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Robin Walker, James Braun, Maria Dupras, Mona Perez v. United States Department of Commerce

April 24, 2012




This is a civil rights action brought by Plaintiffs Robin Walker, James Braun, Maria Dupras, and Melissa Carmichael. Plaintiffs are former employees of the United States Census Bureau. Plaintiffs filed the instant action in this Court on July 18, 2011. On October 20, 2011, Plaintiffs filed a First Amended Complaint ("FAC"). All Plaintiffs allege discrimination, harassment and retaliation on the basis of sex, race, and religion under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 42 U.S.C. 20003-16 et seq. ("Title VII"). Plaintiffs Walker, Braun, Dupras, and Perez further allege age discrimination under both Title VII and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"). Defendants*fn1 U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, James T. Christy, Jeffrey Enos, Celeste Jiminez, Julie Lam, Geof Rolat, and Araceli Barcelos ("Defendants") now move for dismissal of (1) each individual defendant, the United States Department of Commerce, and Census Bureau; (2) Plaintiffs' claims for age discrimination under Title VII; (3) Plaintiffs' claims for punitive damages; (4) Plaintiffs' claims for liquidated damages and compensatory damages under the ADEA; and (5) Plaintiff Dupras' claims due to improper venue. See Court's Docket, Doc. No. 27. Defendants also move to strike Plaintiffs' jury demand under the ADEA. For the reasons that follow, Defendants' motion will be granted.


I. Motion to Dismiss

A. Rule 12(b)(1)

Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. It is a fundamental precept that federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. Limits upon federal jurisdiction must not be disregarded or evaded. Owen Equipment & Erection Co. v. Kroger, 437 U.S. 365, 374 (1978). The plaintiff has the burden to establish that subject matter jurisdiction is proper. Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994); Chandler v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 598 F.3d 1115, 1122 (9th Cir. 2010). This burden, at the pleading stage, must be met by pleading sufficient allegations to show a proper basis for the court to assert subject matter jurisdiction over the action. McNutt v. General Motors Acceptance Corp., 298 U.S. 178, 189 (1936); Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(1). A Rule 12(b)(1) jurisdictional attack may be facial or factual. Safe Air for Everyone v. Meyer, 373 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir. 2004). "[T]he United States, as a sovereign, 'is immune from suit save as it consents to be sued . . . and the terms of its consent to be sued in any court define that court's jurisdiction to entertain the suit.'" United States v. Testan, 424 U.S. 392, 399, 96 S. Ct. 948 (1976) (quoting United States v. Sherwood, 312 U.S. 584, 586, 61 S. Ct. 767 (1941)).

B. Rule 12(b)(3)

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(3) allows a defendant to move for dismissal of the case on the basis of improper venue. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(3); Abrams Shell v. Shell Oil Co., 165 F.Supp.2d 1096, 1102 (C.D. Cal. 2001). The plaintiff bears the burden of showing that venue is proper in the chosen district. Koresko v. Realnetworks, Inc., 291 F.Supp.2d 1157, 1160 (E.D. Cal. 2003); American Homecare Fed'n v. Paragon Sci. Corp., 27 F.Supp.2d 109, 112 (D. Conn. 1998); see also Piedmont Label Co. v. Sun Garden Packing Co., 598 F.2d 491, 496 (9th Cir.1979) (holding that plaintiff bears the burden to show proper venue in context of summary judgment). When there are multiple parties and/or multiple claims in an action, the plaintiff must establish that venue is proper as to each defendant and as to each claim. Pacer Global Logistics, Inc. v. AMTRAK, 272 F.Supp.2d 784, 788 (E.D. Wis. 2003); Bearse v. Main St. Invs., 170 F.Supp.2d 107, 116 (D. Mass. 2001); Payne v. Marketing Showcase, Inc., 602 F.Supp. 656, 658 (N.D. Ill. 1985).

Unlike a motion for dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6), the court may consider supplemental written materials and consider facts outside of the pleadings in deciding a Rule 12(b)(3) motion to dismiss without transforming it into a motion for summary judgment. See Agueta v. Banco Mexicano, S.A., 87 F.3d 320, 324 (9th Cir. 1996); Travelers Cas. And Sur. Co. of Am. v. Telstar Constr. Co., 252 F.Supp.2d 917, 922 (D. Ariz. 2003). Furthermore, the court need not accept the plaintiff's pleadings as true, but must draw all reasonable inferences and resolve all factual conflicts in favor of the non-moving party. See American Home Assurance Co. v. TGL Container Lines, Ltd., 347 F.Supp.2d 749, 755 (N.D. Cal. 2004).

Where venue is improper, the district court may dismiss the case under Rule 12(b)(3) or transfer the case in the interests of justice to an appropriate jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a). Kawamoto v. CB Richard Ellis, Inc., 225 F.Supp.2d 1209, 1212 (D. Haw. 2002). However, even where venue is proper, the district court may still transfer the case to another jurisdiction where it may have been brought for the convenience of the parties and witnesses and in the interests of justice under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). See id.

C. Rule 12(b)(6)

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 ...

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