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Burgos-Yantin v. Municipality of Juana Diaz

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

November 19, 2018

CARMEN D. BURGOS-YANTÍN, Plaintiff, Appellee,
MUNICIPALITY OF JUANA DÍAZ, et al., Defendants, Appellants.


          Jorge Martínez-Luciano, with whom Emil Rodríguez-Escudero and Martínez-Luciano & Rodríguez-Escudero Law Office were on brief, for appellant.

          José R. Olmo-Rodríguez for appellee.

          Margarita L. Mercado Echegaray, Solicitor General, and Susana I. Peñagarícano-Brown, Assistant Solicitor General, Department of Justice, on brief for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, amicus curiae.

          Before Howard, Chief Judge, Torruella and Lipez, Circuit Judges.

          PER CURIAM.

         This appeal arises from the district court's exercise of ancillary jurisdiction to enforce a resolution, issued by the Puerto Rico Secretary of Justice, directing the Municipality of Juana Díaz to indemnify two municipal police officers found liable under Puerto Rico tort law after a federal jury trial for using excessive force resulting in a death. The Municipality argues that the district court's order stretched federal ancillary enforcement jurisdiction beyond its proper bounds.[1] We disagree and therefore affirm.


         Appellee and other family members filed this action after the shooting death of their relative, Miguel Ángel-Burgos, at the hands of the police. They brought federal claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and negligence claims under Puerto Rico's general tort statute, P.R. Laws Ann. tit. 31, § 5141. The complaint initially named the Municipality of Juana Díaz (the "Municipality"), its mayor, and several municipal police officers as defendants. In 2009, however, the district court granted summary judgment on the issue of municipal liability and dismissed the Municipality from the case. Almost a year later, the court held a jury trial for the remaining defendants. The jury rejected plaintiffs' § 1983 claims, as well as most of their tort law claims. It did, however, return a verdict for Carmen Burgos-Yantín ("Burgos-Yantín"), the decedent's mother, with respect to her negligence claims against two municipal police officers in their personal capacities. The district court entered judgment against the two officers for $25, 000 and $5, 000, respectively.

         In December 2012, Burgos-Yantín filed a Motion for Execution of Judgment [2] asserting that the Municipality was "responsible for the payment of the Judgment" against its officers by operation of a Puerto Rico statute commonly referred to as "Law 9." See P.R. Laws Ann. tit. 32, §§ 3085-3092. Law 9 permits Commonwealth and municipal officials sued in their personal capacities for alleged civil rights violations to ask the Commonwealth to "assume the payment of any judgment" so long as they acted "in good faith." Id. § 3085. With respect to municipal officials, judgments must be "defrayed from available funds in the corresponding . . . municipality." Id. § 3092. The Puerto Rico Secretary of Justice (the "Secretary") is charged with determining whether payment is due under Law 9. Id. § 3087. Here, the parties agree that the Secretary issued a resolution in April 2011 requiring the Municipality to pay the judgments against the individual defendants.[3]

         The Municipality opposed the Motion for Execution of Judgment, arguing that the district court lacked jurisdiction to enforce the Secretary's resolution. The district court rejected this argument, holding that it had "ancillary enforcement jurisdiction" and inviting Burgos-Yantín to move for a writ of execution against the Municipality. Burgos-Yantin v. Municipality of Juana Diaz, No. 07-1146(JA), 2013 WL 435203, at *2-4 (D.P.R. Jan. 2, 2013). Burgos-Yantín subsequently filed a motion requesting "the garnishment, attach[ment], or restraining of the Municipality of Juana Diaz's assets and properties." The district court granted that motion. Burgos-Yantin v. Municipality of Juana Díaz, No. 07-1146(SCC), 2014 WL 1096016, at *3 (D.P.R. Mar. 19, 2014). The Municipality now appeals the district court's ruling.


         This case turns on the district court's jurisdiction (or lack thereof) to enforce the Secretary's Law 9 resolution against the Municipality. A district court may exercise ancillary jurisdiction for two reasons: "(1) to permit disposition by a single court of claims that are, in varying respects and degrees, factually interdependent; and (2) to enable a court to function successfully, that is, to manage its proceedings, vindicate its authority, and effectuate its decrees." Peacock v. Thomas, 516 U.S. 349, 354 (1996) (quoting Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co., 511 U.S. 375, 379-80 (1994)). Here, the district court relied on the second rationale, i.e., ancillary enforcement jurisdiction.

         Enforcement jurisdiction is "a creature of necessity," which grants a federal court the "inherent power to enforce its judgments." Id. at 356, 359; see also U.S.I. Props. Corp. v. M.D. Constr. Co., 230 F.3d 489, 496 (1st Cir. 2000) ("The jurisdiction of a Court is not exhausted by the rendition of its judgment, but continues until that judgment shall be satisfied." (quoting Wayman v. Southard, 23 U.S. (10 Wheat.) 1, 23 (1825) (alteration omitted))). But the scope of ancillary enforcement jurisdiction is limited by its purpose. Such jurisdiction does not exist "where the relief [sought is] of a different kind or on a different principle than that of the prior decree." Peacock, 516 U.S. at 358 (internal quotation marks omitted) (alteration in original). Likewise, ancillary enforcement jurisdiction is inapt when a party seeks "to impose an obligation to pay an existing federal judgment on a person not already liable for that judgment." Id. at 357.[4]

         In this appeal, the Municipality argues that Burgos-Yantín's Motion for Execution of Judgment does not fall within the district court's ancillary enforcement jurisdiction because the motion seeks to impose a new obligation on the Municipality to pay the "existing federal judgment" against the two police officers. The Municipality also rejects the validity of the Secretary's Law 9 resolution and, consequently, the indemnification obligation it purports to impose on the Municipality. Burgos-Yantín counters that the resolution is valid and enforceable. Accordingly, she argues, her motion is an appropriate procedural mechanism for enforcing the ...

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