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Little v. State

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

December 12, 2013

BRENDA JOYCE LITTLE, Plaintiff,
v.
WASHINGTON STATE, et al., Defendants.

ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR DECLARATORY JUDGMENT

ROBERT S. LASNIK, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on plaintiff's "Motion for Declaratory Judgment Based Upon 1933 Legislature's Unconstitutional Delegation of Pure Legislative Powers." Dkt. # 12. Plaintiff's thirty-nine page motion begins with a discourse regarding economic substantive due process and the Lochner era, touches on the federal separation of powers doctrine, and addresses various abstention doctrines before getting to the point of the motion: plaintiff seeks a declaration that the Rules for Enforcement of Lawyer Conduct ("ELCs") are invalid because the Washington state legislature improperly delegated legislative power to the state judiciary when it enacted the State Bar Act, RCW 2.48.010 et seq., in 1933 and created the Washington State Bar Association ("WSBA").

For purposes of this motion, the Court will assume that plaintiff's claim for declaratory relief is not barred by the doctrine of res judicata. Nevertheless, plaintiff's request must be denied. The Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. ยง 2201, is not a jurisdictional statute: federal jurisdiction must independently exist over the dispute. Skelly Oil Co. v. Phillips Petroleum Co. , 339 U.S. 667, 671 (1950); Courtney v. Goltz, ___ F.3d ___, 2013 WL 6224342, at *3 (9th Cir. Dec. 2, 2013). Although plaintiff discusses the separation of powers doctrine as it has been interpreted by the federal courts, her claim is that the delegation of authority that occurred in 1933 violated the separation of powers enshrined in the state constitution. Plaintiff has not identified, and the Court has not found, any federal constitutional provision or federal statute that mandates a particular division of power within state government or otherwise prescribes the method by which legislative enactments are made. As the United States Supreme Court long ago stated:

As the authority is conferred for the purpose of making laws for the state, it follows, in the absence of an indication of a contrary intent, that the exercise of the authority must be in accordance with the method which the state has prescribed for legislative enactments. We find no suggestion in the federal constitutional provision of an attempt to endow the Legislature of the state with power to enact laws in any manner other than that in which the Constitution of the state has provided that laws shall be enacted.

Smiley v. Holm , 285 U.S. 355, 367-68 (1932). Whether the state complied with its own constitutional and/or statutory requirements in enacting the State Bar Act is not a federal question over which this Court has subject matter jurisdiction.[1]

For all of the foregoing reasons, plaintiff's motion for declaratory judgment is DENIED.


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