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RODRIGUEZ v. CALIFORNIA HIGHWAY PATROL
March 13, 2000
RODRIGUEZ, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS, V. CALIFORNIA HIGHWAY PATROL, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jeremy Fogel, United States District Judge.
ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART MOTION TO DISMISS, DENYING
MOTION TO SEVER PLAINTIFFS AND/OR STRIKE CLASS ACTION ALLEGATIONS AND
DENYING MOTION TO STRIKE PORTIONS OF PLEADING, [Docket Nos. 29, 31, 33].
This case presents a broad, vigorously disputed challenge to an alleged
law enforcement practice known as racial profiling. Defendants*fn1 have
filed three motions directed at the pleadings: (1) a motion to dismiss
the First Amended Complaint; (2) a motion to sever plaintiffs and/or
strike Plaintiffs' class action allegations; and (3) a motion to strike
certain portions of the First Amended Complaint. Plaintiffs*fn2 oppose
the motions. The Court has read the moving and responding papers and has
considered the oral arguments of counsel presented on February 18, 2000.
For the reasons set forth below, the motion to dismiss will be granted in
part and denied in part, and the motion to sever plaintiffs and/or strike
the class action allegations and the motion to strike portions of the
First Amended Complaint will be denied.
Plaintiffs' First Amended Complaint alleges that Defendants maintain a
policy, pattern and practice of targeting African-Americans and Latinos in
conducting stops, detentions, interrogations and searches of motorists.
The individual plaintiffs have alleged specific incidents of racial
profiling which they claim occurred on or near State Highway 152 and
Interstate Highway 5 in the Pacheco Pass area of Santa Clara and Merced
Counties. Both the individual and the organizational plaintiffs allege
that racial profiling is an integral part of a federally funded drug
interdiction program sponsored by the United States Drug Enforcement
Agency known as "Operation Pipeline" as well as other drug interdiction
efforts. Plaintiffs base their allegations in part upon a draft report of
California's Joint Legislative Task Force on Government Oversight on
September 29, 1999, which alleges the existence of racial profiling in
The issue to be decided on a motion to dismiss is not whether a
plaintiff's claims have merit but rather whether the moving defendant has
shown beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts entitling
him or her to relief. See Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957).
The court's review is limited to the face of the complaint,
documents referenced by the complaint and matters of which the court may
take judicial notice. See Levine v. Diamanthuset, Inc., 950 F.2d 1478,
1483 (9th Cir. 1991); In re Stac Elecs. Sec. Litig., 89 F.3d 1399, 1405
n. 4 (9th Cir. 1996); MGIC Indem. Corp. v. Weisman, 803 F.2d 500, 504
(9th Cir. 1986). Ordinarily, a complaint may be dismissed as a matter of
law for only two reasons: (1) lack of a cognizable legal theory or (2)
insufficient facts under a cognizable legal theory. See Robertson v. Dean
Witter Reynolds, Inc., 749 F.2d 530, 533-34 (9th Cir. 1984) (citing 2A
J. Moore, Moore's Fed. Practice ¶ 12.08 at 2271 (2d ed. 1982)). When
a court considers a motion to dismiss, all allegations of the complaint
are construed in the plaintiff's favor. See Sun Savings & Loan Ass'n v.
Dierdorff, 825 F.2d 187, 191 (9th Cir. 1987). In particular, "[c]ivil
rights complaints are to be liberally construed," and need only comply
with F.R.Civ.P. 8(a). Buckey v. County of Los Angeles, 968 F.2d 791, 794
(9th Cir. 1992). For a motion to dismiss to be granted, it must appear to
a certainty that the plaintiff would not be entitled to relief under any
set of facts that could be proved. See Wool v. Tandem Computers, Inc.,
818 F.2d 1433, 1439 (9th Cir. 1987). Motions to dismiss generally are
viewed with disfavor under this liberal standard and are rarely granted.
See Gilligan v. Jamco Dev. Corp., 108 F.3d 246, 249 (9th Cir. 1997).
B. NAACP's and LULAC's Standing
Both of the organizational plaintiffs — NAACP and LULAC —
are nonprofit membership organizations which allege that they are suing
on behalf of their members. Defendants argue that NAACP and LULAC lack
standing to sue on behalf of their members under the circumstances of
"[E]ven in the absence of injury to itself, an association may have
standing solely as representative of its members." Warth v. Seldin,
422 U.S. 490, 511 (1975); see, e.g., NAACP v. Alabama, 357 U.S. 449
(1958); International Union, UAW v. Brock, 477 U.S. 274 (1986).
Associational standing is particularly appropriate where "the association
is seeking to represent the interests which are central to the purpose of
the organization" and "where the relief sought is some form of
prospective remedy, such as declaratory judgment, which will inure to the
benefit of the organization's membership." Peick v. Pension Benefit
Guar. Corp., 724 F.2d 1247, 1259 (7th Cir. 1983).
An association has standing if (1) its members would have standing to
sue in their own right; (2) the interests the organization seeks to
protect are relevant to the organization's purpose; and (3) neither the
claim asserted nor the relief sought requires the participation of
individual members of the organization in the lawsuit. See Brock, 477
U.S. at 282; Hunt v. Washington State Apple Adver. Comm'n, 432 U.S. 333
(1977); Responsible Gov't, Inc. v. Washoe County, 110 F.3d 699, 702 (9th
Defendants do not dispute that the interests sought to be protected by
NAACP and LULAC in this litigation are relevant to the purposes of these
organizations, which include opposing racial discrimination against
African-Americans and Latinos, respectively. In addition, Defendants also
acknowledge that Plaintiffs have alleged that individual members of NAACP
and LULAC have been stopped and detained by CHP and BNE officers on the
basis of race.
Defendants also argue that Plaintiffs' claims cannot be adjudicated
without the participation of individual members of NAACP and LULAC.
Defendants quite reasonably point out that proof of the existence of a
policy or practice of racial profiling requires proof of more than one
instance of official misconduct. However, Plaintiffs in fact have pled
more than one instance of official misconduct. There is no authority for
the proposition that only members of the organizational plaintiffs can
serve as individual plaintiffs; at this early stage of the proceedings,
it would appear to be sufficient that the individual plaintiffs are
members of the racial and ethnic groups for whom the organizational
plaintiffs state that they are advocates.
The Court concludes that for present purposes NAACP and LULAC have
standing to sue on behalf of their members. As in Legal Aid Society of
Hawaii, see id., at 1029-31, this conclusion does not preclude a
determination that these organizations lack standing later in the
The incident of racial profiling alleged by Rodriguez occurred in Santa
Clara County, which is located in the Northern District of California;
the incidents alleged by Lopez and Washington occurred in Merced County,
which is in the Eastern District of California. Defendants argue that the
proper venue for the Lopez and the Washington incidents is the Eastern
District rather than the Northern District. However, venue is proper in
any district "in which a substantial part of the events or omissions
giving rise to the claim occurred." 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(2)(1999).
Section 1391(b)(2) does not require that a majority of the events have
occurred in the district where suit is filed, nor does it require that
the events in that district predominate. See Sidco Indus. Inc. v. Wimar
Tahoe Corp., 768 F. Supp. 1343, 1346 (D. Or. 1991) (language of §
1391(b)(2) "contemplates that there may be more than one district in
which a substantial part of the events giving rise to the claim
occurred, and that venue would be proper in each such district"); see
also Bates v. C & S Adjusters, Inc., 980 F.2d 865, 867 (2d Cir. 1992);
First of Mich. Corp. v. Bramlet, 141 F.3d 260, 264 (6th Cir. 1998). All
that Plaintiffs need show is that a substantial part of the events giving
rise to their claims occurred in the Northern District of California.
Rodriguez, a resident of Santa Clara County, allegedly was stopped in
Santa Clara County, in the Northern District. Moreover, Plaintiffs claim
in their class action allegations that Defendants routinely utilize
racial profiling in the Pacheco Pass area, much of which is located in
the Northern District. Plaintiffs allege that the stops of Rodriguez,
Lopez, Washington and all other purported class members are related
because they stem from the same alleged practice or policy of racial
profiling in the Pacheco Pass area. Plaintiffs thus clearly are alleging
that a substantial part of the events giving rise to this action occurred
in the Northern District. Accordingly, while venue would be proper in the
Eastern District, venue also is proper in the Northern District.
D. Claims Against Helmick and Doane as Supervisory Officials
This circuit applies a rule of reason to civil rights
actions challenged for sufficiency at the pleading
stage. While a liberal interpretation of a civil
rights complaint may not supply essential elements of
the claim that were not initially pled, plaintiff is
not expected to plead his evidence or specific factual
details not ascertainable in advance of discovery.
Gibson v. United States, 781 F.2d 1334, 1340 (9th Cir. 1986) (internal
quotation marks and citations omitted); see also San Jose Charter of the
Hell's Angels Motorcycle Club v. City of San Jose, No. C 99 20022 SW
PVT, 1999 WL 1211672, at *12 (N.D.Cal. Dec. 6, 1999) ("Civil rights
plaintiffs . . . have never been expected to plead their evidence or
specific factual details not ascertainable before discovery has taken
A supervisory law enforcement official is liable in his or her
individual capacity "if he [or she] set in motion a series of acts by
others, or knowingly refused to terminate a series of acts by others,
which he [or she] knew or reasonably should have known, would cause
others to inflict the constitutional injury." Larez v. City of Los
Angeles, 946 F.2d 630, 646 (9th Cir. 1991) (internal quotation marks,
brackets and citation omitted); see also Bergquist, 806 F.2d at 1370. The
First Amended Complaint alleges that Helmick and Doane personally
participated in racial profiling, acted jointly and in concert with others
who racially profiled, authorized, acquiesced in or failed to take action
to prevent racial profiling, promulgated policies and procedures pursuant
to which racial profiling occurred, with deliberate indifference failed
and refused to implement and maintain adequate training and supervision
and/or ratified the use of racial profiling. The First Amended Complaint
also alleges that CHP and BNE supervisors and management continue to
encourage these activities in Operation Pipeline despite evidence that
drivers of color are targeted and subjected to unwarranted stops,
detentions, interrogations and searches, and that the supervisors have
been aware that CHP and BNE officers are engaging in racial profiling but
have refused to stop it. These allegations, if proved, would establish
liability under Larez, Bergquist and Harris. Cf. Maryland State
Conference of NAACP Branches v. Maryland Dep't of State Police,
72 F. Supp.2d 560, 565 (N.D.Md. 1999). Accordingly, applying as it must
the ordinary pleading standard of F.R.Civ.P. 8(a), the Court concludes
that the claims against Helmick and Doane are sufficient to withstand a
motion to dismiss.
E. Immunity Under the California Tort Claims Act
Defendants assert that they are immune from Plaintiffs' state law
statutory and common law tort claims under three separate provisions of
the California Government ...