United States District Court, S.D. California
ORDER ON MOTION TO DISMISS
LARRY ALAN BURNS, District Judge.
Plaintiff Joseph Nadolski alleges that his constitutional rights were violated during a dispute in family court, and he has sued a number of parties under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 whom he believes are responsible. Now before the Court are their motions to dismiss.
On August 22, 2012, Nadolski's ex-wife obtained a TRO against him in San Diego Superior Court. The TRO, which was issued by Defendant Judge Gregory Pollack, restricted Nadolski's contact with his ex-wife and two children. It also required him to surrender his firearms. Nadolski's claims arise out of his dissatisfaction with this TRO.
Nadolski alleges that during the TRO hearing Defendant Victoria Rothman, who was the attorney for Nadolski's ex-wife, and Defendant Mary Winchester, who was an investigator for Defendant Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), provided "false and histrionic" testimony that led to the TRO being granted. (Compl. ¶ 28.) Nadolski also alleges that, prior to the hearing, a mediator who Nadolski has identified as John Doe interviewed the children and helped prepare false and unethical declarations.
Nadolski also alleges that HHS's investigation of alleged child abuse wasn't thorough. Winchester conducted the investigation, and Defendants Asoera and Weathersby supervised her. Nadolski maintains that their supervision was insufficient, and that Defendant Nick Macchione, the Director of the Department of Health and Human Resources, failed to staff the Department with competent investigators. Finally, he claims that "The Superior Court of California, San Diego County also did not provide the Plaintiff with the same resources it provides to protect Plaintiff's constitutional rights the court deprived him of, but provided resources to aid in violating those rights." (Compl. ¶ 2.) Nadolski doesn't specify how the court's resources were unfairly distributed.
On September 11, 2012, Judge Pollack conducted a second hearing and concluded that a permanent restraining order wasn't necessary. Nadolski's jumble of allegations also include that another judge, Defendant Judge Trentacosta, violated his constitutional rights, but he never explains how or identifies what role Judge Trentacosta played in the TRO process. (Compl. ¶ 49.)
II. Legal Standard
A 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim challenges the legal sufficiency of a complaint. Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001). The Court must accept all factual allegations as true and construe them in the light most favorable to Nadolski. Cedars-Sinai Med. Ctr. v. Nat'l League of Postmasters of U.S., 497 F.3d 972, 975 (9th Cir. 2007). To defeat the Defendants' motions to dismiss, Nadolski's factual allegations needn't be detailed, but they must be sufficient to "raise a right to relief above the speculative level...." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). That is, "some threshold of plausibility must be crossed at the outset" before a case can go forward. Id. at 558 (internal quotations omitted). 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). "The plausibility standard is not akin to a probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id.
While the Court must draw all reasonable inferences in Nadolski's favor, it need not "necessarily assume the truth of legal conclusions merely because they are cast in the form of factual allegations." Warren v. Fox Family Worldwide, Inc., 328 F.3d 1136, 1139 (9th Cir. 2003) (internal quotations omitted). In fact, the Court does not need to accept any legal conclusions as true. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. A complaint does not suffice "if it tenders naked assertions devoid of further factual enhancement." Id. (internal quotations omitted). Nor does it suffice if it contains a merely formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.
Because Nadolski is proceeding pro se, the Court construes his pleadings liberally, and affords him the benefit of any doubt. See Karim-Panahi v. L.A. Police Dep't, 839 F.2d 621, 623 (9th Cir. 1988). Of course, "[p]ro se litigants must follow the same rules of procedure that govern other litigants." King v. Atiyeh, 814 F.2d 565, 567 (9th Cir. 1987).
Nadolski claims that, by their actions, each Defendant violated his constitutional rights under § 1983. Three separate motions to dismiss have been filed. The first is from Judge Pollack, Judge Trentacosta, and the California Superior Court. They argue that Nadolski's claims are barred by the Rooker-Feldman Doctrine, and that they are immune from suit. The second motion to dismiss is from HHS, Winchester, Asoera, Macchione, Weathersby, and San Diego County. They also argue that Nadolski's claim is barred by the Rooker-Feldman Doctrine, and also that he has failed to plead a sufficient cause of action under § 1983. The final motion to dismiss is from Rothman, who makes the same two arguments.
The Court finds three problems with Nadolski's claims. First, the claims are inadequately pled. All that is clear from Nadolski's complaint is that he believes the issuance of the TRO violated his rights. The problem might be corrected with an amended complaint, but that leads to a discussion of the other two problems. These are: (1) that his claims are barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine; and (2) that Judge Pollack, Judge ...