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Coulter v. Murrell

July 27, 2010

MICHAEL R. COULTER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
GREGORY L. MURRELL; MICHAEL RODDY, EXECUTIVE OFFICER-CLERK OF SUPERIOR COURT OF CALIFORNIA-COUNTY OF SAN DIEGO, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Irma E. Gonzalez, Chief Judge United States District Court

ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT MICHAEL RODDY'S MOTION TO DISMISS PLAINTIFF'S FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT [Doc. No. 27]

Presently before the Court is Defendant Michael Roddy's ("Roddy") motion to dismiss Plaintiff Michael Coulter's ("Plaintiff") First Amended Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (Doc. No. 27.) Plaintiff has filed an opposition, and Roddy has filed a reply.

This motion is suitable for disposition without oral argument pursuant to Local Civil Rule 7.1(d)(1). For the reasons set forth herein, the Court DENIES the motion to dismiss. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

The following facts are drawn from Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint ("FAC"). This matter stems from Plaintiff's lawsuit in the San Diego County Superior Court against the Estate of Daniel T. Shelley for money owed him from a partnership. Defendant Gregory Murrell ("Murrell") was the attorney representing the estate of Daniel T. Shelley in Plaintiff's state court action.

According to Plaintiff, in May of 2009, Murrell obtained a "request for dismissal" of the state court action executed by Plaintiff on an outdated form, knowing the form would not be accepted by the superior court clerk's office. Plaintiff alleges Roddy, the Executive Officer of the clerk's office, enacted and enforced "policies, regulations and customary practices" which caused the clerk's office employees to "improperly and illegally deny filing" the request for dismissal.

Murrell's and Roddy's actions allegedly prevented Plaintiff from proceeding with the state court action, in violation of his due process rights. In addition, during the six-month period between when Plaintiff signed the request for dismissal form in May of 2009 and when the state court finally dismissed the action in November of 2009, the Estate of Daniel T. Shelley was depleted, leaving nothing to satisfy his claims.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On January 14, 2010, Plaintiff proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis filed a Complaint in this Court against Defendants Roddy, Murrell, and Agda Shelley (Daniel T. Shelley's wife). The original Complaint alleged eight causes of action: (1) violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (2) fraud; (3) breach of contract; (4) partnership accounting; (5) money had and received; (6) conspiracy; (7) negligence; and (8) a request for preliminary and permanent injunctions. (Doc. No. 1.)

On February 4, 2010, Murrell filed an anti-SLAPP special motion to strike and a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. (Doc. No. 6.) The Court granted Murrell's anti-SLAPP motion, and dismissed Plaintiff's fraud and conspiracy claims. The Court also granted the motion to dismiss Plaintiff's § 1983 cause of action, finding Plaintiff had not sufficiently alleged Murrell, a private attorney, was acting under color of state law. (Doc. No. 21.)

On April 20, 2010, Plaintiff filed the FAC, alleging one cause of action for violation of § 1983 against Roddy and Murrell. Murrell moved to dismiss the FAC. The Court granted the motion, because Plaintiff's FAC again failed to sufficiently allege state action as to Murrell.

On June 3, 2010, Roddy filed the instant Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss.

DISCUSSION

I. Legal Standard

A motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of the claims asserted in the complaint. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6); Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 731 (9th Cir. 2001). The court must accept all factual allegations pled in the complaint as true, and must construe them and draw all reasonable inferences from them in favor of the nonmoving party. Cahill v. Liberty Mutual Ins. Co., 80 F.3d 336, 337-38 (9th Cir.1996). To avoid a Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal, a complaint must ...


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