Bridge Aina Le'a, LLC v. Hawaii, State of , Land Use Commission et al
ORDER STAYING CASE PENDING RESOLUTION OF THE STATE CASE - Signed by CHIEF JUDGE SUSAN OKI MOLLWAY on 3/30/12. ("The court stays the present case pending the appeal of Judge Strance's order reversing and vacating the Commission 's decision to reclassify the property in issue from urban use to agricultural use. The court administratively closes this case and terminates all pending motions. The case will be reopened upon the parties' submission of written statements either attaching the final appellate decision, or explaining a change in circumstances that warrants the reopening of this case. Upon the reopening of this case, the motions addressed by this order may, upon written request by a party, be reset for such supplemental briefing and/or hearing as may be appropriate, without the needto refile papers already in the case file.") (emt, )CERTIFICATE OF SERVICEParticipants registered to receive electronic no tifications received this document electronically at the e-mail address listed on the Notice of Electronic Filing (NEF). Participants not registered to receive electronic notifications were served by first class mail on the date of this docket entry
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF HAWAII
BRIDGE AINA LE’A, LLC,
STATE OF HAWAII LAND USE
COMMISSION; VLADIMIR P.
DEVENS, in his individual and )
official capacity; KYLE
CHOCK, in his individual and )
official capacity; THOMAS
CONTRADES, in his individual )
and official capacity; LISA
M. JUDGE, in his individual
and official capacity;
NORMAND R. LEZY, in his
individual and official
capacity; NICHOLAS W. TEVES, )
in his individual and
official capacity; RONALD I. )
HELLER, in his official
capacity; DUANE KANUHA, in
his official capacity;
CHARLES JENCKS, in his
official capacity; JOHN DOES )
1-10; JANE DOES 1-10; DOE
PARTNERSHIPS 1-10; DOE
CORPORATIONS 1-10; DOE
ENTITIES 2-10 and DOE,
CIVIL NO. 11-00414 SOM-BMK
ORDER STAYING CASE PENDING
RESOLUTION OF THE STATE CASE
ORDER STAYING CASE PENDING RESOLUTION OF THE STATE CASE
This case arises out of a decision by the State of
Hawaii Land Use Commission to reclassify a parcel of land from
urban use to agricultural use.
Plaintiff Bridge Aina Le’a, LLC
(“Bridge”), the owner of the parcel, claims that, by
reclassifying the land, Defendants State of Hawaii Land Use
Commission (the “Commission”), and some of its commissioners-Vladimir P. Devens, Kyle Chock, Thomas Contrades, Lisa M. Judge,
Normand R. Lezy, Nicholas W. Teves, Ronald I. Heller, Duane
Kanuha, and Charles Jencks (collectively, “the Commissioners”)-violated Bridge’s rights under the United States Constitution,
the Hawaii constitution, and various Hawaii laws.
both injunctive and monetary relief as to all Defendants.
Bridge appealed the Commission’s decision to the state
court and, separately, initiated the present action in state
Defendants removed this case to this court based on
federal question jurisdiction, as the Complaint asserts various
federal constitutional claims.
Defendants moved for dismissal on
Among other things, Defendants contended that
this court should abstain from deciding the constitutional issues
in light of the pending state court administrative appeal.
the filing of Defendants’ motion, the state court has ruled in
favor of Bridge in the administrative appeal.
they intend to appeal that ruling.
In light of that ruling,
Defendants have changed their position and now maintain that
abstention is inappropriate.
Bridge, on the other hand, now
argues in favor of the very abstention it earlier opposed and
asks this court to remand either the whole case or at least the
state law claims.
Although agreeing that abstention is
appropriate, the court remands no claims and stays the entirety
of the present action pending the resolution of the
The subject parcel of land consists of 1,060 acres in
South Kohala, on the island of Hawaii.
ECF No. 1 (“Complaint”) ¶ 8.
Notice of Removal Ex. 1,
On November 25, 1987, the parcel
was purchased by a private company that sought to develop a large
Id. ¶ 9.
Toward that end, the purchaser
petitioned to reclassify the land from “agricultural use” to
The Commission approved the petition on
condition that 60 percent of the homes built would be
Id. at 11.
During the next two decades, the property changed
Eventually, Bridge became the owner.
Id. ¶¶ 12, 23.
When Bridge acquired the property, it was classified for “urban
use” and subject to an amended affordable housing condition that
still required 60 percent of the homes to be affordable, but that
also set a minimum of 1,000 affordable homes.
Id. ¶ 15.
After various proceedings, including proceedings that
resulted in amendments to the condition, see Compl. ¶¶ 23-31,
37-55, the Commission, in September 2009, ordered Bridge and DW
Aina Le’a Development (“DW”), the company to which Bridge
intended to assign the project, to complete 16 affordable units
by March 31, 2010.
Id. ¶ 61.
The 16 units, as well as other
work on the project, were allegedly completed by June 2010.
However, allegedly because the affordable homes were not
completed by the deadline of March 31, 2010, the Commission
determined that Bridge and DW had not satisfied the applicable
Id. ¶ 76.
In January 2011, the Commission voted to
reclassify the land back to agricultural use.
Id. ¶ 93.
Bridge filed two actions challenging the Commission’s
decision to reclassify the land back to agricultural use.
Bridge sought judicial review of the Commission’s decision
through an administrative appeal.
Second, on June 7, 2011,
Bridge filed the present action in state court, asserting various
federal and state constitutional claims, as well as claims based
on other state law grounds.
The constitutional claims assert
procedural and substantive due process violations, equal
protection violations, and unconstitutional takings under both
the United States Constitution and the Hawaii constitution.
Defendants removed this case to federal court, then moved to
dismiss all claims.
On Monday, December 19, 2011, this court held a hearing
on the motion to dismiss.
At that hearing, the parties informed
the court that, on Friday, December 16, 2011, Judge Elizabeth
Strance of the Circuit Court of the Third Circuit of the State of
Hawaii had orally ruled in favor of Bridge on its administrative
In light of this development, the court instructed the
parties to submit supplemental briefing addressing how Judge
Strance’s ruling affected the present action and the pending
motion to dismiss.
See ECF No. 38.
Judge Strance, as explained in her written order and
findings of fact and conclusions of law, reversed and vacated the
Commission’s decision to reclassify Bridge’s land back to
See Supp. Mem. Regarding Effect of State Court
Ruling Ex. A (“Administrative Appeal”), Mar. 9, 2012,
ECF No. 41-2.
She concluded that the Commission’s decision
violated chapters 205 and 91 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes;
Bridge and DW’s right to due process under the Fourteenth
Amendment of the United States Constitution and article I,
section 5, of the Hawaii constitution; and Bridge and DW’s right
to equal protection under the United States Constitution and the
Defendants have informed the court
that they intend to appeal Judge Strance’s order.
Defs.’ Mem. Re
Effect of State Court Ruling on Defs.’ Mot. to Dismiss Compl.
Filed June 7, 2011, at 3, Mar. 9, 2012, ECF No. 42.
Bridge’s Complaint asserts the following claims:
I: Denial of Due Process of Law (federal and state
constitutions); Count II: Inverse Condemnation (federal and state
constitutions); Count III: Denial of Equal Protection of Law
(federal and state constitutions); Count IV: Common Law
Deprivation of Vested Rights; Count V: Equitable Estoppel; Count
VI: 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (federal due process, equal protection, and
takings claims); Count VII: Violation of Hawaii Revised Statutes
Chapters 91, 92, and 205 and Chapter 15-15 of the Hawaii
Administrative Rules; Count VIII: Unconstitutional Land
Development Conditions (federal and state constitutions);
Count IX: Injunctive and Declarative Relief; Count X: Declaratory
Relief under Hawaii Revised Statutes § 632-1; and Count XI:
Attorneys’ Fees and Costs under 42 U.S.C. § 1988.
Defendants argued in their motion to dismiss that,
among other things, this court should abstain and stay Bridge’s
federal takings claim pursuant to Railroad Commission of Texas v.
Pullman Co., 312 U.S. 496 (1941), given the pending
Then, after Judge Strance ruled,
Defendants argued that Pullman abstention no longer applied.
Bridge, on the other hand, initially opposed abstention, but, in
its supplemental brief and at the continued hearing on this
motion, adamantly argued that Pullman abstention was appropriate.
Relying heavily on VH Property Corp. v. City of Rancho Palos
Verdes, 622 F. Supp. 2d 958, 962 (C.D. Cal. 2009), Bridge now
argues that this court should invoke Pullman abstention and
either remand the entire case to state court, or remand the state
law claims and stay the federal claims pending resolution of the
state law claims in state court.
The court agrees that VH
Property is particularly instructive and that Pullman abstention
However, for reasons discussed in part C of the
present order, the court stays and keeps both the federal and
state law claims pending the resolution of Bridge’s appeal in the
state judicial system.1
Pullman Abstention is Appropriate.
“The Pullman abstention doctrine allows a federal court
to postpone the exercise of federal jurisdiction when ‘a federal
constitutional issue . . . might be mooted or presented in a
different posture by a state court determination of pertinent
VH Prop., 622 F. Supp. at 962 (quoting Pearl Inv.
Co. v. City and Cnty. of San Francisco, 774 F.2d 1460, 1462 (9th
Cir. 1985), and C-Y Dev. Co. v. City of Redlands, 703 F.2d 375,
377 (9th Cir. 1983)).
Pullman abstention is an “equitable
doctrine that allows federal courts to refrain from deciding
sensitive federal constitutional questions when state law issues
may moot or narrow the constitutional questions.”
San Remo Hotel
v. City and Cnty. of San Francisco, 145 F.3d 1095, 1104 (9th Cir.
It is also a discretionary doctrine, which flows from the
If, despite their statement that they intend to appeal
Judge Strance’s ruling, Defendants ultimately do not appeal, they
should promptly inform the court.
court's equity powers.
Potrero Hills Landfill, Inc. v. Cnty. of
Solano, 657 F.3d 876, 888 (9th Cir. 2011) (citing Baggett v.
Bullitt, 377 U.S. 360, 375 (1964), and Smelt v. Cnty. of Orange,
447 F.3d 673, 678 (9th Cir. 2006).
Pullman abstention is warranted if three conditions are
satisfied: “(1) the federal plaintiff's complaint requires
resolution of a sensitive question of federal constitutional law;
(2) the constitutional question could be mooted or narrowed by a
definitive ruling on the state law issues; and (3) the possibly
determinative issue of state law is unclear.”
Landfill, 657 F.3d at 888 (quoting Spoklie v. Montana, 411 F.3d
1051, 1055 (9th Cir. 2005)).
These conditions are met in this
Sensitive Question of Federal Constitutional
The Ninth Circuit has consistently held that “land use
planning is a sensitive area of social policy that meets the
first requirement for Pullman abstention.”
San Remo Hotel, 145
F.3d at 1105 (quoting Sinclair Oil Corp. v. Cnty. of Santa
Barbara, 96 F.3d 401, 409 (9th Cir. 1996), and citing Sederquist
v. City of Tiburon, 590 F.2d 278, 281-82 (9th Cir. 1978), and
Rancho Palos Verdes Corp. v. City of Laguna Beach, 547 F.2d 1092,
1094-95 (9th Cir. 1976)).
See also VH Prop., 622 F. Supp. 2d at
This case directly implicates land use planning, as Bridge
is asking this court to determine whether an action taken by the
Hawaii Land Use Commission violated various federal
The first Pullman requirement is
The State Appellate Court Ruling May Narrow
or Alter Some Federal Constitutional Issues.
The second Pullman abstention requirement involves a
“state law question that has the potential of at least altering
the nature of the federal constitutional questions.”
703 F.2d at 378.
“In land use cases, the Ninth Circuit has
frequently found this requirement satisfied where a favorable
decision on a state law claim would provide plaintiff with some
or all of the relief he seeks.”
VH Prop., 622 F. Supp. 2d at
In VH Property, the plaintiffs alleged that the
defendant, the City of Rancho Palos Verdes, had violated their
rights under the United States and California constitutions and
California law by denying land development applications submitted
Id. at 960.
The court found the second requirement
satisfied: “it is possible that resolution of VH's state
constitutional takings claim in its favor will obviate the need
to rule on its federal claims, particularly if VH finds the
compensation awarded by the state court satisfactory.”
The court noted, “Alternatively, the state court may issue
a writ of mandamus directing the City to approve VH’s development
plans, mooting VH’s federal claims to the extent they seek
redress for a permanent, rather than temporary, deprivation of
VH Property relied on two Ninth Circuit cases, Sinclair
Oil, 96 F.3d at 405, and C-Y Development, 703 F.2d at 378-80,
both of which addressed challenges to land use decisions.
Development is particularly relevant here.
As explained in VH
Property, 622 F. Supp. 2d at 963:
[I]n C-Y Development, plaintiff challenged
the City of Redlands' denial of its
applications for building permits, seeking,
among other things, a writ of mandamus
requiring the city to issue the permits. C-Y
Development, 703 F.2d at 378. The court held
that the second requirement for Pullman
abstention was met, observing that a writ of
mandate directing the city to issue the
permits would moot some of the federal issues
in the case. Id. at 380. The fact that
“following such hypothetical state
adjudication [plaintiff] might return to
federal court to seek damages for the alleged
temporary deprivation of its property rights”
did not render Pullman abstention
If Bridge prevails in its administrative appeal, Bridge
will obtain some of the relief it seeks in this case.
well moot out some of the constitutional claims.
With respect to
Bridge’s due process and equal protection claims in this action,
Bridge seeks injunctive and monetary relief.
It seeks to enjoin
the Commission from, among other things, taking any further
action to reclassify the property to agricultural use.
affirmance of Judge Strance’s order would presumably ensure that
the property was designated for urban use, mooting out at least
some of the injunctive relief claims.
The appeal could also conceivably narrow the due
process and equal protection claims, as a Hawaii appellate
court’s interpretation of Hawaii law might limit the conduct by
the Commissioners that is actionable.
For example, in asserting
that Defendants violated its federal and state constitutional
rights to procedural and substantive due process, Bridge alleges
that “Defendants . . . repeatedly violated State law and their
own procedures requiring a full and fair hearing and presentation
of evidence to determine whether the Property should be
reclassified to agricultural use.”
Compl. ¶ 139.
If a Hawaii
appellate court held that Defendants had conducted a full and
fair hearing under Hawaii law, then that particular alleged
violation of Hawaii law would no longer support Bridge’s
With respect to its takings claim, Bridge seeks, among
other things, “just compensation” for the reclassification of the
subject property to agricultural use, which allegedly deprived
Bridge of all economically viable use of the land.
Strance’s order vacating and reversing the Commission’s decision
appears to limit any takings claim to one for just compensation
for a temporary taking.
See First English Evangelical Lutheran
Church of Glendale v. Los Angeles, 482 U.S. 304, 321 (1987)
(holding that if “the government's activities have already worked
a taking of all use of property, no subsequent action by the
government can relieve it of the duty to provide compensation for
the period during which the taking was effective”).
of Judge Strance’s order could, depending on the appellate
court’s reasoning, undercut any takings claim.
Defendants argue that abstention is not appropriate
because any appeal in the state court will not affect the
Commissioners’ entitlement to judicial or qualified immunity in
their individual capacities.
In essence, Defendants argue that,
even if this court should abstain from adjudicating Bridge’s
federal claims, it should address some of the defenses to those
Defendants cite no case taking such a position.
Even if considering just the defenses were appropriate,
the court concludes that it should not do so here, because the
administrative appeal could also affect judicial and qualified
The doctrine of judicial immunity provides judges,
state and federal, with absolute immunity from liability for
damages based on acts performed in their judicial capacities.
Ashelman v. Pope, 793 F.2d 1072 (9th Cir. 1986) (en banc).
Absolute judicial immunity also extends to “agency officials when
they perform functions analogous to those performed by judges.”
Buckles v. King Cnty., 191 F.3d 1127, 1133 (9th Cir. 1999)
(citing Butz v. Economou, 438 U.S. 478, 511 (1978)).
Qualified immunity shields “government officials
performing discretionary functions” from civil damage liability
as long as their actions “could reasonably have been thought
consistent with the rights they are alleged to have violated.”
Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 638 (1987) (citations
An appeal from Judge Strance’s ruling could well affect
what conduct remains actionable.
As discussed above, an
appellate court decision may narrow the scope of the issues
before this court by concluding that some or all of the actions
taken by the Commissioners comported with applicable law.
that event, immunity, judicial or qualified, with respect to
claims based on actions that a state appellate court defines as
legal may become irrelevant.
If the claims are unsustainable on
their merits, this court would never reach the defenses.
Alternatively, if a matter were deemed consistent with
applicable law, that could affect this court’s analysis of
whether Bridge’s allegations state a violation of federal law,
the first prong of a qualified immunity analysis.
Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 201 (2001), overruled in part on other
grounds by Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223 (2009) (noting that,
on the first prong, the court must consider whether “the facts
alleged show the officer's conduct violated a constitutional
Even if the court looked only at the second qualified
immunity prong (i.e., at whether the law was clearly established
at the time Defendants acted, see id. at 201), a ruling made now
by this court on that issue could be rendered unnecessary by a
future state appellate ruling.
The second Pullman requirement,
which involves the potential narrowing of federal constitutional
issues, is clearly satisfied here, even if the court focuses on
whether defenses, rather than Bridge’s claims, are narrowed.
As the Ninth Circuit noted in Sinclair Oil, 96 F.3d at
409, a state court ruling need not be “absolutely certain to
obviate the need for considering federal constitutional issues.”
It is enough for purposes of satisfying the second Pullman
abstention requirement if “state law issues might ‘narrow’ the
federal constitutional questions.”
The second Pullman
abstention requirement is met here.
Resolution of the State Law Issues is
The third Pullman factor goes to the uncertainty of
state law issues.
“Relying on the local nature of land use
claims, and the fact that they involve interpretation of various
state and local land use laws, the Ninth Circuit has required
only a minimal showing of uncertainty to satisfy the third
Pullman factor in land use cases.”
964 (discussing Sinclair Oil).
VH Prop., 622 F. Supp. 2d. at
In determining whether
determinative state law issues are uncertain, the Ninth Circuit
says that “a local government's enactment of land use regulations
‘is by nature a question turning on the peculiar facts of each
case in light of the many [applicable] local and state-wide land
use laws. . . .’”
Sinclair Oil, 96 F.3d at 410 (quoting Santa Fe
Land Improvement Co. v. City of Chula Vista, 596 F.2d 838, 841
(9th Cir. 1979)).
In Sinclair Oil, the Ninth Circuit, addressing whether
abstention was appropriate in a case asserting takings claims
under the United States and California constitutions, found the
third requirement satisfied even though the state law takings
claim was not “particularly extraordinary or unique.”
96 F.3d at
410 (citing Kollsman v. City of Los Angeles, 737 F.2d 830, 826
n.18 (“[A]bstention often will be appropriate when state land use
regulations are challenged on state and federal grounds.”)).
In San Remo Hotel, the Ninth Circuit similarly found
the third requirement met, noting that the plaintiff’s claim
could be rendered moot by a state law issue that was being
addressed in a pending state court action.
145 F.3d at 1105.
That case involved an ordinance that imposed conditions on
converting a hotel from one that housed permanent residents to
one that served transient tourists.
The owners of the San Remo
Hotel were required by the ordinance to obtain a permit to
convert hotel units to nonresidential, or tourist, use.
In addition, local zoning laws required conditional use
authorization to establish a tourist hotel.
Because the San
Remo Hotel had been zoned for solely residential use before the
zoning law was enacted (even though it had actually been used as
both a residential and tourist hotel), the City Planning
Commission, affirmed by the Board of Permit Appeals, rejected the
plaintiffs’ argument that operating as a tourist hotel would be a
“prior non-conforming use” and required the plaintiffs to obtain
a conditional use permit to convert the hotel rooms to “tourist
Id. at 1099-1100.
The plaintiffs ultimately obtained the
required permit, but it was subject to three conditions.
The plaintiffs then filed two actions, seeking,
ultimately, to unconditionally convert the rooms to tourist use.
The first action sought an administrative mandamus in state court
challenging the Board of Permit Appeals’ determination that the
hotel was properly zoned for only residential use.
second action, filed in federal court, asserted, among other
claims, that the ordinance constituted a facial taking without
just compensation under the United States Constitution.
The Ninth Circuit remanded the case and instructed the
district court to abstain with respect to the takings challenge.
Characterizing the plaintiffs’ case as a challenge to “the
applicability of the [ordinance] and the need to obtain a
conditional use permit,” the Ninth Circuit noted that the case
hinged on the designation of the San Remo Hotel as “residential,”
the precise subject of the pending state mandamus action.
The third Pullman abstention requirement was met because
the state mandamus action required the state court to interpret
its own ordinance and municipal zoning laws, as well as to
determine what effect to give particular facts.
Circuit concluded that those were “uncertain issues of state
In the present case, Defendants’ appeal will similarly
turn, at least in part, on how the state court interprets its own
laws and determines what effect to give to the actions taken by
For example, Judge Strance concluded that the
Commission had exceeded its authority under chapter 205 of the
Hawaii Revised Statutes by, among other things, enforcing the
affordable housing condition “without considering the factors
required for land use boundary changes pursuant to HRS §§ 205-16
Administrative Appeal ¶ 15, at 20.
Commission complied with Hawaii law presents uncertain issues of
Defendants themselves appear to agree that this case
presents uncertain issues of state law, as they originally
asserted that Pullman abstention applied in their motion to
dismiss, and they intend to appeal the order reversing the
As this court finds all three requirements met, Pullman
abstention is appropriate with respect to Bridge’s federal
Remand is Not Appropriate.
Bridge argues that invoking Pullman abstention leaves
the court with only two options: to remand the whole case to
state court, or to remand the state law claims and stay the
federal law claims pending the resolution of the state law
This court instead stays all claims, state and federal,
pending resolution of the anticipated appeal of Judge Strance’s
This case presents three circumstances: (1) Bridge
asserts both state and federal claims, (2) Defendants removed
this case from state court, and (3) there is a pending state
court action that may significantly alter both the state law
claims and the federal constitutional claims before this court.
This court has not found a decision issued in another case
sharing that combination of circumstances.
This court therefore
stitches together procedures suggested by other courts.
As recognized in VH Property, 622 F. Supp. 2d at 967,
“Pullman abstention is typically raised by a defendant when [the]
plaintiff has filed in federal court.”
In such a situation, the
federal court typically stays the federal claims and dismisses
the state claims.
See Cedar Shake and Shingle Bureau v. City of
Los Angeles, 997 F.2d 620, 622 (9th Cir. 1993) (addressing a case
brought in federal court asserting state law and federal
constitutional claims and stating, “A district court abstaining
under Pullman must dismiss the state law claim and stay its
proceedings on the constitutional question until a state court
has resolved the state issue.”).
However, when a case has been
removed to federal court, remand of only the state law claims and
a stay of the federal claims may be warranted.
See VH Property,
622 F. Supp. 2d at 970 (remanding state law claims and retaining
jurisdiction over the federal claims).
Indeed, Bridge relies on
VH Property in support of its position that this court may split
the present case and remand only the state claims.
The present case differs in a significant manner from
VH Property viewed a remand as necessary to put the
state claims before a state court for its decision.
in the present case, the heart of the state claims is already
before a state court in Bridge’s administrative appeal.
administrative appeal is likely to be highly relevant to, and
possibly determinative of, many of the state claims in the
Thus, the rationale in VH Property for remanding
state claims pursuant to Pullman does not have the same force in
In San Remo Hotel, 145 F.3d at 1105, the Ninth Circuit
invoked Pullman abstention given the pending state court appeal
of an administrative decision.
While that case did not involve
all of the circumstances present here, the Ninth Circuit did stay
the federal claim pending resolution of the state court action.
This court sees no reason that it cannot also stay the state
claims, over which it has supplemental jurisdiction under 28
U.S.C. § 1367.
Indeed, a stay of the state claims might be warranted
under Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971).
“forbids federal courts from unduly interfering with pending
state court proceedings that implicate important state
Potrero Hills Landfill, 657 F.3d at 881 (quoting
Middlesex Cnty. Ethics Comm. v. Garden State Bar Ass’n, 457 U.S.
423, 432 (1982) (quotation marks omitted)).
A court is to
abstain under Younger in a civil proceeding when there is a state
proceeding that is (1) ongoing; (2) implicates important state
interests; and (3) provides an adequate opportunity to raise
Id. (citing Middlesex, 457 U.S. at 432).
Younger abstention, the Ninth Circuit also requires that “the
federal court action would ‘enjoin the proceeding, or have the
practical effect of doing so.’”
Id. (quoting AmerisourceBergen
Corp. v. Roden, 495 F.3d 1143, 1148–49 (9th Cir. 2007) (quoting
Gilbertson v. Albright, 381 F.3d 965, 976–78 (9th Cir. 2004) (en
“[C]omity is the main reason for federal court
restraint in the face of ongoing state judicial proceedings, and
another is to avoid unwarranted determinations of federal
Gilbertson 381 F.3d at 975.
The first two Younger requirements are clearly met, as
the administrative appeal is an ongoing state proceeding, and
Hawaii has a strong interest in land use planning.
Oil, F.3d at 409.
Whether the third and fourth requirements are
met is disputed by Bridge.
As to the third requirement, Bridge points out that the
state appeal will not determine the takings claim (as that is not
before the state court).
With respect to the fourth requirement,
Bridge points to AmerisourceBergen.
That case rejected the
argument that “the requisite ‘interference with ongoing state
proceedings’ occurs whenever the relief sought in federal court
would, if entertained, likely result in a judgment whose
preclusive effect would prevent the state court from
independently adjudicating the issues before it.”
495 F.3d at
See also Montclair Parkowners Ass’n v. City of Montclair,
264 F.3d 829, 831 (9th Cir. 2001).
Cf. Gilbertson, 381 F.3d at
965, 977-78 (noting that a case need not “directly” interfere
with a state court proceeding to warrant Younger abstention).
This court need not determine whether the Younger
requirements are strictly met here.
Even if Younger does not
apply, this court has the discretion to manage this case in an
orderly and efficient manner.
Bridge’s suggestion that the court
remand the state claims and stay the federal claims would lead to
Splitting this case into two would force
the parties to litigate overlapping issues in two forums,
increasing the costs and burdens on them.
Moreover, the state
court that received any remanded claims might well itself stay
those state claims pending resolution of any appeal of Judge
That was simply not a concern in VH Property.
In short, besides staying Bridge’s federal claims
pursuant to Pullman, this court also stays Bridge’s state claims
in the interest of sensible management of this case.
abstention, unlike dismissal or remand, “does not constitute
abnegation of judicial duty.”
Louisiana Power & Light Co. v.
City of Thibodaux, 360 U.S. 25, 29 (1959).
abstention may be a productive “postponement of decision for its
The court declines Bridge’s request to
remand any claims.
The court stays the present case pending the appeal of
Judge Strance’s order reversing and vacating the Commission’s
decision to reclassify the property in issue from urban use to
The court administratively closes this case
and terminates all pending motions.
The case will be reopened
upon the parties’ submission of written statements either
attaching the final appellate decision, or explaining a change in
circumstances that warrants the reopening of this case.
reopening of this case, the motions addressed by this order may,
upon written request by a party, be reset for such supplemental
briefing and/or hearing as may be appropriate, without the need
to refile papers already in the case file.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
DATED: Honolulu, Hawaii, March 30, 2012.
/s/ Susan Oki Mollway
Susan Oki Mollway
Chief United States District Judge
Bridge Aina Le’a, LLC, v. State of Hawaii Land Use Commission; Civil No. 11-00414
SOM/BMK; ORDER STAYING CASE PENDING RESOLUTION OF THE STATE CASE.
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?