Chan v. Schatz
OPINION AND ORDER. The Court will empanel a jury and submit to it any factual issues as to which Chan arguably has a right to a Jury trial. If the Court and the jury agree, then the issue of Chan's right to a jury trial will be moot. If the Cou rt and the jury disagree, the Court will then decide whether it is the proper trier of any disputed facts. If the Court decides that it is the proper trier of any disputed facts, it will treat the jury's verdict as that of an advisory jury pursu ant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 39(c) (1). See Fed. R. Civ. P. 39(c) (1) ("In an action not triable of right by a jury, the court, on motion or on its own.. may try any issue with an advisory jury.") The parties are reminded that the trial of this case will commence promptly on December 11, 2017 at 9:30 AM in Courtroom 14-B. So Ordered., (Jury Trial set for 12/11/2017 at 09:30 AM in Courtroom 14B, 500 Pearl Street, New York, NY 10007 before Judge Jed S. Rakoff.) (Signed by Judge Jed S. Rakoff on 11/21/17) (yv)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
OPINION AND ORDER
This case arises out of the dissolution of the marital and
professional partnerships of plaintiff Eric Chan and defendant
Heather Schatz. Prior to their decision to divorce, Chan and Schatz,
both artists, "publicly present[ed)
. under the single name, ChanSchatz." Compl. q[q[ 1-3, Dkt.
. works as a collaborative
In this. action, Chan seeks a declaratory Judgment that he is
the sole author of certain works as a matter of copyright law. See
at 19-20. At a final pre-trial conference on November 8,
Schatz objected to Chan's demand for a jury trial.
November 8, 2017 Hearing ("Tr."). The Court,
See Transcript of
sua sponte, also raised
the question whether the domestic relations exception to federal
Jurisdiction applies here. The parties submitted the letter briefing
on both questions, which letters will be docketed separate from this
the Court finds that, as the parties agree,
domestic relations exception to federal Jurisdiction does not apply
to this action.
See Pl. Letter at 3-4; Def. Letter at 3. As an
initial matter, the domestic relations exception is "a limiting
construction of the statute defining federal diversity jurisdiction,"
and the Court's jurisdiction in this case derives from a federal
question, namely, copyright law. Elk Grove Unified School Dist. v.
542 U.S. 1, 20-21
(Rehnquist, C.J., concurring),
abrogated on other grounds by Lexmark Intern.,
Inc., 134 S. Ct. 1377
Inc. v. Block, 905 F.2d 12, 14
Inc. v. Static Control
(2014); see also American Airlines,
(2d Cir. 1990). Moreover, the domestic
relations exception "encompasses only cases involving the issuance of
'a divorce, alimony, or child custody decree.'" Akenbrandt v.
Richards, 504 U.S. 689, 704
(1992); see also American Airlines,
905 F.2d at 14. Chan's complaint does not ask the Court to issue a
divorce decree. See Chevalier v. Estate of Barnhart, 803 F.3d 789,
(6th Cir. 2015)
(case falls within the domestic-relations
exception where "plaintiff is seeking to dissolve the marriage and
resolve all matters concerning property and children")
Second, while the Court is inclined to believe that plaintiff
has no right to a jury trial,
the Court need not decide that close
question now. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure preserve the right
to a Jury trial "as declared by the Seventh Amendment
provided by a federal statute." Fed. R. Civ. P. 38(a). The Copyright
Act does not provide for a jury trial, so a Jury demand in a
copyright case must rely on the Seventh Amendment. See Feltner v.
Col umb i a P i ct u res Te 1 e vi s i on ,
Inc . , 5 2 3 U . S . 3 4 0 ( l 9 9 8 ) . The Seventh
Amendment limits the right to a jury trial to "Suits at common law."
U.S. Const. Amend. VII. To determine whether a party has a right to a
Jury trial under the Seventh Amendment, the Supreme Court has
established a two-step analysis. See Granfinancieria, S.A. v.
492 U.S. 33, 42
(1989). First, the court determines whether
the claim, or one analogous to it, would have been deemed legal or
equitable in eighteenth century England before the merger of courts
of law and equity. See Pereira v. Farace, 413 F.3d 330, 337
(citing Germain v. Connecticut Nat'l Bank,
988 F.2d 1323, 1328
(2d Cir. 1993)). Second, the court must"' [e]xamine the remedy sought
and determine whether it is legal or equitable in nature.'" Id.
492 U.S. at 42). The second part of the
test is given more weight than the first.
Schatz contends that Chan is not entitled to a jury trial
because his claim is equitable under both steps of this test. With
respect to step one, Schatz argues that the eighteenth-century cause
of action most closely analogous to Chan's claim is a bill of quia
timet, the forerunner of an action to quiet title, see Nat'l Cancer
Hosp. of Arn. v. Webster, 251 F.2d 466, 467-468
(2d Cir. 1958), which
has "always been [an] equitable action[), brought in the courts of
equity rather than courts of law," United States v. McHan, 345 F.3d
(4th Cir. 2003)
(citing Arndt v. Griggs, 134 U.S. 316, 320
(1890)). See Pl. Letter Ex. A (Transcript of Mar. 13, 2003 Hearing at
2:23-3:5, Marvel Characters, Inc. v. Simon, No. 00-CV-1393 (S.D.N.Y.)
(finding an action for a declaration that the defendant was not an
author of the disputed works "akin to a quiet title action"). With
respect to step two, Schatz argues that a declaration of rights is an
equitable remedy and that courts routinely strike jury demands when
the only remedy sought is a declaratory judgment as to the parties'
respective rights. See, e.g., Big Dog Motorcycles,
LLC v. Big Dog
400 F. Supp. 2d 1273, 1275-1276 (D. Kan. 2005)
(finding no right to jury in a trademark infringement case because
the claims asserted were "purely equitable in nature inasmuch as the
relief sought .
limited to a declaratory judgment").
As Chan points out, however,
in a declaratory judgment
"the nature of the underlying dispute determines whether a
Jury trial is available." Starr Int'l Co.,
623 F. Supp. 2d 497,
re Rosenman & Colin,
850 F.2d 57,
Inc. v. American Int' 1
502-503 (S.D.N.Y. 2009)
(2d Cir. 1988); see also
Chauffeurs, Teamsters & Helpers, Local No. 391 v. Terry,
("[T]he Declaratory Judgment Act
. preserves the
right to Jury trial to both parties."); Wright & Miller,
Practice and Procedure § 2313. But considering the underlying claim
in isolation does not resolve the question because it is not clear
whether Chan's underlying claim entitles him to a jury trial. Chan
argues that the underlying action is one of copyright infringement.
See Def. Letter at 2. Even assuming arguendo that is correct, a
plaintiff does not always have a right to a jury trial in a copyright
infringement case. Rather, a plaintiff's right to a jury trial in a
copyright infringement suit depends on the plaintiff's choice of
remedy: specifically, a plaintiff seeking damages has a right to a
jury trial on all issues pertinent to the award of damages,
523 U.S. at 352,
including issues of copyright authorship,
Inc. v. Healthcare Mgmt. Solutions Inc., 290 F.3d 98, 110
(2d Cir. 2002), but a plaintiff seeking only injunctive relief does
not have a right to a JUry trial,
see City of Monterey v. Del Monte
Dunes at Monterey, Ltd., 526 U.S.
(1999); Wright &
Federal Practice and Procedure § 2312. Accordingly, as other
courts have concluded,
it is unclear whether a party has a right to a
Jury trial where the only claim is one for a declaratory Judgment
that a party is the true owner of a copyright. See, e.g., Fleming v.
181 F. Supp. 2d 1143, 1157 n.10
(D. Or. 2001); Archie Comic
Inc. v. Decarlo, No. 00-CV-5686, 2002 WL 48337, at *l
(S.D.N.Y. Jan. 11, 2002)
However, there is no reason to resolve the issue now.
Instead, the Court will empanel a jury and submit to it any factual
issues as to which Chan arguably has a right to a Jury trial.
Chan also argues that he could have sought money damages based on
Schatz's attempt to assert authorship over his works in violation of
the Visual Artists Rights Act ("VARA"), 17 U.S.C. § 106A(a) (1) (A).
Again, assuming arguendo that the underlying action is properly
construed as a VARA claim, that does not resolve the issue because
"[i]t is an open question whether the Seventh Amendment affords a
jury trial right in suits brought under VARA." Pollara v. Seymour,
344 F. 3d 265, 268 (2d Cir. 2003).
Court and the jury agree, then the issue of Chan's right to a jury
trial will be moot.
If the Court and the jury disagree, the
will then decide whether it is the proper trier of any disputed
If the Court decides that it is the proper trier of any
it will treat the jury's verdict as that of an
advisory Jury pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil P:rocedure 39(c) (1).
See Fed. R. Civ. P. 39(c) (1)
("In an action not triable of right by a
jury, the court, on motion or on its own .
. may try any issue with
an advisory JUry.u)
The parties are reminded that the trial of this case will
commence promptly on December 11, 2017 at 9:30 AM in Courtroom 14-B.
New York, NY
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