Bolcorta v. Twentieth, CENTURY-FOX

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtREINHARDT
Citation208 F.3d 1102
Parties(9th Cir. 2000) DAVID RICK BALCORTA,Plaintiff-Appellee, v. TWENTIETHFILM CORPORATION, a unit of 20 "Film Corporation"; ENTERTAINMENT PARTNERS, DOES 1-5 inclusive,Defendants-Appellants
Decision Date06 April 2000
Docket NumberCENTURY-FOX,No. 98-56547

Page 1102

208 F.3d 1102 (9th Cir. 2000)
DAVID RICK BALCORTA,Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
TWENTIETH CENTURY-FOX FILM CORPORATION, a unit of 20 "Film Corporation"; ENTERTAINMENT PARTNERS, DOES 1-5 inclusive,Defendants-Appellants.
No. 98-56547
UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT
Argued and Submitted September 13, 1999
Filed April 6, 2000

Page 1103

Copyrighted Material Omitted

Page 1104

COUNSEL: Jeffrey F. Webb, Los Angeles, California, for the defendant appellants.

Elizabeth Rosenfeld, Wohlner, Kaplon, Phillips, Young & Barsh, Encino, California, for the plaintiff-appellee.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California; Richard A. Paez, District Judge, Presiding. D.C. No.CV-98-02653-RAP/MAN

Before: Stephen Reinhardt, Michael Daly Hawkins, and Susan P. Graber,1 Circuit Judges.

REINHARDT, Circuit Judge:

The plaintiff, David Balcorta, sued his employer, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, in state court for violations of a California wage law. Fox removed the case to federal court on the ground that the claims were "completely preempted" by federal labor law. It then moved for summary judgment, and Balcorta moved to remand the case to state court. The district court granted Balcorta's motion and awarded him attorney's fees. Fox was precluded from appealing the remand order, but it appealed the award of fees. We affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

During the time relevant to the present dispute, Balcorta worked in the film industry as an electrical rigger. The unique circumstances of the motion picture industry result in studios often employing electrical riggers and other industry technicians for very short periods of time -sometimes for only a few days. To govern the conditions of employment in these unusual circumstances, the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers has entered into a master collective bargaining agreement with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and the Moving Pictures Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts of the United States and Canada. Nearly every film industry employer enters into an individual collective bargaining agreement with its employees that makes the parties subject to this master labor agreement, and Fox is no exception. Balcorta is a member of The Studio Electrical Lighting Technicians, Local 728, which has such an individual agreement with Fox. Therefore, the conditions of Balcorta's employment as an electrical rigger for Fox were governed by the terms of Fox's individual collective bargaining agreement with Local 728 and the industry's master labor agreement.

Balcorta worked several short-term "calls" for Fox in 1997. In 1998, he filed a complaint against Fox with the California Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE), alleging that Fox had violated S 201.5 of the California Labor Code on eleven occasions by not paying him within 24 hours of his discharge from "calls" he worked for Fox.2 For each of the eleven infractions, Balcorta requested statutory

Page 1105

late payment penalties, which S 203 of the California Labor Code provides for violations of S 201.5.3

Fox removed the DLSE action to federal court on March 12, 1998, on the basis of federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. S 1331. In spite of the removal, the California Labor Commissioner held a hearing in the action on March 13, 1998, and ruled in favor of Balcorta on all his claims, awarding him $14,208 in statutory waiting-time penalties.4 Fox appealed the Commissioner's ruling to the Municipal Court, and then removed that action to federal court as well. Both of the removed cases were assigned to the same judge, who treated them as a single action.

Before the district court, Balcorta moved to remand the case to state court for lack of federal question jurisdiction. He also moved for attorney's fees pursuant to 28 U.S.C.S 1447. At the same time, Fox moved for summary judgment, alleging that S 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA) preempted Balcorta's state law claims. Fox requested, in the alternative, an order requiring Balcorta to arbitrate his claim under the collective bargaining agreement.

The district court held that California Labor CodeS 201.5 created an independent, nonnegotiable state law right, and that interpretation of the collective bargaining agreement was not required for resolution of Balcorta's claims. It therefore denied Fox's motion for summary judgment, remanded the case to state court, and awarded Balcorta $1,950 in attorney's fees for Fox's wrongful removal of the case. Fox appealed the award of attorney's fees.

II. JURISDICTION AND STANDARD OF REVIEW

Although we do not have jurisdiction to review directly the district court's decision under 28 U.S.C. S 1447(c) to remand the case to state court, see 28 U.S.C. S 1447(d); Things Remembered Inc. v. Petrarca, 516 U.S. 124, 127-28 (1995), we do have jurisdiction to review the district court's award of attorney's fees under S 1447(c); see Moore v. Permanente Med. Group, Inc., 981 F.2d 443, 447 (9th Cir. 1992). We review such awards only for abuse of discretion. See id. Under that standard, we will overturn the award if it is based on an erroneous determination of law -that is, if the district court wrongly determined that the case should be remanded to state court.5 See id.; Baddie v.

Page 1106

Berkeley Farms, Inc., 64 F.3d 487, 490 (9th Cir. 1995). Thus, although we have jurisdiction to review only the award of attorney's fees, our review of that award must include a de novo examination of whether the remand order was legally correct. See Moore , 981 F.2d at 447 (noting that this examination does not constitute an impermissible review of the remand order, because even if the court determines that the remand order is erroneous it is not empowered to reverse that order).6

III. DISCUSSION A.

As the above discussion makes clear, the validity of the district court's award of attorney's fees to Balcorta turns on whether it correctly concluded that no federal question jurisdiction existed. The presence or absence of federal-question jurisdiction is governed by the "well-pleaded complaint rule," which provides that federal jurisdiction exists only when a federal question is presented on the face of the plaintiff's properly pleaded complaint. See Caterpillar, Inc. v. Williams, 482 U.S. 386, 392 (1987). This rule makes a plaintiff the master of his complaint: it allows him to avoid federal jurisdiction by relying exclusively on state law. Thus, it is "settled law that a case may not be removed to federal court on the basis of a federal defense, including a defense of preemption, even if the defense is anticipated in the plaintiff's complaint, and even if both parties concede that the federal defense is the only question truly at issue." Franchise Tax Bd. of Cal. v. Construction Laborers Vacation Trust for S. Cal., 463 U.S. 1, 14 (1983).

Page 1107

There does exist, however, a corollary to the wellpleaded complaint rule, known as the "complete preemption" doctrine. The Supreme Court has concluded that the preemptive force of some statutes is so strong that they "completely preempt" an area of state law. See Metropolitan Life Ins. Co. v. Taylor, 41 U.S. 58, 65 (1987). In such instances, any claim purportedly based on that preempted state law is considered, from its inception, a federal claim, and therefore arises under federal law. See Franchise Tax Bd., 463 U.S. at 24.7

The "complete preemption" exception to the wellpleaded complaint rule is applied primarily underS 301 of the LMRA. Section 301(a) provides:

Suits for violation of contracts between an employer and a labor organization representing employees in an industry affecting commerce as defined in this chapter, or between any such labor organizations, may be brought in any district court of the United States having jurisdiction of the parties, without respect to the amount in controversy or without regard to the citizenship of the parties.

29 U.S.C. S 185(a). In a series of opinions, the Supreme Court concluded that S 301's jurisdictional grant required the "complete preemption" of state law claims brought to enforce collective bargaining agreements. The Court took the first step toward fashioning the complete preemption doctrine in Textile Workers v. Lincoln Mills, 353 U.S. 448 (1957). In that case, the Court "held that S 301 not only provides federal court jurisdiction over controversies involving collective-bargaining agreements, but also `authorizes federal courts to fashion a body of federal law for the enforcement of these collective bargaining agreements.' " Lingle v. Norge Div. of Magic Chef, Inc., 486 U.S. 399, 403 (1988) (quoting Textile Workers, 385 U.S. at 451). The Court went on to analyze the preemptive force of this federal common law in Local 174, Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen & Helpers of America v. Lucas Flower Co. 369 U.S. 95 (1962). In that case, the Court held that, because the subject matter of S 301 "is peculiarly one that calls for uniform law," a state law that purports to define the meaning or scope of a term in a labor contract suit is preempted by federal labor law.8 See id., 369 U.S. at 103-04. Finally, in Avco Corp. v. Aero Lodge No. 735, the Court held that, in addition to preempting state law claims centered on the enforcement of collective bargaining agreements, the application of S 301 led to "complete preemption," converting those state law claims into federal ones:

The pre-emptive force of S 301 is so powerful as to displace entirely any state cause of action "for viola tion of contracts between an employer and a labor organization." Any such suit is purely a creature of federal law, notwithstanding the fact that state law would provide a cause of action in the absence of S 301.

Franchise Tax Bd., 463 U.S. at 23 (explaining the decision in Avco Corp. v. Aero Lodge No. 735, Int'l Ass'n of...

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  • Mattel, Inc. v. Bryant, No. CV 04-9059 NM (RNBX).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Central District of California
    • March 4, 2005
    ...considered, from its inception, a federal claim, and therefore arises under federal law." Balcorta v. Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp., 208 F.3d 1102, 1107 (9th Cir.2000) (quoting Metropolitan Life Ins. Co. v. Taylor, 481 U.S. 58, 65, 107 S.Ct. 1542, 95 L.Ed.2d 55 (1987)). In these cases, e......
  • Retail Prop. Trust v. United Bhd. of Carpenters & Joiners of Am., No. 12–56427.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • September 23, 2014
    ...considered, from its inception, a federal claim, and therefore arises under federal law.” Balcorta v. Twentieth Century–Fox Film Corp., 208 F.3d 1102, 1107 (9th Cir.2000); see also Smart v. Local 702 Int'l Bhd. of Elec. Workers, 562 F.3d 798, 808 (7th Cir.2009). The court concluded that “co......
  • Prachasaisoradej v. Ralphs Grocery Co., No. B165498.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • September 8, 2004
    ...are not subject to preemption. Particularly relevant here, the Ninth Circuit, in Balcorta v. Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. (2000) 208 F.3d 1102, held that section 301 did not preempt an employees claim for penalties under Labor Code section 203 for the employers alleged violation of Labo......
  • Hill v. Garda CL Nw., Inc., No. 94593-4
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Washington
    • August 23, 2018
    ...to waive, in a [CBA], nonnegotiable state rights" conferred on individual employees. Balcorta [v . Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp., 208 F.3d 1102, 1111 (9th Cir. 2000) ]. As the Supreme Court has repeatedly emphasized, "Congress is understood to have legislated against a backdrop of genera......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
336 cases
  • Mattel, Inc. v. Bryant, No. CV 04-9059 NM (RNBX).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Central District of California
    • March 4, 2005
    ...considered, from its inception, a federal claim, and therefore arises under federal law." Balcorta v. Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp., 208 F.3d 1102, 1107 (9th Cir.2000) (quoting Metropolitan Life Ins. Co. v. Taylor, 481 U.S. 58, 65, 107 S.Ct. 1542, 95 L.Ed.2d 55 (1987)). In these cases, e......
  • Retail Prop. Trust v. United Bhd. of Carpenters & Joiners of Am., No. 12–56427.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • September 23, 2014
    ...considered, from its inception, a federal claim, and therefore arises under federal law.” Balcorta v. Twentieth Century–Fox Film Corp., 208 F.3d 1102, 1107 (9th Cir.2000); see also Smart v. Local 702 Int'l Bhd. of Elec. Workers, 562 F.3d 798, 808 (7th Cir.2009). The court concluded that “co......
  • Prachasaisoradej v. Ralphs Grocery Co., No. B165498.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • September 8, 2004
    ...are not subject to preemption. Particularly relevant here, the Ninth Circuit, in Balcorta v. Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. (2000) 208 F.3d 1102, held that section 301 did not preempt an employees claim for penalties under Labor Code section 203 for the employers alleged violation of Labo......
  • Hill v. Garda CL Nw., Inc., No. 94593-4
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Washington
    • August 23, 2018
    ...to waive, in a [CBA], nonnegotiable state rights" conferred on individual employees. Balcorta [v . Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp., 208 F.3d 1102, 1111 (9th Cir. 2000) ]. As the Supreme Court has repeatedly emphasized, "Congress is understood to have legislated against a backdrop of genera......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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