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Anderson v. County of San Diego

March 29, 2011

PERCY ANDERSON, SR.,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
COUNTY OF SAN DIEGO; HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICE AGENCY; SHELLY PAULE; TONYA SLOAN; JANE SIMONE; CONNIE CAIN; RYAN MALLEY; DEBBIE REID; SYLVIA WILLIAMS; CANDACE COHEN; PAULA ROACH; KATHERINE R. BIRD; CANDI MAYES; JUDITH KLIEN; AND PERSONS AND ENTITIES UNKNOWN, CITY OF LEMON GROVE; LEMON GROVE SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT; OFFICER SPILLMAN; OFFICER LADIEU, OFFICER ALLISTER; DETECTIVE CORNELIUS; OFFICER WEBER; OFFICER RINDER; AND PERSONS AND ENTITIES UNKNOWN, JUDY MATTHEWS, PHD., PERSONS AND ENTITIES UNKNOWN, DEFENDANTS.



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

ORDER: (1) GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART COUNTY DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS; (2) GRANTING DEFENDANT CITY OF LEMON GROVE’S MOTION TO DISMISS; (3) GRANTING DEFENDANT JUDITH KLEIN’S MOTION TO DISMISS

After the San Diego Superior Court terminated Plaintiff's parental rights, he filed suit in this Court seeking damages for constitutional violations he allegedly sustained when County officials removed his six children from his custody. Presently before the Court are motions to dismiss brought by (1) the County Defendants,*fn1 (2) the City of Lemon Grove, and (3) Judith Klein. For the reasons stated herein, the Court GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART the motion to dismiss brought by the County Defendants and GRANTS the motions to dismiss brought by the City of Lemon Grove and Judith Klein.

BACKGROUND

This action arises from injuries Plaintiff allegedly sustained when the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency (the "Agency") removed his six children from his custody and continued to detain them in the course of juvenile dependency proceedings. The Court summarizes the allegations in the amended complaint as follows.

On March 29, 2008, Plaintiff's 16 year old sister-in-law, JR, attacked him. During the incident, Plaintiff's wife called the Sheriff's Department, and deputies arrived at Plaintiff's residence to investigate.

Because there were children living in the home, the incident prompted an investigation by the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency (the "Agency"). On April 2, 2008, social worker Defendant Silvia Williamson called Plaintiff to inform him that she had contacted Plaintiff's daughter, P, at school about the incident involving JR. Plaintiff asked Williamson not to speak with his children without Plaintiff present. The next day, Williamson called Plaintiff to schedule a time to meet. Plaintiff reiterated his desire that Williamson not speak with his children without Plaintiff present, and Williamson stated that she was no longer investigating the children because they were fine and showed no signs of physical abuse.

On April 4, 2008, Plaintiff observed Williamson at the children's school. That same day Plaintiff received a call from a Sheriff's deputy, Defendant Cornelius, inquiring whether he would be home. About 30 minutes after the call, Williamson and Cornelius, among others, arrived at the house and took Plaintiff's children to a child welfare office. Plaintiff demanded to see a warrant and a court order, but Williamson refused, saying that "another social worker will be assigned to the case." That night, Williamson called Plaintiff at 11:00 p.m. and apologized, stating that the removal was only temporary and part of the Agency's procedure when there is domestic violence in the home.

On April 9, 2008, Plaintiff attended a hearing in juvenile dependency court. There, he met social worker Defendant Tanya Sloan. Plaintiff was represented at the hearing by attorney Michael Powers.

The next day, April 10, 2008, Plaintiff learned more about the accusations against him. JR had accused Plaintiff of sexual abuse. For a second time, Plaintiff tried to obtain an incident report and was unsuccessful. The same day in juvenile court, Judge Campos ordered that Plaintiff's children be placed with family members or a foster home of the parents' choosing.

Over the next few months in the family court proceedings, social worker Defendants Silvia Williamson and Tanya Sloan submitted reports containing disturbing allegations about Plaintiff. These included allegations of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. Plaintiff maintains that Williamson and Sloan fabricated most, if not all, of the allegations.

Plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court on April 2, 2010, and an amended complaint on April 5, 2010. (Doc. Nos. 1, 2.) The County Defendants, the City of Lemon Grove, and Judith Klein filed motions to dismiss. (Doc. Nos. 25, 29, 40.) Plainitff filed an opposition. (Doc. No.44.) Defendants did not file replies. After taking the matter under submission, the Court instructed the County Defendants to obtain records from the juvenile court proceedings and file them under seal. (Doc. No. 42.) The Court received those records on March 10, 2011.*fn2

In his amended complaint, Plaintiff asserts ten federal civil rights claims: violation of Fourth Amendment for seizing children (4th and 5th causes of action); violation of Fourth Amendment for entering home to seize children (6th and 7th causes of action); violation of Fourteenth Amendment due process and interference with privacy and family association for removing children without a warrant (8th and 9th causes of action); violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1985 for conspiracy to unlawfully seize Plaintiff's children without a warrant (10th and 11th causes of action); and municipal liability (12th and 13th causes of action). Plaintiff also asserts a number of state law claims.

LEGAL STANDARD

A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 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 need not contain detailed factual allegations, rather, it must plead "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). A claim has "facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, --- U.S. ---, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

However, "a plaintiff's obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his 'entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citation omitted). A court need not accept "legal conclusions" as true. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). In spite of the deference the court is bound to pay to the plaintiff's allegations, it is not proper for the court to assume that "the [plaintiff] can prove facts that [he or she] has not alleged or that defendants have violated the . . . laws in ways that have not been alleged." Associated Gen. Contractors of Cal., Inc. v. Cal. State Council of Carpenters, 459 U.S. 519, 526 (1983).

In addition, factual allegations asserted by pro se plaintiffs, "however inartfully pleaded," are held "to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519-20 (1972). Thus, where a plaintiff appears in propria persona in a civil rights case, the Court must construe the pleadings liberally and afford plaintiff any benefit of the doubt. See Karim-Panahi v. Los Angeles Police Dept., 839 F.2d 621, 623 (9th Cir.1988).

Nevertheless, and in spite of the deference the court is bound to pay to any factual allegations made, it is not proper for the court to assume that "the [plaintiff] can prove facts which [he or she] has not alleged." Associated General Contractors of California, Inc. v. California State Council of Carpenters, 459 U.S. 519, 526 (1983). Nor must the court "accept as true allegations that contradict matters properly subject to judicial notice or by exhibit" or those which are "merely conclusory," require "unwarranted deductions" or "unreasonable inferences." Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors, 266 F.3d 979, 988 (9th Cir.) (citation omitted), amended on other grounds, 275 F.3d 1187 (9th Cir.2001); see ...


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