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Benton v. Legacy Health

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division

March 5, 2018



          Youlee Yim You United States Magistrate Judge

         In cross-motions, defendant Legacy Health (“Legacy”) moves to dismiss this case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction or, alternatively to disqualify plaintiff Gregory Benton (“Benton”) from the court's pro bono program, and Benton seeks to have this court appoint a new pro bono attorney to assist him in taking this case to trial. For the reasons that follow, Legacy's motion to dismiss is denied, its alternative motion is granted, and Benton's request for appointment of pro bono counsel is denied.[1]

         I. Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction

         A. Procedural Background

         Benton, proceeding pro se, filed this case nearly five years ago. In his First Amended Complaint (ECF #12), and again in his Second Amended Complaint (ECF #39), Benton included claims against Legacy security guards under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and against Portland Police Officer Christopher McDonald (“Officer McDonald”) under 42 USC § 1983. He asserted federal question jurisdiction based on those claims. He also alleged a battery claim against Legacy under state law and asserted supplemental jurisdiction over that claim.

         The ADA claim was premised upon Benton's contention that a Legacy security guard refused to assist him in making a phone call to arrange transportation to leave the hospital. The battery claim was premised upon the conduct of Legacy security guards in attempting to remove Benton from Legacy property. The § 1983 claim was against Officer McDonald, the Portland police officer who responded to the scene and allegedly threw Benton to the ground when Benton stood up and started to leave while Officer McDonald was talking to Legacy's security guards.

         After several preliminary scheduling conferences, followed by a stay, this case was reopened and the court appointed pro bono counsel to assist Benton (ECF #77) in June 2016. Nearly a year later, and with the assistance of pro bono counsel, Benton filed a Third Amended Complaint (ECF #106), which eliminated the ADA claim and left only a battery claim against Legacy's security guards and the § 1983 claim against Officer McDonald. Legacy responded to the Third Amended Complaint by filing three counterclaims against Benton for abuse of process, wrongful initiation of civil proceedings, and fraud. Legacy Health's Answer, Affirmative Defenses, and Counterclaims to Plaintiff's Third Amended Complaint (“Legacy's Answer”) 9-14 (ECF #108). This court dismissed Legacy's counterclaims on October 12, 2017. Findings and Recommendations (August 11, 2017), ECF #128, adopted by Order (October 12, 2017), ECF #139.

         On December 12, 2017, this court granted Officer McDonald's Motion for Summary Judgment, leaving for trial only Benton's battery claim.

         B. Discretionary Dismissal Under 28 USC § 1367(c)

         Legacy contends that this case should be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because there are no remaining federal claims. Legacy has always denied that the battery claim against its security guards is premised on the same operative facts as the § 1983 claim against Officer McDonald and that this court lacks supplemental jurisdiction. Answer 2, ECF #108.

         Federal courts have supplemental jurisdiction over state law claims that are “so related” to the claims over which the court has original jurisdiction that “they form part of the same case or controversy under Article III of the United States Constitution.” 28 USC § 1367(a). “A state law claim is part of the same case or controversy when it shares a ‘common nucleus of operative fact' with the federal claims and the state and federal claims would normally be tried together.” Bahrampour v. Lampert, 356 F.3d 969, 978 (9th Cir. 2004) (citations omitted).

         This court has no difficulty concluding that the state law claim against Legacy shares a common nucleus of operative fact with the § 1983 claim that Benton alleged against Officer McDonald. Officer McDonald responded to the scene and was in the process of investigating the encounter between Benton and Legacy's security guards when the encounter that formed the basis for the § 1983 claim against Officer McDonald took place. Essentially, it was a continuation of the same encounter involving an alleged trespass by Benton on Legacy property. The facts of the encounter with Officer McDonald could not be told without discussing the encounter with Legacy's security guards, given that Benton had been placed in handcuffs by Legacy's security guards and remained in handcuffs during the encounter with Officer McDonald.

         Legacy insists that the ADA claim was baseless and the § 1983 claim was frivolous, and urges this court to decline to exercise its supplemental jurisdiction and dismiss this case. This court has discretion to decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction if it “has dismissed all claims over which it has original jurisdiction.” 28 USC § 1367(c)(3). Legacy contends that this court should decline to exercise its supplemental jurisdiction because, when it granted Officer McDonald's motion for summary judgment, it dismissed the only claim over which it had original jurisdiction. Legacy also strenuously argues that Benton has perpetrated a fraud for years and wasted countless judicial resources in doing so.[2]

         However, it is not this court's role to decide the facts surrounding Benton's battery claim. This court's role is to engage in a pragmatic and case-specific evaluation to discern whether the values of economy, convenience, fairness, and comity would be best served by declining to exercise supplemental jurisdiction. ...

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