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Shandra Solis v. City of Fresno

March 12, 2012

SHANDRA SOLIS,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF FRESNO, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



(Doc. No. 35)

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT

INTRODUCTION

On December 8, 2011, Plaintiff Shandra Solis filed a Second Amended Complaint ("SAC") against Defendants City of Fresno, Officer David Fries ("Officer Fries") and Detective John Gomez ("Detective Gomez"). See Court's Docket, Doc. No. 34. Plaintiff brings claims for

(1) violation of her right to equal protection; (2) retaliation in violation of California's Fair Employment and Housing Act ("FEHA"); and (3) conspiracy. On December 19, 2011, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the federal claims pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.*fn1 See Court's Docket, Doc. No. 35. For the reasons that follow, the motion to dismiss will be granted.

LEGAL STANDARD

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a claim may be dismissed because of the plaintiff's "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). A dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) may be based on the lack of a cognizable legal theory or on the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory. Johnson v. Riverside Healthcare Sys., 534 F.3d 1116, 1121 (9th Cir. 2008); Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001). In reviewing a complaint under Rule 12(b)(6), all allegations of material fact are taken as true and construed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Marceau v. Blackfeet Hous. Auth., 540 F.3d 916, 919 (9th Cir. 2008); Vignolo v. Miller, 120 F.3d 1075, 1077 (9th Cir. 1999). The Court must also assume that general allegations embrace the necessary, specific facts to support the claim. Smith v. Pacific Prop. and Dev. Corp., 358 F.3d 1097, 1106 (9th Cir. 2004); Peloza v. Capistrano Unified Sch. Dist., 37 F.3d 517, 521 (9th Cir. 1994). But, the Court is not required "to accept as true allegations that are merely conclusory, unwarranted deductions of fact, or unreasonable inferences." In re Gilead Scis. Sec. Litig., 536 F.3d 1049, 1056-57 (9th Cir. 2008); Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors, 266 F.3d 979, 988 (9th Cir. 2001). Although they may provide the framework of a complaint, legal conclusions are not accepted as true and "[t]hreadbare recitals of elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949-50 (2009); see also Warren v. Fox Family Worldwide, Inc., 328 F.3d 1136, 1139 (9th Cir. 2003). Furthermore, Courts will not assume that plaintiffs "can prove facts which [they have] not alleged, or that the defendants have violated . . . laws in ways that have not been alleged." Associated General Contractors of California, Inc. v. California State Council of Carpenters, 459 U.S. 519, 526, 103 S. Ct. 897, 902 (1983). As the Supreme Court has explained:

While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his 'entitlement to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).

Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S. Ct. 1955, 1965-66 (2007). Thus, to "avoid a Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal, "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949; see also Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570, 127 S. Ct. at 1974; see also Weber v. Department of Veterans Affairs, 521 F.3d 1061, 1065 (9th Cir. 2008).

A plaintiff's allegations are taken as true, but courts "are not required to indulge unwarranted inferences." Doe I v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 572 F.3d 677, 681 (9th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation omitted). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949.

The plausibility standard is not akin to a 'probability requirement,' but it asks more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully. Where a complaint pleads facts that are 'merely consistent with' a defendant's liability, it stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of 'entitlement to relief.'

Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will . . . be a context specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense. But where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged -- but it has not shown -- that the pleader is entitled to relief.

Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949-50. "In sum, for a complaint to survive a motion to dismiss, the nonconclusory 'factual content,' and reasonable inferences from that content, must be plausibly suggestive of a claim entitling the plaintiff to relief." Moss v. United States Secret Serv., 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009). "If a complaint is dismissed for failure to state a claim, leave to amend should be granted

unless the court determines that the allegation of other facts consistent with the challenged pleading could not possibly cure the deficiency." Schreiber Distributing Co. v. Serv-Well Furniture Co., Inc., 806 F.2d 1393, 1401 (9th Cir. 1986).

ALLEGED FACTS

In June 2002, Plaintiff began working in the Identification Bureau of the Fresno Police Department ("FPD"). SAC at ¶ 13. While employed by the FPD, Plaintiff met Officer Kennan Rodems ("Officer Rodems"). Id. Plaintiff and Officer Rodems were married in June 2005. Id.

In 2006, during her employment with the FPD, Plaintiff and three other female employees submitted complaints of discrimination and sexual harassment against three male supervisors.

Id. at ¶ 14. The complaints of discrimination and sexual harassment by Plaintiff were well known within the FPD, City of Fresno, and the Fresno County District Attorney's Office ("DA's Office"). Id. at ¶ 15. The male supervisors against whom the complaints were made were well-liked and were friends of Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer ("Dyer") and other members of the FPD. Id. Others in the FPD, including but not limited to Dyer, were angry with Plaintiff for making the discrimination and harassment complaint. Id. at ¶ 16.

Following the submission of her complaint, Plaintiff alleges she was subjected to retaliation by some members of the FPD in that she was ostracized and treated differently than she had been treated prior to the submission of her complaint. Id. Because of this retaliation, Plaintiff transferred to the Fresno Fire Department in August 2006. Id. at ¶ 17. Although Plaintiff's new position paid significantly less than her position with the FPD, Plaintiff took the new job to get away from the harassment, discrimination and retaliation she experienced at the FPD. Id.

Marital differences developed between Plaintiff and Officer Rodems that resulted in her moving out of the family home in February 2009. Id. at ¶ 18. After their separation, Officer Rodems repeatedly contacted Plaintiff by telephone and text message attempting to reconcile. Id. at ¶ 19. Plaintiff informed Officer Rodems on several occasions that she did not want to discuss reconciliation, but he persisted with his communications. Id.

On May 4, 2009, Plaintiff and Officer Rodems met to resolve a financial matter at a Fresno bank. Id. at ¶ 20. In the parking lot of the bank, an argument developed between Plaintiff and Officer Rodems. Id. at ¶ 21. In a moment of frustration during the argument, Plaintiff made a single scratch with a key on the passenger side door of the truck being driven by Officer Rodems. Id. The truck was jointly owned by Plaintiff and Officer Rodems. Id. The "keying" by Plaintiff consisted of a single vertical scratch. Id. After Plaintiff entered her vehicle to leave, Officer Rodems approached her vehicle, pounded on the vehicle window and yelled at her in ...


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