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Manuela Cancino Contreras Morales and R.A.M., A v. City of Delano; Mark P. Derosia; Jose Mejia

May 10, 2012

MANUELA CANCINO CONTRERAS MORALES AND R.A.M., A MINOR,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF DELANO; MARK P. DEROSIA; JOSE MEJIA; SHAUN MANUELE; AND DOES 1 THROUGH 50,
INCLUSIVE,
DEFENDANTS.



MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

ON DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO DISMISS FOR LACK OF STANDING AND MOTION TO DISMISS FOR FAILURE TO JOIN INDISPENSABLE PARTY Doc. #'s 104 and 105

In this civil rights action for damages, defendants have filed two motions. The first was filed originally on March 16, 2012, and later amended by a second filing on March 23, 2012. Doc. # 107. Defendants' first filing, as amended, is titled "Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs Manuela Cancino Contreras Morales and/or R.A.M. for Lack of Standing Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure, Rules 12(h)(3) or, in the Alternative Rules 12(c), 12(d) and Conversion Per Rule 56" (hereinafter, Defendants' "Standing Motion"). Defendants' second motion, also filed on March 16, 2012, is titled "Motion to Dismiss Action for Failing to Join an Indispensable Party Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure, Rules 12(c), 12(d), 12(h)92) and Conversion Per Rule 56 if so Necessary" (hereinafter, Defendants' "Joinder Motion") (collectively, "Defendants' Motions"). The court will consider both in turn in this memorandum opinion and order. Although the court had initial determined that oral argument on Defendants' Motions might be helpful and therefore continued oral argument until a time suitable both to the court and the parties; the court has determined upon further review that oral argument on Defendants' Motions is not necessary. Local Rule 78-230(h). The court will therefore order the date previously set for hearing vacated and will order the parties to set a further scheduling conference with the Magistrate Judge.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Defendants' Standing Motion challenges Plaintiffs' status as proper plaintiffs based on what the court assumes is late-acquired evidence tending to show that the marriage between the decedent, Rubin Morales, ("Decedent") and Manuela Morales (hereinafter the "Marriage") was void because Decedent had been previously married to a different woman and that marriage had not been legally dissolved at the time of the Marriage of Decedent and Manuela Morales. Defendants' Standing Motion was amended to add the allegation that, because the Marriage between Manuela Morales and Decedent was void, R.A.M.*fn1 lacks standing because the amended complaint fails to allege facts necessary to show that R.A.M. is Decedent's child. Defendants' Joinder Motion is based on the also presumably late-acquired evidence that Decedent's prior marriage to a person named Stella Morales produced one son, Ruben Jesus Morales, Jr., who is currently twenty-eight years of age and living in North Carolina.

Neither party disputes that Decedent was married to Stella Morales prior to his marriage to Plaintiff. Although Plaintiffs dispute the admissibility of the Judgment of Divorce of Decedent from Stella Morales (the "Judgment") that is attached to the Declaration of Robert Velasquez, Doc. # 113, on the ground the document lacks authentication, several facts set forth therein are not in dispute. According to the Judgment, Stella Morales and Decedent married on or about September 28, 1984. Decedent's only child by Stella Morales, Ruben Jesus Morales, born April 17, 1984, was born somewhat before the marriage but there is no dispute that Ruben Jesus Morales was Decedent's son by Stella Morales. Decedent legally separated from Stella Morales on or about January 13, 1999. The Judgment was signed by the presiding judge of the Cumberland Superior Court of North Carolina on the "7 day of February, 2002, nunc pro tunc for the 21st day of November, 2001.

The parties do not dispute that Decedent and Plaintiff were married in Zacatecas, Mexico on February 14, 2001. Based on the Declaration of Manuela Cancino Contreras Morales, attached to the Declaration of Mark Pachowicz, Doc. # 111, Decedent was working in Qatar for a security company at the time of the marriage and traveled back to Qatar after the wedding to finish out his contract with the security company. According to Plaintiff's Declaration, Decedent continued to work "a number of years" in Qatar before his contract expired. Plaintiff became pregnant by Decedent and in 2002 she traveled to Georgia where she had family. R.A.M. was born in Decatur, Georgia in November of 2002. Following R.A.M.'s birth, child and mother returned to live in Zacatecas, Mexico, where Plaintiff was a school teacher pursuing a masters and Ph.D. degrees in teaching. Doc. # 111 at 7:14-22. At the conclusion of Decedent's service in Qatar, he sought employment in Mexico but could find no good jobs there. Doc. # 111 at 7:23-24. Decedent moved to North Carolina and worked there while Plaintiff and R.A.M. continued to live in Zacatecas, Mexico.

While the exact dates of some events are not immediately apparent, it appears to the court that neither party disputes that Decedent was legally separated from Stella Morales from the beginning of 1999; that he had one child, Rubin Jesus Morales, by Stella Morales; that he married Plaintiff in Zacatecas, Mexico, on February 14, 2001, while he was working as a contract security provider in Qatar; that he established residency in North Carolina upon his return from Qatar; and that at some point prior to his death, he established residence in Delano, California, where he worked up to the time of his death.

Both parties have submitted evidence outside the pleadings and for which judicial notice is not appropriate. Both parties appear to recognize that a decision under Rule 12 is not appropriate and that the nature of the evidence submitted requires that Defendants' Motion be converted pursuant to Rule 12(d) to motions for summary judgment under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Based on the submissions of the parties and the apparently mutual recognition that the court must convert Defendants' Motions to motions for summary judgment under Rule 56 in order to give consideration to the variety of evidence submitted, the court finds that Defendants' Motions are suitable for decision as motions for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 12(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and will address each of the Motions accordingly.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

This action commenced with the filing of the original complaint on June 30, 2010. The currently-operative Second Amended Complaint ("SAC") was filed on August 6, 2010. Cross-motions for summary judgment were filed by both parties on September 23, 2011. During the pendency of the decision on the cross-motions for summary judgment, Defendants filed a series of motions in limine on February 13, 2012. Among these were motions dismiss Plaintiff for lack of standing and a motion to dismiss for failure to join an indispensable party. On February 14, 2012, the court issued a memorandum opinion and order granting in part and denying in part the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment and directing the parties to submit further briefing. On February 17, 2012, an amended briefing schedule was set for opposition and reply on Defendants' motions to dismiss for lack of standing and to dismiss for failure to join. The trial date of March 12, 2012, was vacated and a new trial date of May 8, 2012, was set. Defendants motions in limine pertaining to standing and failure to join were withdrawn and re-filed pursuant to the court's order. Defendants' Joinder Motion was filed on March 16, 2012, and the amended Standing Motion was filed on March 23, 2012. During the pendency of Defendants' Motions to Dismiss, the court issued its final orders as to the parties' cross motions for summary judgment on March 23, 2012. Plaintiffs filed their opposition to Defendants Standing and Joinder Motions on April 16, 2012.

LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate when it is demonstrated that there exists no genuine issue as to any material fact, and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157 (1970); Poller v. Columbia Broadcast System, 368 U.S. 464, 467 (1962); Jung v. FMC Corp., 755 F.2d 708, 710 (9th Cir. 1985); Loehr v. Ventura County Community College Dist., 743 F.2d 1310, 1313 (9th Cir. 1984).

Under summary judgment practice, the moving party always bears the initial responsibility of informing and identifying those portions of "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any," which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.

Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Although the party moving for summary judgment always has the initial responsibility of informing the court of the basis for its motion, the nature of the responsibility varies "depending on whether the legal issues are ones on which the movant or the non-movant would bear the burden of proof at trial." Cecala v. Newman, 532 F.Supp.2d 1118, 1132-1133 (D. Ariz. 2007). A party that does not have the ultimate burden of persuasion at trial -- usually but not always the defendant -- "has both the initial burden of production and the ultimate burden of persuasion on the motion for summary judgment." Nissan Fire & Marine Ins. Co., Ltd. v. Fritz Companies, Inc., 210 F.3d 1099, 1102 (9th Cir. 2000). "In order to carry its burden of production, the moving party must either produce evidence negating an essential element of the nonmoving party's claim or defense or show that the nonmoving party does not have enough evidence of an essential element to carry its ultimate burden of persuasion at trial." Id.

If the moving party meets its initial responsibility, the burden then shifts to the opposing party to establish that a genuine issue as to any material fact actually does exist. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986); First Nat'l Bank of Arizona v. Cities Serv. Co., 391 U.S. 253, 288-89 (1968); Ruffin v. County of Los Angeles, 607 F.2d 1276, 1280 (9th Cir. 1979). In attempting to establish the existence of this factual dispute, the opposing party may not rely upon the mere allegations or denials of its pleadings, but is required to tender evidence of specific facts in the form of affidavits, and/or admissible discovery material, in support of its contention that the dispute exists. Rule 56(e); Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586 n.11; First Nat'l Bank, 391 U.S. at 289; Strong v. France, 474 F.2d 747, 749 (9th Cir. 1973). The opposing party must demonstrate that the fact in contention is material, i.e., a fact that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law, Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pacific Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987), and that the dispute is genuine, i.e., the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party, Anderson, 477 U.S. 248-49; Wool v. Tandem Computers, Inc., 818 F.2d 1433, 1436 (9th Cir. 1987).

In the endeavor to establish the existence of a factual dispute, the opposing party need not establish a material issue of fact conclusively in its favor. It is sufficient that "the claimed factual dispute be shown to require a jury or judge to resolve the parties' differing versions of the truth at trial." First Nat'l Bank, 391 U.S. at 290; T.W. Elec. Serv., 809 F.2d at 631. Thus, the "purpose of summary judgment is to 'pierce the pleadings and to assess the proof in order to see whether there is a genuine need for trial.'" Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587 (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e) advisory committee's note on 1963 amendments); International Union of Bricklayers v. Martin Jaska, Inc., 752 F.2d 1401, 1405 (9th Cir. 1985).

In resolving the summary judgment motion, the court examines the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any. Rule 56(c); Poller, 368 U.S. at 468; SEC v. Seaboard Corp., 677 F.2d 1301, 1305-06 (9th Cir. 1982). The evidence of the opposing party is to be believed, Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255, and all reasonable inferences that may be drawn from the facts placed before the court must be drawn in favor of the opposing party, Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587 (citing United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962)(per curiam); Abramson v. University of Hawaii, 594 F.2d 202, 208 (9th Cir. 1979). Nevertheless, inferences are not drawn out of the air, and it is the opposing party's obligation to produce a factual predicate from which the inference may be drawn. Richards v. Nielsen Freight Lines, 602 F. Supp. 1224, 1244-45 (E.D. Cal. 1985), aff'd, 810 F.2d 898, 902 (9th Cir. 1987).

DISCUSSION

I. ...


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