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Robert Saunders v. the County of Sacramento

December 5, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kendall J. Newman United States Magistrate Judge


Plaintiff, who is proceeding without an attorney and in forma pauperis, has filed a Second Amended Complaint.*fn1 Pursuant to the court's screening authority provided in 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), the undersigned screens plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint to determine whether that pleading should be served on any of the defendants and recommends that the Second Amended Complaint be dismissed with prejudice for the reasons stated below. ////


A. Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint

Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint (Dkt. No. 27) is the operative complaint.

Plaintiff's claims for relief arise from a contentious custody dispute proceeding in the Superior Court of California for the County of Sacramento ("Superior Court") between plaintiff and his "ex-partner," who are alleged to be the father and mother of the two minor daughters at the center of the custody dispute. (See Second Am. Compl. ¶¶ 1, 16, 30.)

Plaintiff Second Amended Complaint names three defendants. Plaintiff alleges claims against defendants Elaine Van Beveren and the Law Offices of Elaine Van Beveren ("Van Beveren Defendants"). On December 5, 2007, the Superior Court appointed Van Beveren to serve as counsel for the minor children. (Second Am. Compl. ¶ 5; see also Order, Dec. 5, 2007, attached as Ex. A to Req. for Judicial Notice, Dkt. No. 13, Doc. No. 13-2.)*fn2 Plaintiff alleges that the Law Offices of Elaine Van Beveren "is the business entity owned by Attorney Elaine Van Beveren," and that "Plaintiff is informed and believes . . . that Van Beveren is acting as an agent and under the direction of/and or the supervision of the County of Sacramento." (Second Am. Compl. ¶ 4.) Plaintiff makes several similar, conclusory allegations regarding the County of Sacramento's ("County") direction of Van Beveren's actions and a conspiracy among the County and the Van Beveren Defendants. (See id. ¶¶ 7-8, 14, 28-30, 33, 36-38, 40.) Plaintiff also alleges claims against the County stemming from the Superior Court's appointment and supervision of Van Beveren as minors' counsel, and the Superior Court proceedings addressed to the custody dispute. (See id. ¶¶ 27-33, 36-38.)

Plaintiff's claims arise from seven incidents or issues that arose in connection with the custody case and Van Beveren's role as minors' counsel. The first alleged incident occurred on September 23, 2008, during a meeting between plaintiff and Van Beveren regarding the Superior Court proceedings and several custody-related issues; plaintiff's minor daughters were present at the meeting. (Second Am. Compl. ¶¶ 16-26.) In short, plaintiff alleges that Van Beveren repeatedly lost her temper during the meeting, repeatedly screamed at plaintiff and his daughters in an angry and harassing tone, blocked the doorway to the conference room in an attempt to prevent plaintiff from leaving the conference room with his daughters, grabbed and twisted both of plaintiff's daughters' arms in a forceful manner, repeatedly pushed plaintiff in the back as plaintiff protectively stood between his daughters and Van Beveren, and threatened plaintiff with the loss of his visitation rights. (See id. ¶¶ 19-26.)

The second incident occurred on September 24, 2008, during a hearing in the Superior Court. (See Second Am. Compl. ¶¶ 27-30.) Plaintiff alleges that "Van Beveren falsely claimed, in open court, that the incidents that took place in her office the evening before did not happen." (Id. ¶ 27.) Plaintiff further alleges that he "requested that the Judge report Van Beveren's assault and battery on him and his children, her attempted kidnapping [sic] of them, her holding of them under false imprisonment, and her threatening statements, to authorities and to the appropriate court officials." (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that "the Court refused to entertain or even allow Plaintiff to speak." (Id. ¶ 28.) He alleges that Van Beveren thereafter made recommendations to the Superior Court that resulted in the termination of plaintiff's joint custody and unrestricted visitation time, and that full custody was awarded to plaintiff's ex-partner. (Id. ¶¶ 29-30.)

In regards to a third incident, plaintiff alleges that approximately two weeks after the September 23, 2008 incident in Van Beveren's office, "Van Beveren and plaintiff's ex-partner obtained a fraudulent restraining order" against plaintiff. (Second Am. Compl. ¶ 31.) Plaintiff alleges that he "later defeated" the restraining order, which the court dismissed on May 8, 2009. (Id.)

The fourth issue concerns plaintiff's allegation that Van Beveren repeatedly failed to comply with a "Court Ordered Directive," which required Van Beveren to speak with the "Rabbi of Plaintiff's synagogue [regarding] holidays, religious issues, education, etc. pertaining to Plaintiff's daughters."*fn3 (Second Am. Compl. ¶ 36a.) Plaintiff alleges that Van Beveren's non-compliance with the Superior Court's order led to the children missing "religious education school classes." (Id.)

The fifth issue raised by plaintiff concerns plaintiff's allegation that his ex-partner had not granted plaintiff all of the visitation time to which plaintiff was entitled. (See Second Am. Compl. ¶ 36b.) Plaintiff alleges that he brought this issue to his attorney's attention and Van Beveren's attention, but Van Beveren never remedied this situation despite her ability to do so. (See id.)

Underlying the sixth issue raised by plaintiff is an allegation that one of plaintiff's daughters was "violently assaulted by a playmate" in or around February 2008. (Second Am. Compl. ¶ 36c.) Plaintiff alleges that he informed Van Beveren about the assault, but Van Beveren initially "did nothing about it," and then only "dealt with it very minimally and unrealistically" about five months after plaintiff "pushed the issue" with Van Beveren. (See id. (quotation marks omitted).) Plaintiff alleges that he "believes Van Beveren retaliated against [plaintiff] for reporting these issues to his attorney and the court." (Id.)

As to the seventh incident, plaintiff alleges that on March 9, 2009, the Superior Court granted plaintiff's ex-partner's and Van Beveren's unmeritorious requests to terminate plaintiff's supervised visitation with his daughters. (Second Am. Compl. ¶ 36d.) Plaintiff alleges that he "had been forced into supervised visitation as a result of . . . Van Beveren's perjury, fraud, cover-up of her crimes, et. al." (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that the Superior Court judge who presided over the May 9, 2009 hearing was later "recused with prejudice" for his behavior relative to plaintiff, but that two judges who subsequently presided over plaintiff's case failed to overturn the disqualified judge's rulings. (See id.) Plaintiff alleges that because of Van Beveren's criminal and fraudulent conduct, plaintiff has not seen his children in more than twoand-a-half years. (Id. ¶ 36e.)

Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint raises two claims for relief. First, plaintiff asserts a claim entitled "Retaliation For Exercise Of First Amendment Rights," which is alleged pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against all defendants acting both individually and jointly. (See Second Am. Compl. ¶¶ 39-43.) Second, plaintiff asserts a claim for conspiracy to violate his civil rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3). (See ...

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