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Newman v. San Joaquin Delta Community College District

September 13, 2010



Plaintiffs Shirley Newman and Anthony Butler brought this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against defendants San Joaquin Delta Community College District ("Delta College"), Daniele Ruley, and James Wood for alleged violations of their constitutional rights. Presently before the court are defendant Wood's motion to dismiss plaintiffs' Third Amended Complaint ("TAC") pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and motion to strike portions of the TAC pursuant to Rule 12(f).

I. Factual and Procedural Background

In 2008, plaintiffs were students at Delta College.

(TAC ¶ 11.) Plaintiff Newman allegedly suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and spinal damage and disease. (Id. ¶ 10.) Delta College was allegedly aware of Newman's ailments, since she had suffered anxiety attacks on numerous occasions. (Id. ¶ 13.) As a result of her medical conditions, Newman wears a medic-alert bracelet on her wrist that lists her medical aliments and Butler, Newman's husband and legally designated care provider, as an emergency contact. (Id. ¶¶ 10-11.)

On March 13, 2008, plaintiffs were attending class at Delta College. (Id. ¶ 12.) At approximately 11:30 a.m., Butler was attending a writing lab class in the Holt Building on the Delta College campus. (Id.) At the time, Newman was attending a different class in the same building. (Id.) During her class, Newman allegedly began suffering from extreme anxiety and left her classroom to go to Butler's class, as she normally would during an anxiety attack. (Id. ¶ 13.) Upon entering the Butler's class, the class's instructor, Dr. Elizabeth Maloney, allegedly escorted Newman and Butler into a private classroom. (Id.) In the room, Newman allegedly knocked some items off of a desk and said she was "looking for something to hurt somebody." (Id.) Patti Lynn Drake, who was in the room at the time, left and called the Delta College police, mentioning that Newman was ill. (Id.)

The Delta College Police call center dispatched Delta College Police Officers Ruley and Wood to investigate. (Id. ¶ 14.) When Ruley and Wood arrived at the classroom, plaintiffs were allegedly peacefully leaving. (Id. ¶ 15.) Wood allegedly attacked Butler without provocation and used unreasonable force in dragging him out of the classroom while Ruley grabbed Butler's shirt and pulled it over his head. (Id.) Wood then took Butler to the ground, restraining him face-down. (Id.) With Butler retrained, Ruley allegedly threw Newman against a wall with a great amount of force. (Id.) Ruley allegedly remarked that she had just had "a great workout" and made racially derogatory remarks. (Id. ¶¶ 15-16.) Plaintiffs were subsequently detained by Ruley and Wood. (Id. ¶¶ 15, 18.)

On March 14, 2008, plaintiffs received a letter from Delta College's Vice President of Student Services, Jose Michel, temporarily suspending them for an alleged assault on a Delta College police officer. (Id. ¶ 21(i).) Michel sent plaintiffs another letter on March 17, 2008, suspending them through the summer of 2008 for assaulting a campus police officer and causing a disturbance. (Id. ¶ 21(j).) Delta College upheld the suspensions on April 8, 2008, based in part on allegedly false testimony from Ruley that plaintiffs were struggling with each other. (Id. ¶ 21(l).)

On May 5, 2008, Delta College provided that Newman could be reinstated for the summer 2008 session if she brought a recent evaluation by a licensed psychiatrist regarding her treatment plan. (Id. ¶ 21(m).) Newman was denied summer enrollment after she provided a letter from a therapist instead of a psychiatrist. (Id. ¶ 21(n).) On June 2, 2008, Delta College contacted Newman and indicated that her fall 2008 enrollment would also be contingent upon receiving a letter from a psychiatrist about her treatment plan. (Id. ¶ 21(o).) On July 21, 2008, Newman's suspension was rescinded and her student record was allegedly cleared. (Id. ¶ 21(p).)

Plaintiffs filed this action on September 12, 2008, in San Joaquin County Superior Court and subsequently filed a First Amended Complaint on November 19, 2009. (Docket No. 1.) Defendants removed the case to this court on December 11, 2009. (Id.) Defendant Woods filed a motion to dismiss the First Amended Complaint on January 5, 2010. (Docket No. 8.) In response, plaintiffs filed a statement of non-opposition and requested leave to file a Second Amended Complaint ("SAC") (Docket No. 12), which the court granted. (Docket No. 25.) After the court granted in part and denied in part Wood's motion to dismiss the SAC, plaintiff filed the TAC (Docket No. 40), which Wood now moves to dismiss.

II. Discussion

A. Motion to Strike

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f), a court "may strike from a pleading an insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter." Wood argues that the TAC's references to "Doe" defendants should be stricken. As a general rule, the use of fictitious Doe defendants is not favored in federal court. See Gillespie v. Civiletti, 629 F.2d 637, 641 (9th Cir. 1980) accord Turner v. County of Los Angeles, 18 Fed. Appx. 592, 596 (9th Cir. 2001). While plaintiffs may seek to amend the TAC to add the presently unknown parties pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15, the inclusion of Doe defendants in the TAC is inappropriate and accordingly the court will grant defendant's motion to strike the TAC's references to Doe defendants. See Graziose v. Am. Home Products Corp., 202 F.R.D. 638, 643 (D. Nev. 2001).

B. Motion to Dismiss

On a motion to dismiss, the court must accept the allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974), overruled on other grounds by Davis v. Scherer, 468 U.S. 183 (1984); Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319, 322 (1972). To survive a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff needs to plead "only enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). This "plausibility standard," however, "asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully," and where a complaint pleads facts that are "merely consistent with" a ...

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