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Scott v. Keller

April 23, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Christina A. Snyder United States District Judge



On April 14, 2008, plaintiff Thomas Scott filed a complaint against defendants K. Keller ("Keller"); K. Powell ("Powell"); L. Weinholdt ("Weinholdt"); Brett Williams ("Williams"); C. Hall ("Hall"); and N. Grannis ("Grannis"), alleging a violation of his equal protection rights by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR"). On October 6, 2008, plaintiff filed his first amended complaint ("FAC") against the same defendants, but added Arnold Schwarzenegger ("Schwarzenegger") and M. Cate ("Cate" incorrectly identified as "Tate" in the FAC). On October 27, 2008, United States Magistrate Judge Craig A. Kellison, for the Eastern District of California, issued an order screening the FAC, and found that the FAC appeared to state a cognizable claim for relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b). CD No. 17 (Order Screening Plaintiff's Complaint). On December 11, 2008, this action was reassigned to this Court, pursuant to the Order of Designation of Judge to Serve in Another District Within the Ninth Circuit.

On January 23, 2009, defendants Cate, Grannis, Hall, Keller, Powell, Schwarzenegger, and Weinholt filed the instant motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). On April 15, 2009, defendant Williams filed a notice of joinder to the instant motion. October 22, 2009, plaintiff filed his opposition. On October 7, 2009, defendants filed their reply. After carefully considering the arguments by both parties, the Court finds and concludes as follows.


Plaintiff alleges that he was convicted and sentenced to a term of four years in prison on December 14, 1998, in Orange County Superior Court, Case No. 98CF1230, for violation of Penal Code § 288(a). FAC ¶ 13. Plaintiff further alleges that on October 25, 2005, he was sentenced to fifteen years in Riverside County Superior Court, Case No. SWF0101600, for violating Penal Code § 288(a). Id. ¶ 14. Plaintiff is currently serving his sentence at Mule Creek State Prison. Id. ¶ 3.

Plaintiff alleges that he brings this civil rights action seeking damages and injunctive relief under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981-1985 for violations of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. FAC ¶ 12. Plaintiff alleges that prison officials treat mentally ill inmates differently based on whether they are classified as Mentally Disordered Offenders ("MDO") or Sexually Violent Predators ("SVP") and that they have no valid reason for the disparity. CD No.17 at 1, 3. Plaintiff further alleges he is a member of the class of inmates that meets the standard for evaluation and treatment under California's Sexually Violent Predators Act ("SVPA") and that he was treated differently from those inmates classified as a MDO because MDOs are provided an earlier evaluation and earlier treatment. Mot. at 7-8 (citing CD No.17 at 1).


A Rule 12(b)(6) motion tests the legal sufficiency of the claims asserted in a complaint. "While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his 'entitlement to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). "Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Id. Stated differently, only a complaint that states a claim for relief that is "plausible on its face" survives a motion to dismiss. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949-50 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). "The plausibility standard is not akin to the 'probability requirement,' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id.

In considering a motion pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), a court must accept as true all material allegations in the complaint, as well as all reasonable inferences to be drawn from them. Pareto v. F.D.I.C., 139 F.3d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1998). The complaint must be read in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors, 266 F.3d 979, 988 (9th Cir. 2001); Parks Sch. of Bus., Inc. v. Symington, 51 F.3d 1480, 1484 (9th Cir. 1995). However, a court need not accept as true unreasonable inferences or conclusory legal allegations cast in the form of factual allegations. Sprewell, 266 F.3d at 988; W. Mining Council v. Watt, 643 F.2d 618, 624 (9th Cir. 1981).

Dismissal pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) is proper only where there is either a "lack of a cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory." Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dept., 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990).

Furthermore, unless a court converts a Rule 12(b)(6) motion into a motion for summary judgment, a court cannot consider material outside of the complaint (e.g., facts presented in briefs, affidavits, or discovery materials). In re American Cont'l Corp./Lincoln Sav. & Loan Sec. Litig., 102 F.3d 1524, 1537 (9th Cir. 1996), rev'd on other grounds sub nom Lexecon, Inc. v. Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach, 523 U.S. 26 (1998). A court may, however, consider exhibits submitted with or alleged in the complaint and matters that may be judicially noticed pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 201. In re Silicon Graphics Inc. Sec. Litig., 183 F.3d 970, 986 (9th Cir. 1999); Lee v. City of Los Angeles, 250 F.3d 668, 689 (9th Cir. 2001).

For all of these reasons, it is only under extraordinary circumstances that dismissal is proper under Rule 12(b)(6). United States v. City of Redwood City, 640 F.2d 963, 966 (9th Cir. 1981).

As a general rule, leave to amend a complaint which has been dismissed should be freely granted. Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a). However, leave to amend may be denied when "the court determines that the allegation of other facts consistent with the challenged pleading could not possibly cure the deficiency." Schreiber Distrib. Co. v. Serv-Well Furniture Co., 806 ...

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