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Hawaii Regional Council of Carpenters v. Yoshimura

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

September 12, 2016



          Alan C. Kay Sr. United States District Judge

         For the reasons set forth below, the Court DENIES Defendant Lance Yoshimura's Motion to Dismiss the Complaint or in the Alternative for Judgment on the Pleadings (“Motion”), ECF No. 12.


         On July 21, 2015, prior to the filing of the instant suit, Defendant Lance Yoshimura (“Yoshimura”) filed a complaint against Hawaii Regional Council of Carpenters and United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, Local 745 (“the Union”) and Ronald Taketa (“Taketa”) in the Circuit Court of the First Circuit, State of Hawaii (the “State Court Action”) asserting claims related to his termination from the Union. Shanley Decl. Ex 1 (State Court Complaint). The State Court Action included four claims: Violation of the Hawaii Whistleblowers' Protection Act; Unlawful Termination as Against Public Policy; Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress; and Tortious Interference with a Business Relationship. Id. ¶¶ 21-39.

         The claims stemmed from circumstances surrounding Yoshimura's employment and eventual termination from the Union. Yoshimura alleged that from 2000 until March 7, 2014, he was an employee of the Union. Id. ¶¶ 6, 19. According to Yoshimura, Taketa is the Union's Regional Council Head, Executive Secretary, and Treasurer, and Taketa appointed Yoshimura to the position of Assistant Business Representative and Interim Marketing Development Director. Id. ¶¶ 3, 6. Yoshimura contended that in 2011, the United States Department of Labor (“Department of Labor” or “DOL”) informed the Union of an upcoming audit of a Union trust fund. Id. ¶ 7. Yoshimura alleged that in preparation for the audit, the Union sought to falsify time records to cover up its failure to keep accurate and complete records and that Taketa instructed Yoshimura to inform Union business representatives to create false time records. Id. ¶ 9. Yoshimura claimed that he repeatedly objected to the Union's scheme and eventually filed complaints with both the Department of Labor and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Id. ¶¶ 9, 12, 15, 18. In retaliation, according to Yoshimura, the Union terminated his employment. Id. ¶ 19.

         The Union removed the action to this district court arguing that the claims were preempted by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”). Yoshimura v. Hawaii Carpenters Union Local 475 et al., Civ. No. 15-00292 HG-RLP (“2015 USDC Action”), ECF No. 1. The Union also filed in this district court a counterclaim for violation of Section 501(a) of the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 (“LMRDA”) alleging that Yoshimura breached his fiduciary duty to the Union by causing dissension, trying to divide the staff for his own interests, and falsely accusing the Union of stealing assets for his own personal gain (“Counterclaim”). Shanley Decl. Ex. 2, ¶ 22. The Counterclaim alleged that Yoshimura used the DOL investigation to attempt to oust Taketa from his position as Executive Secretary-Treasurer (“EST”) so that Yoshimura could take over. Id. ¶¶ 4-5, 14. According to the Union, Yoshimura used the fact that the Union failed to keep contemporaneous time records to demonstrate that Taketa needed to be replaced. Id. ¶ 14.

         This district court determined that ERISA did not preempt Yoshimura's claims and, accordingly, that the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction. Motion, Ex. 1 (Order Denying Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint and Remanding Proceedings to the Circuit Court of the First Circuit, State of Hawaii), at 20, ECF No. 12-2. The court held that the Union's Counterclaim could not serve as a basis for the court's federal question jurisdiction. Id. at 19. Accordingly, on October 15, 2015, the court remanded the case. Id. at 20-21.

         On April 26, 2016, the Union filed the instant case against Yoshimura. Compl., ECF No. 1. The Complaint includes two causes of action: 1) Breach of Fiduciary Duties under the LMRDA (29 U.S.C. § 501(a)) related to Yoshimura's alleged theft of union and membership records, secret audio recordings of confidential conversations, and breach of confidential agreements, id. ¶¶ 27, 28, 34-35; and 2) Violation of the Federal Wiretap Statute, (18 U.S.C. § 2510, et seq.), in relation to allegations of secret audio recordings of confidential conversations, id. ¶¶ 40-43. The Union alleges that Yoshimura's theft of records, secret audio recordings, and other “illicit conduct was done” to cover his breach of fiduciary duties and to “extort[]” from EST Taketa “the support and commitment necessary for Yoshimura to be appointed the next EST.” Id. ¶ 3. According to the Union, Yoshimura stole the records and secretly recorded the communications “in attempt to force the current EST to make him the next EST.” Id. ¶ 4.

         On June 9, 2016, Yoshimura filed his Motion to Dismiss the Complaint or in the Alternative for Judgment on the Pleadings arguing that 1) the Union's claims in the instant suit are compulsory counterclaims to the pending State Court Action that should be dismissed; and 2) in the alternative, if the wiretap claim is properly pled, Yoshimura is entitled to judgment on the pleadings with respect to that claim.

         The Union filed its Memorandum in Opposition on August 22, 2016. ECF No. 23. Yoshimura filed his Reply on August 29, 2016. ECF NO. 24.

         A hearing on the motion was held on September 12, 2016.


         I. Motion to Dismiss

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (“Rule”) 12(b)(6) authorizes the Court to dismiss a complaint that fails “to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Pursuant to Ashcroft v. Iqbal, “[t]o survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 554, 570 (2007)). In resolving a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court must construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and accept all well-pleaded factual allegations as true. Sateriale v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., 697 F.3d 777, 783 (9th Cir. 2012).

         Under Rule 12(b)(6), review is generally limited to the contents of the complaint. Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors, 266 F.3d 979, 988 (9th Cir. 2001); Campanelli v. Bockrath, 100 F.3d 1476, 1479 (9th Cir. 1996). However, courts may “consider certain materials-documents attached to the complaint, documents incorporated by reference in the complaint, or matters of judicial notice-without converting the motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment.” United States v. Ritchie, 342 F.3d 903, 908 (9th Cir. 2003). Accordingly, the Court takes judicial notice of the fact of the filing or issuance of the publicly recorded documents attached to Yoshimura's Motion and to the Union's Opposition.

         II. Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) permits a party to move for judgment on the pleadings after the pleadings are closed, but early enough not to delay trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). “Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c), judgment on the pleadings is proper ‘when, taking all the allegations in the non-moving party's pleadings as true, the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.'” Ventress v. Japan Airlines, 486 F.3d 1111, 1114 (9th Cir. 2007); see also Alexander v. City and Cnty. of Honolulu, 545 F.Supp.2d 1122, 1130 (D. Haw. 2008). The standard governing a Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings is ...

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