); see also Doe v. Fed. Dist. Ct., 467 F. App’x 725, 728 28 (9th Cir. 2012) (“Because Doe’s complaint was insufficient to survive a motion to dismiss for 28 Case 5:22-cv-00641-BLF Document 78 Filed 05/10/22 Page 29 of 29 1 failure to state a claim, she could not show a strong likelihood of success on the merits.”). The 2 Court has already found under Rule 12(b)(6) that Professor Weiss has failed to state a claim upon 3 which relief can be granted. She accordingly has not shown a likelihood of success on the merits. 4 Because Professor Weiss has not shown a likelihood of success on the merits, the Court need not 5 reach the other factors in the Winter analysis and will deny the motion for a preliminary 6 injunction. Guzman v. Shewry, 552 F.3d 941, 948 (9th Cir. 2009).6 7 IV. ORDER For the foregoing reasons, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that: 8 • 9 Defendants’ motion to dismiss is GRANTED IN PART for failure to join a required party and IN PART for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 granted pursuant to Rules 12(b)(7) and 12(b)(6); and • 12 Professor Weiss’s motion for a preliminary injunction is DENIED. 13 Professor Weiss is granted LEAVE TO AMEND her complaint as to her allegations about 14 retaliation in the form of restricting access to or use of non-Native American remains and cultural 15 items and retaliation for her protected speech as it may pertain to her teaching and curational 16 responsibilities unrelated to Native American items subject to NAGPRA and CalNAGPRA. 17 Leave to amend is DENIED as to Professor Weiss’s claims as far as they challenge the Directive’s 18 applicability to Native American remains and cultural items. Professor Weiss SHALL file an amended complaint no later than 30 days from this 19 20 Order. Failure to meet the deadline to file an amended complaint or failure to cure the 21 deficiencies identified in this Order will result in a dismissal of Professor Weiss’s claims with 22 prejudice. Leave to amend is limited to the defects addressed in this Order. Professor Weiss may 23 not add new claims or parties absent leave of Court. 24 Dated: May 10, 2022 ______________________________________ BETH LABSON FREEMAN United States District Judge 25 26 27 28 The Court thus need not adjudicate Defendants’ objections to Professor Weiss’s purportedly improper reply evidence. ECF No. 52. The objections are OVERRULED AS MOOT. 29 6

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