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Trumaine Johnson v. University of San Diego

September 15, 2011

TRUMAINE JOHNSON,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNIVERSITY OF SAN DIEGO, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorablelarryalanburns United States District Judge

ORDER ON MOTION TO DISMISS

Trumaine Johnson, a student at the University of San Diego, accuses the university, its president (Lyons), its affirmative action director (Batey), its basketball coach (Grier), and a public safety officer (Baker) of racial discrimination in violation of both United States and California law. An allegedly wrongful stop and arrest on February 8, 2009 appears to fuel Johnson's accusations and be the ultimate source of his claims.

Johnson sues on his own behalf, and also as a representative of all African Americans, professors and students alike, who since November 2008, have been or will be stopped while walking or driving, detained, interrogated, or subjected to a search (either of person or vehicle) while on USD campus by USD security guards.

(Compl. ¶ 34.) The Court has serious doubts as to the class certifiability of Johnson's claims, see, e.g., White v. Williams, 208 F.R.D. 123 (D.N.J. 2002) (denying class certification of claims alleging racial profiling on the New Jersey Turnpike), but it will address that issue when, and if, Johnson presents it. Now before the Court is the individual Defendants' motion to dismiss.

I. Causes of Action

Johnson brings sixteen causes of action against the Defendants. It will help to list them. The first six arise under United States law, the next four arise under California law, and the remaining six allege common law torts.

The first cause of action, which Johnson brings under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleges a violation of Title XI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d, which forbids racial discrimination in federally funded programs and activities.

The second cause of action, which is also based upon an alleged violation of § 2000d, seeks to impose liability under that statute directly, rather than under § 1983. Johnson concedes that this cause of action can be dismissed against the individual Defendants, however, because "[t]he proper defendant in a Title VI case is an entity rather than an individual." Farmer v. Ramsay, 41 F.Supp.2d 587, 592 (D.Md. 1999).

The third cause of action, brought under § 1983, alleges a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The fourth cause of action, brought under § 1983, alleges a violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments.

The fifth cause of action alleges a violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981, which guarantees equal rights under the law.

The sixth cause of action alleges a conspiracy to violate Johnson's civil rights. Johnson concedes that this cause of action is barred by the applicable statute of limitations.

The seventh cause of action alleges a violation of Cal. Gov. Code § 11135, which is California's analogue to 42 U.S.C. § 2000d; it prohibits racial discrimination in programs and activities that are run or funded by the state.

The eighth cause of action alleges a violation of Article I, Section 7 of the California Constitution, which is roughly analogous to Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

The ninth cause of action also alleges a violation of the California Constitution: Article I, Section 13, which is analogous to the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

The tenth cause of action seeks relief under California Civil Code § 52.1 for the alleged violations of California law. Section 52.1 is very similar to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

The eleventh cause of action alleges the intentional infliction of emotional distress. The twelfth cause of action alleges the negligent infliction of emotional distress. The thirteenth cause of action alleges false imprisonment.

The fourteenth cause of action alleges assault and battery.

The fifteenth cause of action alleges negligent supervision and employment.

The sixteenth cause of action seeks relief in the form of a declaration that Defendants violated Johnson's rights under United States and California law.

II. Legal Standard

A rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim challenges the legal sufficiency of a complaint. Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001). In considering such a motion, the Court accepts all allegations of material fact as true and construes them in the light most favorable to Johnson. Cedars-Sinai Med. Ctr. v. Nat'l League of Postmasters of U.S., 497 F.3d 972, 975 (9th Cir. 2007). To defeat a 12(b)(6) motion, a complaint's factual allegations needn't be detailed, but they must be sufficient to "raise a right to relief above the speculative level . . . ." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). However, "some threshold of plausibility must be crossed at the outset" before a case can go forward. Id. at 558 (internal quotations omitted). 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, 556 U.S. -, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). "The plausibility standard is not akin to a 'probability requirement,' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id.

While the Court must draw all reasonable inferences in Johnson's favor, it need not "necessarily assume the truth of legal conclusions merely because they are cast in the form of factual allegations." Warren v. Fox Family Worldwide, Inc., 328 F.3d 1136, 1139 (9th Cir. 2003) (internal quotations omitted). In fact, the Court does not need to accept any legal conclusions as true. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. A complaint does not suffice "if it tenders naked assertions devoid of further factual enhancement" (Id. (internal ...


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