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Lugo v. Valverde

July 24, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Thomas J. Whelan United States District Judge


Plaintiff Manuel David Lugo filed a civil-rights complaint against Defendant George Valverde (the DMV) alleging that the DMV violated his right to procedural due process under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The DMV moved to dismiss. Because res judicata precludes Lugo from reasserting a constitutional claim, and in any event, his complaint fails to state a claim, the court will GRANT the motion.

I. Background

On July 24, 2005, in the early morning, Lugo called the San Diego Police after another driver rear-ended his car. (Compl. ¶ 10.) When they arrived, Lugo maintained that the engine was off and the emergency flashers were on at the time of the accident. (Id.) Because the reporting officer observed that Lugo exhibited objective signs of alcohol intoxication-Lugo had bloodshot eyes and alcohol on his breath, lacked balance, and slurred his speech-the officer arrested Lugo for driving a vehicle while intoxicated. (Def.'s Mem. in Supp. at 3.) Breath tests showed Lugo's blood-alcohol concentration ("BAC") at 0.11 and 0.10 percent. (Id.)

On August 18, 2005, the DMV held a hearing before Driver Safety Officer Felicia Davis, an employee of the DMV. (Compl. ¶ 12.) By statute, an "administrative per se" hearing must occur before the DMV may suspend a license for driving under the influence of alcohol. Prior to the hearing, Lugo requested that all available passengers and percipient witnesses be permitted to testify that he was not driving. (Id.) DSO Davis denied the request, limiting Lugo to two of the four witnesses he wanted. The reporting officer also testified that Lugo admitted he was driving. (Id.) DSO Davis credited the reporting officer's testimony, and suspended Lugo's license for four months. (Id.)

On December 14, 2005, the DMV held a second administrative-per-se hearing regarding Lugo's suspension. (Def.'s Mem. in Supp. at 4 (citing RJN, Ex. B at 1--2).) DSO Davis again denied Lugo's request to allow the excluded witnesses to testify. (Compl. ¶ 14.) The reporting officer again testified that Lugo admitted to being the driver (Def.'s Mem. in Supp. at 4), however, he could not recall whether the parked vehicle's engine was running when he arrived or who had the keys to the car. (Id.) Neither the officer nor his report stated that he witnessed Lugo driving. (Compl. ¶ 10.) On December 20, 2005, the DMV issued a decision upholding the written decision of the first administrative-per-se hearing to suspend Lugo's license. (Id.)

On August 21, 2006-over eight months later-Lugo petitioned for a writ of mandate in San Diego Superior Court to overturn the suspension of his driver's license. (Compl. ¶ 18.) Lugo asserted that the DMV failed to meet its burden of proof, and failed to afford him a fair hearing "under applicable standards of due process, statutory and constitutional provisions." (Def.'s Mem. in Supp. at 4.) On December 5, 2006, the Hon. Eugenia Eyherabide entered a judgment denying Lugo's petition for writ of mandate to overturn the four-month suspension of his driver's license. (Id. at 6.)

On January 8, 2007, the DMV sent a letter notifying Lugo that it would suspend his California driver's license for four months beginning on January 16, 2007. (Compl. ¶ 19.) The letter stated that Lugo would be prosecuted if he failed to surrender his driver's license under California Vehicle Code § 14610. (Id.) The letter also stated, "If you drive while your privilege is suspended or revoked you may be arrested, and if convicted, you may be jailed, fined, or both.


On January 16, 2007, Lugo commenced this action for injunctive relief to prevent the DMV from suspending his license. He alleged that the DMV deprived him of liberty without due process under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution. (Compl. ¶ 1.) On February 6, 2007, the DMV filed a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Def.'s Mem. in Supp. at 1.)

II. Legal Standard

A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the complaint's sufficiency. See N. Star Int'l v. Ariz. Corp. Comm'n, 720 F.2d 578, 581 (9th Cir. 1983). In reviewing a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the court must assume the truth of all factual allegations and must construe them in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Gompper v. VISX, Inc., 298 F.3d 893, 895 (9th Cir. 2002). The complaint and all reasonable inferences therefrom are construed in the plaintiff's favor. Walleri v. Fed. Home Loan Bank of Seattle, 83 F.3d 1575, 1580 (9th Cir. 1996). Nevertheless, conclusory legal allegations and unwarranted inferences are insufficient to defeat a motion to dismiss. Ove v. Gwinn, 264 F.3d 817, 821 (9th Cir. 2001).

In other words, while a complaint "does not need detailed factual allegations," it must include "more than labels and conclusions." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. -, - (2007). "Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all of the complaint's allegations are true." Id. Arguments relying on conclusory legal allegations or unwarranted inferences do not help to defeat a motion to dismiss. Ove v. Gwinn, 264 F.3d 817, 821 (9th Cir. 2001).

Generally, the court may not consider material outside the complaint when ruling on a motion to dismiss. Hal Roach Studios, Inc. v. Richard Feiner & Co., 896 F.2d 1542, 1555 n.19 (9th Cir. 1990). It may, however, consider any documents specifically identified in the complaint whose authenticity is not questioned by the parties. Fecht v. Price Co., 70 F.3d 1078, 1080 n.1 (9th Cir. 1995). Moreover, the court may consider the full text of those documents, even when the complaint quotes only selected portions. Id. The court may also consider material properly subject to judicial notice without converting the motion into a motion ...

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