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Horton v. Service Employees International Union

September 4, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gary S. Austin United States Magistrate Judge


(Doc. 1)

Plaintiff John D. Horton, appearing pro se and proceeding in forma pauperis, filed a complaint on March 5, 2009, in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California in Sacramento. On August 5, 2009, that court ordered the matter transferred to this Court as venue is appropriate in Fresno. Plaintiff names the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) as Defendant.


A. Screening Standard

Pursuant to Title 28 of the United States Code section 1915(e)(2), the Court must conduct an initial review of the complaint for sufficiency to state a claim. The Court must dismiss a complaint or portion thereof if the Court determines that the action is legally "frivolous or malicious," fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). If the Court determines that the complaint fails to state a claim, leave to amend may be granted to the extent that the deficiencies of the complaint can be cured by amendment.

A complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief...." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). Detailed factual allegations are not required, but "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65 (2007)). Plaintiff must set forth "sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim that is plausible on its face.'" Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). While legal conclusions can provide a framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950. While factual allegations are accepted as true, legal conclusion are not. Iqbal, at 1949.

In reviewing a complaint under this standard, the Court must accept as true the allegations of the complaint in question (Hospital Bldg. Co. v. Trustees of Rex Hospital, 425 U.S. 738, 740 (1976)), construe the pro se pleadings liberally in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff (Resnick v. Hayes, 213 F.3d 443, 447 (9th Cir. 2000)), and resolve all doubts in the Plaintiff's favor (Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 421 (1969)).

B. Plaintiff's Allegations

Plaintiff contends that SEIU failed to adequately represent his interests in proceedings before the California State Personnel Board (SPB) following Plaintiff's June 2007 termination as a Senior Corrections Librarian at the Sierra Conservation Center State Prison in Jamestown, California. Plaintiff was allegedly terminated for failing to disclose termination from a probationary position in 1988, and for having received a traffic ticket in February 2007 in Sonora, California. More particularly, Plaintiff asserts that he sought representation from SEIU for purposes of his appeal before the SPB, and that the SEIU expressly accepted Plaintiff's condition that he could only be contacted via email, rather than via United States mail or telephone. Subsequently, the SPB scheduled a hearing in the matter, yet SEIU failed to contact Plaintiff via email, instead it "wrongfully attempted to contact... [Plaintiff]... via the US Postal Service," and thus the matter was dismissed for Plaintiff's failure to appear at the hearing. Thereafter, SEIU apparently agreed to contact the SPB and ask that Plaintiff's matter be reopened, and further agreed to maintain contact with Plaintiff via email. Plaintiff contends SEIU has failed to communicate with him despite its agreement to provide continued assistance, and that his case before the SPB was allowed to "lapse." Plaintiff seeks damages of $140,000.00 and specific performance. (Doc. 1.)

C. Analysis

1. Breach of Contract & Legal Malpractice

Plaintiff complains that SEIU breached its contract with Plaintiff by failing to keep Plaintiff informed of the hearing date in the SPB matter and by failing to communicate with Plaintiff via email as expressly agreed.

Plaintiff makes an ambiguous claim that Defendant has breached a contract, yet Plaintiff fails to identify the contract purportedly breached. Nor has Plaintiff identified any deprivation of a federal constitutional or statutory right. A pleading may not simply allege a wrong has been committed and demand relief. The underlying requirement is that a pleading give "fair notice" of the claim being asserted and the "grounds upon which it rests." Conley v. ...

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