Lanier v. San Joaquin Valley Officials Association et al

Filing 7

FINDINGS and RECOMMENDATIONS Regarding Plaintiff's 1 Complaint signed by Magistrate Judge Gary S. Austin on 6/3/2015. Objections to F&R due by 7/9/2015. (Martinez, A)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 8 EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 9 10 JAMES M. LANIER, 11 Plaintiff, 12 v. FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS REGARDING PLAINTIFF’S COMPLAINT 13 14 14-cv-01938-JAM-GSA SAN JOAQUIN VALLEY OFFICIALS ASSOCIATION, et al. 15 Defendants. (ECF No. 1) 16 17 I. 18 19 INTRODUCTION Plaintiff James M. Lanier (“Plaintiff”), appearing pro se, filed a Complaint (the “Complaint”) on December 4, 2014. (ECF No. 1.) The Complaint alleges violations of 42 U.S.C. 20 §§ 1981, 1983, and 2000d against the San Joaquin Valley Officials Association and the individual 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 members of the Association‟s Board of Directors (collectively, the “Defendants”). Id. The Court has screened the Complaint and makes its recommendations herein. II. LEGAL STANDARD Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), the Court must conduct a review of a complaint to determine whether it “state[s] a claim on which relief may be granted,” is “frivolous or malicious,” or “seek[s] monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” If 28 1 1 the Court determines that the complaint fails to state a claim, it must be dismissed. Id. Leave to 2 amend may be granted to the extent that the deficiencies of the complaint can be cured by 3 amendment. Cato v. United States, 70 F.3d 1103, 1106 (9th Cir. 1995). 4 A complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the 5 6 pleader is entitled to relief . . . .” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). Detailed factual allegations are not 7 required, but “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere 8 conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell 9 Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65 (2007)). Plaintiff must set 10 11 forth “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to „state a claim that is plausible on its face.‟” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 663 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). While factual allegations 12 13 are accepted as true, legal conclusion are not. Id. at 678. In determining whether a complaint states an actionable claim, the Court must accept the 14 15 allegations in the complaint as true, Hospital Bldg. Co. v. Trs. of Rex Hospital, 425 U.S. 738, 740 16 (1976), construe pro se pleadings liberally in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff, Resnick v. 17 Hayes, 213 F.3d 443, 447 (9th Cir. 2000), and resolve all doubts in the Plaintiff‟s favor. Jenkins 18 v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 421 (1969). Pleadings of pro se plaintiffs “must be held to less 19 stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 20 21 (9th Cir. 2010) (holding that pro se complaints should continue to be liberally construed after 22 Iqbal). 23 III. PLAINTIFF’S ALLEGATIONS 24 The Complaint explains that Plaintiff is an African-American male who owns and 25 operates a company called the “SportsTime Officials Association” (“SportsTime”). SportsTime 26 provides officiating services for school sports activities. In July 2013, Plaintiff sought to obtain 27 subcontracting work for SportsTime from the San Joaquin Valley Officials Association 28 2 1 (“SJVOA”), a nonprofit organization which had contracted with Fresno County to provide 2 officiating services for its school sports programs. Plaintiff suggested to Defendants that they did 3 not have a history of retaining African-American members and that retaining him would help to 4 alleviate that lack of diversity. Plaintiff alleges that he was the most qualified candidate for the 5 6 work for which he applied. 7 In August 2013, Plaintiff was informed that his proposal had been rejected by SJVOA‟s 8 Board of Directors. Plaintiff alleges that he was the victim of disparate treatment because of his 9 race and points to SJVOA‟s historical lack of African-American membership and subcontractors 10 as evidence. He also suggests that a “glass ceiling” exists within SJVOA with respect to African- 11 American contractors with SJVOA, although he does not specify particular practices to support 12 13 14 15 16 this conclusion. IV. DISCUSSION a. 42 U.S.C. § 1981 Section 1981 is intended to “forbid all racial discrimination in the making of private as 17 well as public contracts.” Martinez v. Oakland Scavenger Co., 680 F.Supp. 1377, 1388 (N.D. Cal. 18 1987). A claim under § 1981 thus requires a plaintiff to “show intentional discrimination on 19 account of race.” Evans v. McKay, 869 F.2d 1341, 1344 (9th Cir. 1989). Section 1981 can only be 20 21 violated by purposeful discrimination. General Bld. Contractor’s Ass’n, Inc. v. Pennsylvania, 458 22 U.S. 375, 391 (1982); Evans, 869 F.2d at 1344. “[O]vert acts coupled with some direct evidence 23 that the defendants‟ conduct was motivated by racial animus” are sufficient to survive dismissal 24 at the pleading stage of litigation. Evans, 869 F.2d at 1345, citing Usher v. City of Los Angeles, 25 828 F.2d 556, 561 (9th Cir. 1987). 26 Plaintiff explains that he is African-American and applied to enter into a private contract 27 with SJVOA. (Complaint ¶ 15(e), ECF No. 1.) He alleges that Defendants have a history of 28 3 1 excluding African-Americans from the SJVOA Board of Directors and from contracts with 2 SJVOA. (Complaint ¶¶ 15(d), (g), ECF No. 1.) He also alleges that he was the most qualified 3 candidate to apply for the contract, although he does not allege that the contract was eventually 4 awarded to a non-African-American. (Complaint ¶ 15(f), ECF No. 1.) 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Construing the Complaint liberally for the purposes of a pro se screening, Plaintiff has sufficiently stated a claim against Defendants. b. 42 U.S.C. § 1983 To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff “must allege a violation of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and must show that the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law.” West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). 12 13 14 Plaintiff must demonstrate that each defendant personally participated in the deprivation of his rights. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 677; Simmons v. Navajo Cnty., Ariz., 609 F.3d 1011, 1020-21 (9th Cir. 15 2010); Ewing v. City of Stockton, 588 F.3d 1218, 1235 (9th Cir. 2009). The complaint must allege 16 that every defendant also acted with the requisite state of mind to violate underlying 17 constitutional provision. OSU Student Alliance v. Ray, 699 F.3d 1053, 1070 (9th Cir. 2012). 18 19 Plaintiff does not explain which of his rights was violated by Defendants‟ actions that give rise to a § 1983 claim. Buckley v. City of Redding, 66 F.3d 188, 190 (9th Cir. 1995) (“In a section 20 21 1983 action, the plaintiff must establish that Congress created an enforceable statutory right”). 22 However, the Complaint fails because the private parties named in the Complaint were not acting 23 under color of state law. “[P]rivate parties are not generally acting under color of state law,” and 24 the mere allegation that a private party was acting under color of state law does not make it so. 25 Price v. State of Hawaii, 939 F.2d 702, 707-08 (9th Cir. 1991); Gauvin v. Trombatore, 682 26 F.Supp. 1067, 1071 (N.D. Cal. 1988) (“The relationship between the state and the private actor 27 which establishes state action must be pled in some detail”). The Complaint explains that 28 4 1 Defendants are a private business that contracts with Fresno County to provide sports officiating 2 services and individuals associated with that business. A contractual relationship with a state 3 actor does not convert a private business into a state actor itself, however. Gauvin, 682 F.Supp. at 4 1071 (private defendants who contracted with CalTrans not state actors under § 1983). 5 Leave to amend cannot remedy this deficiency. The allegations that Plaintiff has already 6 7 made in the Complaint make clear that Defendants are not state entities. More factual allegations 8 will not allow Plaintiff to resolve the inconsistencies he has already established in the Complaint. 9 c. 42 U.S.C. § 2000d 10 Section 2000d of Title 42 of the United States Code provides that: 11 13 No person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance. 14 To state a claim under this statute, “a plaintiff need only allege that (1) the entity involved 12 15 16 17 18 is engaging in racial discrimination; and (2) the entity involved is receiving federal financial assistance.” Clarke v. Upton, 703 F.Supp.2d 1037, 1050 (E.D. Cal. 2010), quoting Epileptic Found. v. City and County of Maui, 300 F.Supp.2d 1003, 1011 (D. Haw. 2003). Plaintiff has 19 pleaded both of these elements. He alleges that he was not retained to provide services for 20 Defendants because they had a historical practice against working with any “African-American 21 contractor seeking to subcontract or do business” with SJVOA. (Complaint ¶ 15(i), ECF No. 1.) 22 23 He further contends that SJVOA was a recipient of federal financial assistance, albeit indirectly, through funds received by Fresno County for its school athletic programs.1 (Complaint ¶ 21, ECF 24 25 No. 1.) Construing Plaintiff‟s Complaint liberally (as the Court is required to do), Plaintiff has 26 1 27 28 An entity need not receive federal funds directly to fall within the definition of “receiving Federal financial assistance,” although merely benefitting from federal funds is not enough. NCAA v. Smith, 525 U.S. 459, 468 (1999) (“Entities that receive federal assistance, whether directly or through an intermediary, are recipients within the meaning of Title IX; entities that benefit economically from federal assistance are not”). 5 1 2 3 4 sufficiently stated a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 2000d. V. RECOMMENDATION For the reasons set forth above, the Court RECOMMENDS the following: 1. Plaintiff‟s claim against Defendants under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (First Cause of Action) be 5 allowed to proceed; 6 7 2. Plaintiff‟s claim against Defendants under 42 U.S.C. § 2000d (Third Cause of Action) be allowed to proceed; and 8 9 3. Plaintiff‟s claim against Defendants under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Second Cause of Action) 10 11 be DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE. These findings and recommendations will be submitted to the district judge assigned to 12 13 14 this case pursuant to the provisions of Title 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(l). Within thirty (30) days after being served with these Findings and Recommendations, Plaintiff may file written objections 15 with the Court. The document should be captioned “Objections to Magistrate Judge's Findings 16 and Recommendations.” Plaintiff is advised that failure to file objections within the specified 17 time may waive the right to appeal the District Court‟s order. Martinez v. Ylst, 951 F.2d 1153 (9th 18 Cir. 1991). 19 20 21 22 IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: June 3, 2015 /s/ Gary S. Austin UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 23 24 25 26 27 28 6

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