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Kreher v. Yuba County Superior Court

United States District Court, E.D. California

July 2, 2014

DETLEF KREHER, Plaintiff,
v.
YUBA COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT; COUNTY OF YUBA; THIRD DISTRICT COURT OF APPEAL OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA; ALANA ADAMS and DOES 1 to 100, Defendants.

ORDER

LAWRENCE K. KARLTON, Senior District Judge.

Plaintiff Detlef Kreher is proceeding through counsel with this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983. Plaintiff claims defendants Yuba County Superior Court Clerk Alana Adams, Yuba County Superior Court, County of Yuba (County), and Third District Court of Appeal of the State of California (Third District Court of Appeal) violated his federal constitutional rights to due process and access to the courts. Plaintiff also raises a state law claim.

On May 28, 2014, defendants Yuba County Superior Court, Third District Court of Appeal, and Alana Adams (hereafter "court defendants") filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) (ECF No. 5). On June 9, 2014, defendant County filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) (ECF No. 6). On June 19, 2014, plaintiff filed an opposition to the motion filed by the court defendants (ECF No. 10). Plaintiff has not filed an opposition to the motion filed by the County. On June 26, 2014, the court defendants filed a reply (ECF No. 12).

The motions are noticed for hearing on July 7, 2014 before the undersigned. Good cause appearing, the motions are taken under submission on the papers and resolved without oral argument. See Local Rule 230(g) (E.D.Cal.)

I. ALLEGATIONS OF THE COMPLAINT

Plaintiff's complaint, filed April 18, 2014 (ECF No. 1), contains the following allegations. On or about January 30, 2009, plaintiff filed a lawsuit in the Yuba County Superior Court seeking money damages arising out of a vehicle collision. Complaint (ECF No. 1) at 3. On January 19, 2011, the Yuba County Superior Court granted a motion for summary judgment against plaintiff and entered judgment. Id . On January 28, 2011, plaintiff timely filed a notice of appeal. Id.

On September 15, 2011, following an unsuccessful appellate mediation, plaintiff timely filed a designation of record in the Yuba County Superior Court. Id . Plaintiff stipulated with the respondent in the state court action "to use the original superior court file under California Rules of Court Rule 8.128." Id. at 3-4. On September 16, 2011, plaintiff's counsel spoke with defendant Alana Adams, "who assured Plaintiff's counsel that the original superior court file would be sent to the Third District Court of Appeal." Id. at 4. Plaintiff paid the fees and costs, but defendant Adams did not include the original superior court file when she sent the record to the Third District Court of Appeal. Id.

On February 7, 2013, after filing the opening brief plaintiff's counsel discovered that defendant Adams had not sent the superior court file to the court of appeal. Id . On February 11, 2013, plaintiff's counsel moved to strike the clerk's transcript and for an order requiring defendant Adams to provide the Third District Court of Appeal with the original superior court file. Id . On February 13, 2013, the respondent in the state court action moved to dismiss the appeal based on an inadequate record and insufficient citations in the opening brief. Id . On February 27, 2013, plaintiff filed an opposition to the motion, noting the February 11, 2013 motion. Id.

On March 7, 2013, the Third District Court of Appeal denied plaintiff's February 11, 2013 motion and dismissed the appeal. Id . On March 25, 2013, plaintiff filed a petition for rehearing in the Third District Court of Appeal. Id . Therein, plaintiff argued that the inadequate record was due to defendant Adams' failure to perform her duty to transmit the original file to the court of appeal and that the time to file the opening brief had not commenced under court rules because the record had never actually been filed in the court of appeal. Id. at 5. On March 29, 2013, the Third District Court of Appeal denied the petition for rehearing. Id . Neither defendant Adams nor defendant Yuba County Superior Court ever provided notice to plaintiff or plaintiff's counsel that the record had not been properly sent to the court of appeal. Id.

Defendant Adams failed to transmit the record as specified by plaintiff and required under California Rules of Court 8.128, and she, the Yuba County Superior Court, and the County of Yuba are liable for this failure. Id . They also are liable for defendant Adams' violation of California Rules of Court Rule 8.140(a), which requires the clerk to notify by mail any party who "fails to timely do an act required to procure the record" that it must do the necessary act within fifteen days. Id. at 6. The Third District Court of Appeal violated California Rule of Court 8.140(b) by dismissing the appeal. Id. at 7.

Plaintiff claims the foregoing violated his right to due process and his First Amendment right to access the courts. Plaintiff claims that he "has suffered injury, loss, and damage in that his valid appeal was dismissed" resulting "in the loss of his valid claim for money damages" in the underlying state court action. Id. at 8. Plaintiff also raises a claim against defendant Yuba County Superior Court for negligent hiring, training, supervision, and retention. Id. at 9.

Plaintiff seeks general damages, special damages, attorneys' fees, prejudgment interest, and costs. Plaintiff has also demanded a jury trial.

II. STANDARDS FOR A RULE 12(B)(6) MOTION TO DISMISS

A dismissal motion under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) challenges a complaint's compliance with the federal pleading requirements. Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), a pleading must contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." The complaint must give the defendant "fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Bell ...


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