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Thornbrough v. Western Placer Unified School District

December 27, 2009

MICHAEL THORNBROUGH, PLAINTIFF,
v.
WESTERN PLACER UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT, SCOTT LEAMAN, DAVID GIRARD, KATHY ALLEN, ROBERT NOYES, AND DOES 1-25, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Garland E. Burrell, Jr. United States District Judge

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT GIRARD'S MOTION TO DISMISS*fn1

On November 12, 2009, Defendant David Girard filed a motion in which he seeks to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)("Rule 12(b)(6)"). Girard also filed a "special motion to strike" Plaintiff's state law claims under California's "anti-SLAPP" statute, California Civil Code of Procedure Section 425.16. For the reasons stated below, Girard's motion to dismiss is GRANTED and his anti-SLAPP motion is deemed MOOT.

I. LEGAL STANDARD

A motion under Rule 12(b)(6) "challenges a complaint's compliance with . . . pleading requirements." Champlaie v. BAC Home Loans Servicing, LP, No. S-09-1316 LKK/DAD, 2009 WL 3429622, at *1 (E.D. Cal. Oct. 22, 2009). A pleading 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). The complaint must "give the defendant fair notice of what the [plaintiff's] claim is and the grounds upon which relief rests . . . ." Bell Atlantic Corp. V. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). "A pleading that offers labels and conclusions or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders naked assertions devoid of further factual enhancement." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009).

In deciding a motion under Rule 12(b)(6), the material allegations of the complaint are accepted as true and all reasonable inferences are drawn in favor of the plaintiff. See al-Kidd v. Ashcroft, 580 F.3d 949, 956 (9th Cir. 2009). However, neither conclusory statements nor legal conclusions are entitled to a presumption of truth. See Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949-50. To avoid dismissal, the plaintiff must allege "only enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 547. "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. Plausibility, however, requires more than "a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id. "When a complaint pleads facts that are merely consistent with a defendant's liability, it stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief." Id. (quotations and citation omitted).

Girard's motion to dismiss is accompanied by a request for judicial notice of twenty-six documents. Most of these documents cannot be considered in deciding Girard's dismissal motion without converting the motion into one for summary judgment. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(d); see also Knievel v. ESPN, 393, F.3d 1068, 1076 (9th Cir. 2005)(stating that in general, "when ruling on a motion to dismiss, [a court] must disregard facts that are not alleged on the face of the complaint or contained within documents attached to the complaint."). However, on a motion to dismiss, a court may consider matters properly subject to judicial notice, including "records and reports of administrative bodies." See Mack v. South Bay Beer Distributors, Inc., 798 F.2d 1279, 1282 (9th Cir. 1986), abrogated in part on other grounds by, Astoria Federal Sav. & Loan Ass'n v. Solimino, 501 U.S. 104, 111 (1991). Girard argues that administrative proceeding documents involving Plaintiff may be judicially noticed and considered. However, Girard has not demonstrated that these documents are "records and reports of administrative bodies." Id. Therefore, Girard's request for judicial notice of these documents is denied.

Girard also requests that judicial notice be taken of documents filed in a state court proceeding involving Plaintiff and the Western Placer Unified School District. However, this request is also denied since Girard has not shown that these documents are pertinent to the dismissal motion.

II. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff was hired by the Western Placer Unified School District ("WPUSD") on July 8, 1997 as a maintenance worker and was eventually promoted to the position of Assistant Director of Maintenance. (Compl. ¶ 13.) Plaintiff alleges Girard "was, the [WPUSD's] legal advisor for personnel matters and was responsible for investigating personnel matters and advising and directing WPUSD and its administrators." (Id. ¶ 11.)

Plaintiff's claims concern his allegations that Defendants improperly initiated administrative proceedings against him based upon false charges, and wrongfully terminated him, in retaliation for his complaints of improper spending and mismanagement within the school district. (Id. ¶¶ 14-25.) Specifically, Plaintiff alleges while performing his job responsibilities, he "became aware that [a] construction contractor hired by WPUSD was not providing specified construction materials" as required. (Id. ¶ 14.) Plaintiff alleges he "communicated with [Defendant and WPUSD Superintendent Leaman] about the construction [contractor]. . . problems . . . [as well as] the illegal failure of the contractor to use specified construction materials . . . ." (Id. ¶ 15.) Defendant Leaman allegedly requested that Plaintiff give him one year to address Plaintiff's concerns. (Id.)

As a result of expressing concerns over the construction contractor, Plaintiff alleges Defendant Leaman suspended Plaintiff and "had Superintendent Robert Noyes initiate administrative termination proceedings against [him] based on false accusations and without good cause." (Id. ¶ 16.) Plaintiff alleges the initiation of the administrative termination proceeding "[was] done in concert [by all Defendants] and in retaliation for [Plaintiff's] prior complaints . . . ." (Id.) Plaintiff further alleges "[Defendants Leaman, Noyes and Girard] conspired and agreed to falsely claim that [Plaintiff] [had] violated California's and WPUSD's sexual harassment laws and policies." (Id. ¶ 17.) Plaintiff alleges these "false charges" were "resolved by settlement." (Id.)

After resolution of the "false charges" against Plaintiff, Plaintiff alleges he took further actions to alert the WPUSD to problems within the district, including sending information and expressing his concerns to the Placer County Grand Jury, the editor of a local newspaper, and the WPUSD Board. (Id. ¶¶ 18-22.) Plaintiff also wrote a letter to Superintendent Kathy Allen to complain about a "change in purchase order procedures of the Maintenance Department." (Id. ¶ 20.)

Plaintiff alleges that in response to these actions, Defendant Leaman executed a "Statement of Charges and Recommendations for Dismissal" against Plaintiff, initiating an administrative termination proceeding. (Id. ¶ 24.) An administrative hearing before an officer selected by WPUSD occurred, at which, Plaintiff alleges "Defendants reasserted the false claims that they conjured in the [prior] administrative action." (Id.) At the administrative hearing, Defendant "Leaman [allegedly] testified . . . that he made the decision to terminate [Plaintiff] based on [the Statement of Charges and Recommendations for Dismissal]." (Id.) Plaintiff also alleges Defendant Leaman stated Defendant Girard drafted the "accusations" brought against him in the administrative proceeding. (Id.) WPUSD terminated Plaintiff effective April 29, 2009. (Id. ¶ 26.)

Plaintiff filed a complaint in this federal court on September 17, 2009, alleging eleven claims under federal and state law against WPUSD, Scott Leaman, David Girard, Kathy Allen, Robert Noyes and twenty-five Doe Defendants. Plaintiff's complaint alleges federal claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and § 1985. Plaintiff's claims under California law include violations of the California Constitution, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, retaliatory discharge in violation of California public policy and violations of the California Education Code and California Labor Code. Plaintiff's complaint alleges all eleven causes of action against all Defendants. The WPUSD and Defendants Noyes, Leaman, and Allen filed an answer to the complaint on November 2, 2009.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Plaintiff's Federal ...


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