J.F. et al v. City of Woodlake

Filing 18

ORDER VACATING May 31, 2024 Hearing; ORDER GRANTING Plaintiffs' Motion to Amend; ORDER DIRECTING Compliance With Local Rule 202(a) signed by Magistrate Judge Barbara A. McAuliffe on 5/7/2024. First Amended Complaint Due Within Five (5) Court Days. (Xiong, J.)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 12 J.F., a minor, by and through her Guardian Ad Litem, LIZ FRANCO, et al., Plaintiffs, 13 14 15 16 17 Case No. 1:23-cv-01569-JLT-BAM ORDER VACATING MAY 31, 2024 HEARING ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFFS’ MOTION TO AMEND (Doc. 15) v. CITY OF WOODLAKE, et al., Defendants. ORDER DIRECTING COMPLIANCE WITH LOCAL RULE 202(a) Plaintiff J.F., a minor by and through her Guardian Ad Litem Liz Franco, Plaintiff V.F., a 18 minor by and through her Guardian Ad Litem Liz Franco, and Plaintiff M.M., a minor by and 19 through her Guardian Ad Litem Jennifer Menendez, initiated this civil rights action on November 20 7, 2023, against Defendants City of Woodlake and DOES 1-10. The case arises out of the fatal 21 shooting of the decedent, Victor Melendez, by officers of the City of Woodlake Police 22 Department. (Doc. 1.) Currently before the Court is Plaintiffs’ motion seeking leave to file a first 23 amended complaint to substitute Officers Chris Kaious and Juan Gonzales in place of DOES 1-2. 24 (Doc. 15.) Defendant City of Woodlake filed a statement of non-opposition on May 1, 2024. 25 (Doc. 17.) In the absence of opposition, the motion hearing set for May 31, 2024, is VACATED, 26 and the matter is deemed submitted on the current record. L. R. 230(g). 27 Having considered the moving papers, along with the record in this case, Plaintiffs’ 28 motion to amend will be GRANTED. Additionally, Plaintiffs’ counsel will be directed to comply 1 1 with Local Rule 202(a) regarding the appointment of a representative or guardian ad litem for 2 each of the named minor plaintiffs. 3 DISCUSSION 4 A. Motion to Amend 5 Plaintiffs timely filed their motion to amend on April 18, 2024, consistent with the 6 Scheduling Conference Order deadline to file stipulations or motions to amend. (See Doc. 11 7 [Amendment to Pleadings: August 9, 2024]). Plaintiffs’ motion is therefore considered under the 8 Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15 standard for amendment to the pleadings. See Johnson v. 9 Mammoth Recreations, Inc., 975 F.2d 604 (9th Cir. 1992) (concluding that motion to amend filed 10 after pretrial scheduling order deadline must satisfy the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil 11 Procedure 16). Rule 15(a) provides that a court “should freely give leave [to amend] when justice 12 so requires.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(2). The United States Supreme Court has stated: 13 15 [i]n the absence of any apparent or declared reason—such as undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of the movant, repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, undue prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of allowance of the amendment, futility of amendment, etc. —the leave sought should, as the rules require, be “freely given.” 16 Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962). The intent of the rule is to “facilitate decision on the 17 merits, rather than on the pleadings or technicalities.” Chudacoff v. Univ. Med. Center of S. Nev., 18 649 F.3d 1143, 1152 (9th Cir. 2011). Consequently, the “policy of favoring amendments to 19 pleadings should be applied with ‘extreme liberality.’” United States v. Webb, 655 F.2d 977, 979 20 (9th Cir. 1981). 14 21 Courts consider five factors in determining whether justice requires allowing amendment 22 under Rule 15(a): “bad faith, undue delay, prejudice to the opposing party, futility of 23 amendment, and whether the plaintiff has previously amended the complaint.” Johnson v. 24 Buckley, 356 F.3d 1067, 1077 (9th Cir. 2004) (citation omitted); Bonin v. Calderon, 59 F.3d 815, 25 845 (9th Cir. 1995) (citing Western Shoshone Nat’l Council v. Molini, 951 F.2d 200, 204 (9th 26 Cir. 1991)). These factors are not of equal weight as prejudice to the opposing party has long 27 been held to be the most critical factor in determining whether to grant leave to amend. 28 Eminence Capital, LLC v. Aspeon, Inc., 316 F.3d 1048, 1052 (9th Cir. 2003) (“As this circuit and 2 1 others have held, it is the consideration of prejudice to the opposing party that carries the greatest 2 weight”); Jackson v. Bank of Hawaii, 902 F.2d 1385, 1387 (9th Cir. 1990) (“Prejudice to the 3 opposing party is the most important factor.”). Absent prejudice, or a strong showing of any of 4 the remaining factors, a presumption exists under Rule 15(a) in favor of granting leave to amend. 5 Eminence Capital, 316 F.3d at 1052. 6 Plaintiffs seek leave to substitute Officers Chris Kaious and Juan Gonzales in place of 7 DOES 1-2. Plaintiffs explain that, after obtaining supplemental disclosures in discovery, they 8 learned that Officers Kaious and Gonzales were the officers who allegedly used excessive deadly 9 force against the decedent. (Doc. 15 at 4.) 10 In considering the relevant factors, the Court finds that leave to amend should be granted 11 to allow the substitution of Officers Kaious and Gonzales in place of DOES 1-2. First, there is no 12 indication of undue delay. Plaintiffs timely submitted their motion to amend prior to the deadline 13 for amendment of pleadings. Second, there will be little prejudice to Defendant City of 14 Woodlake in permitting the amendment. The case is still in the early stages of discovery, with a 15 non-expert discovery deadline of April 11, 2025, and a trial date of April 14, 2026. (See Doc. 16 11.) Further, Defendant City of Woodlake does not oppose the motion. Third, there is no 17 indication that amendment is futile. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 20 permits joinder of 18 defendants if “(A) any right to relief is asserted against them jointly, severally, or in the 19 alternative with respect to or arising out of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of 20 transaction or occurrences; and (B) any question of law or fact common to all defendants will 21 arise in the action.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 20(a)(2)(A), (B). Plaintiffs allege that Officers Kaious and 22 Gonzales were the individual officers of the City of Woodlake Police Department involved in the 23 incident that resulted in the death of Victor Melendez. Plaintiffs’ right to relief for the asserted 24 claims against Defendant City of Woodlake and Officers Kaious and Gonzales therefore arise out 25 of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences. Additionally, there 26 are questions of fact and law common to all defendants related to the death of Victor Melendez. 27 Fourth, there is no indication that the amendment is brought in bad faith. Fifth, and finally, 28 Plaintiffs have not previously amended the complaint. 3 1 B. Appointment of Representative or Guardian 2 Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 17(c)(1) permits a general guardian, a committee, a 3 conservator, or “a like fiduciary” to sue on behalf of a minor. Fed. R. Civ. P. 17(c)(1). Otherwise, 4 a minor “who does not have a duly appointed representative” may sue by a guardian ad litem. 5 Fed. R. Civ. P. 17(c)(2). “The court must appoint a guardian ad litem—or issue another 6 appropriate order—to protect a minor . . . who is unrepresented in an action.” Id. Local Rule 7 202(a) of this Court further states: 8 11 Upon commencement of an action or upon initial appearance in defense of an action by or on behalf of a minor or incompetent person, the attorney representing the minor or incompetent person shall present (1) appropriate evidence of the appointment of a representative for the minor or incompetent person under state law or (2) a motion for appointment of a guardian ad litem by the Court, or, (3) a showing satisfactory to the Court that no such appointment is necessary to ensure adequate representation of the minor or incompetent person. 12 L.R. 202(a). There is no indication that a representative or guardian ad litem has been appointed 13 for any of the minor plaintiffs nor has there been a showing that no such appointment is 14 necessary. Plaintiffs’ counsel therefore will be directed to comply with Local Rule 202(a). 9 10 15 CONCLUSION AND ORDER 16 For the reasons discussed above, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that: 17 1. Plaintiffs’ Motion to Amend (Doc. 15) is GRANTED. 18 2. Within five (5) court days, Plaintiffs shall file the First Amended Complaint, a 19 20 21 22 copy of which was attached as Exhibit A to the motion. 3. Upon the filing of the First Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs’ counsel shall comply with the requirements of Local Rule 202(a). 4. Defendants shall file an answer or other responsive pleading in compliance with 23 the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and any relevant Local Rules following service of the First 24 Amended Complaint. 25 26 27 28 IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: /s/ Barbara May 7, 2024 A. McAuliffe _ UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 4

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