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Stone v. Cate

March 3, 2010


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


On November 5, 2009, Defendants Matthew Cate, Glenda Pressly, Nancy Hanley, and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR") (collectively, "Defendants") filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.*fn2 Further, Defendants Cate and Pressly argue they are qualifiedly immune from the federal claims alleged in plaintiff's Complaint. Plaintiff has not opposed the motion.

I. Background

Plaintiff was hired as a substitute teacher at N.A. Chaderjian Youth Correctional Facility ("CHAD") on October 5, 2005. (Compl. ¶ 6.) As a substitute teacher, Plaintiff was required to possess a teaching credential issued by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing ("CCTC"). (Id.) Plaintiff was notified on August 28, 2007, that she would be terminated effective September 12, 2007 "because her teaching credential would be expiring and she had not presented a new one." (Id. ¶ 7.) Plaintiff alleges "[s]ubsequently, but not before the effective date of her termination of employment . . . [, her] teaching credential was renewed." (Id. at 8.) Plaintiff alleges six claims in her Complaint under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985(3), and 1986.

II. Legal Standard

"A Rule 12(b)(6) motion tests the legal sufficiency of a claim." Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001). To avoid dismissal, a 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, 570 (2007). When considering a dismissal motion, all "allegations of material fact are taken as true and construed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Thompson v. Davis, 295 F.3d 890, 895 (9th Cir. 2002). However, this "tenet . . . is inapplicable to threadbare recitals of a cause of action's elements, supported by mere conclusory statements." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. ---, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1940 (2009).

III. Analysis

A. Sovereign Immunity

Defendants CDCR and Matthew Cate argue they are entitled to sovereign immunity. These defendants argue since "Plaintiff alleges that the [CDCR] is a State Agency and sues Defendant Matthew Cate in his official capacity only . . . [Plaintiff's] claims against these Defendants must be dismissed without leave to amend on the grounds of Eleventh Amendment Immunity." (Mot. 7:26-8:2.)

CDCRC as an agency of the state is entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity. "Under the Eleventh Amendment, agencies of the state are immune from private damage actions or suits for injunctive relief brought in federal court." Dittman v. State of California, 191 F.3d 1020, 1025 (9th Cir. 1999) (quoting Mitchell v. Los Angeles Cmty. Coll. Dist., 861 F.2d 198, 201 (9th Cir.1989)). This immunity bars Plaintiff's claims against the CDCR. See Brown v. California Dept. of Corr., 554 F.3d 747, 752 (9th Cir. 2009) ("The district court correctly held that the California Department of Corrections and the California Board of Prison Terms were entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity."). Therefore, Plaintiff's claims alleged against CDCR are dismissed without leave to amend on the basis of Eleventh Amendment immunity.

Cate argues:

While it is true that an individual, such as Cate, may be sued in his official capacity for prospective injunctive relief, the Complaint does not include a request for prospective injunctive relief here. Although the Plaintiff's prayer for relief seeks "injunctive relief", she confuses injunctive relief with monetary relief. The prayer states that she seeks injunctive relief in the form of back and front pay, and lost fringe benefits.

(Mot. 8:3-8). "A suit against a state official in his or her official capacity is not a suit against the official but rather is a suit against the official's office. As such, it is not different from a suit against the state itself." Will v. Michigan Dept. of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989) (cite omitted). "Therefore, state officials sued in their official capacities . . . are not 'persons' within the meaning of § 1983 and are therefore generally entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity." Flint v. Dennison, 488 F.3d 816, 825 (9th Cir. 2007). Further, although the Eleventh Amendment does not bar an action seeking prospective injunctive relief against a state official, "[a] remedy for past injury, even if it purports to be an injunction against state officers requiring the future payments of money, is . . . forbidden under the Eleventh Amendment." Seven Up Pete Venture v. Schweitzer, 523 F.3d 948, 956 (9th Cir. 2008) (quotes and brackets omitted).

Here, Plaintiff's Complaint states, "Defendant Cate is sued in his official capacity only." (Compl. ΒΆ 4(a).) Plaintiff seeks "equitable and injunctive relief in the form of reinstatement, back pay and front pay . . . and prospective equitable relief." (Id. at 10:7-9, 14-15.) The relief Plaintiff seeks cannot be "properly characterized as prospective" since Plaintiff has alleged no "ongoing violation of federal law." Seven Up Pete Venture, 523 ...

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