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Tyrone Adams v. Charles Easley

May 25, 2011



Defendant's motion to dismiss came on regularly for hearing May 20, 2011. Plaintiff Tyrone Adams, who is proceeding pro se, appeared on his own behalf. Jud Waggoman appeared on behalf of defendant John Judson Waggoman. No appearance was made for the remaining defendants. Upon review of the documents in support and opposition,*fn1 upon hearing the arguments of plaintiff and counsel, and good cause appearing therefor, the court will grant defendant's motion to dismiss with leave to amend.

Defendant moves to dismiss on the ground that the complaint fails to allege a proper basis for subject matter jurisdiction. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) allows a defendant to raise the defense, by motion, that the court lacks jurisdiction over the subject matter of an entire action or of specific claims alleged in the action. "A motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction may either attack the allegations of the complaint or may be made as a 'speaking motion' attacking the existence of subject matter jurisdiction in fact." Thornhill Publ'g Co. v. Gen. Tel. & Elecs. Corp., 594 F.2d 730, 733 (9th Cir. 1979).

When a party brings a facial attack to subject matter jurisdiction, that party contends that the allegations of jurisdiction contained in the complaint are insufficient on their face to demonstrate the existence of jurisdiction. Safe Air for Everyone v. Meyer, 373 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir. 2004). In a Rule 12(b)(1) motion of this type, the plaintiff is entitled to safeguards similar to those applicable when a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is made. See Sea Vessel Inc. v. Reyes, 23 F.3d 345, 347 (11th Cir. 1994); Osborn v. United States, 918 F.2d 724, 729 n. 6 (8th Cir. 1990). The factual allegations of the complaint are presumed to be true, and the motion is granted only if the plaintiff fails to allege an element necessary for subject matter jurisdiction. Savage v. Glendale Union High Sch. Dist. No. 205, 343 F.3d 1036, 1039 n. 1 (9th Cir. 2003), Miranda v. Reno, 238 F.3d 1156, 1157 n. 1 (9th Cir. 2001). Nonetheless, district courts "may review evidence beyond the complaint without converting the motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment" when resolving a facial attack. Safe Air for Everyone, 373 F.3d at 1039.

Defendant's challenge here is a facial challenge. Defendant is correct that the original complaint fails to allege a proper basis for subject matter jurisdiction. The original complaint filed in this action essentially is a landlord-tenant dispute in which plaintiff alleges claims based on an asserted failure to make a rented premises habitable. However, plaintiff has now filed a proposed amended complaint*fn2 which asserts subject matter jurisdiction predicated on 28 U.S.C. § 1331, federal question jurisdiction, arising out of an alleged failure to comply with 42 U.S.C. § 3604(b), the Fair Housing Act ("FHA"), which forbids discrimination because of race in the provision of services in connection with rental of a dwelling. The gravamen of plaintiff's FHA claim is that defendants constructively evicted plaintiff from his rented premises because of his race. Plaintiff also asserts claims in the proposed amended complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the Civil Rights Act. Because it appears plaintiff can cure the deficiency in the jurisdictional allegations, the motion to dismiss will be granted but plaintiff will be granted an opportunity to file an amended complaint.

However, plaintiff's proposed amended complaint is prolix. It consists of 271 pages and contains superfluous verbiage addressing case law and statutes which are unnecessary in a complaint. Such argument is more appropriate in response to a motion to dismiss or for summary judgment. In the complaint's allegations plaintiff also does not adequately separate out the individual claims and properly tie each defendant to allegedly wrongful conduct. In any amended complaint he may elect to file, plaintiff must allege facts demonstrating how the conduct complained of has resulted in a deprivation of his federal rights. See Ellis v. Cassidy, 625 F.2d 227 (9th Cir. 1980).

The proposed amended complaint is also deficient with respect to the allegations pertaining to the alleged violation of plaintiff's civil rights. The Civil Rights Act provides as follows:

Every person who, under color of [state law] . . . subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States . . . to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution . . . shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress.

42 U.S.C. § 1983.

To state a claim under section 1983, a plaintiff must allege that: (1) defendant was acting under color of state law at the time the complained of act was committed; and (2) defendant's conduct deprived plaintiff of rights, privileges or immunities secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States. 42 U.S.C. § 1983; see West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). The majority of the defendants named in plaintiff's proposed amended complaint do not appear to be state actors and therefore a claim under the Civil Rights Act cannot lie against these defendants. See Franklin v. Fox, 312 F.3d 423, 445 (9th Cir. 2002) (tests articulated by the Supreme Court for determining whether a private party's conduct constitutes state action).

Because plaintiff's proposed amended complaint is deficient as discussed above, the court will provide plaintiff an opportunity to file an amended complaint. As a model for drafting such a document, plaintiff is directed to McHenry v. Renne, 84 F.3d 1172, 1177 (9th Cir. 1996). There, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal upheld the dismissal of a complaint it found to be "argumentative, prolix, replete with redundancy, and largely irrelevant. It consists largely of immaterial background information." Id. The court observed that the Federal Rules require that a complaint consist of "simple, concise, and direct" averments. Id. As a model of concise pleading, the court quoted the standard form negligence complaint from the Appendix to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure:

1. Allegation of jurisdiction. 2. On June 1, 1936, in a public highway, called Boylston Street, in Boston Massachusetts, defendant negligently drove a motor vehicle against plaintiff, who was then crossing said highway.

3. As a result plaintiff was thrown down and had his leg broken, and was otherwise injured, was prevented from transacting his business, suffered great pain of body and mind, and incurred expenses for medical attention and hospitalization in the sum of one thousand dollars.

Wherefore plaintiff demands judgment against defendant in the sum of one thousand dollars.

Id. As noted by the court in McHenry, "[t]his complaint fully sets forth who is being sued, for what relief, and on what theory, with enough detail to guide discovery. It can be read in seconds and answered in minutes." Id. Accordingly, any amended complaint ...

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