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Robert Ito Farm Inc. v. County of Maui

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

November 18, 2016

Robert Ito Farm, Inc.; Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation, Maui County, "Maui Farm Bureau"; Molokai Chamber of Commerce; Agrigenetics, Inc., DBA Mycogen Seeds; Monsanto Company; Concerned Citizens of Molokai and Maui; Friendly Isle Auto Parts & Supplies, Inc.; New Horizon Enterprises, Inc., DBA Makoa Trucking and Services; Hikiola Cooperative, Plaintiffs-Appellees,
v.
County of Maui, Defendant, Alika Atay; Lorrin Pang; Mark Sheehan; Bonnie Marsh; Lei'ohu Ryder; Shaka Movement, Intervenor-Defendants,
v.
THE MOMS ON A MISSION (MOM) HUI; MOLOKAI MAHIAI; GERRY ROSS; CENTER FOR FOOD SAFETY, Proposed Intervenor-Defendants, Movants-Appellants.

          Argued and Submitted June 15, 2016 Honolulu, Hawaii

         Appeal from the United States District Court No. 1:14-cv-00511-SOM-BMK for the District of Hawaii Susan Oki Mollway, Chief Judge, Presiding

          Summer Kupau-Odo (argued), and Paul H. Achitoff, Earthjustice, Honolulu, Hawaii; Sylvia Shih-Yau Wu and George A. Kimbrell, Center for Food Safety, San Francisco, California; for Movants-Appellants.

          Richard P. Bress (argued), Angela Walker, Andrew D. Prins, and Philip J. Perry, Latham & Watkins LLP, Washington, D.C.; Nickolas A. Kacprowski and Paul D. Alston, Alston Hunt Floyd & Ing, Honolulu, Hawaii; Christopher Landau, Kirkland & Ellis LLP, Washington, D.C.; Margery S. Bronster and Rex Y. Fujichaku, Bronster Fujichaku Robbins, Honolulu, Hawaii; for Plaintiffs-Appellees.

          Before: Sidney R. Thomas, Chief Judge, and Consuelo M. Callahan and Mary H. Murguia, Circuit Judges.

         SUMMARY[*]

         Civil Procedure

         The panel affirmed the district court's determination that it lacked jurisdiction over an appeal from a magistrate judge's order denying intervention.

         The panel held that prospective intervenors are not "parties" for purposes of 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(1), and a magistrate judge who has the consent of the named parties to the suit may rule on a prospective intervenor's motion to intervene without the prospective intervenor's consent. The panel held that in this case, because the magistrate judge had the consent of the parties and did not need the consent of the proposed intervenor, the magistrate judge had jurisdiction to rule on the motion to intervene and the magistrate judge's order denying intervention became immediately appealable to the Ninth Circuit, not to the district court.

          OPINION

          MURGUIA, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         A magistrate judge may exercise jurisdiction over a civil action "[u]pon the consent of the parties." 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(1). This case requires us to decide whether the consent of a prospective intervenor-that is, one who wants to intervene but has not yet been allowed to do so-is necessary for a magistrate judge to rule on a motion to intervene. We hold that prospective intervenors are not "parties" for purposes of § 636(c)(1), and a magistrate judge who has the consent of the named parties to the suit may rule on a prospective intervenor's motion to intervene without the prospective intervenor's consent.

         I.

         In November 2014, the voters of the County of Maui ("the County") approved a county ordinance ("the Ordinance") via ballot initiative prohibiting the growth, testing, and cultivation of genetically engineered crops until the County conducted an environmental and health impact study. A group of industrial agriculture plaintiffs (Appellees in this appeal) sued the County in federal court to enjoin and invalidate the Ordinance. The parties consented to have the case proceed before a magistrate judge.

         Two public-interest citizens' groups, Shaka and MOM Hui, filed motions to intervene on the same day. In a single order, the magistrate judge granted Shaka's motion to intervene but denied MOM Hui's. The magistrate judge found that the motions to intervene were timely, that both movants had significantly protectable interests, that the invalidation of the Ordinance would impair those interests, and that the County would not adequately represent their interests because the County had opposed the ordinance and its interests were broader than those of Shaka or MOM Hui.[1]The magistrate judge then allowed the Shaka movants to intervene based on the group's role in the initiative that enacted the Ordinance. In the same order, the magistrate judge denied MOM Hui's motion to intervene, finding that Shaka would adequately represent MOM Hui's ...


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