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Catherine E. West, R.N., B.S.N., P.H.N v. Louise Bailey

March 23, 2012

CATHERINE E. WEST, R.N., B.S.N., P.H.N., PLAINTIFF,
v.
LOUISE BAILEY, ET AL.,
DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Michael M. Anello United States District Judge

[Doc. No. 19]

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS PLAINTIFF'S SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT

Plaintiff Catherine E. West, proceeding pro se, has filed a Second Amended Complaint ("SAC") [Doc. No. 11] against Defendants Louise Bailey, Executive Director of the California Board of Registered Nursing, and Pam Harris, Chief Deputy Director of the California Employment Development Department, challenging the constitutionality of the State of California's licensing requirements for practicing registered nurses. Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiff's claims pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Plaintiff filed an opposition to the motion with supporting documents, and Defendants replied. For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS Defendants' motion.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff practiced in California as a licensed, registered nurse from July 31, 1971 until August 1, 2009.*fn1 At that time, the California Board of Registered Nursing ("the Board") placed a hold on her license due to her refusal to submit to fingerprinting and a criminal background check. Plaintiff alleges that because she has been unable to renew her license, she is unable to earn a living as a registered nurse. On July 31, 2011, the Board lifted the hold and placed Plaintiff on a permanent "Inactive Status" due to her failure to renew her license.

According to Plaintiff, she has complied with the Board's licensing renewal requirements for the duration of her tenure as a registered nurse, including completing thirty continuing education credits and paying a licensing renewal fee every two years. However, Plaintiff refuses to comply with the additional requirements set forth in Title 16 of the California Code of Regulations, section 1419, which provides:

For a license that expires on or after March 1, 2009, as a condition of renewal, an applicant for renewal not previously fingerprinted by the board, or for whom a record of the submission of fingerprints no longer exists, is required to furnish to the Department of Justice, as directed by the board, a full set of fingerprints for the purpose of conducting a criminal history record check and to undergo a state and federal level criminal offender record information search conducted through the Department of Justice. Failure to submit a full set of fingerprints to the Department of Justice on or before the date required for renewal of a license is grounds for discipline by the board.

Because Plaintiff continued to practice as a registered nurse after March 1, 2009, she was required to comply with the fingerprinting requirement, but she refused to do so.

Although her allegations are not entirely clear, Plaintiff appears to challenge the constitutionality of section 1419 on several grounds. Plaintiff asserts that section 1419's fingerprinting requirement violates her Fourth Amendment constitutional right to be free of unreasonable seizures. According to Plaintiff, her choice not to submit a set of fingerprints to the Department of Justice has resulted in the de facto seizure of her license to practice as a registered nurse. Plaintiff also alleges that Defendants have "ignored" her protected liberty interest in pursuing her chosen profession, which the Court construes liberally as a Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process challenge. Plaintiff further contends that section 1419 operates as a punishment regardless of past criminality. The Court construes this allegation as a constitutional challenge to section 1419 under the Bill of Attainder Clause of the United States Constitution. Finally, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Harris, Chief Deputy Director of California's Employment Development Department, acted in concert with Defendant Bailey to cause her harm, by refusing to accept her reasons for being unemployed as legitimate.*fn2

Based on these allegations, Plaintiff seeks only prospective injunctive relief, requesting the Court enjoin the enforcement of the requirements set forth by section 1419, so that she may renew her license to practice as a registered nurse without having to submit to fingerprinting and a criminal background check.*fn3 Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiff's SAC in its entirety pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), arguing that Plaintiff fails to state a plausible constitutional claim.

DISCUSSION

1. Legal Standard

A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of the claims in the complaint. See Davis v. Monroe County Bd. of Educ., 526 U.S. 629, 633 (1999). "The old formula -- that the complaint must not be dismissed unless it is beyond doubt without merit -- was discarded by the Bell Atlantic decision [Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 563 n.8 (2007)]." Limestone Dev. Corp. v. Vill. of Lemont, 520 F.3d 797, 803 (7th Cir. 2008).

A complaint must be dismissed if it does not contain "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp., 550 U.S. at 570. "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, __ U.S.__ , 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L. Ed. 2d 868 (2009). The court must accept as true all material allegations in the complaint, as well as reasonable inferences to be drawn from them, and must construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Cholla Ready Mix, Inc. v. Civish, 382 F.3d 969, 973 (9th Cir. 2004), citing Karam v. City of ...


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