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Iseke v. City and County of Honolulu

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

August 31, 2016

MARVIN ISEKE, ALICE UBANDO, SHIRLEY ANN LESSARY, Plaintiffs,
v.
CITY AND COUNTY OF HONOLULU, ET AL., Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFFS' APPEAL FROM MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S MAY 26, 2016 ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART PLAINTIFFS' MOTION TO FILE AMENDED COMPLAINT FOR DECLARATORY AND INJUNCTIVE RELIEF

          LESLIE E. KOBAYASHI UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is pro se Plaintiffs Marvin Iseke, Alice Ubando, and Shirley Ann Lessary's (collectively “Plaintiffs”) Appeal from Magistrate Judge's May 26, 2016 Order Granting in Part and Denying in Part Plaintiffs' Motion to File Amended Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief (“Appeal”), filed on June 24, 2016. [Dkt. no. 55.] Defendant the City and County of Honolulu (“Defendant” or “the City”) filed its memorandum in opposition on July 11, 2016, and Plaintiffs filed their reply on July 28, 2016.[1] [Dkt. nos. 58, 59.] The Court finds this matter suitable for disposition without a hearing pursuant to Rule LR7.2(e) of the Local Rules of Practice of the United States District Court for the District of Hawai`i (“Local Rules”). After careful consideration of the Appeal, supporting and opposing memoranda, and the relevant legal authority, Plaintiffs' Appeal is HEREBY DENIED for the reasons set forth below.

         BACKGROUND

         The relevant factual and procedural background of this case is familiar to the parties, and the Court will only discuss the issues relevant to the Appeal. On April 18, 2016, Plaintiffs filed their Motion for Leave. The magistrate judge took the motion non-hearing, and on May 26, 2016, he issued an order granting in part and denying in part the Motion for Leave (“5/26/16 Order”). [Dkt. no. 43.] On June 3, 2016, Plaintiffs filed a motion for reconsideration of the 5/26/16 Order (“Reconsideration”), which the magistrate judge denied on June 13, 2016 (“6/13/16 Order”). [Dkt. nos. 44, 51.] Plaintiffs filed their Amended Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief (“Amended Complaint”) on June 6, 2016. [Dkt. no. 47.] Plaintiffs bring the instant Appeal pursuant to Local Rule 74.1.

         As the magistrate judge explained in the 5/26/16 Order, the Motion for Leave sought

to amend [the] Complaint to add as a defendant Mayor Kirk Caldwell in his official capacity and to assert seven [new] claims: (1) [National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”), 42 U.S.C. § 4321, et seq.] violations against all Defendants; (2) [Hawai`i Environmental Policy Act (“HEPA”), Haw. Rev. Stat. Chapter 343, ] violations against all Defendants; (3) misuse of [HUD Community Development Block Grant (“CDBG”)] funds against Defendant City and Mayor Caldwell; (4) violations of the Administrative Procedures Act (“APA”)[, 5 U.S.C. § 500 et seq., ] and NEPA against Defendant HUD; (5) violations of the Oahu General Plan and Ko`olau Loa Sustainable Communities Plan against all Defendants; (6) violations of procedural due process under the United States Constitution against all Defendants; and (7) violations of procedural due process under the Hawaii State Constitution against all Defendants.

         [5/26/16 Order at 3.] The magistrate judge granted the Motion to Leave insofar as it sought to add claims for: NEPA violations against the City and HUD; and violations of the APA and NEPA against HUD. [Id. at 21.] The magistrate judge denied the Motion for Leave insofar as it sought to add any other new claims. [Id.]

         Plaintiffs argue that the 5/26/16 Order should have been in the form of a findings and recommendation because it is dispositive in nature, and that the magistrate judge erred in finding that: (1) there is no private right of action under the Housing and Community Development Act (“HCDA”), 42 U.S.C. § 5304(a); (2) there is no private right of action under the Ko`olau Loa Sustainable Communities Plan and O`ahu General Plan; and (3) Plaintiffs' due process claims, under both the United States Constitution and the Hawai`i State Constitution, are time-barred. [Appeal at 3-4.] The City argues that the 5/26/16 Order was nondispositive, and that the magistrate judge's rulings were correct. [Mem. in Opp. at 2.]

         STANDARD

         This district court has stated:

A magistrate judge's jurisdiction to enter an order, rather than to issue recommendations to the district court, is dependent on whether the matter before the magistrate judge is characterized as dispositive or nondispositive of a claim or defense of a party. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 72. If the matter is nondispositive, then, under § 636(b)(1)(A) and Rule 72(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the magistrate judge may properly enter an order disposing of the matter. A magistrate judge's order regarding nondispositive matters may be reversed by the district court judge only when it is “clearly erroneous or contrary to law.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A); see Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a). However, if the dispute is over a dispositive matter, then the magistrate judge has authority to enter findings and recommendations. Objections to the magistrate judge's findings are reviewed de novo. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(c); see Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b).
Nondispositive matters are those “pretrial matter[s] not dispositive of a party's claim or defense.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a). In contrast, a dispositive matter involves the determination of the merits of the case or is critical in shaping the nature of the litigation. Kiep v. Turner, 80 B.R. 521, 523-24 (D. Haw. 1987). The court must look to the “effect of the motion” to determine whether it is dispositive or nondispositive of a claim or defense of a party. United States v. Rivera-Guerrero, 377 F.3d 1064, 1068 (9th Cir. 2004) (internal citations omitted).

JJCO, Inc. v. Isuzu Motors Am., Inc., Civ. No. 08-00419 SOM/LEK, 2009 WL 3818247, at *2 (D. Hawai`i Nov. 12, 2009).

         This district court has also articulated a standard for reviewing a magistrate judge's rulings on nondispositive matters:

The threshold of the “clearly erroneous” test is high. See Boskoff v. Yano, 217 F.Supp.2d 1077, 1084 (D. Haw. 2001). The magistrate judge's factual findings must be accepted unless the court is “left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed.” United States v. Silverman, 861 F.2d 571, 576-[77] (9th Cir. 1988). “The reviewing court may not simply substitute its judgment for that of the deciding court.” Grimes v. City & Cnty. of S.F., 951 F.2d 236, 241 (9th Cir. 1991).
“A decision is ‘contrary to law' if it applies an incorrect legal standard or fails to consider an element of the applicable standard.” Na Pali Haweo Cmty. Ass'n v. Grande, 252 F.R.D. 672, 674 (D. Haw. 2008); see Hunt v. Nat'l Broadcasting Co., 872 F.2d 289, 292 (9th Cir. 1989) (noting that such failures constitute abuse of discretion).

Himmelfarb v. JP Morgan Chase Bank, Nat'l Ass'n, CV. No. 10-00058 DAE-KSC, 2011 WL 4498975, at *2 (D. ...


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