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Cooney v. State

United States District Court, S.D. California

July 18, 2014

THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA, et al., Defendants.


CYNTHIA BASHANT, District Judge.

On July 11, 2013, Plaintiff filed her First Amended Complaint ("FAC") in this case against the Supreme Court of the State of California, Chief Justice Tani Canti-Sakauye, all of the Appellate Justices of the California Fourth District Court of Appeal, and state court Judges Robert Trentacosta and Yuri Hofmann ("the judicial defendants"); the City of San Diego, Deputy City Attorneys Keith Phillips and Bonny Hsu and San Diego City lifeguard-witness John Kerr ("the City defendants"); the County of San Diego, County Counsel George W. Brewster Jr. and County Staff psychiatrist Dr. Ivan Baroya ("the County defendants"); and Dr. Dominick Addario - a forensive psychiatrist and Thomas Massey, a lawyer. (FAC, ECF No. 23.) On August 2, 2013, this court issued an order sua sponte dismissing the judicial defendants from the case. (ECF No. 24.) All remaining defendants, with the exception of Thomas Massey, who has not yet been served, have moved to dismiss the FAC pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (ECF Nos. 35, 36 and 38.)

The Court finds this motion suitable for determination on the papers submitted and without oral argument. See Civ. L.R. 7.1(d)(1). For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS the motions to dismiss filed by the City defendants, the County defendants, and Dr. Dominic Addario WITHOUT LEAVE TO AMEND.


On July 28, 2009, Plaintiff filed a complaint in state court against the City of San Diego, the County of San Diego and lifeguard John Kerr alleging false imprisonment, wrongful arrest, negligent infliction of emotional harm, assault and battery, libel and slander and medical malpractice stemming from a § 5150 hold placed upon her pursuant to the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act ("LPS Act") found in Welfare and Institutions Code ("WIC"), § 5000 et seq. (FAC at ¶¶ 32, 36; ECF No. 35, Request for Judicial Notice ("RJN") Exs. 1 & 2; ECF No. 38-4.) Under WIC § 5150, a person may be involuntarily committed to a county mental health facility for 72 hours if there is probable cause to believe the individual "as a result of a mental disorder, is a danger to others, or to himself or herself, or is gravely disabled."

State Court Judge Yuri Hofmann granted defendants' motion for summary judgment finding there was probable cause for Plaintiff's detention. (FAC at ¶¶ 43, 47; ECF No. 35, RJN Exs. 2 & 3; ECF No. 38-6.) Plaintiff appealed this decision, arguing among other things that the LPS Act is unconstitutional. (FAC at ¶ 51; ECF No. 35, RJN Ex. 4; ECF No. 38-7.) The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's decision. (FAC at ¶¶ 52, 53; ECF No. 35, RJN Ex. 5.) A Petition for Review was filed with the California Supreme Court on May 3, 2012 and denied on June 13, 2012. (FAC at ¶¶ 4, 57.)

On July 22, 2011, Plaintiff filed another state court action against defendant Dr. Dominick Addario for general negligence, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and medical malpractice. (ECF No. 38-8.) In this second complaint, Plaintiff alleged that Dr. Addario, who was an expert witness for the defendants in the first state court action, misstated the facts and committed perjury, which caused Plaintiff to suffer emotional distress. ( Id. ; see also ECF No. 38-5; FAC ¶ 45.) On October 19, 2011, Plaintiff requested that this second complaint against Dr. Addario be dismissed with prejudice. (ECF No. 38-9.) The dismissal with prejudice was then entered. ( Id. )

Plaintiff then filed this federal court action against all the judges and lawyers involved in the two state court cases, along with the state court defendants, and two of the state court witnesses, including Dr. Addario. (FAC at ¶¶ 3-18.) She claims the state court case was improperly litigated and she was entitled to judgment in her favor. (FAC at ¶¶ 3-18, 32-34, 59.)


A. Rule 12(b)(6)

A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure tests the legal sufficiency of the claims asserted in the complaint. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6); Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001). The court must accept all allegations of material fact pleaded in the complaint as true and must construe them and draw all reasonable inferences from them in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Cahill v. Liberty Mutual Ins. Co., 80 F.3d 336, 337-38 (9th Cir. 1996). To avoid a Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal, a complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, rather, it must plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly , 550 U.S. at 556).

"[A] plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds' of his entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (quoting Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986) (alteration in original)). Furthermore, a court need not accept "legal conclusions" as true. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Despite the deference the court must pay to the plaintiff's allegations, it is not proper for the court to assume that "the [plaintiff] can prove facts that [he or she] has not alleged or that the defendants have violated the... laws in ways that have not been alleged." Associated Gen. Contractors of Cal., Inc. v. Cal. State Council of Carpenters, 459 U.S. 519, 526 (1983).

Generally, courts may not consider material outside the complaint when ruling on a motion to dismiss. Hal Roach Studios, Inc. v. Richard Feiner & Co., 896 F.2d 1542, 1555 n.19 (9th Cir. 1990). However, documents specifically identified in the complaint whose authenticity is not questioned by parties may also be considered. Fecht v. Price Co., 70 F.3d 1078, 1080 n.1 (9th Cir. 1995) (superseded by statutes on other grounds). Moreover, the court may consider the full text of those documents even when the complaint quotes only selected portions. Id. It may also consider material properly subject to judicial notice without converting the motion into one for summary judgment. Barron v. Reich, 13 F.3d 1370, 1377 (9th Cir. 1994).[1]

As a general rule, a court freely grants leave to amend a complaint which has been dismissed. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a). However, leave to amend may be denied when "the court determines that the allegation of other facts consistent with the challenged pleading could not possibly cure the deficiency." Schreiber Distrib. Co. v. Serv-Well Furniture Co., 806 F.2d 1393, 1401 (9th Cir. 1986).

B. Rule 12(b)(1)

Under Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a party may move to dismiss based on the court's lack of subject matter jurisdiction. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). In such a motion, the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing the court's subject matter jurisdiction. "A federal court is presumed to lack jurisdiction in a particular case unless the contrary affirmatively appears." Stock West, Inc. v. Confederated Tribes, 873 F.2d 1221, 1225 (9th Cir. 1989) (citation omitted). A Rule 12(b)(1) jurisdictional attack may be either facial or factual. White v. Lee, 227 F.3d 1214, 1242 (9th Cir. 2000).

In a facial attack, the complaint is challenged as failing to establish federal jurisdiction, even assuming that all of the allegations are true and construing the complaint in light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Safe Air for Everyone v. Meyer, 373 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir. 2004). Thus, a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction will be granted if the complaint on its face fails to allege sufficient facts to establish jurisdiction. See Savage v. Glendale Union High Sch., 343 F.3d 1036, 1039 n.2 (9th Cir. 2003).

"By contrast, in a factual attack, the challenger disputes the truth of the allegations that, by themselves, would otherwise invoke federal jurisdiction." Safe Air for Everyone, 373 F.3d at 1039. "[T]he district court is not restricted to the face of the pleadings, but may review any evidence, such as affidavits and testimony, to resolve factual disputes concerning the existence of jurisdiction." McCarthy v. United States, 850 F.2d 558, 560 (9th Cir. 1988). "Once the moving party has converted the motion to dismiss into a factual motion by presenting affidavits or other evidence properly brought before the court, the party ...

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