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Gottschalk v. City & County of San Francisco

United States District Court, N.D. California

August 12, 2013


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Karla Gottschalk, Plaintiff, Pro se, San Francisco, CA.

For City and County of San Francisco, Defendant: Lauren Marie Monson, LEAD ATTORNEY, San Francisco City Attorney, San Francisco, CA; Amy Diane Super, Deputy City Attorney, San Francisco, CA.

For Gavin Newsom, Phyllis W. Cheng, Michael McGrath, California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, Defendants: Courtney Suzanne Lui, LEAD ATTORNEY, Dept. of Justice-State of CA, Employment, Regulation and Administration Section, Oakland, CA.

For U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Michael Baldonado, Chai Feldblum, Defendants: Rebecca Ann Falk, U.S. Attorney's Office, San Francisco, CA.


EDWARD M. CHEN, United States District Judge.

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Plaintiff in this matter brings suit against a variety of defendants alleging various causes of action that appear to largely stem from her unsuccessful application for employment with the San Francisco Human Rights Commission. This Court previously granted Defendant City and County of San Francisco's motion to dismiss Plaintiff's first amended complaint for failure to conform to the requirements of Rule 8(a). The Court gave Plaintiff leave to amend, but dismissed certain claims with prejudice for failure to state a claim. Plaintiff filed a second amended complaint on March 8, 2013. Currently pending before the Court are (1) Plaintiff's motion for default judgment as to certain Defendants, Docket No. 57; (2) a motion by certain individual Defendants to dismiss for insufficient service of process, Docket No. 63; (3) the Federal Defendants' motion to dismiss, Docket No. 65; (4) Defendant City and County of San Francisco's motion to strike and motion to dismiss, Docket No. 67; and (5) Plaintiff's motion for Rule 11 sanctions, Docket No. 72. Having considered the papers submitted, the Court finds this matter suitable for disposition without oral argument and hereby rules as follows.

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Plaintiff, an attorney who is bringing this case pro se, filed the original complaint in this matter on August 29, 2012, alleging various causes of action against a number of defendants in connection with her unsuccessful application for employment with the San Francisco Human Rights Commission (" SFHRC" ) and her subsequent unsuccessful attempts to challenge SFHRC's failure to hire her. Docket No. 1. After Defendant City and County of San Francisco (" CCSF" ) filed a motion to dismiss on September 28, 2012, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint on October 17, 2012. Docket No. 17. On November 5, 2012, Defendant CCSF filed a renewed motion to dismiss, motion to strike, or in the alternative for a more definite statement. Docket No. 25.

On February 12, 2013, this Court granted CCSF's motion, finding that Plaintiff's 100-page complaint was largely " incoherent, repetitive, and written in a stream of consciousness style," and that it was often difficult to discern Plaintiff's factual allegations or the legal basis for the claims she brought. Docket No. 44. The Court thus found that the complaint failed to satisfy Rule 8(a)'s requirement that a complaint provide a short and plain statement indicating the grounds for jurisdiction, a short and plain statement of the claim, and a demand for relief sought. Id. at 6. Accordingly, the Court dismissed Plaintiff's claim with leave to amend, and further provided Plaintiff with the specific guidance for any amended complaint:

Additionally, the Court dismissed with prejudice: (1) Plaintiff's claim for national origin discrimination; (2) Plaintiff's claim for violations of California's Unruh Act, for; (3) Plaintiff's claim for " vicarious liability" ; (4) Plaintiff's claims for RICO violations as to Defendant CCSF and the individual CCSF Defendants to the degree that they are named in their official capacities; and (5) Plaintiff's claims under § 1981. Id. at 10-15.

On March 8, 2013, Plaintiff filed a Second Amended Complaint (" SAC" ). Docket No. 46. That complaint names the following Defendants: the City and County of San Francisco, Gavin Newsom (former mayor of San Francisco), Edwin M. Lee (current mayor of San Francisco), Theresa Sparks (SFHRC Executive Director), Cecilia Chung (former SFHRC Commissioner), Melissa J. Cayabyab (Client Services Representative with CCSF's Department of Human Resources), Magaly Fernandez (Senior Specialist of EEO Programs with CCSF's Department of Human Resources), Micki Callahan[1] (CCSF Human Resources Director), Anita Sanchez (former Executive Officer of CCSF Civil Service Commission), California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (" DFEH" ), Phyllis W. Cheng (Director of DFEH), Michael McGrath (Investigator for DFEH), United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (" EEOC" ), Chai Feldblum (EEOC Commissioner), Michael Baldonando (EEOC District Director), and Does 1-100.[2] The complaint brings the following causes of action: (1) Age Discrimination; (2) Gender Expression and Orientation Discrimination; (3)

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Sex Discrimination; (4) " Orientation" [3] Discrimination; (5) Religious Discrimination; (6) Political Discrimination; (7) Reverse Discrimination; (8) Race Discrimination; (9) Retaliation; (10) " California Department of Fair Employment and Housing - DFEH" ; (11) " United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission - EEOC" ; (12) Fraud & Deceit; (13) " Hate Crime" ; (14) Breach of Fiduciary Duty; (15) Tortious Racketeering; (16) Deprivation of Civil Rights - § 1981; (17) Deprivation of Civil Rights - § 1983; and (18) Deprivation of Civil Rights - § 1985(3).

The content of the second amended complaint, and the degree to which it reproduces the shortcomings of Plaintiff's earlier complaints, is discussed in more detail in the discussion below. As best as this Court can discern, however, the core of Plaintiff's complaint is as follows. Plaintiff was not selected for a contracts compliance officer position with the SFHRC in the summer of 2010. SAC ¶ ¶ 15-25. She alleges that during the application process, she contacted various of the individual Defendants who are or were CCSF employees informing them of her status as a heterosexual transsexual woman, and disclosing her age. SAC ¶ ¶ 16-22. Though she passed a screening examination and was initially told that she was eligible for the position, she was denied the job without an interview. SAC ¶ ¶ 23-25. She requested an explanation for why she was not selected, but no explanation was ever provided. SAC ¶ 25. Plaintiff appears to also allege that she applied for other positions with CCSF after the SFHRC application, but was also rejected. SAC ¶ ¶ 28, 30, 32-34. It is not entirely clear whether she is bringing suit based on these subsequent failures to hire, or just on her application to the SFHRC.

Plaintiff filed or attempted to file grievances regarding the SFHRC's failure to hire her with various agencies, including the San Francisco Neighborhood Office, Defendant DFEH, and Defendant EEOC. SAC ¶ ¶ 26-27, 97-98. She raises various allegations about improprieties in the ways these agencies handled her complaint, though these allegations are often conclusory or difficult to follow. SAC ¶ ¶ 26-27, 29, 31, 35, 37, 93-98.

Plaintiff filed the currently pending motion for default judgment on April 15, 2013. Docket No. 57. Thereafter, Defendants Callahan, Fernandez, Cayabyab, Chung, Lee, Sparks, and Sanchez (the Individual CCSF Defendants) filed a motion to dismiss the claims against them for insufficient service of process. Docket No. 63. Additional motions to dismiss were filed by the Federal Defendants (EEOC, Feldblum, and Baldonado) and the CCSF Defendants (CCSF and the Individual CCSF Defendants, in their official capacities) on May 15, 2013 and May 16, 2013, respectively. Docket Nos. 65, 67. Plaintiff thereafter filed a motion for Rule 11 Sanctions against the Federal and CCSF Defendants on May 28, 2013. Docket No. 72.

On July 9, 2013, this Court issued a notice indicating that it would rule on the above motions on the papers, and vacating the previously set hearing. Docket No. 96. Without first seeking leave, Plaintiff filed various supplemental materials on July 15, 2013, indicating that they are materials she would have presented to the Court at the hearing. Docket No. 98. The CCSF Defendants subsequently filed a motion requesting that Plaintiff's supplemental materials be struck as improperly filed. Docket No. 100. Having reviewed Plaintiff's supplemental materials, this Court

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concludes that nothing in this filing changes the Court's analysis on these motions. The Court therefore DENIES the CCSF Defendant's motion to strike the supplemental pleadings as moot.


A. Failure to Comply with Rule 8(a)

Among other arguments, the CCSF Defendants'[4] motion to dismiss argues that Plaintiff's second amended complaint should be dismissed on the grounds that it fails to comply with Rule 8(a) and fails to comply with this Court's previous order dismissing the first amended complaint. Plaintiff filed no timely response to this motion, but filed a two page opposition one week late. Docket No. 82. Her opposition briefly addresses CCSF's motion to strike, but does not seem to address CCSF's motion to dismiss in any meaningful way.[5]

As this Court noted in its previous order dismissing Plaintiff's claim for failure to comply with Rule 8(a), the Ninth Circuit has held that dismissal for failure to comply with Rule 8 is proper where " the very prolixity of the complaint made it difficult to determine just what circumstances were supposed to have given rise to the various causes of action." McHenry v. Renne, 84 F.3d 1172, 1178 (9th Cir. 1996); see also Nevijel v. N. Coast Life Ins. Co., 651 F.2d 671, 674 (9th Cir. 1981); Schmidt v. Herrmann, 614 F.2d 1221 (9th Cir. 1980). " Rule 8(a) has 'been held to be violated by a pleading that was needlessly long, or a complaint that was highly repetitious, or confused, or consisted of incomprehensible rambling.'" Cafasso, U.S. ex rel. v. Gen. Dynamics C4 Sys., Inc., 637 F.3d 1047, 1059 (9th Cir. 2011) (quoting 5 Charles A. Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice & Procedure § 1217 (3d ed.2010)). A complaint may not, however, be dismissed for violation of Rule 8 simply on the basis of excessive length if it is otherwise clear, organized, and intelligible. Hearns v. San Bernardino Police Dept, 530 F.3d 1124, 1131-32 (9th Cir. 2008). " [A] dismissal for a violation under Rule 8(a)(2), is usually confined to instances in which the complaint is so 'verbose, confused and redundant that its true substance, if any, is well disguised.'" Gillibeau v. City of Richmond, 417 F.2d 426, 431 (9th Cir. 1969) (quoting Corcoran v. Yorty, 347 F.2d 222, 223 (9th Cir. 1965)).

Rule 8(a) is grounds for dismissal independent of Rule 12(b)(6), and dismissal on Rule 8(a) grounds does not require that the complaint be wholly without merit. McHenry, 84 F.3d at 1179. Failure to comply with Rule 8 may be grounds for dismissal with prejudice under Rule 41(b),

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though the court should first look to other " less drastic alternatives includ[ing] allowing further amended complaints, allowing additional time, or insisting that appellant associate experienced counsel." Nevijel, 651 F.2d at 674. The court, however, need not exhaust all of these options before dismissing a case. Id.

Here, Plaintiff fails to meet the requirements of Rule 8, and also fails to comply with directions this Court provided for re-pleading in its February 12, 2013 order. Docket No. 44. In that order, the Court directed Plaintiff as follows:

If Plaintiff chooses to file an amended complaint, this complaint shall comply with Rule 8(a)'s requirement of a " short and plain" statement of the claim and the facts showing that Plaintiff is entitled to relief. Plaintiff shall specifically identify the legal and factual basis for each cause of action. Further, she shall identify which causes of action are brought against which defendants, and provide a specific statement of how each named defendant is involved in the facts giving rise to that cause of action. For each claim, Plaintiff shall state the basis of waiver of governmental immunity which might otherwise apply. See Cal. Gov. Code § § 815, 815.2. Additionally any claims based on allegations of fraud must be pled with particularity. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 9(b).

Id. at 9. Plaintiff's SAC fails to comply with this order on a number of fronts. Further, as discussed further below, Plaintiff's failure to plead sufficient facts runs afoul not only of the requirements of Rule 8(a), but also of the pleading standards set forth in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) and Bell A. Corp v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007).

1. Incomprehensibility

Though Plaintiff's second amended complaint is less than half the length of her first amended complaint, and excludes some of the redundant or irrelevant material that had been previously included, it nonetheless remains rambling, confusing, and often unintelligible. Plaintiff's factual allegations are contained in choppy, grammatically irregular sentences that make it difficult to discern exactly what Plaintiff is trying to communicate. See, e.g., SAC ¶ 35, 106. Further, the organization of her complaint is often confusing. She includes no class allegations at the beginning of the complaint, but under her ninth cause of action for retaliation, she states that " [a]ll causes of action plead previously or henceforth that are not purely personal to Plaintiff but include denial of equality and/or civil rights to segments of society at large are requested be certified as class actions." SAC ¶ 91. She does not identify which specific causes of action this request pertains to, nor does she define the putative class(es). Plaintiff's tenth and eleventh causes of action are not actually legal theories, but are merely the names of two of the Defendants. Though some of the more egregious extraneous material from the first amended complaint has been omitted, the complaint remains rambling, difficult to follow, and consists in large part of unsupported conclusory allegations.

The complaint also contains a number of allegations that seem to concern generalized political grievances or allegations of conspiracies without a clear connection to the specific facts giving rise to Plaintiff's claim. See, e.g., SAC ΒΆ 55 (alleging that a number of Defendants " have favored LGBT individuals over all others and act individually and together to harass Plaintiff, and heterosexuals, ...

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