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Gozzi v. County of Monterey

United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division

December 10, 2014

DANIELE GOZZI, Plaintiff,
v.
COUNTY OF MONTEREY, STATE OF CALIFORNIA, et. al., Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS AND MOTION TO REMAND

LUCY H. KOH, District Judge.

Plaintiff Daniele Gozzi ("Plaintiff"), brings this action against defendants County of Monterey, State of California; Stephen I. Vagnini, County Recorder-County Clerk; Michael J. Miller, Auditor-Controller; Dean Flippo, District Attorney; Scott Miller, Sheriff-Coroner; Mary A. Zeeb, Treasurer-Tax Collector; Steve Mauck, Risk Management; Irv Grant, Deputy County Counsel; Fernando Armenta, County Supervisor; Louis Calcagno, County Supervisor; Simon Salinas, County Supervisor; Jane Parker, County Supervisor; Dave Potter, County Supervisor; Lew C. Bauman, County Administrator; and Gail T. Borkowski, Clerk of the Board (collectively, "County Defendants") for violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. ECF No. 1 ("Compl.").

Plaintiff also names as co-defendants Marla O. Anderson, Presiding Judge of the Superior Court of California, County of Monterey; Thomas W. Wills, Judge of the Superior Court of California, County of Monterey; and Theresa A. Risi, Court Executive Officer for the Superior Court of California, County of Monterey (collectively, "Judicial Defendants"). Id.

Plaintiff also names as co-defendants JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A.; Bryan Cave, LLP; Sharon Weiss; Daniel T. Rockey; Goli Mahdavi; and Ethan Schatz (collectively, "Firm Defendants"). Id. Before the Court are the County Defendants' Motion to Dismiss or in the alternative Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No.59 ("Mot. 1"), the Judicial Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 62 ("Mot. 2"), and the Firm Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 64 ("Mot. 3"). Also before the Court is the Firm Defendants' Motion to Remand. ECF No. 73.

Having considered the submissions of the parties and the relevant law, and for good cause shown, the Court hereby GRANTS all the motions to dismiss and the Firm Defendants' motion to remand.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background

Although the Complaint omits many relevant facts, the following information can be gathered from the parties' papers and requests for judicial notice. On or around August 10, 2007, Plaintiff and his wife Anita Gozzi borrowed the principal amount of $5.8 million ("Loan") from lender Washington Mutual Bank, F.A. ("Washington Mutual") to purchase real property located at 31549 Highway 1, Carmel, California, 93923 ("Property"). ECF No. 65-1 Ex. A. The California Reconveyance Company ("CRC") acted as Trustee. Id. The Loan was secured by a deed of trust against the Property, dated August 10, 2007, and recorded in Monterey County on August 28, 2007. Id. The deed of trust bears the notarized signatures of Plaintiff and Anita Gozzi. Id. at 19. On September 25, 2008, JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A. ("Chase") acquired the interest in all of Washington Mutual's loans from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, as Washington Mutual had failed. See ECF No. 65-2 Ex. B. On July 26, 2010, CRC, the trustee, caused a notice of default to be recorded which stated that the amount of $96, 470.80 was required to reinstate the Loan. ECF No. 65-2 Exs. B & C. On November 3, 2010, CRC caused a notice of trustee's sale to be recorded for the Loan and deed of trust. ECF No. 65-2 Ex. D. CRC's notice of trustee's sale stated that the unpaid balance owed on the Loan was $6, 038, 792.12. Id. On January 10, 2011, a trustee's deed upon sale was recorded showing that the Property was sold to Chase on December 13, 2010 for $4, 013, 500. ECF No. 65-2 Ex. E.

On February 8, 2011, Chase filed a complaint for unlawful detainer against Plaintiff in Monterey County Superior Court (the "Unlawful Detainer Case").[1] ECF No. 65-2 Ex. F. On June 17, 2011, the Monterey County Superior Court issued an order granting summary judgment to Chase to possess the Property against Plaintiff and all occupants, and a writ of possession issued on June 24, 2011. ECF No. 65-2 Exs. G & H. On November 3, 2011, Plaintiff filed a chapter 13 bankruptcy petition. ECF No. 65-2 Ex. I. Chase filed a motion for relief from stay regarding the Property, and the Bankruptcy Court granted the motion on January 3, 2012 and dismissed the bankruptcy petition the following day. Id.

A new writ of possession for the Property was filed on January 10, 2012, and three days later Plaintiff filed a second chapter 13 bankruptcy petition. ECF No. 65-2 Ex. H & ECF No. 65-3 Ex. J. Chase again filed a motion for relief from stay regarding the Property, and the Bankruptcy Court granted the motion on March 23, 2012. ECF No. 65-3 Ex. J. A writ of possession for the Property issued on April 2, 2012. ECF No. 65-2 Ex. H. Subsequently, Helina K. Patel- a tenant and resident of the Property, and, the Firm Defendants have alleged, Plaintiff's daughter-filed for bankruptcy, which the Bankruptcy Court then dismissed. See ECF No. 65-3, Exs. J & K; Mot. 3 at 3. On October 2, 2012, Chase continued its eviction efforts by filing for another writ of possession, which issued on October 17, 2012. ECF No. 65-2 Ex. H.

Plaintiff filed a third bankruptcy petition on January 7, 2013. ECF No. 65-3 Ex. L. Since Plaintiff had previously filed for bankruptcy in the past year, Chase received relief from stay automatically thirty days later.[2] On March 4, 2013, Helina Patel filed a second chapter 13 bankruptcy petition as a resident and tenant of the Property. ECF No. 65-3 Ex. M. On April 2, 2013, Chase obtained an order from the United States Bankruptcy Court granting Chase in rem relief from any automatic stay pertaining to the Property for two years. ECF No. 65-3 Ex. N.

In the interim, on March 18, 2013, Plaintiff filed a still-active civil action against Chase in Monterey County Superior Court ("Plaintiff's State Civil Case").[3] ECF No. 63-2 Ex. B. While Plaintiff's State Civil Case against Chase was pending, a return on writ of possession was executed on April 29, 2014, showing that the Monterey County Sheriff posted a copy of the writ of possession notice on the Property on January 16, 2014. ECF No. 65-3 Ex. O. On January 23, 2014, Plaintiff filed a fourth chapter 13 bankruptcy petition.[4] ECF No. 65-3 Ex. P.

Another writ of possession was executed on July 23, 2014, showing that Plaintiff was served notice to surrender the property on July 15, 2014. ECF No. 65-5 Ex. S. On July 16, 2014, Plaintiff visited the Monterey County Superior Court Clerk's office and asked for the case file for the Unlawful Detainer Case that Chase filed against Plaintiff on February 8, 2011. Compl. Annex 2, at 2. Plaintiff alleges that he was unable to find in the case file a filed copy of the writ of possession served on Plaintiff the previous day. Id.

Plaintiff then asked for a copy of the order to show cause that Plaintiff thought was issued on July 11, 2014 in Plaintiff's State Civil Case. Id. Plaintiff alleges he was unable to find any order to show cause in the case file of Plaintiff's State Civil Case. Id. Plaintiff claims he subsequently requested a transcript of the July 11, 2014 hearing in his State Civil Case, and was informed there was no transcript or recording of the hearing. Id.

On July 21, 2014, three alleged creditors filed an involuntary chapter 7 bankruptcy petition against Plaintiff in the Central District of California, ECF No. 65-5 Ex. T, and Chase responded the next day by noticing Chase's in rem relief from any automatic stays of its proceedings against the Property, ECF No. 65-5 Ex. U. The writ of possession executed on July 23, 2014 shows that Chase took possession of the Property on July 22, 2014. ECF No. 65-5 Ex. S.

In all, seven bankruptcy actions were filed involving the Property: four petitions filed by Plaintiff, two filed by Plaintiff's tenant and alleged daughter Helina Patel, and an involuntary one filed by three alleged creditors of the Plaintiff. ECF No. 65-2 Ex. I, ECF No. 65-3 Exs. J-M, P, & ECF No. 65-5 Ex. T.

B. Procedural History

On July 22, 2014, Plaintiff filed a § 1983 complaint against the County Defendants, Judicial Defendants, and the Firm Defendants. Compl. ¶¶ 4-27. Plaintiff alleges that Chase did not have a contract with Plaintiff for the Loan, and that Bryan Cave LLP is not licensed to practice in California. Compl. ¶ 38. Plaintiff appears to allege that the County Defendants and Judicial Defendants conspired with Firm Defendants to evict him from his land even though Chase did not have a contract with Plaintiff for the Loan. Compl. ¶¶ 38, 42. Plaintiff further alleges that the County Defendants, Judicial Defendants, and the Firm Defendants conspired together to "cover up [their] wrongdoing" by tampering with records, and that bribery was involved. Compl. ¶¶ 4-21, 35-38, 42-48. Plaintiff claims that these acts amounted to a violation of his Constitutional due process rights. Compl. ¶¶ 35, 43. Plaintiff requested equitable relief in his underlying property dispute, and monetary relief of $120 million. Compl. ¶ 49.

On August 12, 2014, the County Defendants filed a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, a motion for summary judgment. Mot. 1. On August 13, 2014, the Judicial Defendants filed a motion to dismiss. Mot. 2. Also on August 13, 2014, the Firm Defendants filed a motion to dismiss. Mot. 3. The Judicial Defendants and Firm Defendants further requested that the Court take judicial notice of related documents in support of their respective motions. ECF No. 63 & ECF No. 65. On August 19, 2014, Plaintiff filed an "Emergency Ex Parte Application for Default Judgment", "Interlocutory Summary Judgment, Pursuant to Rule 56", "Show Cause Orders", "Writ of Restitution, " and "Temporary Restraining Order." ECF No. 68. On August 25, 2014, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Compel. ECF No. 70. On August 26, 2014, Plaintiff filed a "Motion for Statement of Intent." ECF No. 75. Plaintiff did not file an explicit opposition or statement of non-opposition to any of the motions to dismiss within 14 days as required under Civil Local Rule 7-3(a), but Plaintiff does refer to "Rule 12(b)(6) fatal defects" in one of his intervening filings. ECF No. 68-2 Ex. 2, at 5. Although Plaintiff did not file any explicit opposition, the Judicial Defendants filed a Reply on September 3, 2014. ECF No. 78.

On July 29, 2014, Plaintiff filed a "Notice of Removal of State Action" to remove his two state cases, the Unlawful Detainer Case and Plaintiff's State Civil Case, to federal court and relate them to this case. ECF No. 51. On August 22, 2014, Plaintiff filed a "Praecipe to Clerk File on Demand" that appears to indicate that Plaintiff believes his current Monterey County Superior Court case has been removed to this Court. ECF No. 69. On August 26, 2014, the Firm Defendants filed a Motion to Remand Plaintiff's two state cases, which the Plaintiff has not timely opposed under Civil Local Rule 7-3(a). ECF No. 73. The Firm Defendants further requested that the Court take judicial notice of additional related documents in support of their motion. ECF No. 74.

II. LEGAL STANDARDS

A. Motion to Dismiss Under Rule 12(b)(6)

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a defendant may move to dismiss an action for failure to 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. 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." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal citations omitted). For purposes of ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court "accept[s] factual allegations in the complaint as true and construe[s] the pleadings in the light most favorable to the non-moving party." Manzarek v. St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co., 519 F.3d 1025, 1031 (9th Cir. 2008). "[A] court may generally consider only allegations contained in the pleadings, exhibits attached to the complaint, and matters properly subject to judicial notice." Swartz v. KPMG LLP, 476 F.3d 756, 763 (9th Cir. 2007). Moreover, pro se pleadings are to be construed liberally. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972) (per curiam); Resnick v. Hayes, 213 F.3d 443, 447 (9th Cir. 2000).

However, a court need not accept as true allegations in a complaint contradicted by judicially noticeable facts, and the "court may look beyond the plaintiff's complaint to matters of public record" without converting the Rule 12(b)(6) motion into one for summary judgment. See Shaw v. Hahn, 56 F.3d 1128, 1129 n.1 (9th Cir. 1995); Van Buskirk v. Cable News Network, Inc., 284 F.3d 977, 980 (9th Cir. 2002); Schwarz v. United States, 234 F.3d 428, 435 (9th Cir. 2000). Nor is the Court required to "assume the truth of legal conclusions merely because they are cast in the form of factual allegations.'" Fayer v. Vaughn, 649 F.3d 1061, 1064 (9th Cir. 2011) (quoting W. Mining Council v. Watt, 643 F.2d 618, 624 (9th Cir. 1981)). Mere "conclusory allegations of law and unwarranted inferences are insufficient to defeat a motion to dismiss." Adams v. Johnson, 355 F.3d 1179, 1183 (9th Cir. 2004) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted); accord Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Furthermore, "a plaintiff may plead [him]self out of court'" if he "plead[s] facts which establish that he cannot prevail on his claim." Weisbuch v. County of L.A., 119 F.3d 778, 783 n.1 (9th Cir. 1997) (quoting Warzon v. Drew, 60 F.3d 1234, 1239 (7th Cir. 1995)).

B. Leave to Amend

If the Court determines that the complaint should be dismissed, it must then decide whether to grant leave to amend. Under Rule 15(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, leave to amend "shall be freely given when justice so requires, " bearing in mind "the underlying purpose of Rule 15 to facilitate decisions on the merits, rather than on the pleadings or technicalities." Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1127 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc) (internal quotation marks and alterations omitted). When dismissing a complaint for failure to state a claim, "a district court should grant leave to amend even if no request to amend the pleading was made, unless it determines that the pleading could not possibly be cured by the allegation of other facts.'" Id. at 1130 (quoting Doe v. United States, 58 F.3d 494, 497 (9th Cir. 1995)). Furthermore, the Court "has a duty to ensure that pro se litigants do not lose their right to a hearing on the merits of their claim due to ignorance of technical procedural requirements." Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). Accordingly, leave to amend generally should be denied only if allowing amendment would unduly prejudice the opposing party, cause undue delay, or be futile, or if the moving party has acted in bad faith. Leadsinger, Inc. v. BMG Music Publ'g, 512 F.3d 522, 532 (9th Cir. 2008).

III. DISCUSSION

A. Request for ...


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