Commercial Litigation and Arbitration

Primary Jurisdiction Doctrine Limited to Issues of First Impression or That Are Particularly Complicated and Committed to Agency Discretion, and If Protections of Regulatory Scheme Dictates Preliminary Resort to Agency — Factors

Alvarado v. Bay Area Credit Serv., LLC, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5646 (N.D. Cal. Jan. 16, 2015):

"The primary jurisdiction doctrine allows courts to stay proceedings or to dismiss a complaint without prejudice pending the resolution of an issue within the special competence of an administrative agency." Clark v. Time Warner Cable, 523 F.3d 1110, 1114 (9th Cir. 2008). Primary jurisdiction is a "prudential" doctrine that permits a court to stay or dismiss a case if "an otherwise cognizable claim implicates technical and policy questions that should be addressed in the first instance by the agency with regulatory authority over the relevant industry rather than by the judicial branch." Id. (citing Syntek Semiconductor Co., Ltd. v. Microchip Tech. Inc., 307 F.3d 775, 782 (9th Cir. 2002)). "[I]t is to be used only if a [*3]  claim requires resolution of an issue of first impression, or of a particularly complicated issue that Congress has committed to a regulatory agency, and if protection of the integrity of a regulatory scheme dictates preliminary resort to the agency which administers the scheme." Id. (citations and quotation marks omitted); see also Jordan v. Nationstar Mortg. LLC, No. 14-CV-00787-WHO, 2014 WL 5359000, at *4 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 20, 2014) (discussing legal standard for primary jurisdiction doctrine).

"No fixed formula exists for applying the doctrine of primary jurisdiction," Davel Commc'ns, Inc. v. Qwest Corp., 460 F.3d 1075, 1086 (9th Cir. 2006) (quoting United States v. W. Pac. R. Co., 352 U.S. 59, 64 (1956)), but the Ninth Circuit has held that

   The primary jurisdiction doctrine prescribes deference to an administrative agency where (1) the issue is not "within the conventional experiences of judges," (2) the issue "involves technical or policy considerations within the agency's particular field of expertise," (3) the issue "is particularly within the agency's discretion," or (4) "there exists a substantial danger of inconsistent rulings."

Maronyan v. Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc., 658 F.3d 1038, 1048-49 (9th Cir. 2011). "A court also must balance the parties' need to resolve the action expeditiously against the benefits of obtaining the federal agency's expertise on the issues." Nationstar, 2014 WL 5359000, at *4.

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