OpenJurist

917 F2d 27 Bond v. City of Santa Barbara

917 F.2d 27

Unpublished Disposition

Lawrence E. BOND, Monica K. Bond, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
CITY OF SANTA BARBARA, et al., Defendants-Appellees.

NOTICE: Ninth Circuit Rule 36-3 provides that dispositions other than opinions or orders designated for publication are not precedential and should not be cited except when relevant under the doctrines of law of the case, res judicata, or collateral estoppel.

1

Nos. 86-6452, 88-5808.

2

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.

Argued and Submitted Aug. 7, 1990.
Decided Oct. 22, 1990.

3

Before REINHARDT and LEAVY, Circuit Judges, and KING, Senior District Court Judge.*

4

MEMORANDUM**

5

Lawrence and Monica Bond appeal from two decisions by the District Court. First, they appeal the dismissal of their second amended complaint in USDC CV No. 85-6675. Second, they appeal the denial of their rule 60(b) motion for relief of judgment and the dismissal of their independent action in USDC CV No. 87-5989. We affirm in both instances.

FACTS

6

The Bonds allege that various officials of the City and County of Santa Barbara violated their civil rights between the years of 1980 and 1984 in connection with the seizure and/or destruction of property belonging to them, and in related legal proceedings. The Bonds have therefore initiated a total of three different lawsuits, one adjudicated in state court and two adjudicated in federal court.

7

In the first action, adjudicated in the Santa Barbara Superior Court, demurrers by the defendants were sustained by the court on the ground that the Bonds' causes of action were time-barred by a one-year statute of limitation. The state court's ruling was based on Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261 (1985), which held that a state's statute of limitations for personal injury actions applied to civil rights actions under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983. The state court applied Wilson retroactively. The Bonds did not appeal to the state appellate courts.

8

In the second action, USDC CV No. 85-6675, the District Court for the Central District of California dismissed the Bonds' Second Amended Complaint on grounds that the earlier state court decision had res judicata effect. The court also held that the Bonds failed to state a recoverable claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1985 because they could not allege any racial motivation for the defendants' acts. The Bonds appealed these rulings to this court. Subsequently, they filed a motion seeking to vacate judgment and for leave to file a third amended complaint which would add, inter alia, claims based on RICO. The court denied the motion and the Bonds did not appeal this ruling.

9

In the third action, USDC CV No. 87-5989, the District Court dismissed the Bonds' Independent Action for Declaratory or Injunctive Relief From a State Court Judgment, finding that it lacked subject-matter jurisdiction to directly review the earlier state court decision. The court also denied a motion brought by the Bonds pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b), which was treated as a request for relief from the court's earlier decision in USDC CV No. 85-6675. The Bonds appealed these rulings to this court.

ANALYSIS

I. Appeal From USDC CV No. 85-6675

A. Res Judicata Issue

10

Pursuant to the Full Faith and Credit Statute, 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1738, federal courts must give state court judgments the same preclusive effect they would be accorded under the law of the state in which they were rendered. Migra v. Warren City School Dist. Board of Education, 465 U.S. 75 (1984); Kremer v. Chemical Construction Corp., 456 U.S. 461 (1982); Allen v. McCurry, 449 U.S. 90 (1980).

11

Therefore, California law regarding res judicata is dispositive of whether the earlier decision by the Santa Barbara Superior Court was correctly accorded preclusive effect by the District Court in USDC CV No. 85-6675. See Takahashi v. Board of Trustees, 783 F.2d 848, 850 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 476 U.S. 1182 (1986).

12

Under California law, "[a] judgment given after the sustaining of a general demurrer on a ground of substance ... may be deemed a judgment on the merits, and conclusive in a subsequent suit." Goddard v. Security Title Ins. & Guarantee Co., 14 Cal.2d 47, ----, 92 P.2d 804, 807 (1939). A judgment based on the statute of limitations comes within this rule, and therefore, the decision by the Santa Barbara Superior Court to sustain the demurrers in the Bonds' first action warrants preclusive effect.

13

The Bonds understandably feel deprived of their opportunity to have the substantive merits of their case heard and considered. Since the state court's decision to apply Wilson retroactively, they have been caught in a constricting web of procedural snares due to the intertwined nature of all three actions. The seeming unfairness of their situation is compounded by the fact that subsequent to the state court decision, caselaw arose holding that Wilson should not be applied retroactively. See Gibson v. United States, 781 F.2d 1334, 1339 (9th Cir.1986); Usher v. City of Los Angeles, 828 F.2d 556, 559-60 (9th Cir.1987).

14

The above notwithstanding, the District Court was correct to accord preclusive effect to the state court decision. Under California law, even if the state court was in error,1 res judicata principles must still apply. See Busick v. Workmen's Compensation Appeals Bd., 7 Cal.3d 967, 104 Cal.Rptr. 42, 500 P.2d 1386 (1972); People v. Ocean Shore R.R., Inc., 32 Cal.2d 406, 196 P.2d 570 (1948); People v. Silva, 114 Cal.App.3d 538, 170 Cal.Rptr. 713 (1981).

15

Moreover, the fact that a lower state court decision is involved does not prevent application of res judicata. In Re Crow, 4 Cal.3d 613, 94 Cal.Rptr. 254, 483 P.2d 1206 (1971) (since a trial court's decision was not appealed, that judgment became final and was accorded res judicata effect).

B. 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1985 Claim

16

The District Court also dismissed the Bonds' Sec. 1985 claim on the basis that they had twice had the opportunity to amend their complaint and were apparently unable to allege a racial motivation for the defendants' actions.

17

We find no error in the District Court's reliance on United Bhd. of Carpenters & Joiners v. Scott, 463 U.S. 825 (1983), nor in its conclusion that this case lacks the requisite racial animus to sustain a Sec. 1985 claim.

18

The Bonds, citing to McCord v. Bailey, 636 F.2d 606 (D.C.Cir.1980), cert. denied, 451 U.S. 983 (1981), argue that racial animus is not always required for a Sec. 1985 claim. McCord, however, dealt with a claim pursuant to Sec. 1985(2). That provision prohibits interference with the federal judicial system. The claim brought by the Bonds, on the other hand, deals with the deprivation of their rights and privileges, and therefore arises under Sec. 1985(3). The necessity of showing racial animus is an unwavering requirement under this provision. See United Bhd. of Carpenters & Joiners, 463 U.S. at 834-35.

III. Appeal From USDC CV No. 87-5989

19

The District Court was correct in dismissing the Bonds' Independent Action, which in essence was an attempt to enjoin enforcement of the state court decision. "[A] United States District Court has no authority to review final judgments of a state court in judicial proceedings." District of Columbia Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462, 482 (1983). Therefore, the District Court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over the Independent Action.

20

We also find the District Court did not abuse its discretion in denying the Bonds' rule 60(b) motion for relief. First, since the motion was brought in an action separate from the one from which it sought relief, it was not incumbent on the District Court to consider the merits of the motion.

21

Second, technicalities aside, we agree with the District Court that the circumstances are not sufficiently "extraordinary" to warrant relief under rule 60(b)(6). Surely, the Bonds have been through a tremendously frustrating bout with the legal system, but this is not the type of "extraordinary" circumstances necessary for relief. See Martella v. Marine Cooks & Stewards Union, 448 F.2d 729, 730 (9th Cir.1971) (per curiam), cert. denied, 405 U.S. 974 (1972) ("In order to bring himself within the limited area of Rule 60(b)(6) a petitioner is required to establish the existence of extraordinary circumstances which prevented or rendered him unable to prosecute an appeal." (emphasis added)). As the Bonds have been able to appeal the judgment from which they seek relief (USDC CV No. 85-6675), they fail to meet the standard set out in Martella.

III. Other Issues

22

The Bonds present several other issues for review on appeal: 1) whether the District Court abused its discretion in denying their motion for leave to file a Third Amended Complaint in USDC CV No. 85-6675, thereby precluding additional claims based on RICO; 2) whether the District Court abused its discretion by dismissing causes of action in USDC CV No. 85-6675 without allowing leave to amend and; 3) whether the District Court erred by not estopping the city defendants from pleading the statute of limitations with regard to the original complaint in USDC CV No. 86-6675.

23

This court lacks jurisdiction to consider the first two issues since the District Court rulings involved therein were not appealed.2 As to the third issue, we find no error.

CONCLUSION

24

Although we are sympathetic to the difficulties the Bonds have encountered throughout the litigation of their claims, we find no error on the part of the District Court.

25

AFFIRMED.

*

The Honorable Samuel P. King, Senior United States District Judge for the District of Hawaii, sitting by designation

**

This disposition is not appropriate for publication and may not be cited to or by the courts of this circuit except as provided by Ninth Cir.R. 36-3

1

The state court decision cannot be categorized as "wrong" since the law at that time was unclear as to whether Wilson should have retroactive application. It is just an unfortunate circumstance that the Bonds failed to seek review in the state appellate courts

2

Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 3(c) provides that "[t]he notice of appeal ... shall designate the judgment, order or part thereof, appealed from[.]" The Bonds did not designate the order denying their motion for leave to file a third amended complaint in their notice of appeal. With some exceptions not applicable here, this court lacks jurisdiction to review an order which is not designated in the notice of appeal. See Roberts v. College of the Desert, 870 F.2d 1411, 1418-19 (9th 1988)