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Spencer Peterson Iii v. State of California

August 31, 2011

SPENCER PETERSON III,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
STATE OF CALIFORNIA, DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS AND REHABILITATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sandra M. Snyder United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO AMEND THE COMPLAINT (Doc. 30)

Plaintiff Spencer Peterson III moves for leave to amend his complaint to augment his claim that Defendant California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation retaliated against him for filing a prior lawsuit against it and to add a new claim alleging "discrimination in assignments/hostile work environment." Defendant responds that permitting Plaintiff to modify his complaint will unduly prejudice Defendant and unnecessarily waste resources. Having reviewed the record and applicable law, the Court denies Plaintiff's motion.

I. Procedural and Factual Background

On June 23, 2010, Defendant removed Plaintiff's original complaint to this Court from the Fresno County Superior Court, where Plaintiff had filed it on May 11, 2010. Plaintiff alleged that Defendant failed to promote Plaintiff, a correctional officer, in 2004 because Plaintiff's race is African-American; and again in 2009, because of Plaintiff's race and in retaliation for his filing an earlier discrimination action for Defendant's 2004 failure to promote Plaintiff.

Defendant moved to dismiss Plaintiff's case on June 30, 2010. On September 14, 2010, this Court granted Defendant's motion in part and denied it in part, dismissing the 2004 claims as untimely.

Non-expert discovery ended May 6, 2011, and expert discovery ended May 20, 2011.

On June 29, 2011, Plaintiff moved to amend his complaint. Plaintiff's "First Amended Complaint" omits the initial section of the original complaint (¶¶ 2-8) which identified the parties and sets forth allegations regarding Plaintiff's prior lawsuit against Defendant. It abandons the convention of presenting allegations in numbered paragraphs, taking on the character of a brief in that it incorporates additional argument including legal quotations and citations. Although the amended complaint omits or minimizes various allegations of the original complaint, it adds a claim alleging discrimination in assignments/hostile work environment, alleging actions by Defendant beginning May 2, 2010, and adds instances of retaliation that occurred beginning in September 2010.

II. Discussion

"Rule 15 addresses both amended pleadings (pleadings that set forth new or additional allegations, facts or claims) and supplemental pleadings (pleadings that set forth transactions or occurrences which have happened since the date of the initial pleading), which relate back to the original pleading. William W. Schwarzer et al., California Practice Guide--Federal Civil Procedure Before Trial § 8.27 (The Rutter Group 2011). An amended complaint under Rule 15(a) permits the plaintiff to add claims or allege facts arising before the original complaint was filed. Eid v. Alaska Airlines, Inc., 621 F.3d 858, 874 (9th Cir. 2010), cert. denied, 131 S.Ct. 2874 (2011). Rule 15(d) provides the means for a plaintiff to add additional causes of action that did not exist when the plaintiff filed the original complaint. Id.

In either case, the motion (1) must be in writing; (2) must state with particularity the grounds for seeking the order; and (3) must state the relief sought. F.R.Civ.P. 7(b)(1). A moving party is required to state the grounds for its motion to amend "with particularity." Waters v. Weyerhauser Mortgage Co., 582 F.2d 503, 507 (9th Cir. 1978). Merely requesting leave to amend without indicating the grounds for the amendment, as Plaintiff does here, does not constitute a motion within the requirements of F.R.Civ.P. 15(a). U.S. Care, Inc. v. Pioneer Life Ins. Co. of Illinois, 244 F.Supp.2d 1057, 1065 (C.D. Cal. 2002). See also Evans v. Pearson Enterprises, Inc., 434 F.3d 839, 853 (6th Cir. 2006); Confederate Memorial Ass'n, Inc. v. Hines, 995 F.2d 295, 299 (D.C. Cir. 1993); AT & T Corp. v. American Cash Card Co., 184 F.R.D. 515, 521 (S.D. N.Y. 1999). Plaintiff's motion could be denied on this procedural ground alone. U.S. Care, 244 F.Supp.2d at 1065.

A. Amended Pleadings

Under F.R.C.P. 15(a)(2), a party may amend its pleading with leave of court. The court should freely give leave to amend when justice requires. See Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962). This policy should "'be applied with extreme liberality.'" Owens v. Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc., 244 F.3d 708, 712 (9th Cir. 2001), quoting Morongo Band of Mission Indians v. Rose, 893 F.2d 1074, 1079 (9th Cir. 1990)."If the underlying facts or circumstances relied upon by a plaintiff may be a proper subject of relief, he ought to be afforded an opportunity to test his claims on the merits. In the absence of apparent or declared reason--such as undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of the movant, repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendment previously allowed, undue prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of allowance of the amendment, futility of amendment, etc.--the leave sought should, as the rules require, be 'freely given.'" Foman, 371 U.S. at 182. A court must be guided by the purpose of Rule 15, which is facilitating decisions on their merits. United States v. Webb, 655 F.2d 977, 979 (9th Cir. 1981).

The factors are not to be given equal weight. Eminence Capital, LLC v. Aspeon, Inc., 316 F.3d 1048, 1052 (9th Cir. 2003). Prejudice to the opposing party must be given the greatest weight. Id. The factors should not be understood rigidly or evaluated mechanically; the court should "examine each case on its facts" and determine the propriety of granting leave to amend on that basis. SAES Getters S.p.A. v. Aeronex, Inc., 219 F.Supp.2d 1081, 1086 (S.D. Cal. 2002), quoting 6 Charles Alan Wright, et al., Federal Practice and Procedure Civil 2d § 1430 (2d ed. 1990). "Absent prejudice, or a strong showing of any of the other the remaining Foman factors, there exists a presumption under Rule 15(a) in favor of granting leave to amend." SAES Getters, 219 F.Supp.2d at 1086. Nonetheless, leave to amend is a matter of the trial court's discretion. Swanson v. U.S. Forest Service, 87 F.3d 339, 343 (9th Cir. 1996); United States v. County of San Diego, 53 F.3d 965, 969 n. 6 (9th Cir.); cert. denied, 516 U.S. 867 (1995).

Untimeliness and Prejudice. In evaluating a motion for leave to amend, a court may consider the moving party's undue delay in pursuing the amendment. Bowles v. Reade, 198 F.3d 752, 757-58 (9th Cir. 1999). Delay alone is generally insufficient justification for denying a motion to amend unless the court also specifically finds prejudice to the opposing party, bad faith of the moving party, or futility of amendment. Id. at 758. Certain factors may justify permitting late amendment of pleadings: restatement of a claim already in issue; new instances of previously alleged statutory violations; timing early in the discovery period or long before trial; the party's loss of its claim if it were not added to the pending suit; ...


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