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Akins v. Hedgecoth

United States District Court, S.D. California

January 2, 2015

RODNEY E. AKINS, Plaintiff,
PENNY HEDGECOTH, an individual, MATTHEW TORRES, an individual, and DOES 3, 5-10, Defendants.


BARRY TED MOSKOWTTZ, Chief District Judge.

After partially surviving one sua sponte dismissal and three motions to dismiss, the Court granted Plaintiff, Rodney E. Akins leave to amend his single remaining claim based on Defendants' alleged violation of his civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff amended his complaint a fourth time, and Defendants have filed their fourth motion to dismiss (Doc. 61). For the reasons discussed below, Defendants' motion is GRANTED in part, and DENIED in part.

I. Background

Plaintiff continues his suit against the two remaining Defendants, Penny Hedgecoth and Matthew Torres, in their individual capacities as, respectively, a Mail Room Supervisor and a Campus Security Officer at San Diego Community College ("College"). The background facts of this case are well documented in the Court's May 29, 2014, Order Granting Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Third Amended Complaint ("TAC") (Doc. 58). The May 29, 2014 Order granted Plaintiff leave to amend only his § 1983 claim and instructed that Plaintiff must: (1) clearly articulate which "rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, " Defendants' conduct violated under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and; (2) support any civil rights claim with specific facts showing that he plausibly suffered discrimination on the basis of age, race or in retaliation for filing previous complaints. Plaintiff's account of the facts giving rise to the current action has changed only slightly from the TAC, and the pertinent changes are summarized below.

First, Plaintiff has added that "it was common knowledge on campus the plaintiff [sic.] was being harassed and filing more than one lawsuit against the district and was basically ignored by school administrators" (Fourth Amended Complaint ("FAC") ¶ 20). This is the reason the Plaintiff decided to wait to serve his court papers until after classes had ended for the semester (FAC ¶ 20). Second, Plaintiff added a description of the mail room where the allegedly discriminatory events took place; the mail room is located in the "Mesa College Reprographic Center, " where students are able to drop off assignments in a basket "labeled student mail drop, " which employees distribute into faculty members' individually labeled boxes not directly accessible to the students (FAC ¶ 23). Third, Plaintiff added that upon placing a stack of envelopes containing service of process papers in the basket, he asked the person behind the counter for a receipt, presuming that person to be a College employee (FAC ¶ 24).

Plaintiff was then told that he would have to go next door to the faculty and employee mail room for a receipt. He retrieved his envelopes from the basket and proceeded next door, initiating his encounter with Hedgecoth, who he claims attempted to deter him from completing service of process (FAC ¶¶ 28, 33). Plaintiff now states that after Hedgecoth told him that the faculty and employee side of the mail room he wished to access was not for students and that the mail boxes were closed, she asked Plaintiff whether he "was serving papers, " to which he untruthfully responded, "no" (FAC ¶ 30). Plaintiff alleges that Hedgecoth then called the campus police only to prevent Plaintiff from leaving his envelopes in the mail room and completing service of process.

The only new allegations against Hedgecoth consist of unsupported legal conclusions, such as: Hedgecoth "has a fiduciary duty as a District employee to be courteous and helpful to students;" her actions were an "obvious blatant abuse of her authority and breaking the law;" the "in basket on Campus [sic.] was the same as depositing mail in a U.S. postal mailbox;" the College "employees in the reprographic center were bound by the same laws as postal employees, " and; Plaintiff knew that Hedgecoth "was lying about the mail room being closed, " because he saw people using it at the same time and knew that it was available to students late in the evening based on his previous experience as a College maintenance employee (FAC ¶¶ 30, 36, 39). Plaintiff's allegations against Officer Torres remain unchanged from the TAC, and continue to state Torres unlawfully detained, falsely imprisoned, "manhandled" and handcuffed Plaintiff, causing him permanent injury (FAC ¶¶ 43-46, 51-52).

In addition to the above mentioned additions to Plaintiff's factual allegations, the FAC also raises five new "counts" under § 1983, grounded in alleged violations of Plaintiff's First, Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights under the United States Constitution. Plaintiff's prayer for relief remains unchanged and seeks general, compensatory, and punitive damages in the amount of five million dollars, equitable relief, and compensation for the cost of suit (FAC pp. 28-30).

II. Legal Standard

The F.R.C.P 12(b)(6) standard was previously articulated in the Court's May 29, 2014 Order. In summary, 12(b)(6) provides a defense against complaints which "fail[] to state a claim upon which relief can be granted" and a "Rule 12(b)(6) motion tests the legal sufficiency of a claim." Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001). When reviewing a motion to dismiss, the allegations of material fact in plaintiff's complaint are taken as true and construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Parks Sch. of Bus., Inc. v. Symington, 51 F.3d 1480, 1484 (9th Cir. 1995). Although detailed factual allegations are not required, factual allegations "must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007).

III. Analysis

Defendants argue that Plaintiff's amended § 1983 claims contained in the FAC fail to state a claim because of insufficient factual allegations.

42 U.S.C. § 1983 provides in relevant part that:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to ...

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