United States District Court, D. Oregon
ELH LLC, an Oregon limited liability company; OREGON HEREFORD RANCH LLC, an Oregon limited liability company; PAUL GELISSEN; MAURICE and LUCY ZIEMER; FRANK MUELLER; CRAIG and CYNTHIA PARKS and RICHARD and KRISTINE CARPENTER, Plaintiffs,
WESTLAND IRRIGATION DISTRICT, an irrigation district organized under the laws of the State of Oregon, Defendant.
Michael E. Haglund, Julie A. Weis, and Eric J. Brickenstein,
Haglund Kelley LLP, Of Attorneys for Plaintiffs.
C. Hancock, Stoel Rives LLP, David E. Filippi, Stoel Rives
LLP, 760 SW Ninth Avenue, Of Attorneys for Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
Michael H. Simon United States District Judge
ELH LLC, Oregon Hereford Ranch LLC, Paul Gelissen, Maurice
and Lucy Ziemer, Frank Mueller, Craig and Cynthia Parks, and
Richard and Kristine Carpenter (collectively,
“Plaintiffs”) bring this lawsuit against Westland
Irrigation District (“Westland”). Plaintiffs, who
hold water rights from the Umatilla River and McKay
Reservoir, allege that Westland has illegally redistributed
water to Plaintiffs' detriment and to the benefit of
junior rights holders. Plaintiffs seek relief pursuant to the
Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment, as well as its analog
in the Oregon State Constitution, the federal Declaratory
Judgment Act, and several common law tort theories. Before
the Court are three motions: Westland's Motion to Dismiss
pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and
12(b)(6), Westland's Motion to Stay Discovery, and
Plaintiffs' Motion for Leave to File a First Amended
Complaint. For the reasons below, Westland's Motion to
Dismiss (ECF 9) is granted, Plaintiffs' Motion for Leave
to File First Amended Complaint (ECF 13) is denied as futile,
and Westland's Motion to Stay Discovery (ECF 10) is
denied as moot.
Motion to Dismiss
courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. Gunn v.
Minton, __U.S. __, 133 S.Ct. 1059, 1064 (2013) (citation
omitted). As such, a court is to presume “that a cause
lies outside this limited jurisdiction, and the burden of
establishing the contrary rests upon the party asserting
jurisdiction.” Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co.
of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994) (citations omitted);
see also Robinson v. United States, 586 F.3d 683,
685 (9th Cir. 2009); Safe Air for Everyone v. Meyer,
373 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir. 2004). A motion to dismiss
under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) for lack of
“subject-matter jurisdiction, because it involves a
court's power to hear a case, can never be forfeited or
waived.” United States v. Cotton, 535 U.S.
625, 630 (2002). An objection that a particular court lacks
subject matter jurisdiction may be raised by any party, or by
the court on its own initiative, at any time. Arbaugh v.
Y&H Corp., 546 U.S. 500, 506 (2006); Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(1). The Court must dismiss any case over which it lacks
subject matter jurisdiction. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3).
motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) may be granted only when
there is no cognizable legal theory to support the claim or
when the complaint lacks sufficient factual allegations to
state a facially plausible claim for relief. Shroyer v.
New Cingular Wireless Servs., Inc., 622 F.3d 1035, 1041
(9th Cir. 2010). In evaluating the sufficiency of a
complaint's factual allegations, the court must accept as
true all well-pleaded material facts alleged in the complaint
and construe them in the light most favorable to the
non-moving party. Wilson v. Hewlett-Packard Co., 668
F.3d 1136, 1140 (9th Cir. 2012); Daniels-Hall v.
Nat'l Educ. Ass'n, 629 F.3d 992, 998 (9th Cir.
2010). To be entitled to a presumption of truth, allegations
in a complaint “may not simply recite the elements of a
cause of action, but must contain sufficient allegations of
underlying facts to give fair notice and to enable the
opposing party to defend itself effectively.” Starr
v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1216 (9th Cir. 2011). All
reasonable inferences from the factual allegations must be
drawn in favor of the plaintiff. Newcal Indus. v. Ikon
Office Sol., 513 F.3d 1038, 1043 n.2 (9th Cir. 2008).
The court need not, however, credit the plaintiff's legal
conclusions that are couched as factual allegations.
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009).
complaint must contain sufficient factual allegations to
“plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief, such that
it is not unfair to require the opposing party to be
subjected to the expense of discovery and continued
litigation.” Starr, 652 F.3d at 1216. “A
claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads
factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556
Motion to Amend
Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(2) provides that the
“court should freely give leave [to amend a pleading]
when justice so requires.” A district court should
apply the Rule's “policy of favoring amendments . .
. with extreme liberality.” DCD Programs, Ltd. v.
Leighton, 833 F.2d 183, 186 (9th Cir. 1987) (quotation
marks omitted). The purpose of the rule “is ‘to
facilitate decision on the merits, rather than on the
pleadings or technicalities.'” Novak v. United
States, 795 F.3d 1012, 1020 (9th Cir. 2015) (quoting
Chudacoff v. Univ. Med. Ctr., 649 F.3d 1143, 1152
(9th Cir. 2011)). A district court, however, may deny a
motion to amend due to, among other reasons, the futility of
the proposed amendment. Zucco Partners, LLC v. Digimarc
Corp., 552 F.3d 981, 1007 (9th Cir. 2009) (citation
is an irrigation district organized under the laws of the
State of Oregon and governed by a board of directors. It is
responsible for delivering water from McKay Reservoir and the
Umatilla River to district water users. Plaintiffs raise
cattle and grow a variety of crops on farmland located within
the Westland district. Plaintiffs hold water rights for the
Umatilla River and McKay Reservoir with priority dates
extending as far back as 1903.
allege that Westland's water delivery practices favors
junior rights holders, in violation of Oregon's prior
appropriation system that requires delivery of water on a
“first in time, first in right” basis.
Specifically, Plaintiffs contend Westland has allowed illegal
over-pumping by junior rights holders, failed to monitor and
properly measure water usage, failed to enforce priority
dates and allowed junior users to use appropriated water on
acreage not certified to receive the water, and entered into
improper “limited water” delivery contracts.
Plaintiffs also allege that Westland operates in a
non-transparent fashion and improperly withholds public
information. Plaintiffs seek monetary, declaratory, and
injunctive relief, alleging that Westland's actions
constitute a taking without just compensation in violation of
the Fifth Amendment to the United States ...