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Jeffrey Baker v. Brian White

March 12, 2013

JEFFREY BAKER,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
BRIAN WHITE, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Thomas J. Whelan United States District Judge

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS WITHOUT LEAVE TO AMEND [DOCS. 3, 4]

Pending before the Court are motions to dismiss under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). In support of the motions, Defendants request that the Court take judicial notice of certain public documents from a Civil Service Commission proceeding. Plaintiff Jeffrey Baker opposes the motions.

The Court decides the matter on the papers submitted and without oral argument. See Civ. L. R. 7.1(d.1). For the reasons discussed below, the Court GRANTS the request for judicial notice and motions to dismiss [Docs. 3, 4].

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Jeffrey Baker was an investment officer for Defendant San Diego County Employees Retirement Association (SDCERA). (Compl. [Doc. 1], ¶ 1.) SDCERA is a public retirement system and independent association with approximately 36,000 members and $8 billion in assets. (Id., ¶ 16.) As an investment officer, Baker was responsible for monitoring SDCERA investment advisers and managers to ensure they complied with SDCERA's investment policy. (Id., ¶ 10.)

Baker alleges that while employed, he reported violations of SDCERA's risk budget for high yield and U.S. Treasury programs to government agents and his superiors. (Comp., ¶ 1.) As a result, Baker contends that his superiors, Defendants Brian White and Lee Partridge, carried out a campaign of silencing and retaliating against him. (Id., ¶ 2.) Baker was excluded from SDCERA board meetings, and his authority to monitor and supervise SDCERA investment managers and consultants was taken away. (Id., ¶¶ 65--66.) Then on July 29, 2011, Baker's employment was terminated. (Id., ¶ 73; Def.'s RJN [Docs. 3-1], Ex. 7 [Doc. 3-10].)

According to SDCERA's Final Order of Termination, Baker was discharged for releasing SDCERA documents to the San Diego Union Tribune ("U-T") on or about October 2009 and May 21, 2011, and refusing to cooperate with SDCERA's investigation of the incidents. (RJN, Ex. 7 at pp. 6--7.) SDCERA found that this conduct violated various subsections of County Civil Service Rule 7.2, and justified his termination on the following grounds: insubordination (Rule 7.2(c)); conduct unbecoming an officer or employee of the County (Rule 7.2(m)); failure of good behavior (Rule 7.2(r)); and acts incompatible with or inimical to public service (Rule 7.2(s)). (Id. at pp. 7--8.) Baker disputed these findings, and on August 5, 2011, appealed his termination to the Civil Service Commission (the "Commission"). (RJN, Ex. 8 [Doc. 3-11].) On November 2, 2011, the Commission upheld Baker's termination. (Id., Ex. 6 [Doc. 3-9].)

Baker did not challenge the Commission's decision in state court. Instead, on May 24, 2012, Baker filed this lawsuit for (1) retaliation in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (2) retaliation in violation of Labor Code § 1102.5; (3) retaliation in violation of California Government Code § 53298; and (4) wrongful interference with contract. Defendants now seek to dismiss the claims arguing that the Commission's findings and decision bar this lawsuit under the doctrine of res judicata.

II. MOTION TO DISMISS STANDARD

Courts must dismiss a cause of action for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the complaint's sufficiency. See Parks Sch. of Bus., Inc. v. Symington, 51 F.3d 1480, 1484 (9th Cir. 1995). A complaint may be dismissed as a matter of law either for lack of a cognizable legal theory or for insufficient facts under a cognizable theory. Balisteri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). In ruling on the motion, a court must "accept all material allegations of fact as true and construe the complaint in a light most favorable to the non-moving party." Vasquez v. L.A. Cnty., 487 F.3d 1246, 1249 (9th Cir. 2007). The court may also consider material properly subject to judicial notice without converting the motion into one for summary judgment. Barron v. Reich, 13 F.3d 1370, 1377 (9th Cir. 1994) (citing Mack v. S. Bay Beer Distribs., Inc., 798 F.2d 1279, 1282 (9th Cir. 1986), abrogated on other grounds by Astoria Fed. Sav. and Loan Ass'n v. Solimino, 501 U.S. 104 (1991)).

However, the courts are not "required to accept as true allegations that are merely conclusory, unwarranted deductions of fact, or unreasonable inferences." Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors, 266 F.3d 979, 988 (9th Cir. 2001). "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." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 554, 555 (2007).

Instead, the allegations in the complaint must "contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). "The plausibility standard is not akin to a 'probability requirement,' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id.

III. DISCUSSION

Defendants argue that Baker's Complaint is barred by res judicata. (Def.s' P&A [Doc. 3-1], 2:5--9.) Specifically, Defendants contend that (1) the claims in this case were already litigated to a final judgment in the Civil Service Commission Proceeding, and (2) because Baker did not challenge the Commission's decision by filing a writ in the San Diego Superior Court, the ...


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