Sage v. Tacoma School District No. 10 et al

Filing 15

ORDER ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO REMAND AND DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO CONSOLIDATE, granting 11 Motion to Remand. Per LCR 3(i), case will be remanded 14 days from the date of this Order, on 12/20/2017, to Pierce County Superior Court. Signed by Judge Robert J. Bryan. (JL)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT WESTERN DISTRICT OF WASHINGTON AT TACOMA 8 9 10 CAUSE NOS. 3:17-5277-RJB and 3:17-cv-05775-RJB MAIKA SAGE, 11 Plaintiff, 12 v. 13 TACOMA SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 10, et. al, 14 ORDER ON PLAINTIFF’S MOTION TO REMAND AND DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO CONSOLIDATE Defendants. 15 THIS ORDER is issued upon consideration of Plaintiff Maika Sage’s Motion to Remand 16 17 (Dkt. 11, Cause No. 17-5775) and Defendants’ Motion to Consolidate (Dkt. 21, Cause No. 17- 18 5277). Both matters have been fully briefed. The Court has considered the pleadings and the 19 remainder of the file here. For the reasons discussed, Plaintiff’s Motion to Remand should 20 granted, and Defendants’ Motion to Consolidate should be denied as moot. I. 21 MOTION TO REMAND 22 A. Background. 23 Both cases originate from the conduct of Defendants on March 24, 2014. On March 24, 24 2017, Plaintiff filed a complaint in Pierce County Superior Court, alleging violations of the -1 1 Washington Open Public Meetings Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and constitutional 2 rights under 28 U.S.C. §1983. Defendants timely removed, and the case is now pending in this 3 district as Cause No. 17-5277 (hereinafter, “Sage I”). The Court’s original jurisdiction over Sage 4 I is not contested. 5 After filing a second complaint with the District and waiting more than sixty days, see 6 RCW 4.96.020(4), on May 31, 2017, Plaintiff filed a second complaint in Pierce County 7 Superior Court. Defendants timely removed, and the case is now pending in this district as Cause 8 No. 17-5775 (hereinafter, “Sage II”). The Sage II Complaint, the complaint at issue in Plaintiff’s 9 Motion to Remand, alleges substantially the same facts as Sage I, but it alleges only state law tort 10 claims, specifically, violations of two state law provisions, RCW 28A.605.020 (parents’ right to 11 access school grounds) and Chapter 49.60 (Washington Law Against Discrimination), and two 12 common law claims for tortious interference with a parent-child relationship and negligence. 13 Dkt. 3 at ¶¶43-49. 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 Defendants’ Notice of Removal in the second-filed case, Sage II, states: A. Jurisdiction 7. This state-court action may be removed under 28 U.S.C. §1441 because Plaintiff’s underlying alleged facts are the same as the previous StateCourt Action that was removed to federal court. Together, the underlying facts and claims arise under the U.S. Constitution and laws of the United States and thus, this Court has original jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §1331, a federal question. Furthermore, supplemental jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §1367, in particular pendant jurisdiction, applies because . . . underlying alleged facts and named parties are the same as those in Plaintiff’s First State-Court Action [Sage I], which was then removed to this Court. Sage II, Dkt. 1 at ¶7. B. Discussion. 23 24 ORDER ON PLAINTIFF’S MOTION TO REMAND AND DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO CONSOLIDATE - 2 The key question before this Court is whether it has original jurisdiction over Sage II, 1 2 because if it does not, Sage II should be remanded and Sage II should not be consolidated with 3 Sage I. 4 1. 28 U.S.C. §1331. The Notice of Removal invokes 28 U.S.C. §1331, federal question jurisdiction, which 5 6 gives district courts “original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, 7 or treaties of the United States.” “[T]he vast majority of cases brought under the general federal- 8 question jurisdiction of the federal courts are those in which federal law creates the cause of 9 action[.]” Merrell Dow Pharm. Inc. v. Thompson, 478 U.S. 804, 808 (1986). The “mere presence 10 of a federal issue in a state cause of action does not automatically confer federal-question 11 jurisdiction,” id. at 813, but state law claims ‘arise under’ federal law if “vindication of the state 12 right necessarily turns upon construction of a substantial question of federal law, i.e., if federal 13 law is a necessary element of one of the well-pleaded claims.” Ultramar America Ltd. v. Dwelle, 14 900 F.2d 1412 (9th Cir. 1990). In review of the Sage II Complaint, the Court cannot say that Plaintiff’s right to relief 15 16 “necessarily depends upon construction of a substantial question” of federal law. Ultramar, 900 17 F.2d at 1414. See Dkt. 3. Plaintiff’s state law claims can be determined with reference to state 18 law. 19 Defendants make two arguments in defense of their position that the claims in Sage II 20 necessarily depend upon construction of a substantial question of federal law. First, Defendants 21 argue that the WLAD claim, which centers on allegations of discrimination and retaliation, 22 requires application of federal law, because Washington law interprets the WLAD by looking to 23 24 ORDER ON PLAINTIFF’S MOTION TO REMAND AND DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO CONSOLIDATE - 3 1 the ADA and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Dkt. 12 at 4. The fact that State law may look to 2 federal law does not mean that federal law is a necessary element. 3 Second, Defendants argue that a federal question is raised because Sage II has essentially 4 the same factual allegations as Sage I, and “Sage I’s causes of actions were almost all federal 5 questions.” Dkt. 12 at 2. According to Defendants, Sage II “simply repacked and renamed as 6 state claims” the allegations in Sage I. Id. at 3. For example, Defendants illustrate, where it is 7 alleged that Defendants banned Plaintiff from attending public meetings, these facts, alleged as 8 the basis for the negligence claim in Sage II, necessarily raise constitutional issues relating to 9 Plaintiff’s 5th and 14th Amendment rights. Dkt. 12 at 2. However, the fact that the same set of 10 alleged facts could trigger federal issues (and, in fact, have done so in Sage I), does not mean 11 that a substantial question of federal law is necessarily raised; it only points to parallel federal 12 and state cases arising from the same set of facts. 13 In summary, federal law does not play a “pivotal” role to resolving Sage II’s state law 14 claims, so the case does not arise under federal law. See Nevada v. Bank Corp., 672 F.3d 661, 15 675 (9th Cir. 2012). 16 17 2. 28 U.S.C. §1367. The Notice of Removal also invokes 28 U.S.C. §1367, supplemental jurisdiction, which 18 would appear to be an attempt to bootstrap the uncontested original jurisdiction from Sage I. 19 Defendants have since abandoned this theory. See Sage II, Dkt. 12. Had they not done so, 28 20 U.S.C. §1441 would preclude such a maneuver, because original jurisdiction is a prerequisite to 21 removal for every individual case. 22 23 Because the Court lacks federal question jurisdiction, Plaintiff’s motion to remand should be granted. Sage II should be remanded. 24 ORDER ON PLAINTIFF’S MOTION TO REMAND AND DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO CONSOLIDATE - 4 1 2 3 II. MOTION TO CONSOLIDATE The Court does not reach Defendant’s Motion to Consolidate, because it does not have original jurisdiction over Sage II. Defendant’s motion should therefore be denied as moot. *** 4 5 THEREFORE, Plaintiff Maika Sage’s Motion to Remand (Dkt. 11, Cause No. 17-5775) 6 is GRANTED. Cause No. 17-5775 is HEREBY REMANDED to Pierce County Superior Court. 7 Defendants’ Motion to Consolidate (Dkt. 21, Cause No. 17-5277) is DENIED as moot. 8 IT IS SO ORDERED. 9 The Clerk is directed to send uncertified copies of this Order to all counsel of record and 10 11 12 13 14 to any party appearing pro se at said party’s last known address. Dated this 6th day of December, 2017. A ROBERT J. BRYAN United States District Judge 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 ORDER ON PLAINTIFF’S MOTION TO REMAND AND DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO CONSOLIDATE - 5

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