United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
ORDER REQUESTING ADDITIONAL BRIEFING
BENJAMIN H. SETTLE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff Jann
Propp-Estimo's motion for temporary restraining order
(Dkt. 17). The Court has considered the pleadings filed in
support of and in opposition to the motion and the remainder
of the file and hereby requests additional briefing for the
reasons stated herein.
PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND
13, 2017, Propp-Estimo filed a complaint against Defendants
Lewis County, Lewis County Animal Shelter, Lewis County
Sheriff's Office, Gabriel Frase, and Amy Hanson
(“Defendants”). Dkt. 1-1. Propp-Estimo asserts
seven causes of action stemming from the seizure and
judicially ordered euthanasia of her dog Hank. Id.
Unbeknownst to Propp-Estimo, Hank was previously named Tank
and had been declared a dangerous animal while in the
possession of his previous owner. Although Propp-Estimo
adopted Hank “as-is” from the animal shelter, no
one informed Propp-Estimo of Hank's history. On May 9,
2017, Detective Frase contacted Propp-Estimo regarding Hank.
Dkt. 7, Declaration of PES, ¶ 24. Detective Frase
eventually seized Hank at Propp-Estimo's son's home
later that afternoon. Id. ¶ 28.
19, 2017, Lewis County adopted § 6.05.155 entitled
“Judicial removal of dangerous animal
designation.” The provision applies
“retrospectively to all animals which have been
designated as dangerous animals and which are in the
possession of Lewis County's animal shelter on the date
of its enactment.” Lewis County Code, §
6.05.155(8). The provision also grants the judicial officer
the power to declare an animal a “dangerous
animal” and order “that it be humanely
same day the county adopted the ordinance, Lewis County
District Judge R.W. Buzzard held a hearing regarding Hank.
Judge Buzzard declared Hank a dangerous animal and ordered
that he be humanely destroyed within 48 hours. Dkt. 8 at
90-91. Propp-Estimo immediately appealed the ruling to the
Lewis County Superior Court, and Superior Court Judge James
Lawler stayed the euthanasia until August 31, 2017. Dkt. 6 at
20, 2017, Defendants removed the complaint to this Court.
Dkt. 1. On August 1, 2017, Propp-Estimo filed a motion for a
temporary restraining order. Dkt. 6. On August 2, 2017,
Defendants responded. Dkt. 10. On August 7, 2017, the Court
denied the motion concluding that Propp-Estimo had
“failed to show that she is likely to succeed on the
merits or that an injunction is in the public
interest.” Dkt. 14.
August 14, 2017, Propp-Estimo filed a revised motion for a
preliminary injunction. Dkt. 17. On September 5, 2017,
Defendants responded. Dkt. 18. On September 8, 2017,
Propp-Estimo replied. Dkt. 19.
reply, Propp-Estimo asserts that the superior court refused
to enter the parties' stipulation to release Hank and
dismiss the appeal and, instead, issued an oral ruling
affirming Judge Buzzard's order that Hank be euthanized.
unique procedural posture of this matter and the state court
proceeding raise numerous questions regarding this
Court's jurisdiction and power to grant relief. First, it
is unclear whether the state proceeding is final or still
ongoing. If it is final, then Propp-Estimo may be barred from
relitigating either the entire dispute or some claims in
federal court. Noel v. Hall, 341 F.3d 1148, 1163-64
(9th Cir. 2003) (“if the federal plaintiff and the
adverse party have already litigated the state court suit to
judgment, the federal plaintiff may be precluded from
relitigating that dispute under the interjurisdictional
preclusion rule of 28 U.S.C. § 1738.”). Although
Defendants argue that the Rooker- Feldman doctrine
bars Propp-Estimo's federal suit, Propp-Estimo asserts
some claims for damages that do not appear to be
“inextricably intertwined” with the state court
declaratory judgment or disposition of property action.
See id. at 1158-61. Therefore, the Court requests
additional briefing on the finality of the state court action
and application of relevant precedent precluding this
Court's involvement in matters that may have been reduced
to final judgment.
if the state court matter is not final and is an ongoing
proceeding, then the Court should most likely abstain from
considering some of Propp-Estimo's claims. It seems
undisputed that the state court action involves the
disposition of Propp-Estimo's dog, which, for legal
purposes, is considered property. If concurrent proceedings
involve claims regarding the disposition of property, then
“the court first assuming jurisdiction over property
may exercise that jurisdiction to the exclusion of other
courts.” Colorado River Water Conservation Dist. v.
U.S., 424 U.S. 800, 818 (1976). “The doctrine of
prior exclusive jurisdiction applies to a federal court's
jurisdiction over property only if a state court has
previously exercised jurisdiction over that same property and
retains that jurisdiction in a separate, concurrent
proceeding.” Sexton v. NDEX W., LLC, 713 F.3d
533, 537 (9th Cir. 2013). “[W]hen ‘one court is
exercising in rem jurisdiction over a res, a second
court will not assume in rem jurisdiction over the
same res.'” Id. (quoting Chapman v.
Deutsche Bank Nat'l Trust Co., 651 F.3d 1039, 1043
(9th Cir. 2011)). Applying this doctrine to the current
facts, it appears that the Court may not assert jurisdiction
over Propp-Estimo's property. The Court requests
additional briefing on this issue as well.
it is hereby ORDERED that the parties may
submit simultaneous additional responses no later than
September 29, 2017, and simultaneous additional replies no
later than October 6, 2017, and the Clerk shall renote