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Campos v. County of Kern

United States District Court, E.D. California

October 1, 2014

KEANU ETHAN CAMPOS, a minor, by and through his Guardian ad Litem, Deniz Gonzalez, Plaintiff,
v.
COUNTY OF KERN, a public entity; DEPUTY JASON AYALA, a public employee, DEPUTY JOSHUA BATHE, a public employee; and DOES 1-10, inclusive, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER RE: DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS OR FOR A MORE DEFINITE STATEMENT (Doc. 11)

LAWRENCE J. O'NEILL, District Judge.

I. PRELIMINARY STATEMENT TO PARTIES AND COUNSEL

Judges in the Eastern District of California carry the heaviest caseloads in the nation, and this Court is unable to devote inordinate time and resources to individual cases and matters. Given the shortage of district judges and staff, this Court addresses only the arguments, evidence, and matters necessary to reach the decision in this order. The parties and counsel are encouraged to contact the offices of United States Senators Feinstein and Boxer to address this Court's inability to accommodate the parties and this action. The parties are required to reconsider consent to conduct all further proceedings before a Magistrate Judge, whose schedules are far more realistic and accommodating to parties than that of U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O'Neill, who must prioritize criminal and older civil cases.

Civil trials set before Judge O'Neill trail until he becomes available and are subject to suspension mid-trial to accommodate criminal matters. Civil trials are no longer reset to a later date if Judge O'Neill is unavailable on the original date set for trial. Moreover, this Court's Fresno Division randomly and without advance notice reassigns civil actions to U.S. District Judges throughout the nation to serve as visiting judges. In the absence of Magistrate Judge consent, this action is subject to reassignment to a U.S. District Judge from outside the Eastern District of California.

II. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff's father, Luis Gabriel Campos ("Decedent"), was arrested and processed into the Kern County Jail Central Receiving Facility ("Kern County Jail") on August 8, 2013. Compl. Doc. No. 1 [hereinafter "Compl."] at ¶¶ 1, 6. According to Plaintiff, Decedent had a "known history" of attempting to harm himself while in custody, and attempted to kill himself when he was booked into custody that day. Id. at 6. Though Decedent was placed on "suicide watch, " he was found dead two days later, on August 10, 2013, apparently due to suicide. Id. Plaintiff brings suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the County of Kern as well as named and unknown deputies in the Kern County Sherriff's department on the basis that these deputies denied Decedent of civil rights afforded to pre-trial detainees by the Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Id. at ¶¶ 7, 10. Defendants County of Kern and Deputies Jason Ayala and Joshua Bathe move to dismiss pursuant to Fed. Rule Civ. Pro. 12(b)(6) on the basis that (a) the Complaint does not state a claims for Plaintiff's own damages and (b) Plaintiff lacks standing to bring Section 1983 claims on behalf of Decedent. Defs.' Mtn.to Dismiss, Doc. No. 11 [hereinafter "Defs.' Mtn."] at 2. Defendants alternatively move for a more definite statement pursuant to Rule 12(e). Id. at 7.

III. STANDARD OF DECISION

A motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) is a challenge to the sufficiency of the allegations set forth in the complaint. A 12(b)(6) dismissal is proper where there is either a "lack of a cognizable legal theory" or "the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory." Balisteri v. Pacifica Police Dept., 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). In considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the court generally accepts as true the allegations in the complaint, construes the pleading in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion, and resolves all doubts in the pleader's favor. Lazy Y. Ranch LTD v. Behrens, 546 F.3d 580, 588 (9th Cir. 2008).

To survive a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the plaintiff must allege "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). "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. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). "Where a complaint pleads facts that are merely consistent with' a defendant's liability, it stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility for entitlement to relief.'" Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).

"While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, 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." Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal citations omitted). Thus, "bare assertions... amount[ing] to nothing more than a formulaic recitation of the elements'... are not entitled to be assumed true." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 681. In practice, "a complaint... must contain either direct or inferential allegations respecting all the material elements necessary to sustain recovery under some viable legal theory." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 562. In other words, the Complaint must describe the alleged misconduct in enough detail to lay the foundation for an identified legal claim.

To the extent that the pleadings can be cured by the allegation of additional facts, the plaintiff should be afforded leave to amend. Cook, Perkiss and Liehe, Inc. v. Northern California Collection Serv. Inc., 911 F.2d 242, 247 (9th Cir. 1990) (citations omitted).

IV. ANALYSIS

A. Eighth Amendment Claims

Claims in this case arise out of Decedent's experience as a pre-trial detainee. Compl at ¶¶ 6-7. Eighth Amendment protection does not apply to pre-detention periods. Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 537, n. 16 (1979) ("Eighth Amendment scrutiny is appropriate only after the State has complied with the constitutional guarantees traditionally associated with criminal prosecutions."). Rather, claims by pre-trial trial detainees are properly evaluated under the Fourteenth Amendment. Jones v. Blanas , 393 F.3d 918, 931 (9th Cir. 2004) ("The more protective [F]ourteenth [A]mendment standard applies to conditions of confinement when detainees have not been convicted of a crime.") (internal citations omitted). Therefore, ...


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