Hartnett v. Placer County Superior Court, et al

Filing 52

ORDER signed by Judge Garland E. Burrell, Jr on 5/27/15 GRANTING 33 and 34 Motions to Dismiss. Plaintiff's federal claims are DISMISSED with prejudice and the state law claims are DISMISSED without prejudice. CASE CLOSED. (Manzer, C)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 7 EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 8 9 STACEY VICTORIA HARTNETT, 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 No. 2:13-cv-1636-GEB-KJN Plaintiff, v. COUNTY OF PLACER, a public entity; PLACER COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES (CSOC), a public entity; PLACER COUNTY COURT APPOINTED SPECIAL ADVOCATES (CASA), a public entity; RICHARD J. BURTON, M.D., M.P.H., director as an individual and-in official capacity; KEVIN HENDERSON, as an individual and-in official capacity; DIANA RYAN, program supervisor, as an individual and-in official capacity; H. PAUL SANDERS, as an individual and-in official capacity; APRIL CAREW, as an individual, and-in official capacity; KATHY TANNER, as an individual, and-in official capacity; KAREN SCHLANGER, as an individual and-in official capacity; TOM LIND, as an individual and-in official capacity; ROMNEY LYNN, as an individual and-in official capacity; DON KLEINDER, casa director, as an individual and-in official capacity; TAMARA LARSON, CASA worker as an individual and-in official capacity; CHRISTINE TAYLOR ORDER GRANTING EACH DEFENDANT’S MOTION TO DISMISS PLAINTIFF’S FEDERAL CLAIMS AND DECLINING TO EXERCISE SUPPLEMENTAL JURISDICTION OVER PLAINTIFF’S STATE LAW CLAIMS UNDER 28 U.S.C. § 1367 1 1 2 BROWN, as an individual and DOES 1 through 25 inclusive, Defendants. 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 The following Defendants seek dismissal of the claims alleged in Plaintiff’s Third Amended Complaint (“TAC”): Richard Burton, 15 Henderson, Romney Service Lynn, , Placer (“CSOC”), 20 21 22 23 24 25 Ryan, H. Paul Sanders, April Department County of of Health Placer and (“the Human County”) (collectively “the County Defendants”), Child Advocates of Placer County,1 Tamara Larson, and Don Kleinder. Each Defendant seeks dismissal with prejudice. Plaintiff’s TAC concerns allegations that each Defendant deprived her of custody of her child during a child custody dispute with her ex-spouse, Hartnett. I. 17 19 County the 16 18 Diana Carew, Kathy Tanner, Karen Schlanger, Tom Lind, Candyce Skinner, 13 14 Kevin “To survive a LEGAL STANDARD motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Caviness v. Horizon Cmty. Learning Ctr., Inc., 590 F.3d 806, 812 (9th Cir. 2010) (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 1949 (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 26 27 28 1 Since Child Advocates of Placer County argues it was erroneously sued as “Placer County Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA),” it is referred to herein as Child Advocates of Placer County. 2 1 (2007)). “For purposes of a motion to dismiss, we accept all 2 well-pleaded allegations of material fact as true and construe 3 them 4 Sateriale v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., 697 F.3d 777, 783 (9th 5 Cir. 2012). However, “we do not accept legal conclusions in the 6 complaint 7 allegations.” Lacano Inv., LLC v. Balash, 765 F.3d 1068, 1071 8 (9th Cir. 2011) (internal quotation marks omitted). in the light as true, 9 most favorable even if to cast in the the nonmoving form party.” of factual II. FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS 10 The TAC contains the following allegations that relate 11 to the motion. Plaintiff and Hartnett had shared custody of their 12 child, 13 Plaintiff lost custody in 2010 as a result of a “Juvenile Court” 14 removal order, which was overturned in 2012 by the California 15 Third District Court of Appeal. (Id. ¶¶ 43, 45.) “The Juvenile 16 Court officially removed A.H. from [Plaintiff’s custody] . . . on 17 August 16, 2010 . . . [and] awarded full legal and physical 18 custody . . . to Hartnett on June 1, 2011, when the . . . 19 was terminated.” (TAC ¶ 43.) Plaintiff “appealed the Juvenile 20 Court’s 21 Appeals “reversed on August 8, 2012, . . . [in an order holding 22 that] Placer County Children’s Systems of Care (CSOC) was not 23 legally justified in taking [her] . . . child.” (TAC ¶¶ 45, 29.) A.H., . 24 . prior . their decision,” Plaintiff and to which alleges each the (TAC Third Defendant 33.) District made one case Court or more health 27 Juvenile 28 rendered its wrongful decision to award sole custody of A.H. to Court relied on Court these 3 proceedings her of 26 Juvenile about However, negligent the misrepresentations ¶ 25 during intentional divorce. and misrepresentations mental that when the it 1 Hartnett. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges she has been diagnosed 2 with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (“ADHD”) and that 3 this diagnosis is included in psychological evaluations performed 4 during the custody proceedings; however these evaluations also 5 contain “false information” from Hartnett that Plaintiff “was 6 seriously mentally ill, [and was] bi-polar,” and that Defendants 7 “fixated 8 “intentionally repeated” them in reports submitted to the state 9 court on and in [these] . testimony . . given unfounded during the allegations,” custody and proceedings, 10 without mentioning Plaintiff’s ADHD diagnosis. (TAC ¶¶ 4, 36-38, 11 40-41, 100, 127, 157, 173.) Plaintiff alleges the Juvenile Court 12 used each Defendant’s “fraudulent misrepresentations, falsified 13 evidence 14 Plaintiff’s child custody rights. (TAC ¶¶ 28, 56, 163, 173.) 15 and omission of exculpatory evidence” to take away Plaintiff alleges the district court has subject-matter 16 jurisdiction over her 17 1343(a)(3)-(4), 1331(a), and supplemental jurisdiction over her 18 state law claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1367. (TAC ¶ 2.) 19 20 federal claims under 28 U.S.C. §§ III. DISCUSSION A. Familial Association and Free Exercise Claims 21 Defendants argue Plaintiff’s claim, in which she 22 alleges she was deprived of her First Amendment right to familial 23 association with her child, is barred by the applicable two year 24 statute 25 Henderson and Ryan also argue that Plaintiff’s First Amendment 26 right to the free exercise of her religion claim is barred by 27 this same limitations period. 28 of limitations. The County, Schlanger, Lynn, Burton, “State law determines the statute of limitations for 4 1 [claims] brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.” Usher v. City of Los 2 Angeles, 3 statute of limitations for actions brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 4 § 1983 is the forum state's statute of limitations for personal 5 injury actions.” Carpinteria Valley Farms, Ltd. v. Cnty. of Santa 6 Barbara, 344 F.3d 822, 828 (9th Cir. 2003). “[T]he applicable 7 statute of limitations under California law is two years” since 8 California's statute of limitations for personal injury actions 9 is two years. Jackson v. Barnes, 749 F.3d 755, 761 (9th Cir. 10 828 F.2d 556, 558 (9th Cir. 1987). “The applicable 2014) (citing Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 335.1). 11 1. Familial Association 12 Defendants argue Plaintiff’s familial association 13 claims accrued no later than when Plaintiff lost custody of her 14 daughter, 15 Plaintiff alleges the Defendants acted to take A.H. from her] or 16 in any case no later than June 1, 2011” when Plaintiff alleges 17 the Juvenile Court awarded Hartnett custody. (Mem. P&A Supp. Mot. 18 Dismiss (“County Mot.”) 4:25-27, ECF No. 34-1.) “which occurred on either August 16, 2010 [when 19 Plaintiff argues her familial association claims did 20 not accrue until August 8, 2012 when the “Third District Court of 21 Appeals [decision] revealed. . . that CSOC did not have the right 22 to remove [Plaintiff’s] child from her custody.” (Opp’n 15:22-23, 23 ECF No. 36.) 24 Plaintiff alleges in the TAC that each Defendant 25 violated her right to familial association when “on August 16, 26 2010, [each Defendant] acted, or knew and agreed and conspired, 27 to 28 [Plaintiff] . . . and [when] on November 10, 2010, instead of continue to unlawfully seize 5 . . . or remove A.H. from 1 dismissing all charges and returning the child to [Plaintiff], 2 defendants’ acted, or knew and agreed and conspired, to continue 3 to unlawfully seize... or remove A.H. from her mother.” (TAC ¶ 4 182.) 5 “Although California law determines the length of the 6 [statute of] limitations period, federal law determines when a 7 civil rights claim accrues. Accrual is the date on which the 8 statute of limitations begins to run; under federal law, a claim 9 accrues when the plaintiff knows of or has reason to know of the 10 injury which is the basis of the action.” Lukovsky v. City and 11 Cnty. of S.F., 535 F.3d 1044, 1048 (9th Cir. 2008) (internal 12 quotation marks, citations, and emphasis omitted). 13 “The basis of [Plaintiff’s] lawsuit is the unlawful 14 removal of her child[] . . . [which she alleges occurred no later 15 than November 10, 2010].” Kovacic v. Cuyahoga Cnty. Dep’t of 16 Children & Family Servs., 606 F.3d 301, 307 (6th Cir. 2010). 17 Plaintiff’s 18 abeyance pending final resolution of the state custody case [is 19 not supported by federal tolling law and does not provide a basis 20 for] toll[ing] or otherwise chang[ing] the date of the accrual of 21 her claim[].” Id. “Once a plaintiff knows that harm has been done 22 to 23 limitations 24 judgment that other tort claimants must make.” Lukovsky, 535 F.3d 25 at 1050. Therefore, Plaintiff’s alleged harm occurred no later 26 than November 10, 2010 when Plaintiff alleges A.H. “continued to 27 be removed from [her] care and custody,” as a result of the 28 Juvenile Court order. (TAC ¶ 83.) [her, contention she] . . whether that . must to sue her claims determine or 6 not, were “held within which is the . . . period precisely in of the 1 Plaintiff’s action was “commenced in federal district 2 court for purposes 3 complaint [was] filed.” Sain v. City of Bend, 309 F.3d 1134, 1128 4 (9th Cir. 2002). Plaintiff filed her initial complaint on August 5 8, 2013; since her familial association claims were commenced 6 “well 7 claim[s] 8 prejudice. Kovacic, 606 F.3d at 308. outside 9 . . the . of the two-year [are] statute of limitations untimely” and limitations period therefore . when . . dismissed the [the] with 2. Free Exercise Claim 10 The County, Schlanger, Lynn, Burton, Henderson and Ryan 11 argue Plaintiff’s free exercise claim also accrued more than two 12 years before she filed her complaint. Plaintiff did not respond 13 to this argument in her opposition brief. 14 Plaintiff alleges: 15 Karen Schlanger told Plaintiff that A.H. could not attend catechism thus restricting plaintiff’s rights to exercise her free choice of religion. During a supervised visit at the Catholic Church in Tahoe, Plaintiff and A.H., were walking up to the alter to light candles and pray. Romney Lynn followed them to the alter, interfered with them lighting candles, prevented them from praying, interfered with and prevented mother and daughter from exercising their rights to religious expression. 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 (TAC ¶ 227.) The TAC does not state the date on which this 23 alleged free exercise violation occurred, but does allege that 24 Schlanger 25 “January 2002 to on or about August 30, 2010,” at which point 26 Schlanger was replaced. (TAC ¶ 12.) Even assuming the alleged 27 violative conduct occurred on the last day that Plaintiff alleges 28 Schlanger was assigned as “the case worker in this case,” the was the social worker 7 assigned to Plaintiff from 1 conduct underlying her claim occurred more than two years before 2 she filed her initial complaint. Further, Plaintiff’s counsel 3 stated at the January 20, 2015 hearing on the motions that the 4 conduct 5 limitations period. See Johnson v. America Online, Inc., No. C- 6 01-21083-RMW, 2002 WL 1268397, at *2 n.1 (“[C]ounsel is competent 7 to make representations to the court which are binding upon his 8 clients.”); Laird v. Air Carrier Engine Serv., Inc., 263 F.2d 9 948, 953 (5th Cir. 1959)(“Lawyers can and frequently do make 10 statements which, had the client made them, would be admissible 11 as admissions.”). Therefore, Plaintiff’s free exercise claim is 12 dismissed with prejudice. 13 underling this claim occurred outside the statute of B. Plaintiff’s Second Claim Titled Violation of the ADA 14 Defendants seek dismissal of what Plaintiff states in 15 the title of her second claim is a claim alleged under section 16 12182 of the A[mericans] with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). However, 17 the text of this claim reveals it is alleged under the California 18 Unruh Act, which is prescribed in Civil Code § 51 et. seq.; this 19 is also evinced by the following damages Plaintiff seeks in this 20 claim: 21 22 23 24 25 26 [Plaintiff is] entitled to recover statutory damages of 3 times the minimum actual damages of $46,000 or at least $138,000 plus past attorney fees in a total amount yet to be determined plus current attorney’s fees, as provided in California Civil Code Section 52. Plaintiff reserves the right to amend the claimed amount to include additional costs and expenses that have and are accruing but not yet calculated. 27 (TAC Prayer for Relief, ¶ 2) (emphasis added). Although it is 28 unclear why Plaintiff titles this claim a federal ADA claim, 8 1 California’s 2 federal ADA can be used to state an Unruh Act claim as follows: 3 “A violation of the right of any individual under the federal 4 Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 . . . also constitute[s] 5 a violation” of the Unruh Act. Cal. Civ. Code § 51(f). However, 6 this 7 California state law claim under the Unruh Act, not a federal ADA 8 claim.2 Therefore, there is no federal ADA claim pled in the TAC, 9 and thus, no surviving federal claims for the purpose of subject- 10 Unruh incorporation Act of prescribes the federal that section ADA 12812 concerns of the pleading a matter jurisdiction. 11 C. State Claims 12 County Defendants argue the Court should decline to 13 exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s state claims 14 since the TAC does not contain a viable federal claim. (County 15 Mot. 16 district court had original jurisdiction had been dismissed. The 17 TAC contains the following state claims: falsification of court 18 records; intentional infliction of emotional distress; negligent 19 infliction of emotional distress; abuse of process; failure to 20 discharge 21 accusing Plaintiff of a criminal act; placing false information 22 in a government file; negligence; and discrimination under the 23 California Civil Code section 51(f). 24 13:2-7.) a Each claim mandatory in duty; Plaintiff’s negligent TAC over which supervision; the falsely A district court may assess whether it should continue 25 26 27 28 2 Plaintiff stated through counsel during the January 20, 2015 hearing on the motions that she would request leave to amend the TAC “if it means keeping [her] case alive.” This conditional request is not considered a motion to amend the TAC to add a federal ADA claim since, as explained below, Plaintiff’s “case [is still] alive” because Plaintiff’s state claims will be dismissed without prejudice. 9 1 exercising supplemental jurisdiction “at every stage of . . . 2 litigation,” City of Chicago v. Int'l Coll. of Surgeons, 522 U.S. 3 156, 4 jurisdiction 5 judicial economy, convenience and fairness to litigants.” United 6 Mine Workers of Am. v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 726 (1966)). Further, 7 “[n]eedless decisions of state law should be avoided both as a 8 matter of comity and to promote justice between the parties, by 9 procuring for them a surer-footed reading of applicable law.” Id. 10 173 (1997), The over and a Gibbs may state factors decline claim weigh based in exercising on supplemental “considerations favor of declining of the 11 exercise of supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s remaining 12 state claims. Therefore, Plaintiff’s state claims are dismissed 13 without prejudice under section 1367(c)(3). 14 IV. CONCLUSION 15 For the stated reasons, Plaintiff’s federal claims are 16 dismissed with prejudice and her state law claims are dismissed 17 without prejudice under 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3). 18 Judgment shall be entered in favor of Defendants on 19 Plaintiff’s federal claims, and this action shall be closed. 20 Dated: May 27, 2015 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 10

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