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Sierra anderson, An Individual v. Diego Health and Human Services Agency and San Diego County Protective

March 29, 2011

SIERRA ANDERSON, AN INDIVIDUAL,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
DIEGO HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES AGENCY AND SAN DIEGO COUNTY PROTECTIVE SERVICES WORKERS; SHELLY PAULE; TONYA SLOAN; SILVIA WILLIAMSON; RYAN MALLY; CONNIE CHAN; CANDACE COHEN; AND 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 CITY OF LEMON GROVE; LEMON (2) GRANTING DEFENDANT GROVE SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT; DET. CITY OF LEMON GROVE'S CORNELIUS; OFFICER WEBER; MOTION TO DISMISS OFFICER RINDER; AND PERSON ENTITIES UNKNOWN; COUNTY OF SAN [Doc. Nos. 17, 18]

This case arises from constitutional injuries Plaintiff allegedly sustained when County officials removed her seven month old child from her custody. Presently before the Court are motions to dismiss brought by (1) the County Defendants,*fn1 and (2) the City of Lemon Grove. 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 motion to dismiss brought by the City of Lemon Grove.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff's complaint arises from injuries she allegedly sustained when San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency (the "Agency") removed her seven month old son, S, from her custody, as well as injuries she allegedly sustained as a result of the continued detention of her son. The following facts are all taken from Plaintiff's complaint.

On March 30, 2008, Sheriff's deputies went to Plaintiff's residence to investigate a report of domestic violence involving Plaintiff's husband, Percy, and Plaintiff's 16-year old sister, JR. Because there were children living in the home, the report prompted an Agency investigation. On April 1, 2008, a detective and Agency social worker, Defendant Williamson, interviewed JR at her school. JR reported that she hit Percy with a mop and that Percy had pushed or kicked his oldest daughter, P, down some stairs on March 29, 2008. On April 3, the same detective interviewed P, who denied physical abuse by Percy, but admitted Percy had been upset with her. On April 4, 2008, Defendant Williamson interviewed S's half-siblings, and they denied being abused or seeing any incident between Percy and P.

The same day, April 4, 2008, Defendant Williamson, along with Defendants Cornelius, Weber and Rinder, removed S (and S's half-siblings) from Plaintiff's custody. Defendant Williamson told Plaintiff the children were being removed because of domestic violence between Percy and JR.

On April 9, 2008, an Agency social worker, Defendant Sloan, filed a dependency petition alleging that one of S's half-siblings had been raped and sexually abused by Percy, resulting in risk to S under California Welfare and Institutions Code § 300(j). At a detention hearing the same day, the court ordered that S be placed in foster care. On April 23, 2008, S's half-siblings were interviewed again and reported being whipped with a belt and seeing Percy hit and push P, who fell down some stairs. A social worker generated a jurisdiction/disposition report recommending that S be declared a dependent child under section 300 of the California Welfare and Institutions Code and placed in foster care.

In August 2008, the Superior Court terminated Plaintiff's visits with S. A dependency petition trial began on September 29, 2008 and concluded October 30, 2008, at which time the juvenile court declared S a dependent of the court and proposed a family reunification plan. Plaintiff appealed the trial court's order on November 12, 2008.

One year after the dependency trial findings, in October 2009, a social worker recommended Plaintiff's parental rights be terminated and that S be placed for adoption due to Plaintiff's failure to secure adequate housing, to protect, to secure a mental health assessment, and to complete reunification services. On October 30, 2009, the court accepted the Agency's recommendation to proceed on hearings to terminate Plaintiff's parental rights.

Plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court on April 1, 2010. (Doc. No. 1.) The County Defendants and the City of Lemon Grove filed motions to dismiss. (Doc. Nos. 17, 18.) Plainitff filed an opposition, and Defendants filed replies. (Doc. Nos. 24, 28-29.) Following a September 7, 2010 hearing on Defendants' motions to dismiss, the Court instructed County Defendants to obtain records from the juvenile court proceedings and file them under seal. (Doc. Nos. 30, 31.) The Court received those records on March 10, 2011.*fn2

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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