This case came before the court on February 20, 2009 for the hearing of defendant Diane Balter's January 13, 2009 motion to dismiss or for more definite statement. Plaintiffs James Aggrey-Kweggyirr Arunga and Doreen H. Lee, proceeding pro se, appeared in propria persona. Kristina L. Gagne', Esq. appeared telephonically for defendant Balter.
For the reasons set forth below, defendant Balter's motion will be granted and plaintiffs' complaint will be dismissed with leave to amend.
LEGAL STANDARDS APPLICABLE TO DEFENDANT'S MOTION
I. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)
A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of the complaint. North Star Int'l v. Arizona Corp. Comm'n, 720 F.2d 578, 581 (9th Cir. 1983).
Dismissal of the complaint, or any claim within it, "can be based on the lack of a cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory." Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). See Robertson v. Dean Witter Reynolds, Inc., 749 F.2d 530, 534 (9th Cir. 1984). Thus, the court may dismiss a complaint or any claim within it as frivolous where the claim is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory or where the factual contentions are clearly baseless. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989). The critical inquiry is whether a claim, even if inartfully pleaded, has an arguable legal and factual basis. Jackson v. Arizona, 885 F.2d 639, 640 (9th Cir. 1989); Franklin v. Murphy, 745 F.2d 1221, 1227 (9th Cir. 1984). As the Supreme Court recently explained, in order to state a claim on which relief may be granted, the plaintiff must allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, , 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1974 (2007).
In determining whether a complaint states a claim, the court accepts as true the material allegations in the complaint and construes those allegations, as well as the reasonable inferences that may be drawn from them, in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984); Hosp. Bldg. Co. v. Trustees of Rex Hosp., 425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976); Love v. U.S., 915 F.2d 1242, 1245 (9th Cir. 1989). For purposes of a motion to dismiss, the court also resolves doubts in the plaintiff's favor. Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 421 (1969).
Pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by lawyers. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). However, the court may disregard allegations in the complaint that are contradicted by facts established by exhibits attached to the complaint. Durning v. First Boston Corp., 815 F.2d 1265, 1267 (9th Cir. 1987). In addition, the court need not accept as true conclusory allegations, unreasonable inferences, or unwarranted deductions of fact. Western Mining Council v. Watt, 643 F.2d 618, 624 (9th Cir. 1981).
II. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(e)
Rule 12(e) is designed to strike at unintelligibility, rather than want of detail. See Woods v. Reno Commodities, Inc., 600 F. Supp. 574, 580 (D. Nev. 1984); Nelson v. Quimby Island Reclamation Dist., 491 F. Supp. 1364, 1385 (N.D. Cal. 1980). The rule permits a party to move for a more definite statement "[i]f a pleading is so vague that a party cannot reasonably be required to frame a responsive pleading." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(e). It is not the function of such a motion to require the pleader to provide evidentiary material that may properly be obtained by discovery. See Famolare, Inc. v. Edison Bros. Stores, Inc., 525 F. Supp. 940, 949 (E.D. Cal. 1981). A motion for more definite statement should be denied if a pleading meets federal standards by providing a "short and plain statement" of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2).
The judicial power of the United States is vested in the Supreme Court "and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish." U.S. Const. Art. III, § 1. Congress confers jurisdiction upon the federal district courts, as limited by the Constitution. U.S. Const. Art. III, § 2; Ankenbrandt v. Richards, 504 U.S. 689, 697-99 (1992). District courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and may adjudicate only those cases authorized by the Constitution and by Congress. Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co, 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994).
The basic federal jurisdiction statutes, 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 & 1332, confer "federal question" and "diversity" jurisdiction, respectively. Statutes that regulate specific subject matter may also confer federal jurisdiction. See generally W.W. Schwarzer, A.W. Tashima & J. Wagstaffe, Fed. Civ. Proc. Before Trial (2008) § 2:5. Unless a complaint presents a plausible assertion of a substantial federal right, a federal court does not have jurisdiction. Bell v. Hood, 327 U.S. 678, 682 (1945). A federal claim that is so insubstantial as to be patently without merit cannot serve as the basis for federal jurisdiction. Hagans v. Lavine, 415 U.S. 528, 587-38, 94 S.Ct. 1372, 1379-80 (1974). See also Franklin v. Murphy, 745 F.2d 1221, 1227 (9th Cir. 1984) ("A paid complaint that is 'obviously frivolous' does not confer federal subject matter jurisdiction and may be dismissed sua sponte before service of process.").
Although the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure adopt a flexible pleading policy, a complaint must, at a minimum, establish the court's jurisdiction, identify the defendants, state the relief sought, and give fair notice of the claims to the defendants. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a) (providing that a pleading must contain "a short and plain statement of the grounds for the court's jurisdiction," "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief," and "a demand for the relief sought"). See also Jones v. ...