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Lutz v. Delano Union High School Dist.

March 20, 2009

ALAN LUTZ, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DELANO UNION HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT, LINDA ENRIQUEZ, AND DOES 1 THROUGH RONALD GARCIA, JOSEPH HUNTER, CC, INCLUSIVE, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Oliver W. Wanger, United States District Judge

ORDER RE DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS FOR FAILURE TO STATE A CLAIM PURSUANT TO RULE 12(b)(6)

(Doc. 5)

I. INTRODUCTION

On July 14, 2008, Plaintiff Allen Lutz ("Plaintiff") filed suit against his former employer, Delano Union High School District and former colleagues, Ronald Garcia, Joseph Hunter, and Linda Enriquez (collectively "Defendants") in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Kern. On November 20, 2008, the action was removed to this court based on federal question jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441(b). (Doc. 1.) Plaintiff alleges a violation of his First Amendment rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff also asserts a supplemental claim for violation of California Civil Code § 52.1.

Before the court is Defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (Doc. 5.) Defendants challenge the sufficiency of Plaintiff's pleadings with respect to both of his alleged claims.

II. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff was employed by the Delano Union High School District (the "School District"), a public school district. (Compl. ¶¶ 2, 4.) The capacity in which the School District employed Plaintiff is not specified in the complaint. Defendants Garcia, Hunter, and Enriquez were also employed by the School District. (Compl. ¶ 3.) However, the complaint contains no factual allegations regarding Garcia's, Hunter's, or Enriquez's job title or job description with the School District.

Plaintiff alleges that he exercised his free speech rights "on an important public matter" by discussing discrimination based on ancestry or national origin by the School District. (Compl. ¶ 5.) Plaintiff contends that each defendant interfered with his right to free speech by "making complaints against him" and by "directing him not to utter such speech again upon threat" of employment sanctions. (Compl. ¶ 6.) Plaintiff also contends that these actions were retaliatory in nature, and inevitably led to hardships encountered in his employment including a suffering in working conditions and a loss of income and benefits. (Id.) Plaintiff maintains that Garcia, Hunter, and Enriquez acted out of "personal animosity" and acted "outside the scope and purpose of their employment with [the School District]" by encouraging the adverse actions taken against him. (Compl. ¶ 12.) Plaintiff contends that each defendant acted "under color of law." (Compl. ¶ 13.)

Plaintiff filed a claim pursuant to the Government Tort Claims Act, California Government Code § 900 et seq., which was rejected by the School District on January 18, 2008.

III. STANDARD OF DECISION

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides that a motion to dismiss may be made if the plaintiff fails "to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." In deciding whether to grant a motion to dismiss, the court must "accept all factual allegations of the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences" in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. TwoRivers v. Lewis, 174 F.3d 987, 991 (9th Cir. 1999); see also Rodriguez v. Panayiotou, 314 F.3d 979, 983 (9th Cir. 2002). "To avoid a Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal, a complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations; rather, it must plead 'enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Weber v. Dep't of Veterans Affairs, 521 F.3d 1061 (9th Cir. 2008) (citing Bell Atl. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544; 127 S.Ct. 1955 (2007) (rejecting interpretation of Rule 8 that permits dismissal only when the plaintiff can prove "no set of facts" in support of his claim). A court is not "required to accept as true allegations that are merely conclusory, unwarranted deductions of fact, or unreasonable inferences." Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors, 266 F.3d 979, 988 (9th Cir. 2001). Something "more than labels and conclusions" is needed to provide the grounds for relief. Bell Atl., 127 S.Ct. at 1965 (citing Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)).

IV. DISCUSSION

A. First Amendment Retaliation Claim - § 1983

Defendants challenge Plaintiff's § 1983 claim by arguing that

(1) Plaintiff has not alleged sufficient facts to support his underlying First Amendment claim, and (2) Plaintiff has not sufficiently alleged a basis on which the School District can be liable for a ยง 1983 violation, and has not properly ...


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