Matrai v. Hiramoto

Decision Date14 December 2020
Docket NumberCase No. 20-cv-05241-MMC
PartiesGYORGY MATRAI, Individually and as Guardian Ad Litem for M.M. (a minor), Plaintiff, v. JONI T. HIRAMOTO, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of California

Before the Court are the following motions: (1) defendant the Honorable Joni T. Hiramoto's ("Judge Hiramoto") Motion to Dismiss, filed September 29, 2020, and (2) plaintiff Gyorgy Matrai's ("Matrai") "Motion for Access Rights Under the Hague Convention," filed November 4, 2020. Matrai has filed opposition to Judge Hiramoto's motion, to which Judge Hiramoto has replied; Judge Hiramoto has filed opposition to Matrai's motion, to which Matrai has replied.1

Having considered the papers filed in support of and in opposition to the motions, the Court rules as follows.2


In the instant action, Matrai, individually and as guardian ad litem for his minor son M.M., seeks to challenge a "child abduction prevention order" (see Am. Compl. ("AC") ¶ 21) issued by Judge Hiramoto, a "Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge in the Family Division" who is presiding over Matrai's divorce proceedings (see id. ¶ 7). Specifically, Matrai alleges that the child abduction prevention order requires him to "posta $5 million bond as a condition of being able to see his son under supervised visitation" (see id. ¶ 3), and that such requirement has "effectively foreclosed any possibility that [he] would see his son" (see id. ¶ 22). Matrai further alleges that he filed a "motion to set aside" the order (see id. ¶ 3) and "will continue to be unable to visit his son if Judge Hiramoto denies [his] motion and makes the bond requirement permanent" (see id. ¶ 3).

Based on the foregoing, Matrai filed his initial Complaint, in which he asserted two Counts, titled, respectively, "Declaratory and Injunctive Relief Under 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201 and 2202" and "Injunctive Relief Under 42 U.S.C. § 1983."

Thereafter, Matrai filed a Motion for Preliminary Injunction, seeking the same relief as he sought in his initial Complaint, specifically, an order (1) declaring "any requirement that [he] post a bond in the amount of $5 million—or any other amount that is so far beyond his means to effectively preclude any visitation with his son in perpetuity—would violate [his] and his son's substantive due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution" and (2) "[e]njoining [Judge Hiramoto] from imposing any such bond requirement upon [him]" in his divorce proceedings. (See Mot. for Prelim. Inj. at 9:26-10:4; see also Compl., Prayer for Relief.)

By order filed August 26, 2020 ("August 26 Order"), the Court denied Matrai's Motion for Preliminary Injunction and ordered Matrai to show cause why the Court should not abstain under the Younger doctrine and dismiss the instant action.

On September 9, 2020, Matrai filed both a Response to the August 26 Order and an Amended Complaint ("AC"), wherein he reasserts Counts I and II, adds M.M's mother, Uriarte, as a defendant, and asserts as Count III a claim titled, "Injunctive Relief Under the Hague Convention and 22 U.S.C. §§ 9001 et seq." In support of the newly asserted Count, Matrai alleges that, "[a]t the time the divorce was filed, [he] had a right to access (visitation) with M.M. pursuant to [an] agreement with Ms. Uriarte, the Children's Act of 1989 (U.K.)[,] and U.K. common law." (See AC ¶ 39.)

On September 14, 2020, the Court, in light of Matrai's filing of the AC and addition of Count III therein, discharged its Order to Show Cause.


Dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure "can be based on the lack of a cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory." See Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). Rule 8(a)(2), however, "requires only 'a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.'" See Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2)). Consequently, "a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations." See id. Nonetheless, "a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." See id. (internal quotation, citation, and alteration omitted).

In analyzing a motion to dismiss, a district court must accept as true all material allegations in the complaint and construe them in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See NL Indus., Inc. v. Kaplan, 792 F.2d 896, 898 (9th Cir. 1986). "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual material, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). "Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level[.]" Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Courts "are not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation." See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (internal quotation and citation omitted).

A. Motion to Dismiss

In her Motion to Dismiss, Judge Hiramoto argues Counts I through III are subject to dismissal. The Court considers each Count in turn.

1. Count I

In Count I, Matrai again seeks declaratory and injunctive relief pursuant to 28U.S.C. §§ 2201 and 2202.

a. Younger Abstention

As noted, Count I was asserted in the initial Complaint, and the Court, by its August 26 Order, found Younger abstention as to that complaint was appropriate and ordered Matrai to show cause why the instant action should not be dismissed.

In Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971), the Supreme Court "espouse[d] a strong federal policy against federal-court interference with pending state judicial proceedings absent extraordinary circumstances," see Middlesex County Ethics Comm. v. Garden State Bar Ass'n, 457 U.S. 423, 431 (1982), and, consistent therewith, Younger abstention is appropriate in civil cases "when the state proceedings: (1) are ongoing, (2) are quasi-criminal enforcement actions or involve a state's interest in enforcing the orders and judgments of its courts, (3) implicate an important state interest, and (4) allow litigants to raise federal challenges," see ReadyLink Healthcare, Inc. v. State Comp. Ins. Fund, 754 F.3d 754, 759 (9th Cir. 2014). If those "threshold elements" are met, courts then consider "whether the federal action would have the practical effect of enjoining the state proceedings and whether an exception to Younger applies." See id.

Here, although Matrai concedes the first threshold element is satisfied and does not dispute the instant action would have the practical effect of enjoining the state proceedings, he disagrees that the remaining threshold elements have been satisfied and argues that the "irreparable loss exception" to Younger abstention applies. (See Opp. to Mot. to Dismiss at 22:16-18.) The Court addresses the remaining three elements in turn.

(1) Second Threshold Element: State's Interest in Enforcing Orders and Judgments of Its Courts

As to the second threshold element, the Court, in its August 26 Order, found that, "[a]lthough the state proceedings Matrai challenges do not constitute a quasi-criminal enforcement action, those proceedings do involve a state's interest in enforcing the orders and judgments of its courts." (See August 26 Order at 3:15-18 (internal quotation and citation omitted).)

In opposition to Judge Hiramoto's motion, Matrai fails to address this element, and, consequently, fails to identify any reason for the Court to reconsider its prior finding that the second element is satisfied.

To the extent Matrai, in his Response to the August 26 Order, addresses the second element, the Court is not persuaded by his arguments therein. Specifically, in his Response, Matrai contends the "bond order is not an order unique to the domestic relations court's ability to perform its judicial functions" because, according to Matrai, the state court "has other tools at its disposal to prevent the abduction of [his] son." (See Resp. to August 26 Order at 9:22-24.) Whether a state court could have issued a different order in place of the order being challenged is not, however, relevant to the determination of whether the second threshold requirement is met. Rather, the relevant inquiry is whether the challenged order "implicate[s] the process by which a state compel[s] compliance with the judgments of its courts," see Cook v. Harding, 879 F.3d 1035, 1041 (9th Cir. 2018) (internal quotation and citation omitted), and, as set forth in the August 26 Order, the bond requirement is such an order (see August 26 Order at 3:15-4:16). Specifically, the "purpose of the bond requirement is . . . to enforce the family court's custodial orders, both by discouraging conduct inconsistent with those determinations and, if necessary, providing a means for reestablishing compliance therein." (See id. at 3:23-4:2.)3

Accordingly, the Court finds the second threshold requirement is met.


(2) Third Threshold Element: Important State Interest

As to the third threshold element, the Court, in its August 26 Order, found the state proceedings Matrai challenges implicate the states' "undeniable interest in family law." (See August 26 Order at 4:17-21 (quoting Cook, 879 F.3d at 1040).)

Matrai, citing Sprint Communications, Inc. v. Jacobs, 571 U.S. 69 (2013) and Cook, argues such interest cannot serve as the sole basis for abstention. As discussed above, however, Matrai, in challenging the bond requirement, challenges the process by which the state court compels compliance with its...

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