A federal court in California has dismissed, without prejudice, the action for declaratory and injunctive relief brought against the San Francisco city attorney, seeking to halt his investigation of Monster Beverage’s energy drinks and efforts to regulate their formulation, labeling and promotion. Monster Beverage Corp. v. Herrera, No. 13-0786 (U.S. Dist. Ct., C.D. Cal., decided December 16, 2013). Additional information about the lawsuit appears in Issue 482 of this Update. The matter was before the court on the city attor- ney’s renewed motion to dismiss.
Essentially, the court determined that the Younger abstention doctrine, which “counsels federal-court abstention when there is a pending state proceeding,” applied because a state action brought by the city attorney is pending, the action implicates important state interests, not all of the city attorney’s claims are preempted under federal food-labeling laws, and the state proceedings will be adequate for the consideration of Monster’s constitutional claims. Details about the city attorney’s lawsuit appear in Issue 483 of this Update. While Monster’s lawsuit was filed before the city attorney filed his action, the court determined that the “state action” was filed before the court issued an order in August 2013 granting in part and denying in part the city’s motion to dismiss the Monster action. Details about that ruling appear in Issue 496 of this Update.
In August, the court refused to apply the Younger abstention doctrine because Monster had removed the city attorney’s lawsuit to federal court. A motion for remand was pending at that point, and the court indicated that it could determine whether the doctrine applied if the motion were granted. The city attorney’s case was subsequently remanded to state court.
The court also applied the Anti-Injunction Act, finding that issuance of injunctive relief to halt the city attorney’s investigation would effectively stay proceedings in a state court, noting “even if the Act does not apply when a request for a federal injunction is made before the state court proceedings are filed, the Court would exercise its discretion in light of the principles of equity, comity and federalism and refrain from granting an injunction that would effectively enjoin the state court proceeding.”