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Hahn v. Armas

February 8, 2010

LAWRENCE V. HAHN AND COLDSTREAM ADVENTURES UNLIMITED, INC., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
PAM ARMAS, SIERRA DISTRICT SUPERINTENDENT, DONALD K. SCHMIDT, TARA LYNCH, DEAN OETLE, MIKE ROMINGER, AND DOES 1 THROUGH 100, INCLUSIVE DEFENDANTS.



ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS

This matter is before the Court on Defendants Pam Armas, Donald K. Schmidt, Tara Lynch, Dean Oertle, and Mark Rominger's (collectively "Parks Employees" or "Defendants") motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (Doc. # 15). Plaintiffs Lawrence Hahn and Coldstream Adventures Unlimited, Inc. (collectively "Hahn" or "Plaintiffs") oppose the motion. (Doc. # 16). For the reasons set for below,*fn1 Defendants' motion is GRANTED.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

This Court views the facts and draws inferences in the manner most favorable to Plaintiffs as the non-moving party. Since August 1994, Plaintiff Hahn asserts he owned estates in real property, all within Placer County, consisting of approximately a 59-acre parcel of land located at 8975 Coldstream Road, as well as two recorded easements across parcels, which Hahn alleges entitle him to access areas within both Coldstream Canyon and Emigrant Canyon, via portions of Coldstream Road, for any lawful purpose, including, but not limited to commercial activities. Plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint ("SAC") ¶ 44. Hahn has operated a snowmobile tour business, as well as other commercial activities on and around his property. SAC ¶¶ 42, 43.

In the present action, Defendants are sued in their individual, personal capacities while acting under color of legal authority. SAC ¶¶ 6-12. Plaintiffs' SAC alleges that Parks Employees detained and cited Hahn and Coldstream Adventures without probable cause for operating a business in the state park without the proper concessionaire's license. SAC ¶ 57(b). Hahn also accuses Parks Employees of "knowingly fraudulently urging the District Attorney of Nevada County to prosecute criminal charges against Plaintiff Hahn, without probable causes to believe that Plaintiff had violated any law" and "knowingly and intentionally suppressing evidence." SAC ¶ 57(c)(d). Hahn asserts that Parks Employees' criminal investigations of his activities "were taken in response to Plaintiff Hahn's free speech and associative activities," including "plaintiffs' First Amendment free speech rights/communications with/right to communicate with clients and potential clients, as well as Plaintiff Hahn's freedom to associate for commercial purposes with the individuals of his choice." SAC ¶ 84. Hahn also alleges that Parks Employees intentionally sought to discriminate against him, humiliate him, and deplete his financial resources "by requiring that he defend himself against criminal charges brought without probable cause and maliciously by defendants." SAC ¶ 103. In addition to damages, Hahn seeks a declaration that "plaintiffs are entitled to conduct commercial activities in the aforesaid area" and an order "restraining defendants from unlawfully harassing plaintiffs in any manner." SAC, Prayer for Relief, ¶¶ E, G.

Specifically, Hahn's Second Amended Complaint alleges seven causes of action against Parks Employees for: (1) Violation of the First Amendment, 42 U.S.C. Section 1983; (2) Violation of the Fourth Amendment, 42 U.S.C. Section 1983; (3) Violation of Procedural Due Process, 42 U.S.C. Section 1983; (4) Violation of Substantive Due Process, 42 U.S.C. Section 1983; (5) Violation of Equal Protection, 42 U.S.C. Section 1983; (6) Declaratory Relief; and (7) Injunctive Relief.

In the instant motion, Defendants seek the dismissal of the First, Third, Fourth, and Sixth claims for relief on the grounds that (1) the Third and Fourth claims for relief fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; (2) the Court lacks jurisdiction over the First and Sixth claims for relief; and (3) the State of California ("State") is an indispensable party.

II. OPINION

A. Legal Standard

On a motion to dismiss, the allegations of the complaint must be accepted as true. Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319, 322 (1972). The court is bound to give the plaintiff the benefit of every reasonable inference to be drawn from the "well-pleaded" allegations of the complaint. Retail Clerks Int'l Ass'n v. Schermerhorn, 373 U.S. 746, 753 n.6 (1963). Thus, the plaintiff need not necessarily plead a particular fact if that fact is a reasonable inference from facts properly alleged. See id.

Nevertheless, it is inappropriate to assume that the plaintiff "can prove facts which it has not alleged or that the defendants have violated the . . . laws in ways that have not been alleged." Associated Gen. Contractors of Calif., Inc. v. Calif. State Council of Carpenters, 459 U.S. 519, 526 (1983). Moreover, the court "need not assume the truth of legal conclusions cast in the form of factual allegations." United States ex rel. Chunie v. Ringrose, 788 F.2d 638, 643 n.2 (9th Cir. 1986). Indeed, "[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 (U.S. 2009)(citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).

Ultimately, the court may not dismiss a complaint in which the plaintiff alleged "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (U.S. 2009)(citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). Only where a plaintiff has failed to "nudge [his or her] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible," is the complaint properly dismissed. Id. When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, "a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief." Id.

B. Plaintiffs' Third and Fourth Claims for Violations of Procedural and Substantive Due Process

Hahn's Third and Fourth claims for relief allege that Parks Employees knowingly and intentionally suppressed evidence as part of the August 3, 2007 and July 18, 2008 detentions and subsequent criminal cases against him. SAC ¶¶ 96, 104. Hahn alleges that these actions violated his right to procedural and substantive due process, causing injury. SAC ¶¶ 97, 99, 105-106.

The United States Supreme Court in Brady v. Maryland held that the prosecution violates a defendant's due process rights if it fails to turn over evidence that is "material either to guilt or to punishment." 373 U.S. 83, 87 (1963). In order to prevail on a Brady claim, a defendant must demonstrate that: (1) the evidence at issue is favorable, either because it is exculpatory or because it is impeaching; (2) such evidence was suppressed by the State, either willfully or inadvertently; and (3) prejudice resulted. Strickler v. Greene, 527 U.S. 263, 281-82, 119 S.Ct. 1936, 144 L.Ed. 2d 286 (1999). Nonetheless, "where the defendant is aware of the essential facts enabling him to take advantage of any exculpatory evidence, the Government does not commit a Brady violation by not ...


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