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Akins v. San Diego Community College District

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

July 26, 2013

RODNEY E. AKINS, Plaintiff,
v.
SAN DIEGO COMMUNITY COLLEGE DISTRICT, et al., Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS

BARRY TED MOSKOWITZ, Chief District Judge.

On April 3, 2013, Defendants San Diego Community College District, Penny Hedgecoth, Matthew Torres, and Constance Carroll (collectively "Defendants") submitted a motion to dismiss Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint. (ECF No. 38.) For the reasons discussed below, Defendants' motion is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

I. BACKGROUND

This Court is again asked to address the sufficiency of Plaintiff Rodney E. Akins' ("Plaintiff") complaints. On January 2, 2013, the Court granted in part and denied in part Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint ("FAC") on the ground of subject matter jurisdiction, holding that the majority of Plaintiff's claims were barred by the doctrine of sovereign immunity. (Order Granting in Part and Denying in Part Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 23.) Given Plaintiff's motion to amend his FAC, the Court declined to adjudicate the portion of Defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. (ECF No. 23.) Plaintiff's motion to amend his FAC was granted, and on February 7, 2013, Plaintiff filed the Second Amended Complaint ("SAC") against Defendants.

In his SAC, Plaintiff alleges, inter alia, that on May 25, 2010, he attempted to effect service of process against nine defendants in a San Diego Superior Court case via the mail center at the Mesa College campus, but was deterred from doing so by Defendant Hedgecoth, a district employee. (SAC ¶¶ 11-21.) According to the SAC, Hedgecoth called Defendant Torres, a campus police officer, who stopped and detained Plaintiff. (SAC ¶¶ 22, 24.) Plaintiff alleges that he suffered an injury to his rotator cuff as a result of the force used by Defendant Torres to detain Plaintiff. (SAC ¶ 30.)

Plaintiff's SAC asserts the following causes of action: (1) intentional infliction of emotional distress; (2) denial of public accommodation in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (3) age discrimination in violation of Cal. Gov't Code § 11135(a); (4) race discrimination in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 2000d; (5) abuse of process; (6) violation of due process and equal protection under Cal. Const. art I § 7; (7) conspiracy in violation of Cal. Gov't Code § 11135(a); (8) unlawful detainment in violation of Cal. Const. art. I § 13; (9) negligence; (10) violation of Cal. Civ. Code § 52.1(b); (11) retaliation in violation of Cal. Gov't Code § 11135(a); (12) personal injury; (13) denial of public accommodation in violation of Cal. Gov't Code § 11135(a); and (14) retaliation in violation of 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 2000d.

II. DISCUSSION

Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiff's SAC on the following grounds: (1) lack of subject matter jurisdiction; (2) res judicata; and (3) failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The Court addresses each of these arguments in turn.

A. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

Defendants argue that sovereign immunity bars the Court from entertaining this suit. The Eleventh Amendment provides that, "The Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State...." U.S. Const. amend. XI. The doctrine of sovereign immunity is meant to protect against the "insult to a State of being haled into court without its consent." Virginia Office for Prot. And Advocacy v. Stewart , 131 S.Ct. 1632, 1640 (2011).

Plaintiff has brought this suit pursuant to the Court's federal question jurisdiction, according to which a federal district court has original jurisdiction over "all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 1331. The Court has supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's state law claims so long as they form part of the same case or controversy...." 28 U.S.C. § 1367. Therefore, before considering the validity of the pendent state law claims, the Court must determine whether it has jurisdiction over the federal law claims.

1. Federal Claims

Federal courts are barred from entertaining suits against state officials when the state is the real and substantial party at interest. Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman , 465 U.S. 89, 101 (1984). Thus, a federal court cannot entertain claims against state officials that seek money damages for violations of federal law if the state would be liable for payment. However, a suit "challenging the constitutionality of a state official's actions is not one against the state." Id. at 102 (emphasis added). When the actions of a state official violate the Constitution, the official is "stripped of his official or representative character and subjected in his person to the consequences of his individual conduct." Id . (citing Ex parte Young , 209 U.S. 123, 160 (1908)) (internal quotations omitted). In Pennhurst, the Supreme Court extended this theory to include violations of federal law, noting that "such a suit would not be one against the State since the federal law allegation would strip the state officer of his official authority." Id. at 103.

Count 2 of the SAC alleges that Defendant Hedgecoth denied Plaintiff the use of the mail room because of his race, thereby violating 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Thus, Count 2 alleges that Defendant Hedgecoth's actions violated a federal law. "In a § 1983 action a federal court's remedial power, consistent with the Eleventh Amendment, is necessarily limited to prospective injunctive relief, and may not include a retroactive reward which requires the payment of funds from the state treasury." Quern v. Jordan , 400 U.S. 332, 338 (1979) (internal quotations and citations omitted). To the extent that the Court interprets Plaintiff's claim as seeking either injunctive ...


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