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Estate of Angel Antonio Mendoza-Saravia, By and Through Successors of Interest; Teresa v. Fresno County Sheriff's County of Fresno; West Coast

February 17, 2011

ESTATE OF ANGEL ANTONIO MENDOZA-SARAVIA, BY AND THROUGH SUCCESSORS OF INTEREST; TERESA MENDOZA; ANGIE MELISSA CASTRO, REYNA MENDOZA-SARAVIA; PEDRO ) OF FRESNO'S AND CITY OF CORRECTED ORDER RE: COUNTY BY AND THROUGH HER GENERAL MENDOTA'S MOTION TO STRIKE GUARDIAN; AND BLANCA ESTELA MATTERS FROM PLAINTIFFS' CASTRO, (DOC. 35) SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT PLAINTIFFS,
v.
FRESNO COUNTY SHERIFF'S COUNTY OF FRESNO; WEST COAST DEPARTMENT; CITY OF MENDOTA; AMMUNITION; AND DOES 1 THROUGH 100, INCLUSIVE, DEFENDANTS.



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

Moving Defendants, County of Fresno and City of Mendota ("Defendants"), seek to strike matters from the Second Amended Complaint, specifically the claim by Blanca Estela Castro as the unmarried domestic partner of decedent, Angel Antonio Mendoza-Saravia, for deprivation of her United States Constitution Fourteenth Amendment liberty interest in and right of familial association, allegedly caused when decedent was fatally shot with a bean bag round by a Fresno Sheriff's Deputy.

A. Standard of Review.

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f) authorizes the Court

to strike from any pleading "an insufficient defense or any redundant, immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter from any complaint or defense." For the purposes of a motion to strike, any material matter is "that which has no essential or important relationship to the claim for relief or the defense being pleaded." Fantasy, Inc. v. Fogerty, 984 F.2d 1524, 1528 (9th Cir. 1993), rev. on other grounds, 510 U.S. 517 (1994). Rule 12(f) is designed to eliminate from consideration issues that "can have no possible bearing on the subject matter of the litigation." Naton v. Bank of California, 72 F.R.D. 550, 552,n.4 (N.D. Cal. 1976). In addition to Rule 12, a District Court's inherent authority to manage its docket authorizes the court to strike matters from the docket.

B. Essential Allegations of the Complaint.

Plaintiff, Blanca Estela Castro, claims an intimate relationship with decedent Mendoza-Saravia arising from her status as the mother of the decedent's child, Angie Melissa Castro. Complaint ¶ 17. She resided with the decedent as his domestic partner, and with the decedent's children in a "family unit." Ms. Castro depended on decedent for necessities of life. Plaintiff Angie Melissa Castro was born approximately three months after the death of her father, Mendoza-Saravia. Plaintiff Castro's second claim is for deprivation of her Fourteenth Amendment rights of intimate association with the decedent. Their daughter, Angie's claim for loss of familial relationship with her deceased father is not challenged.

LAW AND ANALYSIS

A. Fourteenth Amendment Familial Association Right.

The Supreme Court has recognized that "certain kinds of personal bonds," Roberts v. United States Jaycees, 468 U.S. 609, 618 (1984) and "certain [kinds of] intimate conduct," Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558, 562 (2003) are protected by the substantive component of the Due Process Clause. Whether subsumed under the Fourteenth Amendment right to intimate association, or First Amendment right to privacy, the Supreme Court consistently has recognized that "choices to enter into and maintain certain intimate human relationships must be secured against undue intrusion by the State because of the role of such relationships in safeguarding the individual freedom that is central to our Constitutional scheme." Roberts, 468 U.S. at 617-18; see also, Lawrence, 539 U.S. at 567. Protected rights of intimate association have been recognized in unmarried, long-term relationships. Christensen v. County of Boone, Illinois, 483 F.3d 454, 463 (7th Cir. 2007) reh'g and reh'g en banc denied (2007).

In Christensen, the Plaintiffs, an unmarried couple, brought a civil rights action against the County and a Deputy Sheriff alleging the Deputy Sheriff interfered with the couple's Constitutional right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, their right to intimate association, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The trial court sustained a motion to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim based on lack of standing. The Seventh Circuit held an unmarried heterosexual couple in a long-term relationship was a form of "intimate association" protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. Citing Roberts, 468 U.S. at 619, the Appeals Court explained that "intimate associations" protected by the Due Process Clause "have played a critical role in the culture and traditions of the nation by cultivating and transmitting shared ideals and beliefs; they thereby foster diversity and act as critical buffers between the individual and the power of the State." Christensen, 483 F.3d at 463. These relationships bestow "the ability independently to define one's identity that is central to any concept of liberty." Id. (citing Roberts, 468 U.S. at 619.)

In discussing Lawrence v. Texas, supra, Christensen held: "It is impossible to see how an unmarried heterosexual couple in a long-term relationship could receive less protection than a private homosexual relationship, whether or not the participants are married." Id. at 463. That Court concluded on the authority of Lawrence, "that the plaintiffs' relationship (unmarried) is a form of 'intimate association' protected by the Constitution." Id. (citing Montgomery v. Stefaniak, 410 F.3d 933, 937 (7th Cir. 2005)); see also, e.g., Anderson v. City of LaVergne, 371 F.3d 879, 882 (6th Cir. 2004) (an unmarried couple is engaged in a constitutionally-protected intimate association where they were living together, were romantically and sexually involved, and were monogamous). Anderson found: "Therefore, in addition to marriage, courts have recognized both personal friendships and non-marital relationships as types of 'highly personal relationships' within the ambit of intimate associations contemplated by Roberts."

Akers v. McGinnis, 352 F.3d 1030, 1039-40 (6th Cir. 2003) further citing Roberts, 468 U.S. at 617-18, held: "Concerning intimate association the Supreme Court 'has concluded the choices to enter into and maintain certain intimate human relationships must be secured against undue intrusion by the State because of the role of such relationships in safeguarding the individual freedom that is central to our Constitutional scheme.'"

Although neither party has cited a Ninth Circuit case directly on point, the Complaint's allegations of an intimate domestic association, albeit unmarried, where decedent's family was combined with Plaintiff; they lived together; she was pregnant with decedent's child at the time of his death; they shared finances; and co-habited and shared the intimate details of each other's lives; all converge to satisfy the intimate association familial relationship requirement of the Fourteenth Amendment. If Defendants challenge the duration and quality of the relationship as an insufficient intimate association, this factual dispute is not resolvable as a matter of law on a Rule 12(f) motion to strike.

B. Intimate Association Analysis The Ninth Circuit in IDK, Inc. v. County of Clark, 836 F.2d 1185 recognizes that the relationships protected by the Fourteenth Amendment "are those that attend the creation and sustenance of a family" and similar "highly personal relationships." Id. at 1193 (citing Roberts, 468 U.S. at 618-19). Individuals who are deeply attached and committed to each other as a result of their having shared each other's thoughts, lives and experiences and who, by the very nature of such relationships, are involved in relatively few intimate associations during his or her lifetime, are all relevant factors to determine whether a particular association is eligible for protection by the Due Process Clause. These factors include the number of persons involved in the relationship; the congeniality of the relationship; its duration; the purposes for which it was formed; and the selectivity in choosing participants. Involvement in procreation, here present; raising and educating children, here present; cohabitation with relatives, here present; or other activities of family life all typify the required intimate association. All the incidents of the ...


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