Vaughn v. Regents of University of California

Decision Date16 January 1981
Docket NumberCiv. No. S-75-733 RAR.
Citation504 F. Supp. 1349
PartiesDeborah VAUGHN, Elizabeth Williams, Deborah Seiler, Cynthia Islas, Rena Verdugo, Ida Russell, Marguerite Wheadon, Karen Hawkins, Marjorie A. Lopez, Jean Ishibashi, Barbara Takei, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs, v. The REGENTS OF the UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, a corporation, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of California

Legal Aid Society of Sacramento County, Yolo County Law Office, Frank J. Ochoa, Jr., Directing Atty., Casey S. McKeever, Staff Atty., Dennis M. Lynch, Certified Law Student, Woodland, Cal., Legal Aid Society of Sacramento County, North Area Law Office, Loren Mitchell, Director of Litigation, Sacramento, Cal., for plaintiffs.

Noreen B. Mazelis, Davis, Cal., for plaintiffs Deborah Vaughn and Rena Verdugo.

Kathryn Conelly Decious, Sacramento, Cal., for plaintiffs Deborah Vaughn and Barbara Takei.

Joseph L. Russell, Sacramento, Cal., for plaintiff Ida Russell.

Donald L. Reidhaar, John F. Lundberg, Christine Helwick, Susan Amateau, Berkeley, Cal., for defendants.


MILTON L. SCHWARTZ, District Judge.

Plaintiffs, present and former employees of the University of California at Davis, are proceeding with an action brought pursuant to the Civil Rights Acts of 1870, 1871 and 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983, 1985, 1986 and 2000a et seq. They seek injunctive and monetary relief for the alleged violation of their right not to be subjected to employment discrimination on the basis of sex or race. The eleven named plaintiffs are all female; nine are members of ethnic minorities: blacks, Mexican or Hispanic Americans, and Asian Americans. Plaintiffs seek to represent a class of similarly situated females and minorities, but no decision on class certification has been made at this point of the litigation.

Defendants are the Regents of the University of California1 and nineteen employees of the University.

On June 3, 1980, the court issued an order in which it, inter alia, found that the Regents of the University of California and the named defendants sued in their official capacities were entitled to invoke the Eleventh Amendment bar to plaintiffs' §§ 1981, 1983, 1985 and 1986 damage claims. Accordingly, the court granted defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings as to plaintiffs' sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh and twelfth claims for retrospective damages against defendant Regents and the individual defendants sued in their official capacities.

On September 18, 1980, this matter came before the court for hearing on plaintiffs' "motion for reconsideration to alter or amend order or, in the alternative, for certification pursuant to FRCivP 54(b) or 28 U.S.C. Section 1292(b)." Appearances were made by Casey S. McKeever, for plaintiffs, and by John F. Lundberg, for defendants.

District courts are authorized to reconsider, set aside or amend interlocutory orders at any time prior to final judgment. See John Simmons Co. v. Grier Brothers Co., 258 U.S. 82, 42 S.Ct. 196, 198, 66 L.Ed. 475 (1922); United States v. Jerry, 487 F.2d 600, 605 (3d Cir. 1973); Bon Air Hotel, Inc. v. Time, Inc., 426 F.2d 858, 862 (5th Cir. 1970); Wright and Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure, § 2852. Plaintiffs now move the court to exercise such authority and reconsider and alter or amend its prior ruling that the Regents and the individual defendants sued in their official capacities are entitled to invoke sovereign immunity under the Eleventh Amendment.2 The court is of the opinion that plaintiffs' moving papers raise serious questions, and it will therefore re-examine the Eleventh Amendment issue.3

The Eleventh Amendment provides:

The judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State.

"While the Amendment by its terms does not bar suits against a State by its own citizens the Supreme Court has consistently held that an unconsenting State is immune from suits brought in federal courts by her own citizens as well as by citizens of another State." Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 94 S.Ct. 1347, 1350, 39 L.Ed.2d 662 (1974), citing Employees v. Department of Public Health and Welfare, 411 U.S. 279, 93 S.Ct. 1614, 36 L.Ed.2d 251 (1973); Parden v. Terminal R. Co., 377 U.S. 184, 84 S.Ct. 1207, 12 L.Ed.2d 233 (1964); Great Northern Life Insurance Co. v. Read, 322 U.S. 47, 64 S.Ct. 873, 88 L.Ed. 1121 (1944); Duhne v. New Jersey, 251 U.S. 311, 40 S.Ct. 154, 64 L.Ed. 280 (1920); Hans v. Louisiana, 134 U.S. 1, 10 S.Ct. 504, 33 L.Ed. 842 (1890).

The fact that the state is not named as a party-defendant is of no consequence, for even though only state agencies or individual state officials are named as defendants,

when the action is in essence for the recovery of money from the state, the state is the real, substantial party in interest and is entitled to invoke its sovereign immunity from suit ....

Ford Motor Co. v. Department of the Treasury, 323 U.S. 459, 65 S.Ct. 347, 350, 89 L.Ed. 389 (1945), quoted in Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 99 S.Ct. 1139, 1148 n.17, 59 L.Ed.2d 358 (1979). Accordingly, when private parties seek to impose a liability which must be paid from public funds in the state treasury, the action is barred by the Eleventh Amendment, absent a waiver of the immunity. See Quern v. Jordan, supra, 99 S.Ct. at 1143; Edelman v. Jordan, supra, 94 S.Ct. at 1355.

In the case sub judice, plaintiffs seek to recover, inter alia, compensatory and punitive damages for alleged past violations of their civil rights. Pursuant to claims six through twelve of their second amended complaint, plaintiffs pray that the court award, inter alia:

damages to the named plaintiffs for violations of their civil rights compensatory and punitive damages to class members for violation of their civil rights;
damages to plaintiffs Vaughn and Lopez for conspiracy to violate their civil rights; damages to plaintiffs Vaughn and Lopez for failure to halt a conspiracy to violate their civil rights; and
punitive damages to the named plaintiffs for violation of their civil rights.

See Plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint, at pages 107-08.

These damage claims brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983, 1985 and 1986 are requests for monetary relief for past wrongful conduct, and are thus barred by the Eleventh Amendment if the State of California is the real party in interest. See Quern v. Jordan, supra; Edelman v. Jordan, supra; Nasralah v. Barcelo, 465 F.Supp. 1273 (D.P.R.1979); Gill v. Monroe County Dept. of Social Services, 79 F.R.D. 316 (W.D.N.Y.1978). The court must thus determine whether the entity sued herein, the Regents, is such an agency of the State of California that the State is in fact the real party in interest. See Ford Motor Co. v. Department of the Treasury, supra 65 S.Ct. at 350. If the §§ 1981, 1983, 1985 and 1986 damage claims against the Regents are barred by the Eleventh Amendment, those same claims against the employees of the University acting in their official capacities are likewise barred. See Unified School District No. 480 v. Epperson, 583 F.2d 1118, 1121 (10th Cir. 1978), citing Ford Motor Co. v. Department of the Treasury, supra; West v. Keve, 571 F.2d 158, 163 (3d Cir. 1978); Prebble v. Brodrick, 535 F.2d 605, 611 (10th Cir. 1976); Bracco v. Lackner, 462 F.Supp. 436, 448 (N.D.Cal.1978), citing Edelman v. Jordan, supra.

"In Eleventh Amendment cases the question of whether the state is `the real party in interest' is one of federal law, but federal courts must examine the powers, characteristics and relationships created by state law in order to determine whether the suit is in reality against the state itself."

Henry v. Texas Tech University, 466 F.Supp. 141, 145 (N.D.Tex.1979), quoting Hander v. San Jacinto Junior College, 519 F.2d 273, 279 (5th Cir. 1975).

"In determining whether a separate state agency or institution shares the Eleventh Amendment shield as an `alter ego' of the state, a court must look to numerous factors, no one of which is conclusive.... The most important, of course, is whether, in the event plaintiff prevails, judgment will have to be paid out of the state treasury .... Also to be considered is whether the entity sued is performing a governmental or proprietary function, whether it has been separately incorporated, whether it has the power to sue and be sued and enter into contracts, the degree of autonomy over its operations, and whether the state has immunized itself from responsibility for the agency's operations ...."

Jackson Sawmill Co. v. United States, 580 F.2d 302, 308 (8th Cir. 1978), cert. denied, 439 U.S. 1070, 99 S.Ct. 839, 59 L.Ed.2d 35 (1979), quoting Fitzpatrick v. Bitzer, 519 F.2d 559, 564 (2d Cir. 1975), rev'd on other grounds, 427 U.S. 445, 96 S.Ct. 2666, 49 L.Ed.2d 614 (1976) citations omitted; see also Hutchinson v. Lake Oswego School District No. 7, 519 F.2d 961, 966 (9th Cir. 1975), vacated on other grounds, 429 U.S. 1033, 97 S.Ct. 725, 50 L.Ed.2d 744 (1977); George R. Whitten, Jr., Inc. v. State University Construction Fund, 493 F.2d 177 (1st Cir. 1974).

The majority of federal courts which have considered the "alter ego" relationship of a state university to its state have concluded that a suit against the university is a suit against the state for purposes of the Eleventh Amendment. See, e. g., Perez v. Rodriguez, 575 F.2d 21 (1st Cir. 1978); Jagnandan v. Giles, 538 F.2d 1166 (5th Cir. 1976), cert. denied, 432 U.S. 910, 97 S.Ct. 2959, 53 L.Ed.2d 1083 (1977); Prebble v. Brodrick, supra; Long v. Richardson, 525 F.2d 74 (6th Cir. 1975); Thonen v. Jenkins, 517 F.2d 3 (4th Cir. 1975); Brennan v. University of Kansas, 451 F.2d 1287 (10th Cir. 1971); Williams v. Eaton, 443 F.2d 422 (10th Cir. 1971); Walstad v. University of Minnesota...

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