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Dowd v. California State Bar

United States District Court, E.D. California

June 23, 2014

ROBERT DOWD, Plaintiffs,
CALIFORNIA STATE BAR, et al., Defendants.


SHEILA K. OBERTO, Magistrate Judge.


On January 27, 2014, Plaintiff Robert Dowd ("Plaintiff") filed a complaint against the California State Bar, Donald J. Miles, Judith Epstein, Joann Remke, Tani Cantil-Sakauye, Joyce Kennard, Marvin Baxter, Kathryn M. Werdegar, Ming W. Chin, Carol Corrigan, Goodwin Liu, Jean Shah, Cathy Lindsey, Rosalie Ruiz, the California State Bar Journal, and DOES 1 through 50 (collectively, "Defendants"). Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983, Plaintiff alleges Defendants violated his constitutional rights. Plaintiff also raises state law claims for defamation and discrimination, as well as a claim under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. Against all Defendants, Plaintiff seeks monetary damages exclusively.

For the reasons set forth below, the undersigned RECOMMENDS that Plaintiff's complaint be dismissed without leave to amend.


Plaintiff's lengthy complaint is disorganized and rambling, making it difficult to discern the factual basis of his claims. Nevertheless, it appears Plaintiff's claims arise out of events that occurred as part of disciplinary proceedings initiated against Plaintiff by the California State Bar Association ("State Bar"). Plaintiff alleges that all the Defendants "actively conspired together" to have him disbarred. (Doc. 1, 4:3.)

At some point in 1997, Plaintiff was disciplined by the State Bar for failing to supervise an assistant who stole money out of a client account. (Doc. 1, ¶ 17.) Later, in August 2010, Plaintiff was charged with violating the California Business & Professions Code § 6068(d) for authorizing his legal assistant to sign his name to a declaration Plaintiff had prepared. (Doc. 1, 4:23-28, ¶ 3.) In 2011, Plaintiff was convicted of a misdemeanor for violating California Penal Code Section 148, for which he was fined $100. (Doc. 1, 10:9-11.)[1] Thereafter, disbarment proceedings were initiated because of Plaintiff's record of convictions, which Plaintiff terms a "three-strike" rule pursuant to the Rules of the State Bar.

Plaintiff appears to allege that the 2010 discipline was for a minor offense, and using this as a basis to apply a "three-strike rule" was unconstitutional; Plaintiff also appears to contend that the "three-strike rule" itself is unconstitutional. Plaintiff explains that there are no definitive standards to evaluate or distinguish between minor and serious offenses committed by members of the bar, and thus there is no definitive legal standard for applying the three-strike rule. Plaintiff alleges that other judges and attorneys have been found guilty of drunk driving and various other general intent misdemeanors, and the court has not imposed discipline on them. Plaintiff alleges that the "State Bar Justice system" "sets senior sole practitioners up for failure" by punishing them for minor or non-existent offenses. (Doc. 1, 29:23-27, ¶ 30.) Plaintiff states that Defendants conspired against him to bring about his disbarment in an effort to discriminate against him as a white man over the age of 65. (Doc. 1, ¶ 18.)

Against all Defendants, Plaintiff seeks damages in the amount of $11, 025, 000 and an order that he may practice law before the federal court in which this case is filed. (Doc. 1, 51, ¶¶ 1-5.)


Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires that a complaint contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Rule 8(d) requires that each allegation must be "simple, concise, and direct." Where the factual elements of a cause of action are present but are scattered throughout the complaint and are not organized into a short, plain statement of the claim, dismissal for failure to satisfy Rule 8 is proper. See McHenry v. Renne, 84F.3d 1172, 1178 (9th Cir. 1996) (stating complaint should set forth who is being sued, for what relief, and on what theory with enough detail to provide notice to defendants).

As noted above, Plaintiff's complaint is lengthy, disorganized, and rambling. It does not set forth events in chronological order, and the conduct of each defendant is not clearly alleged. Pursuant to Rule 8, it is subject to dismissal on that basis alone. Additionally, notwithstanding the lack of clarity, the federal claims Plaintiff attempts to state are barred by the Eleventh Amendment or are otherwise precluded by judicial or quasi-judicial immunity.

A. The Eleventh Amendment Bars Plaintiff's Claims for Monetary Damages Against the State Bar

Plaintiff seeks monetary damages for each of his claims against the California State Bar. The Eleventh Amendment protects states and their entities and agencies against suits brought by citizens in federal court. See Atascadero State Hosp. v. Scanlon, 473 U.S. 234, 241 (1985), superseded by statute on other grounds. It is well established that the State Bar and the State Bar Court are arms of the State for purposes of the Eleventh Amendment. Lupert v. California State Bar, 761 F.2d 1325, 1327 (9th Cir. 1985); Hirsh v. Justices of the Sup.Ct., 67 F.3d 708, 715 (9th Cir. 1995) (the Eleventh Amendment's grant of sovereign immunity bars ...

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