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Nehara v. State

July 14, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Oliver W. Wanger United States District Judge



Defendant State of California moves to dismiss Plaintiff Ram Nehara's complaint on grounds, among others, that the State is immune from liability under the Eleventh Amendment. Defendant also moves to strike the punitive damages claim based on the punitive damages bar contained in § 818 of the California Government Code. Plaintiff Ram Nehara has filed opposition, to which Defendant has replied.


This case involves allegations of retaliation, disability discrimination, defamation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress at North Kern State Prison ("NKSP"). Plaintiff, a former registered nurse at NKSP, alleges that his former employer retaliated against him on December 22, 2006 by leaving him alone with a mentally unstable and violent inmate, who assaulted him and left him with serious injuries. According to Plaintiff, he was retaliated against for complaining about discriminatory overtime and shift assignments. Plaintiff further alleges that his former employer forced him to manipulate the incident report and subjected him to baseless administrative proceedings, including an internal affairs investigation and disciplinary hearing.*fn1

Plaintiff was terminated from NKSP on April 30, 2009. On June 5, 2009, Plaintiff was issued an "Accusation" from the California Department of Consumer Affairs, charging him with gross negligence and unprofessional conduct. (Doc. 1, Exh. G.) On October 28, 2009 and January 25, 2010, Plaintiff filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") alleging discrimination and retaliation. (Doc. 1, Exhs. A & C.)

On March 17, 2010, Plaintiff commenced this action against the State of California, the California Department of Corrections, and several correctional officers/employees.*fn2 Plaintiff pled five causes of action: (1) retaliation against all state entity Defendants; (2) intentional infliction of emotional distress against all Defendants; (3) disability discrimination against all state entity Defendants; (4) defamation against all Defendants; and (5) injunction against all state entity Defendants.

On March 18, 2010, Plaintiff filed a motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, arguing that California Board of Nursing should be enjoined from adjudicating or enforcing any action concerning Plaintiff's nursing license. At the time, Plaintiff was the subject of disciplinary proceedings conducted by the Board of Nursing/Department of Consumer Affairs. Oral argument was held on April 15, 2010 and the motion was denied on May 11, 2010:

because state he has exhausted Plaintiff's motion is denied has administrative nor plaintiff his in court, not that these remedies shown an remedies areexcuse not applies to him or administrative administrative law tribunal judge (ALJ) has heard been testimony convened effective. from and An an parties during the submission. After a hearing, and decision the ALJ took submits his decision his under proposed which writing If to adopt to or the reject Board, the Board has 100 days in in the proposed decision. review adopted by does of decision the are the decision which is the plaintiff the not agree Board, there with California that Civil by Superior procedures for Court is 1094.5 under et seq., and Code of Procedure review the Court's order section Superior the to decision the Court is reviewable of Appeal subject of the to State. Ultimately, via a petition United Supreme by by that court [...] States Court, if a petition is granted the based upon the (1971), Rooker-Feldman

Younger Plaintiff's v. Harris, motion 401 is also denied L.Ed.2d 669 U.S. 37, 91 S.Ct. 746, 27 Court v. (District of (1983); Rooker of Appeals Feldman, Columbia and U.S. abstention 263 U.S. v. Fidelity Trust Co., 460 462, 486 415-416 413, 110 Yellow to (1923))


System, Inc. doctrines. 494 108 L.Ed. v. Donnelly, U.S. 820, and state have concurrent S.Ct. Freight 1566, 2d 834 (1990), jurisdiction the federal Rights discrimination over courts employment Civil Act of 1964 claims under Title 7 of The State of California (42 an U.S.C.S. the 2000e et seq.). in practice has important assure regulating their the California local nurses interest safety, continued health competence of to to and The protect public's and and power welfare.

Board has the investigate their the otherwise licenses should be determine nursing to whether disciplined, based suspended, revoked or justified doctrine, good injunctive the federal cause. Under upon court should the Younger circumstances abstention and with from the issuing ongoing, quasi-judicial relief which would abstain case, state administrative interfere and the administrative tribunal has concurrent authority competency to as decide license. a nurse issues registered plaintiff's Rooker-Feldman is and concerning also his nursing plaintiff is invoked here, where interfere the requesting in with that the federal court Humberto ongoing testimony which ALJ state administrative taken Flores has already heard case, decision within and 30 days his of ruling the administrative under submission, hearing. for a (Doc. 22 at 1:28-2:26.)

The motion was also denied on grounds that Plaintiff failed to satisfy the four-part test for injunctive relief of Winter v. NRDC, Inc., 129 S.Ct. 365 (2008). (Id. at 2:27-3:17.)

On April 30, 2010, Defendant State of California moved to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint on three grounds: (1) the State has not waived its sovereign immunity under the Eleventh Amendment; (2) Plaintiff did not exhaust his administrative remedies under Title VII; and (3) Plaintiff's complaint lacks sufficient factual content to survive a Rule 12(b) challenge.*fn3

Plaintiff opposed the motion on June 28, 2010. (Doc. 23.)


Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a motion to dismiss can be made and granted when the complaint fails "to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) is appropriate where the complaint lacks a cognizable legal theory or sufficient facts to support a cognizable legal theory. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990).

To sufficiently state a claim to relief and survive a 12(b)(6) motion, a complaint "does not need detailed factual allegations" but the "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Mere "labels and conclusions" or a "formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Id. Rather, there must be "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570. "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, --- U.S. ----, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (internal quotation marks omitted). "The plausibility standard is not akin to a probability requirement, but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully. Where 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. (internal citation and quotation marks omitted).

In deciding whether to grant a motion to dismiss, the court must accept as true all "well-pleaded factual allegations." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950. A court is not, however, "required to accept as true allegations that are merely conclusory, unwarranted deductions of fact, or unreasonable inferences." Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors, 266 F.3d 979, 988 (9th Cir. 2001); see, e.g., Doe I v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., --- F.3d ----, 2009 WL 1978730, at *3 (9th Cir. July 10, 2009) ("Plaintiffs' general statement that Wal-Mart exercised control over their day-to-day employment is a ...

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