Cato v. Social Justice Fund NW et al

Filing 23

ORDER granting Defendants' 7 Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim ; denying Plaintiff's 12 Motion to Join (or Add) Another Defendant ; denying as moot Plaintiff's 21 Motion to join or add another defendant ; Plaintiff may file a motion to amend and attach a proposed pleading for the Court's consideration by 6/16/2017, by Judge Robert S. Lasnik. (SWT) (cc: Plaintiff via USPS)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT WESTERN DISTRICT OF WASHINGTON AT SEATTLE 7 8 9 TINIELL CATO, Plaintiff, 10 11 12 13 Case No. C17-345RSL v. SOCIAL JUSTICE FUND NW, et al., Defendants. 14 15 ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS AND DENYING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION TO JOIN ANOTHER DEFENDANT This matter comes before the Court on the motion to dismiss of Defendants Social Justice 16 Fund, Youth Undoing Institutional Racism, and Ending the Prison Industrial Complex, Dkt # 7, 17 and Plaintiff’s “Motion to Join Another Defendant.” Dkt. # 12. Defendants claim that Plaintiff 18 has failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted and therefore pursuant to Fed. R. 19 Civ. P. 8(a)(2) and 12(b)(6), Plaintiff’s claims should be dismissed. Plaintiff seeks to join 20 another defendant and to amend her complaint. After reviewing the pleadings by both parties 21 and the remainder of the record, the Court finds as follows. 22 BACKGROUND 23 Plaintiff is a grant writer for Warren & Cato Consulting Firm. Dkt. # 1-1 ¶ 1. The 24 company is a “grass-root innovative company,” id., with a mission to meet “human, educational, 25 environmental, and community public safety” needs. Id. Defendants are three separate not-for- 26 profit organizations located in Seattle, Washington: Social Justice Fund NW (Social Justice), 27 ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS AND DENYING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION TO JOIN ANOTHER DEFENDANT- 1 28 1 Youth Undoing Institutional Racism (YUIR), and Ending the Prison Industrial Complex (EPIC). 2 Id. at ¶¶ 3–5. Since 2012 YUIR has been fighting the construction of the new King County 3 detention center. Dkt. # 7, Exhibit A. Through these efforts, EPIC was launched, which led to 4 the No New Youth Jail Campaign. Id. YUIR and EPIC are projects that operate under the 5 umbrella of two other organizations, the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond and the 6 American Friends Service Committee, all of which have advocated against a youth detention 7 center. Id. 8 In 2015, EPIC worked with the City of Seattle to create the “EPIC Zero Detention 9 Project.” Id. The Project would provide grant funding to communities that are most targeted by 10 mass incarceration. Id. EPIC planned on distributing $500,000 in grants to community-based and 11 community-led organizations that work to end youth imprisonment. Id. In their request for 12 proposals (RFP), id., EPIC stated that it and Social Justice would make the decisions about 13 where they would distribute the grants, and that the grants would be administered by Social 14 Justice. Id. The maximum amount that an proposal could receive was $100,000. Id. The RFP 15 then gave examples of project ideas, general guidelines on the type of proposal EPIC and Social 16 Justice were looking for, the types of organizations that should apply, and the types of 17 organizations that would receive special consideration. Id. The deadline to apply was October 3, 18 2016. Id. 19 Due to technical difficulties, Social Justice and EPIC extended the application deadline to 20 October 7, 2016. Dkt. # 1-1, ¶ 9. Plaintiff submitted her application that day. Id. at ¶ 8. On 21 October 11, 2016, Plaintiff received a confirmation email from Social Justice stating that her 22 application had been received and was pending review. Id. at ¶ 9. Social Justice told Plaintiff 23 that they would be in touch within two weeks to confirm whether Plaintiff’s application was 24 complete and eligible for funding. Id. Social Justice also called Plaintiff that day to verify the 25 amount that Plaintiff had requested because some proposals were mismatched with the funding 26 27 28 ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS AND DENYING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION TO JOIN ANOTHER DEFENDANT- 2 1 requests. Id. at ¶ 10. After receiving the email and phone call from Social Justice, Plaintiff then 2 emailed Social Justice to ask about her submissions, but she did not receive a response. Id. at ¶ 3 11. Plaintiff then sent three other emails, on October 18 and 25 and November 2, to confirm that 4 any mix-up involving her submissions had been cleared up. Id. at ¶¶ 12–14. Defendants did not 5 respond to any of these emails. Id. 6 On November 8, 2016, Social Justice notified Plaintiff that none of her projects would 7 receive funding. Id. at ¶ 15. The next day Plaintiff emailed Social Justice claiming that Social 8 Justice had violated the Washington Law Against Discrimination, the Washington 9 Whistleblower Protection Act, and the Uniform Disciplinary Act for Health Professionals. Id. at 10 ¶ 16. Social Justice did not respond, nor did they respond to the second email sent by Plaintiff on 11 November 10, 2016. Id. at ¶ 17. On December 8, 2016 Plaintiff emailed Social Justice and 12 asked them several questions regarding their ethical and professional obligations. Id. at ¶ 19. 13 While Social Justice did not respond to the questions in this email, Burke Stansbury from Social 14 Justice agreed to meet with Plaintiff. Id. at ¶ 20. At the meeting on December 28, 2016, Mr. 15 Stansbury allegedly explained to Plaintiff that this was the first time they had ever done a project 16 like this, that the process suffered from some issues, and that it was too late for the organization 17 to redistribute any funds. Id. at ¶ 21. Mr. Stansbury allegedly told Plaintiff that he and the Senior 18 Project Manager would contact Plaintiff about a way to potentially remedy the issue. Id. Plaintiff 19 alleges that she was never contacted. Id. 20 On January 10, 2017, Plaintiff filed this action in state court. Dkt. # 1-1. Plaintiff alleges 21 that Defendants Social Justice, YUIR, and EPIC have violated the Fourteenth Amendment of the 22 United States Constitution, the Washington State Constitution, 18 U.S.C. §§ 241–242, the 23 Washington Law Against Discrimination, the Washington Whistleblower Protection Act, and 24 Washington’s Uniform Disciplinary Act for Health Professionals. Id. at ¶¶ 24–28. Defendants 25 timely removed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1446(b). Dkt. # 1. Defendants then moved to dismiss 26 27 28 ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS AND DENYING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION TO JOIN ANOTHER DEFENDANT- 3 1 under Rule 12(b)(6), Dkt. # 7, and Plaintiff filed a motion to join another defendant. Dkt. # 12. DISCUSSION 2 3 I. Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss 4 A. Standard 5 Under Rule 12(b)(6), a defendant may move to dismiss a complaint for “failure to state a 6 claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), 8(a)(2). When deciding a 7 motion to dismiss, the court accepts allegations in the complaint as true and must construe those 8 allegations in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 9 678 (2009). The court does not however, need to accept any legal conclusions as true. Id. 10 In order for a party to survive a motion to dismiss, the “complaint must contain sufficient 11 factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Iqbal, 556 12 U.S. at 678. “This standard does not rise to the level of a probability requirement, but it demands 13 ‘more than sheer possibility that the defendant has acted unlawfully.’” Landers v. Quality 14 Commc’ns, Inc, 771 F.3d 638, 641 (9th Cir. 2014) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). “While a 15 complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual 16 allegations, a plaintiff’s obligation to provide the ‘grounds’ of [her] entitlement to relief requires 17 more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation fo the elements of a cause of action 18 will not do.” Bell Atlantic Corp v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). 19 B. Violations of the United States Constitution 20 Plaintiff claims that Defendants violated her rights under the Fourteenth Amendment of 21 the United States Constitution. However, none of the facts alleged in the complaint give rise to 22 any plausible claim that Defendants violated Plaintiff’s constitutional rights. Defendants cannot 23 violate Plaintiff’s constitutional rights because they are not a state actor. See, e.g., Lee v. Katz, 24 276 F.3d 550, 555 (9th Cir. 2002) (discussing the requirements for when a private actor can be 25 considered a state actor for the purposes of the Fourteenth Amendment). Moreover, Plaintiff’s 26 27 28 ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS AND DENYING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION TO JOIN ANOTHER DEFENDANT- 4 1 claim that the denial of discretionary funding gives rise to a violation of the Fourteenth 2 Amendment is a conclusory statement without any factual or legal support, and cannot survive a 3 motion to dismiss. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. 4 C. Violations of the Washington Constitution 5 Plaintiff also alleges due process and equal protection violations of the Washington 6 Constitution. However, Plaintiff does not allege a specific provision of the Washington 7 Constitution that has been violated nor does she allege any facts showing how Defendants 8 violated the Washington Constitution. These claims must be dismissed because there is no cause 9 of action linked to a specific constitutional provision or any facts that would give rise to a cause 10 of action under a specific provision. 11 D. Violations of 18 U.S.C. §§ 241-242 12 Additionally, Plaintiff alleges violations of 18 U.S.C. §§ 241–242. This statute makes it a 13 criminal offense for “two or more persons [to] conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate 14 any person in any State . . . in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to 15 [her] by the Constitution of the United States.” 18 U.S.C. § 241. This is a criminal statute and 16 one who violates it is subject to a fine or imprisonment of not more than ten years. 18 U.S.C. § 17 241. This statute does not provide any basis for civil liability. See Aldabe v. Aldabe, 616 F.2d 18 1089, 1092 (9th Cir. 1980). Moreover, Plaintiff has not alleged any facts which give rise to any 19 plausible criminal conduct by Defendants. Further, Plaintiff does not articulate what specific 20 Constitutional privilege or right Defendants have deprived her of. As such, Plaintiff’s claim must 21 be dismissed. 22 E. Violations of the Washington Law Against Discrimination 23 Plaintiff also argues that Defendants violated the Washington Law Against 24 Discrimination, RCW Chapter 49.60. The law prohibits discrimination on the basis of “race, 25 color, creed, national origin, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, age, honorably discharged 26 27 28 ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS AND DENYING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION TO JOIN ANOTHER DEFENDANT- 5 1 veteran or military status, or the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability or the use 2 of a trained dog guide or service animal by a person with a disability.” RCW 49.60.010. Plaintiff 3 has not alleged any facts that show Defendants discriminated against her in any way as opposed 4 to denying her application based on neutral criteria. Therefore, this claim must dismissed for 5 lack of factual foundation. 6 F. Violation of the Washington Whistleblower Protection Act 7 The Washington Whistleblower Protection Act, RCW Chapter 42.41, protects “local 8 government employees who make good-faith reports to appropriate governmental bodies and to 9 provide remedies for such individuals who are subjected to retaliation for having made such 10 reports.” RCW 42.41.010. RCW 42.41.020(3) defines retaliatory action as (a) any adverse 11 change in the employees’s terms or conditions of employment or (b) hostile actions taken by 12 another employee, which were encouraged by a supervisor or senior manager. Plaintiff has not 13 alleged any facts to show that she is a governmental employee or that Defendants are a local 14 government body. This claim must be dismissed as well. 15 G. Violations of the Uniform Disciplinary Act for Health Professionals 16 Plaintiff claims that Defendants violated the Uniform Disciplinary Act for Health 17 Professionals under RCW Chapter 18.130. Plaintiff specifically cites to RCW 18.130.180, which 18 defines “unprofessional conduct” for healthcare professionals. However, Plaintiff has not alleged 19 that Defendants are healthcare professionals. The Court must dismiss this claim as Defendants 20 do not fall within the purview of the statute. 21 II. Plaintiff’s Motion to Join Another Defendant 22 A. Standard 23 Plaintiff filed a motion to join another defendant, American Friends Services Committee 24 (AFSC). Dkt. # 12. Plaintiff alleges that AFSC is the parent corporation of YUIR and EPIC and 25 is therefore responsible for their actions. Id. at ¶ 3. However, Plaintiff provides no factual 26 27 28 ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS AND DENYING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION TO JOIN ANOTHER DEFENDANT- 6 1 support to show how AFSC is responsible for the conduct of EPIC and YUIR. Plaintiff cites 2 various civil rules that allow for joinder of parties such as Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 14, 3 19, and 20, but she does not assert any facts to show why she is entitled to join AFSC under 4 these rules. Dkt. # 20 at 2–5. Therefore, this Court does not find any reason to join AFSC. 5 Plaintiff also appears to use her motion to join another defendant as a motion to amend 6 her complaint. See Dkt. # 12 (adding two causes of action). In this motion plaintiff realleges her 7 claims from her original complaint and brings a new fraud claim and a claim that Defendants 8 violated the Washington Consumer Protection Act. Dkt. # 12, ¶ 33–43. Accordingly, the Court 9 will review the viability of these new claims to determine whether amendment is warranted or 10 futile. Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 187 (1962). 11 B. Fraud 12 Under RCW 9A.60.050 a person may be found “guilty of false certification, if, being an 13 officer authorized to take a proof or acknowledgment of an instrument which by law may be 14 recorded, he or she knowingly certifies falsely that the execution of such instrument was 15 acknowledged by any party thereto or that he execution thereof was proved.” This statute applies 16 to notaries. Plaintiff fails allege how Defendants are officers “authorized to take a proof or 17 acknowledgment of an instrument.” Further Plaintiff claims that Defendants “misrepresented 18 material facts, knowing that [their] representation were false and making their representations 19 without reasonable grounds,” Dkt. # 12, ¶ 37, and that Defendants intended Plaintiff to rely on 20 these representations to her detriment. Id. This statement is merely a conclusory remark and 21 Plaintiff has not alleged any facts that would support this. 22 C. Violations of the Washington Consumer Protection Act 23 Lastly, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant violated the Washington Consumer Protection 24 Act. To state a claim under RCW Chapter 19.86, the plaintiff must show that (a) the defendant 25 committed an unfair or deceptive practice, (b) this practice occurred in the conduct of trade or 26 27 28 ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS AND DENYING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION TO JOIN ANOTHER DEFENDANT- 7 1 commerce; (c) this conduct affects the public interest, (d) and caused, (e) injury to the plaintiff’s 2 business or property. Hangman Ridge Training Stables, Inc. v. Safeco Title Ins. Co., 105 Wn.2d 3 778, 784–85 (1986). Plaintiff has not alleged facts describing how Defendant has committed an 4 unfair or deceptive practice and therefore Plaintiff’s claim fails as a mater of law. LEAVE TO AMEND 5 6 “[A] district court should grant leave to amend even if no request to amend the pleading 7 was made, unless it determines that the pleading could not possibly be cured by the allegation of 8 other facts.” Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1127 (9th Cir. 2000). If plaintiff can, consistent 9 with her Rule 11 obligations,1 amend her complaint to remedy the deficiencies identified in this 10 order, she may file a motion to amend and attach a proposed pleading for the Court’s 11 consideration by Friday, June 16, 2017. CONCLUSION 12 13 For the foregoing reasons, defendant’s motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s complaint (Dkt. # 7) 14 is GRANTED. Plaintiff’s motion to join another defendant (Dkt. # 12) is DENIED. Plaintiff’s 15 second motion to join another defendant (Dkt. # 21) is DENIED as moot. 16 17 Dated this 30th day of May, 2017. 18 A 19 Robert S. Lasnik United States District Judge 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 1 The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and this district’s Local Civil Rules can be found at and, respectively. Although plaintiff is proceeding pro se in this litigation, she is expected to comply with all applicable rules. ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS AND DENYING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION TO JOIN ANOTHER DEFENDANT- 8

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