United States District Court, N.D. California
November 10, 2005.
JAMES-ERIC WOFFORD, Plaintiff,
DANE R. HAYWARD DBA, in his official and private capacity, S. CURTIS, in his official and private capacity, MARK BARNES, in his official and private capacity, and LAKE COUNTY aka THE COUNTY OF LAKE, Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: WILLIAM ALSUP, District Judge
ORDER GRANTING MOTIONS TO DISMISS
In this civil-rights action alleging various constitutional
violations, defendants now move to dismiss the complaint. Because
this order finds that plaintiff's claims are wholly without
merit, these motions are GRANTED.
Plaintiff James-Eric Wofford, acting pro se, filed his
complaint on August 17, 2005. The facts are difficult to discern
from his rambling narrative. Mr. Wofford accuses three California
Highway Patrol officers of wrongfully arresting him and charging
him with various violations of the California Vehicle Code
("CVC"). Lake County is also named as a defendant. In short, Mr.
Wofford argues that those charges were "without force and effect"
on him because the CVC, including §§ 14601.1, 14601.5(a) and
2800.2(a), only applies to commercial drivers. In support of this
theory, he cites various definitions. These include
18 U.S.C. § 31, applicable to penalties for the destruction of aircraft and
motor vehicles, and CVC § 15210, applicable to Chapter 7 of the
CVC i.e., the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Program (Compl.
at 2-4). Mr. Wofford specifically alleges that the three California
Highway Patrol officers arrested him when they had no probable
cause to believe that the CVC would apply to him because there
was "no valid evidence or good information that [he was]
transporting persons or property for hire" (id. at 6). The Lake
County Superior Court and the District Attorney are accused of
misapplying the CVC to him and failing to file a verified
complaint or a bill of particulars (id. at 6-8, 26). He further
alleges that he was arrested as a result of a conspiracy between
the officers and his friend Kenny Kirkbright, with whom he had a
dispute over a pickup truck (id. at 9-10, 13). Mr. Wofford also
claims that the first time he was charged with driving under the
influence, he was denied a blood test when he failed to urinate
and the second time, defendants tampered with his urine sample;
these allegedly wrongful DUI charges resulted in the suspension
of his driver's license (id. at 11-13). Finally, he alleges
that his truck was wrongfully towed when his friend Lisa
Jorgenson was driving it with an expired driver's license (id.
There are five pending criminal cases against Mr. Wofford in
Lake County Superior Court. Case numbers CR904269, CR034377,
CR035994 and LP31096.01 have been consolidated and continue to
trail CR902434 (RJN Exh. B). Among other crimes, he was accused
of violating the following sections of the CVC: § 23152(a)
(driving under the influence of a controlled substance,
specifically methamphetamine) on March 31, 2002; §§ 14601.5(a)
(knowingly driving without a license) and 22350 (speeding) on May
7, 2003; §§ 23152(a) and 27315(d)(1) (driving without a seatbelt)
on August 27, 2003; §§ 2800.2(a) (driving with willful or wanton
disregard for safety or persons or property while fleeing from a
pursuing police officer) and 14601.5(a) on September 5, 2004.
Mr. Wofford alleges various violations of his constitutional
rights in support of his claims under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985 and
1986. Specifically, the complaint accuses defendants of (1)
misapplying the CVC to non-commercial entities in violation of
the equal protection and due process clauses of the 14th
Amendment; (2) refusing to file a bill of particulars in the
pending criminal actions in violation of the 5th and 6th
Amendments; (3) confiscating personal property (i.e., towing
his truck) without a trial by jury in violation of the 7th Amendment; (4) arresting him without probable cause in
violation of the 4th Amendment because he was not a commercial
driver transporting persons or property for hire; (5) failing to
file a verified complaint in violation of the 4th Amendment; (6)
violating his right to travel under the 5th, 9th and 14th
Amendments; (7) arresting him and subjecting him to false
imprisonment for violations of the CVC which did not apply to
him; and (8) violating federal law as set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 31
by not defining "motor vehicles" as those used for commercial
purposes (Compl. at 16-41). Mr. Wofford seeks damages in the
amount of $1.2 million for false imprisonment, $105,000 in lost
income (for three years of being unable to use an automobile in
his chosen profession as an antiques dealer) and $10,000 in
punitive damages (id. at 41-42).
Defendant Lake County filed its motion to dismiss on September
8, 2005. The three California Highway Patrol officers filed a
separate motion to dismiss. Because Mr. Wofford initially failed
to file timely opposition briefs to these two motions, the
hearing was rescheduled to allow him an opportunity to do so.
On a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6), the factual allegations of the complaint are taken as
true and construed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving
party. Cahill v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 80 F.3d 336, 340 (9th
Cir. 1996). The court need not, however, accept as true
allegations that contradict matters properly subject to judicial
notice or by exhibit. Lee v. City of Los Angeles, 250 F.3d 668,
689 (9th Cir. 2001). Nor is the court required to accept as true
allegations that are merely conclusory, unwarranted deductions of
fact, or unreasonable inferences. Ibid.
Complaints of plaintiffs appearing pro se are judged by a less
stringent standard than pleadings drafted by attorneys. Klingele
v. Eikenberry, 849 F.2d 409, 413 (9th Cir. 1988). If, however,
"it is absolutely clear that the deficiencies of the complaint
could not be cured by amendment," leave to amend need not be
granted. Cato v. U.S., 70 F.3d 1103, 1106 (9th Cir. 1995).
Moreover, "where the alleged claim under the Constitution or
federal statutes clearly appears to be immaterial and made solely
for the purpose of obtaining jurisdiction or where such a claim is wholly insubstantial and frivolous," the Court
lacks subject-matter jurisdiction. Bell v. Hood, 327 U.S. 678,
As stated on the record, a federal court is without
jurisdiction to intervene in pending state court criminal
proceedings. To the extent that Mr. Wofford is attempting to stop
the prosecution of the five criminal cases listed above, the
Court must abstain from hearing such claims. See Younger v.
Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971).
In any event, the overarching theme of plaintiff's complaint is
that he is exempt from criminal prosecution because the CVC only
applies to commercial drivers. This theory, based on selective
citations of irrelevant definitions from the CVC and the United
States Code, is completely devoid of merit. This order finds that
the alleged constitutional violations all based on this flawed
argument that the CVC does not apply to plaintiff are wholly
insubstantial and frivolous. Because the Court lacks
subject-matter jurisdiction, the complaint must be DISMISSED.
Even if this order were to reach the merits and accept all the
factual allegations as true, Mr. Wofford's complaint fails to set
forth any cognizable legal theory. All of the alleged
"constitutional violations" revolve around his argument, rejected
above, that the CVC only applies to commercial drivers. There is
no constitutional right to drive, much less a "clearly
established" right that defendants' interference with would give
rise to liability under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The same argument has
already been rejected by the Northern District of California.
See Mohammed El v. Opdyke, 2004 WL 1465692 (N.D. Cal. Jun. 23
For the foregoing reasons, defendants' motions to dismiss are
GRANTED. Judgment will be entered accordingly. In light of this
order, defendants' request to continue their case management
deadlines is RENDERED MOOT.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
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