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Yamano v. State Of Hawaii Judiciary

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

July 16, 2018

YURIE YAMANO, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF HAWAII JUDICIARY, DOCTOR KEIICHI KOBAYASHI, AND DOCTOR KATIE HUANG, Defendants.

          AMENDED ORDER GRANTING STATE OF HAWAII JUDICIARY'S, DOCTOR KOBAYASHI'S, and DOCTOR HUANG'S MOTIONS TO DISMISS

          SUSAN OKI MOLLWAY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION.

         The Order Granting State of Hawaii Judiciary's, Doctor Kobayashi's, and Doctor Huang's Motions to Dismiss, filed on July 3, 2018, is withdrawn, and this Amended Order is substituted in its place. The disposition remains the same, but the court's reasoning has been amended in some respects.

         Plaintiff Yurie Yamano, proceeding pro se, asserts that Defendants violated her Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The allegations focus on medical treatment Yamano received from Doctor Keiichi Kobayashi and Doctor Katie Huang related to the removal of Yamano's gallbladder in January 2014. Yamano asserts that Kobayashi and Huang violated Hawaii state malpractice laws and that the State of Hawaii Judiciary denied her due process when she brought her malpractice claims in state court.

         Each Defendant has filed a motion to dismiss the Complaint. See ECF Nos. 10, 11, and 15. The court grants the motions and dismisses this case.

         II. BACKGROUND.

         Yamano alleges that, in January 2012, she began experiencing severe stomach pains and sought treatment from Kobayashi. See ECF No. 1, PageID # 2. According to the Complaint, Kobayashi diagnosed Yamano with gastroenteritis, but during an emergency room visit in January 2014, another doctor determined that she was suffering from gallstones. See ECF No. 1, PageID #s 2-3. Yamano alleges that she suffered “excruciating pain” because Kobayashi had misdiagnosed her in 2012. See ECF No. 1, PageID #s 3, 5.

         Yamano further alleges that on January 31, 2014, following the emergency room visit, Huang removed Yamano's gallbladder. See ECF No. 1, PageID # 3. Yamano alleges that she consented only to having her gallstones removed, not her entire gallbladder. See ECF No. 1, PageID # 3. Yamano alleges that, as a result of the surgery, she suffers from various digestive issues if she eats certain foods. See ECF No. 1, PageID #s 5-6.

         In October 2014, Yamano filed a medical malpractice suit against Kobayashi and Huang in Hawaii state court.[1] See ECF No. 10-5, PageID # 54. Kobayashi filed a motion to dismiss on the ground that Chapter 671 of Hawaii Revised Statutes required Yamano to file a claim with the Medical Inquiry and Conciliation Panel (“MICP”) prior to filing her complaint in state court. See ECF No. 13-5, PageID #s 126-27. The motion was granted, the case was dismissed, and judgment was entered. ECF No. 10-6, PageID #s 61-62; ECF No. 10-7, PageID # 63-64. Yamano appealed, and the case eventually reached the Hawaii Supreme Court, which granted Yamano's application for writ of certiorari but later dismissed the matter on the ground that the writ had been improvidently granted. ECF No. 10-11, PageID #s 73-74.

         On February 28, 2018, Yamano filed this Complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of her Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. See ECF No. 1, PageID # 1. Though unclear, the Complaint appears to allege that the State of Hawaii Judiciary violated Yamano's due process rights by dismissing her certiorari proceedings and by not “recognizing the Constitutional Due process violations” caused by the requirement that she first file a claim with the MICP. See ECF No. 1, PageID #s 4, 6-7. The Complaint also alleges medical malpractice claims against Kobayashi and Huang. See ECF No. 1, PageID #s 5-6. The Complaint seeks $10 million in compensatory damages and $10 million in punitive damages against each Defendant. See ECF No. 1, PageID #s 7-8. The Complaint also seeks declaratory judgment against the State of Hawaii Judiciary “for grossly violating the Plaintiff's rights acting in absence of all jurisdiction” and “not following public policy which is also considered as [sic] treason and not a function of a sitting judge.”[2] ECF No. 1, PageID # 8.

         In response, each Defendant filed a motion to dismiss. See ECF Nos. 10, 11, and 15.

         III. MOTION TO DISMISS STANDARDS.

         A. Rule 12(b)(1) (Lack of Subject-Matter Jurisdiction).

         Kobayashi and Huang both raise the prior state court proceedings as a bar to Yamano's state law claims against them in this court. Apparently treating that bar as a matter to be examined either under Rule 12(b)(6) or Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, they do not discuss the jurisdictional impact of the prior state court proceeding.

         Res judicata is not a jurisdictional issue, but the related but distinguishable Rooker-Feldman doctrine goes directly to subject matter jurisdiction. This court determines that Rooker-Feldman is implicated in this case, for reasons discussed later in the present order.

         A federal court has a duty to examine subject matter jurisdiction on its own even if no party raises the issue. See Grupo Dataflux v. Atlas Global Grp., L.P., 541 U.S. 567, 593 (2004) (“[I]t is the obligation of both district court and counsel to be alert to jurisdictional requirements.”); Watkins v. Vital Pharma., Inc., 720 F.3d 1179, 1181 (9th Cir. 2013) (“[I]t is well established that district courts may address questions of subject matter jurisdiction sua sponte.”) This court accordingly proceeds as if Kobayashi and Huang had also moved under Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

         Under Rule 12(b)(1), a complaint may be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. An attack on subject matter jurisdiction “may be facial or factual.” Safe Air for Everyone v. Meyer, 373 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir. 2004). A facial attack asserts that “the allegations contained in a complaint are insufficient on their face to invoke federal jurisdiction[, ]” while a factual attack “disputes the truth of the allegations that, by themselves, would otherwise invoke federal jurisdiction.” Id. Before this court is a facial attack.

         In deciding a Rule 12(b)(1) facial attack motion, a court must assume the facts alleged in the complaint to be true and construe them in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Warren v. Fox Family Worldwide, Inc., 328 F.3d 1136, 1139 (9th Cir. 2003). However, courts “do not accept legal conclusions in the complaint as true, even if ‘cast in the form of factual allegations.'” Lacano Invs., LLC v. Balash, 765 F.3d 1068, 1071 (9th Cir. 2014) (emphasis in original) (quoting Doe v. Holy See, 557 F.3d 1066, 1073 (9th Cir. 2009)).

         B. Rule 12(b)(5) (Insufficient Service of Process).

         Rule 12(b)(5) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows dismissal of a complaint based on insufficient service of process. Federal courts cannot exercise personal jurisdiction over a defendant without proper service of process. Omni Capital Int'l, Ltd. v. Wolff & Co., 484 U.S. 97, 104 (1987). “[S]ervice of process is the mechanism by which the court actually acquires the power to enforce a judgment against the defendant's person or property.” SEC v. Ross, 504 F.3d 1130, 1138 (9th Cir. 2007) (alterations omitted).

         To determine whether service of process was proper, a court looks to the requirements of Rule 4 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Gidding v. Anderson, No. C-07-04755 JSW, 2008 WL 4065814, at *1 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 27, 2008); 5B Charles A. Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice & Procedure § 1353 (3d ed. 2009). “Rule 4 is a flexible rule that should be liberally construed to uphold service so long as a party receives sufficient notice of the complaint.” United Food & Commercial Workers Union, Local 197 v. Alpha Beta Co., 736 F.2d 1371, 1382 (9th Cir. 1984). However, ‚Äúneither actual notice nor simply naming the ...


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