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Madrid v. County of Mono

United States District Court, E.D. California

June 25, 2014

COUNTY OF MONO, et al., Defendants.


MORRISON C. ENGLAND, Jr., Chief District Judge.

Through this action, Plaintiff Jonathan Madrid ("Plaintiff") seeks relief under 42 U.S.C ยง 1983 for the alleged violation of his First Amendment rights arising from his employment with the Defendant County of Mono Sheriff's Department ("the Department"). Plaintiff names as Defendants the County of Mono ("the County"), Sheriff Richard Scholl ("Defendant Scholl"), Undersheriff Ralph Obenberger ("Defendant Obenberger"), and David O'Hara ("Defendant O'Hara) (collectively "Defendants"). Plaintiff also seeks relief for retaliation under California Labor Code section 1102.5(b). Plaintiff has previously amended his Complaint, and the County now moves to dismiss Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure[1] 12(b)(6). Def's Mot., May 15, 2014, ECF No. 39. For the reasons below, the County's Motion to Dismiss is DENIED.[2]


In 2001, the Department hired Plaintiff as a deputy sheriff. The first years of Plaintiff's career with the department were successful; he received forty-three commendations and performed several different roles within the department.

In 2008, Plaintiff "spoke out about the mishandling of medications for jail inmates." Compl. at 4. Plaintiff notified Lieutenant Weber, Sergeant Minder and Sergeant Nelson that the Department's practice violated the law. The disclosures made by Plaintiff were not part of his normal work duties; rather, he spoke out because of "genuine concern for the health of the inmates." Compl. at 5. Additionally, Plaintiff disclosed information regarding the falsification of a report by another member of the Department. In response to Plaintiff's actions, Defendant O'Hara issued a written directive to Plaintiff that he not report crimes or emergencies, or personally render assistance to those in need, while off-duty.

Because of his disclosures, Plaintiff alleges that employees of the County, acting as final policymakers for the County, retaliated against him in numerous ways. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants retaliated against him by denying his advanced P.O.S.T. Certificate and attendant pay increase. Later, in 2009, according to Plaintiff, Defendant O'Hara was overheard publicly announcing his goal to have Plaintiff terminated. Plaintiff reported that incident to Defendant Obenberger, but Defendant Obenberger took no action.

On several occasions between 2008 and the date of his employment termination, the individual Defendants called Plaintiff into their offices and questioned him about the status of his divorce, his finances, and his personal relationships. Plaintiff claims that Defendants later attempted to use this information against Plaintiff in his administrative appeal hearing. Plaintiff contends that during this period Defendants gradually eliminated Plaintiff's special assignments and denied him new opportunities without giving Plaintiff any explanation for those changes.

In May 2011, Plaintiff claims that Defendant Obenberger initiated a sham investigation against Plaintiff for alleged theft of the County's gasoline. Plaintiff states Defendants served him the disposition paperwork in front of several other officers and publicly announced that the paperwork involved an Internal Affairs Investigation against Plaintiff. Plaintiff was immediately placed on administrative leave and forced to surrender his badge, gun, and law enforcement identification card. A few days later, Defendant Scholl sent a letter to Plaintiff imposing an additional twenty-hour suspension which had the effect of reducing Plaintiff's final paycheck by twenty hours of paid time, which Plaintiff claims was done "with no legitimate reason... other than spiteful, further retaliation." Compl. at 7.

While on administrative leave, Defendants ordered Plaintiff to report to the Department. There, Plaintiff claims he was not reissued his gun, badge, or identification card, and was subjected to menial tasks by Defendants for the purpose of humiliating Plaintiff. During this time, Defendants initiated a second "sham" investigation against Plaintiff for allegedly sleeping on the job.

In June 2012, Plaintiff's treating doctor took him off work. Plaintiff eventually depleted his accrued sick time and began drawing disability benefits through a private insurance policy that Plaintiff held with California Law Enforcement Association. Plaintiff contends Defendants contacted the California Law Enforcement Association with the intent to interrupt Plaintiff's collection of benefits.

Finally, when it became clear that Plaintiff was going to win his administrative appeal, and despite the fact that Plaintiff's doctor ordered him off work, Defendants claimed that Plaintiff had abandoned his job. On January 10, 2013, Defendant Obenberger sent a letter to Plaintiff accusing him of the same because Plaintiff had allegedly failed to provide a doctor's note for his absence.

On February 7, 2013, the Arbitrator of the administrative appeal issued a written decision in Plaintiff's favor, ordering full reinstatement. The Arbitrator found that "[m]anagement acted in a discriminatory and capricious manner which was unreasonable under the circumstances." Compl. at 10. Defendants nonetheless refuse to reinstate Plaintiff.


On a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), all allegations of material fact must be accepted as true and construed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Cahill v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co. , 80 F.3d 336, 337-38 (9th Cir. 1996). Rule 8(a)(2) requires only "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief" in order to "give the defendant fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson , 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). A complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not require detailed factual allegations. However, "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." Id . (internal citations and quotations omitted). A court is not required to accept as true a "legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1950 (2009) (quoting Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555). "Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above ...

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