Holland v. Farrow et al

Filing 14

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS WITHOUT PREJUDICE by Judge Jon S. Tigar granting 9 Motion to Dismiss. (Attachments: # 1 Certificate/Proof of Service) (wsn, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 6/6/2014)

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1 2 3 4 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 5 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 6 7 CELESTE HOLLAND, Case No. 14-cv-01349-JST Plaintiff, 8 v. 9 10 JOSEPH A. FARROW, et al., Defendants. ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT’S MOTION TO DISMISS WITHOUT PREJUDICE Re: ECF Nos. 1, 9 United States District Court Northern District of California 11 Before the Court is Defendant Joseph Farrow’s Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s Complaint. 12 13 ECF No. 9. 14 I. BACKGROUND Plaintiff alleges she was pulled over and arrested on March 23, 2012 by California 15 16 Highway Patrol (“CHP”) Officers after she refused to provide them with her driver’s license or 17 insurance information. ECF No. 1. She alleges that she was sexually assaulted by the arresting 18 officer, falsely imprisoned, and denied the counsel of her choice. ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 30-31, 33-36, 86. 19 Plaintiff brought this lawsuit against the officers, multiple public officials including Defendant 20 CHP Commissioner Joseph Farrow (“Defendant” or “Farrow”), and all of these individuals’ 21 spouses or significant others. She alleges these Defendants conspired to commit the 22 aforementioned acts and thereby violated her rights under the First, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, Ninth, 23 Tenth, Thirteenth, and Fourteenth Amendments. Id. ¶¶ 30, 34-42, 50-63. 24 II. 25 DEFENDANT’S MOTION TO DISMISS Defendant now moves for dismissal on the grounds that Plaintiff has failed to state a 26 cognizable claim for relief pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). He argues the 27 claims against him should be dismissed because state officials acting in their official capacity are 28 not “persons” that may be sued under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and that Plaintiff has failed to identify 1 any overt act that would support a claim for conspiracy to deprive Plaintiff of her constitutional 2 rights. 3 III. LEGAL STANDARD A court should grant a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) if 5 the complaint does not proffer “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” 6 Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “A claim has facial plausibility when 7 the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the 8 defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. In considering a motion to dismiss, the court 9 “must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint,” Erickson v. Pardus, 10 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007), but “the tenet that a court must accept a complaint’s allegations as true is 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 4 inapplicable to threadbare recitals of a cause of action’s elements, supported by mere conclusory 12 statements.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Dismissal can be based on the lack of a 13 cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory. 14 Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep’t, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). 15 IV. 16 17 DISCUSSION Plaintiff fails to specify whether she brings her claims against Farrow in his official or personal capacity. The Court addresses each in turn. 18 A. 19 The Eleventh Amendment bars damages actions against state officials acting in their The Eleventh Amendment Bars Suit Against Farrow In His Official Capacity 20 official capacities because these actions are treated as suits against the state itself, Hafer v. Melo, 21 502 U.S. 21, 25 (1991), and the Amendment bars federal suits against states or their agencies. See 22 Regents of Univ. of Cal. v. Doe, 519 U.S. 425, 429 (1997). Section 1983 does not abrogate the 23 states’ Eleventh Amendment immunity because a state or state agency is not a “person” for 24 purposes of the statute. Will v. Mich. Dep’t of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 65-66 (1989). Thus, if 25 Holland is suing Farrow in his official capacity as Commissioner of the CHP, her suit is barred. 26 27 But because it is unclear whether Plaintiff is bringing this suit against Defendant in his official capacity, the Court reserves judgment as to whether the Eleventh Amendment bars 28 2 1 Plaintiff’s claims against Defendant. Assuming that Plaintiff is suing Farrow in his individual 2 capacity, her claims must meet the aforementioned pleading requirements in order to state a 3 cognizable claim for relief under § 1983 and avoid dismissal. They do not. 4 B. 5 Plaintiff Has Not Pled Sufficient Facts To State a Claim Against Farrow In His Individual Capacity. The Eleventh Amendment does not bar damages actions against state officials acting in 6 their individual capacities. Hafer, 502 U.S. at 31. To state a claim under § 1983 against a state 7 8 official in his or her individual capacity, a plaintiff must plead that the official, “acting under color of state law, caused the deprivation of a federal right.” OSU Student Alliance v. Ray, 699 F.3d 9 1053, 1061 (9th Cir. 2012), cert. denied, Ray v. OSU Student Alliance, 134 S. Ct. 70 (2013) 10 (mem.). 11 United States District Court Northern District of California It is not enough to allege that a defendant’s subordinate or employee caused the 12 deprivation of the plaintiff’s rights. “Government officials may not be held liable for the 13 unconstitutional conduct of their subordinates under a theory of respondeat superior.” Iqbal, 556 14 U.S. at 676. Instead, a supervisor—such as Farrow—may be liable under § 1983 only upon a 15 showing of: (1) personal involvement in the constitutional deprivation; or (2) a sufficient causal 16 connection between the supervisor’s wrongful conduct and the constitutional violation, such as by 17 implementing a policy that is “the moving force of the violation.” Hansen v. Black, 885 F.2d 642, 18 645–46 (9th Cir. 1989) (quoting Thompkins v. Belt, 828 F.2d 298, 304 (5th Cir.1987)). Thus, in 19 order to state a cognizable claim for relief, Plaintiff must plead facts demonstrating that Farrow 20 either personally deprived her of her rights, or that his behavior was causally related to such a 21 deprivation. 22 Plaintiff’s complaint fails to connect Farrow, personally, to any alleged constitutional 23 violation. The complaint merely identifies Farrow as the CHP Commissioner. See ECF No. 1 ¶ 24 17. Plaintiff does not allege any particular acts on his part other than the broad allegation that 25 every Defendant conspired to deprive Plaintiff of her constitutional rights. ECF No. 1 ¶ 51. The 26 complaint also contains no factual material in support of its conclusory conspiracy allegations. 27 28 3 1 V. CONCLUSION Plaintiff’s complaint fails to allege sufficient facts to state a cognizable claim for relief. 2 Therefore, the Court GRANTS Defendant Farrow’s motion to dismiss, and the claims against 3 Defendant Farrow are DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE. Plaintiff may amend her complaint 4 within thirty days of this Order. 5 Any amended complaint must specify which allegations and claims are directed against 6 each Defendant. Plaintiff must plead each claim with sufficient specificity to give each Defendant 7 notice of the nature of the claims leveled against him or her. Plaintiff is advised that a failure to 8 attribute allegations and causes of action to particular defendants can result in dismissal. 9 Plaintiff is encouraged to seek the assistance of the Legal Help Center in amending her 10 complaint. The Legal Help Center is located at 450 Golden Gate Avenue, 15th Floor, Room 2796, 11 United States District Court Northern District of California San Francisco, California. Assistance is provided by appointment only. A litigant may schedule 12 an appointment by signing up in the appointment book located on the table outside the door of the 13 Center or by calling the Legal Help Center appointment line at 415–782–8982. Plaintiff may also 14 wish to consult the Northern District of California manual, Representing Yourself in Federal 15 Court: A Handbook for Pro Se Litigants, a copy of which may be downloaded at 16 http://www.cand.uscourts.gov/prosehandbook or obtained free of charge from the Clerk’s office. 17 IT IS SO ORDERED. 18 Dated: June 6, 2014 19 20 ______________________________________ JON S. TIGAR United States District Judge 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 4

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