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Garcia v. Service Employees International Union

United States District Court, D. Nevada

September 10, 2019




         Plaintiff Raymond Garcia, a member of the Local 1107 union (Local), brought suit to challenge defendant Service Employees International Union's (SEIU) imposition of a trusteeship on the Local. I previously ruled that count one, which alleges that the Local's executive board breached the Local's constitution, is not preempted by section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA), so that claim remains pending as a state law breach of contract claim. ECF No. 78 at 5-6. I ruled that counts two (breach of the affiliation agreement), three (breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing), five (negligent misrepresentation), six (malpractice), and seven (breach of fiduciary duty), are preempted by § 301 and thus are treated as claims under that section. Id. at 6-9. I dismissed count four and a portion of count six. Id. at 7, 9. I also dismissed the claims against the individual defendants. Id. at 10.

         The defendants now move for summary judgment, arguing that Garcia lacks standing to assert the § 301 claims because he has not suffered a particularized injury, as he was a Local union member at large and not a member of the Local's executive board. They contend he thus has at most a generalized injury in common with all fellow union members, so he lacks Article III standing. They also argue that because Garcia's claims depend on representations the defendants allegedly made to the Local's executive board, he also lacks prudential standing because he was not a member of the board and cannot sue to vindicate a third party's rights. They also argue any injury Garcia suffered is not traceable to the defendants' alleged actions because there is no evidence that members of the Local's executive board voted the way they did because they relied on the alleged misrepresentations. Alternatively, the defendants argue Garcia's claims fail on the merits.

         Garcia responds that he has standing as a union member to bring suit against the union under § 301 because he has been deprived of his right to select union leaders and otherwise engage in the democratic process in the union. On the merits, Garcia argues that he has presented evidence that some board members would have changed their vote if the defendants had not made misrepresentations to the Local's board. He also argues the Local's board breached the Local constitution by voting for a trusteeship instead of holding elections to fill the vacant president and vice president positions.

         The parties are familiar with the facts, so I do not repeat them here except where necessary to resolve the motion. I grant in part the defendants' motion for summary judgment. Garcia lacks Article III standing to assert his claims under § 301, so I dismiss those claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Garcia also lacks Article III standing to bring his state law breach of contract claim in federal court, so I remand it to state court.

         I. ANALYSIS

         Summary judgment is appropriate if the movant shows “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a), (c). A fact is material if it “might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute is genuine if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id.

         The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of informing the court of the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the record that demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The burden then shifts to the non-moving party to set forth specific facts demonstrating there is a genuine issue of material fact for trial. Fairbank v. Wunderman Cato Johnson, 212 F.3d 528, 531 (9th Cir. 2000); Sonner v. Schwabe N. Am., Inc., 911 F.3d 989, 992 (9th Cir. 2018) (“To defeat summary judgment, the nonmoving party must produce evidence of a genuine dispute of material fact that could satisfy its burden at trial.”). I view the evidence and reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. James River Ins. Co. v. Hebert Schenk, P.C., 523 F.3d 915, 920 (9th Cir. 2008).

         “Article III of the Constitution limits the jurisdiction of federal courts to ‘Cases' and ‘Controversies.'” Lance v. Coffman, 549 U.S. 437, 439 (2007). “A suit brought by a plaintiff without Article III standing is not a case or controversy, and an Article III federal court therefore lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the suit.” Braunstein v. Arizona Dep't of Transp., 683 F.3d 1177, 1184 (9th Cir. 2012) (quotation omitted). The “irreducible constitutional minimum” of Article III standing consists of three elements. Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, 136 S.Ct. 1540, 1547 (2016) (quotation omitted). “The plaintiff must have (1) suffered an injury in fact, (2) that is fairly traceable to the challenged conduct of the defendant, and (3) that is likely to be redressed by a favorable judicial decision.” Id.

         Each of these elements “must be supported in the same way as any other matter on which the plaintiff bears the burden of proof, i.e., with the manner and degree of evidence required at the successive stages of the litigation.” Lujan v. Defs. of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561 (1992). Because this is summary judgment, the parties “can no longer rest on such mere allegations, but must set forth by affidavit or other evidence specific facts . . ., which for purposes of the summary judgment motion will be taken to be true.” Id. (quotation omitted).

         As the party invoking this court's jurisdiction on removal, the defendants ordinarily would bear the burden of establishing these elements. Spokeo, Inc, 136 S.Ct. at 1547. However, this case presents the unusual circumstance of the removing defendants contending Garcia lacks standing, while Garcia contends he has it. If the defendants bear the burden of establishing standing, they have not done so because they contend that Garcia lacks it and they present argument and evidence in support of that contention. Alternatively, if Garcia bears the burden because he is effectively invoking this court's jurisdiction by asserting he has standing, he has not sufficiently shown he has it under a summary judgment standard. Either way, Garcia lacks standing for all of his claims, as discussed below.

         A. Section 301 Claims

         Garcia's claims in counts two, three, five, six, and seven are contractual claims under § 301 of the LMRA.[1] For these claims, Garcia fails to sufficiently demonstrate at summary judgment that his injury is “fairly . . . trace[able] to the challenged action of the defendant.” Lujan, 504 U.S. at 560 (quotation omitted). Traceability means “there must be a causal connection between the injury and the conduct” about which the plaintiff complains. Id.

         All of these claims rest on allegations that the defendants breached the affiliation agreement (or the contractual implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing) because they (1) failed to advise the Local of its rights under the affiliation agreement and (2) told the Local's executive board that they had no choice but to vote for trusteeship after the president and vice president were removed from office. ECF No. 29 at 9-12, 13-17. But Garcia has failed to present ...

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