211 F.3d 509 (9th Cir. 2000), 211, United States v. ROSA

Docket Nº:211
Citation:211 F.3d 509
Party Name:United States v. ROSA
Case Date:May 03, 2000
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
 
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Page 509

211 F.3d 509 (9th Cir. 2000)

UNITED STATES COURT OF Appeals, FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT: YAN CARLOS RAVELO MONEGRO; NELSON ROLANDO GONZALEZ SOSA; FRANKLIN ALVARES GALVEZ; RAFAEL MICAEL DE LA CRUZ; FRANCISCO DE LOS SANTOS HEREDIA; PORFIRIO ALFRED VASQUEZ MOTA; MANUEL ACEVEDO; ANGEL ESTEBAN GUILLEN SOLANO; EDELMIRO REYES SANTANA; IGNACIO HENRIQUEZ DE LA ROSA; FERNANDO ROMERO; TULIO MIGUEL LIZARDO NOLOSCO, Plaintiffs-Appellants,

v.

Luis Rosa; Jack Hiatt;San Fransico Baseball Associates, L.P.,dba San Fransico Giants, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 98-16846

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

May 3, 2000

Argued and Submitted December 6, 1999

Page 510

COUNSEL: David Becht and Daniel Fuchs, Adams Nye Sinuni Walker San Francisco, California, for the plaintiffs-appellants.

Nancy E. Pritikin, Philip L. Ross, and Tram Anh-Frank, Littler Mendelson, San Francisco, California, for defendantsappellees Jack Hiatt and San Francisco Baseball Associates, L.P.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California

Before: Myron H. Bright,1 Harry Pregerson and William A. Fletcher, Circuit Judges.

W. FLETCHER, Circuit Judge:

Plaintiffs brought suit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California against the San Francisco Baseball Associates ("the Giants"), the Giants' Latin America scout, Luis Rosa, and the Giants' Minor League Coordinator, Jack Hiatt, for violations of federal and state law including sexual harassment, sexual battery, wrongful termination, fraud and conversion. The district court dismissed plaintiffs' action on the ground of forum non conveniens, concluding that the Dominican Republic was the better forum for the suit. We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. S 1291, and we reverse.

I

The thirteen plaintiffs are aspiring professional baseball players who live in the Dominican Republic. When they were between

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sixteen and twenty years old, they were recruited by Luis Rosa, the Giants' former Latin America scout. At Rosa's instigation, each player signed a seven-year minor league contract with the Giants. Although the contracts initially provided that all the plaintiffs would play baseball for the San Pedro Giants in the Dominican Republic, the contracts could be assigned, and the players transferred, to minor or major league teams in the United States. Underscoring this potential for transfer, many of the contracts contained addenda stating salaries in Bellingham, Washington, Scottsdale, Arizona, and Shreveport, Louisiana.

Playing for the San Francisco Giants or some other United States team was the plaintiffs' common goal. All thirteen plaintiffs claim that Rosa expressly conditioned their continued employment and/or reassignment to United States teams upon their submitting to his sexual advances, and that Rosa appropriated part of their earnings or signing bonuses for his own use. They also allege that the Giants' management knew or had reason to know of Rosa's misconduct. In April 1998, plaintiffs initiated this suit against the Giants, Rosa and Hiatt.

In June 1997, plaintiffs had brought substantially similar allegations to the attention of authorities in the Dominican Republic. As a result of their complaints, a combined criminal and civil suit against the Giants and Rosa is now pending in the Dominican Republic. Noting the pendency of this "parallel" proceeding, the defendants moved in June 1998 to dismiss plaintiffs' complaint on the alternative grounds of forum non conveniens and abstention. The district court granted the defendants' motion on the ground of forum non conveniens. Plaintiffs timely appeal.

II

A forum non conveniens determination "is committed to [the] sound discretion of the trial court, " and "may be reversed only when there has been a clear abuse of discretion." Creative Tech., Ltd. v. Aztech Sys. PTE, Ltd., 61 F.3d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1995). A district court may abuse its discretion by relying on an erroneous view of the law, by relying on a clearly erroneous assessment of the evidence, or by striking an unreasonable balance of relevant factors. See K.V. Mart Co. v. United Food & Commercial Workers Int'l Union, Local 324, 173 F.3d 1221, 1223 (9th Cir. 1999); Creative Tech., 61 F.3d at 699.

III

A threshold issue is whether, under Erie Railroad v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64 (1938), a forum non conveniens motion in federal court is governed by federal or state law. The Supreme Court expressly avoided deciding this issue in Piper Aircraft v. Reyno, 454 U.S. 235, 248 n.13 (1981). Since Piper, however, several circuits have held that a forum non conveniens motion in federal court is governed by federal law. See Rivendell Forest Prods. Ltd. v. Canadian Pac. Ltd., 2 F.3d 990, 992 (10th Cir. 1993); Royal Bed & Spring Co. v. Famossul Industria e Comercio de Moveis, Ltda., 906 F.2d 45, 50 (1st Cir. 1990); In re Air Crash Disaster Near New Orleans, La., 821 F.2d 1147, 1159 (5th Cir. 1987) (en banc), vacated on other grounds, 490 U.S. 1032 (1989), prior opinion reinstated in relevant part, 883 F.2d 17 (5th Cir. 1989); Sibaja v. Dow Chem. Co., 757 F.2d 1215, 1219 (11th Cir.), cert. denied, 474 U.S. 948 (1985). But see In Re Air Crash Disaster, 821 F.2d at 1180-86 (Higginbotham, J., concurring in the judgment) (arguing that state forum non conveniens law should apply to diversity actions in federal court); Weiss v. Routh, 149 F.2d 193, 195 (2d Cir. 1945) (L. Hand, J.) (stating that state law should control a federal court's assertion of jurisdiction). We join these circuits and hold that federal rather than state law governs. We agree with the Fifth Circuit's conclusion that

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"the interests of the federal forum in self-regulation, in administrative independence, and in selfmanagement" are more important than any interest in uniformity between the federal and state forums in a single state. In re Air Crash Disaster, 821 F.2d at 1159. Our conclusion is reinforced by the Supreme Court's statement in American Dredging Co. v. Miller, 510 U.S. 443 (1995), that "the doctrine [of forum non conveniens] is one of procedure rather than substance." Id. at 453 (upholding the application in state court of a state forum non conveniens rule in a Jones Act admiralty case).

We note, however, that the result in this case would likely be the same if we applied California's law of forum non conveniens. See Cal. Civ. Proc. Code S 410.30. When the Supreme Court reserved the Erie issue in Piper, it observed that California and federal forum non conveniens laws were "virtually identical." Piper, 454 U.S. at 249 n.13. While this statement was almost certainly untrue when made, see 2 B. Witkin, California Procedure JurisdictionSS 304-306 (3d ed. 1985); Holmes v. Syntex Labs., 156 Cal.App. 3d 372 (1984), it appears to have become true since then. See Stangvik v. Shirley, Inc., 54 Cal. 3d 744 (Cal. 1991).

IV

There are two types of cases in which forum non conveniens dismissals have been deemed appropriate in...

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