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Neil D. Sanders v. Susana Del Fierro

June 22, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Anthony J. Battaglia U.S. District Judge

Order Granting Motion to Dismiss and Sua Sponte Dismissing Complaint for Failure to State a Claim [Doc. No. 3]

Presently before the Court is Defendant Kamala D. Harris's motion to dismiss the Complaint for failure to state a claim. The Plaintiff filed an opposition, [Doc. No. 7], and the Defendant filed a reply, [Doc. No. 8]. The hearing set for July 6, 2012, before Judge Battaglia is hereby VACATED as the Court finds this motion appropriate for submission on the papers without oral argument pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7.1.d.1. For the reasons set forth below, the Defendant's motion to dismiss is GRANTED WITH PREJUDICE. Additionally, the Court sua sponte DISMISSES Plaintiff's claims against Defendants San Diego Department of Child Support Services ("DCSS"), Susana Del Fierro, and Edmund G. Brown Jr. WITH PREJUDICE for failure to state a claim and lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.*fn1


On December 27, 2011, Plaintiff, Neil D. Sanders, a non prisoner proceeding pro se, filed a complaint against the Governor of California, Edmund G. Brown Jr., the Attorney General of California, Kamala D. Harris, and San Diego DCSS through their employee Susana Del Fierro, who is sued both in her individual and official capacity. Pl.'s Compl., Doc. No. 1, at 2. The Plaintiff alleges violations of his freedom of association, freedom of speech, due process, and equal protection under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. at 3-5. These violations stem from damages he allegedly sustained in connection with efforts to establish paternity over twin girls born to a married woman, whom he had an extramarital affair with while on assignment with the United States Navy. Id. at 3. The Plaintiff filed a complaint in 2010 against the mother, ("Mary L.") and her husband alleging that the Plaintiff was the biological father of the twin girls and seeking to establish a parental relationship with the twins. Neil S. v. Mary L., 199 Cal. App. 4th 240, 245 (2011). The Superior court granted a motion to quash Plaintiff's petition and ordered the action dismissed. Id. at 246. Plaintiff appealed and the Court of Appeal affirmed the Superior court's ruling. Id. at 244. Plaintiff then filed the instant Complaint against the Defendants alleging various violations of his rights and asking for relief in the amount of $550,000. Pl.'s Compl., Doc. No. 1, at 9. Plaintiff also asks for an injunction preventing Defendants from "terminating any of my parental rights and immediately restore those rights" as well as an order terminating the custodial rights of Mary L.'s husband. Id. In addition to requesting relief from the past judgment, Plaintiff also requests; 1) help from the FBI to find the twins; 2) that this Court find the Attorney General of California guilty of gross negligence for failing to help him establish paternity; 3) an order requiring the California Attorney General to give the Plaintiff a public apology; and 4) to remove the previous state court case from the law books. Pl.'s Resp. in Opp'n to Mot., Doc. No. 7, at 4-5.

Legal Standard

A complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a) (2009). A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure tests the legal sufficiency of the claims asserted in the complaint. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6); Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 731 (9th Cir. 2001). The court must accept all factual allegations pled in the complaint as true, and must construe them and draw all reasonable inferences from them in favor of the nonmoving party. Cahill v. Liberty Mutual Ins. Co., 80 F.3d 336, 337--38 (9th Cir. 1996). To avoid a Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal, a complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, rather, it must plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its

Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, (2007). 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, 556 U.S. 662, 677 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007)).

A court may dismiss, sua sponte, the case at any time if it determines the plaintiff has failed to state a claim on whichrelief may be granted pursuant to § 1915(e)(2). Barren v. Harrington, 152 F.3d 1193, 1194 (9th Cir. 1998). "A plaintiff must allege facts, not simply conclusions, that show that an individual was personally involved in the deprivation of his civil rights." Id. Ordinarily, "[d]ismissal of a pro se complaint without leave to amend is proper only if it is absolutely clear that the deficiencies of the complaint could not be cured by amendment." Weilburg v. Shapiro, 488 F.3d 1202, 1205 (9th Cir. 2007) (citing Schucker v. Rookwood, 846 F.2d 1202, 1203-4 (9 th Cir. 1988)). Kendall v. VISA U.S.A., , 518 F.3d 1042, 1051--52 (9th Cir.2008).


Throughout the Complaint Plaintiff argues that he has a civil right to declare paternity of the twins, and that his rights are being violated as a result of his not being allowed to do so. Pl.'s Compl., Doc. No. 1, at 3. In the Complaint Plaintiff offers several documents which he claims shows that he is the father of the twin girls and that the mother of the twin girls lied in the previous Superior Court case regarding the twin's paternity. Id.

I. Lack of Subject-Matter Jurisdiction Under the Rooker-Feldman Doctrine

"The Rooker-Feldman doctrine prevents the lower federal courts from exercising jurisdiction over cases brought by 'state-court losers' challenging state-court judgments rendered before the district court proceedings commenced." Lance v. Dennis, 546 U.S. 459, 460 (2006). The disappointed party of the state-court judgment may not appeal to a federal district court, even if a federal question is present or if there is diversity of citizenship between the parties. Noel v. Hall, 341 F.3d 1148, 1155 (9th Cir. 2003). Thus, "if a federal plaintiff asserts as a legal wrong an allegedly erroneous decision by a state court, and seeks relief from a state court judgment based on that decision, Rooker-Feldman bars subject matter jurisdiction in federal district court." Id. at 1164. Rooker-Feldman also precludes a federal district court from exercising jurisdiction over general constitutional challenges that are "inextricably intertwined" with claims asserted in state court. Fontana Empire Center, LLC v. City of Fontana, 307 F.3d 987, 992 (9th Cir. 2002). A claim is inextricably intertwined with a state court judgment if the federal claim succeeds only to the extent that the state court wrongly decided the issues before it, or if the relief requested in the federal action would effectively reverse the state court's decision or void its ruling. Id. "Where the district court must hold that the state court was wrong in order to find in favor of the plaintiff, the issues presented to both courts are inextricably intertwined." Doe & Associates Law Offices v. Napolitano, 252 F.3d 1026, 1030 (9th Cir. 2001).

In the present case, the Plaintiff alleges various causes of action but is, in essence, arguing against the Court of Appeal's 2011 decision. In count one of the Complaint, the Plaintiff alleges that his rights to freedom of speech and association, and freedom from discrimination have been violated. Pl.'s Compl., Doc. No. 1, at 3. Plaintiff contends that these rights were violated by Defendants, because he was not allowed to compel the mother to subject the twins to a DNA test. Id. However, as explained above, Plaintiff sued in the Superior Court to obtain the same genetic testing and his complaint was dismissed and that dismissal was upheld by the Court of Appeal. Neil S. v. Mary L., 199 Cal. App.4th 240, 244 (2011). The Court of Appeal concluded that under the Uniform Parentage Act, the Plaintiff was precluded from compelling the children to submit to blood tests to resolve the question of biological parenthood. Id. Here, Plaintiff is essentially rearguing his state court claim. Plaintiff even uses some of the same arguments, word for word, that were raised before the Court of Appeal. Pl.'s Compl., Doc. No. 1, at 3. Additionally, Plaintiff states in his Complaint that the actions that allegedly violated his rights occurred in Superior Court. Id. at 1. If this Court were to declare that Defendants violated Plaintiff's rights by not allowing him to compel a DNA test, this Court would essentially be reversing the state court's decision. Therefore, these claims are inextricably intertwined with the state court claims and the Court finds that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine.

Additionally, in counts two and three of the Complaint, the Plaintiff alleges that his right to due process, equal protection, free speech, freedom from discrimination, and freedom of association were violated. Pl.'s Compl., Doc. No. 1, at 4-5. In count three, Plaintiff quotes the Court of Appeal's order and directly refutes their conclusions. Id. at 5. In both counts Plaintiff argues, as he did in the state court, that he is the biological father of the twins, that their mother is lying about their paternity, and that by not allowing him to establish paternity, his rights are being violated. Id. As set forth above, the Plaintiff's Complaint alleges violation of his rights as a result of the state court rulings. Id. at 1. The Plaintiff believes his rights were violated by the state court's "wrongful" decision, but has failed to allege any actions on behalf of the named Defendants in this action. The only actions alleged in count three occurred on September 16, 2011, which is the same date the Court of Appeal issued it's decision regarding Plaintiff's case. Id. at 1. Neil S. v. Mary L., 199 Cal. App.4th 240, 244 (2011). Instead of alleging causes of action against the Defendants named in this action, the Plaintiff argues against the state court's ruling and asks this Court for relief from the state court judgment and for removal of the rulings from "CA case law." Pl.'s Resp. in Opp'n to Mot., Doc. No. 7, at 4-5. Additionally, Plaintiff requests that this Court reverse the state court ruling and find that the Plaintiff has "parental rights" with regards to ...

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