United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division
ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS WITH PREJUDICE [Re: ECF 41]
BETH LABSON FREEMAN, District Judge.
Is an individual entitled to a due process hearing to challenge his inclusion in one investigatory database after he received a hearing and lost a challenge to his inclusion in a derivative database that depends on the same allegation of child abuse? That is the question presented by plaintiff Abhijit Prasad ("Plaintiff"), who alleges that his name and personal information was included in two statewide databases relating to child abuse allegations-the Child Abuse Central Index ("CACI") and the Child Welfare Services/Case Management System ("CWS/CMS")-but that he was notified of and afforded a due process hearing to challenge his inclusion in only one-the CACI. In omitting to inform him about the existence of the CWS/CMS and failing to provide a separate opportunity to later challenge his inclusion in that database, Plaintiff contends that Defendant County of Santa Clara ("County") violated his Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment right to procedural due process and seeks to hold the County liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff also seeks to hold the County and county employees Ronnie Smith and Nana Chancellor (collectively, "Defendants") liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3) for conspiracy to interfere with civil rights, as well as for the state law tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss First Amended Complaint ("FAC") pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Def.'s Mot., ECF 41. The Court heard oral argument on the motion on November 6, 2014. After carefully considering the parties' respective written submissions, as well as the oral argument of counsel, the Court GRANTS Defendants' Motion to Dismiss with prejudice.
The facts of this case, along with the statutory authority behind the CACI and CWS/CMS databases, are well known to the parties and are set forth in detail in the Court's July 8, 2014 Order Granting Motion to Dismiss With Leave to Amend. See Order at 3-5, ECF 39; see also Cal. Penal Code §§ 11164-11174.4 (Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act, or "CANRA"); Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 16501.5. The Court summarizes the essential allegations here.
Plaintiff is a divorced father of two who has been the subject of five child abuse investigations in three different counties. FAC ¶ 13. Two earlier allegations made in Alameda County were investigated and determined to be unfounded, an allegation made in Santa Clara County-the one at issue here-led to two investigations that resulted in a determination of "conclusive for sex abuse and emotional abuse, " and the outcome of a fifth allegation made in Contra Costa County is unknown. Id. ¶ 14.
In February 2010, the County notified Plaintiff that the Department of Social Services ("DSS") had substantiated an allegation of child abuse against him and that, pursuant to state law, the County had reported his name to the California Department of Justice for inclusion in the CACI. Id. ¶¶ 39, 53. Plaintiff alleges that the allegation was falsely substantiated by individual defendants Chancellor and Smith as part of a conspiracy between Chancellor and Plaintiff's ex-wife to prevent Plaintiff from seeing his children in exchange for financial gain. Id. ¶¶ 61-65. Plaintiff also alleges that Defendants' actions were "due to Plaintiff's race and national origin, " id.
¶ 9, because he is of Indian descent and the individual defendants are white, id. ¶¶ 5-6, 12.
Plaintiff invoked his right, pursuant to California law (CANRA), to an administrative grievance hearing to challenge the determination that triggered his listing in the CACI. Id. at ¶ 56; Cal. Penal Code § 11169(d). The grievance hearing was conducted in August 2010, and the hearing officer recommended that the allegation remain substantiated. FAC ¶ 59. Plaintiff identifies a number of irregularities in the conduct of the CANRA grievance hearing and is presently challenging the hearing officer's determination through the California state court system by way of a petition for writ of administrative mandamus. Id. ¶¶ 53-67.
In August 2013, Plaintiff alleges he became aware for the first time that all of the abuse allegations against him had been reported into the statewide CWS/CMS database. Id. ¶ 13. Plaintiff "was told by" the individual defendants that "inclusion into some' government databases prevents him from being bonded, adoption, licensing, guardianship of children, and working with children or at schools where children are available, " and believes that being in the CWS/CMS alone "will prevent Plaintiff from being bonded, getting high level jobs and/or working for the government, adoption, licensing, guardianship of children, and working with children or at schools where children are available." Id. ¶ 16. Plaintiff requested a hearing to "review or delete fraudulent or incorrect information" in the CWS/CMS, but the County denied his "repeated written requests" for an opportunity to "offer live testimony, call witnesses or examine those witnesses whose statements were considered by County" in placing his information in the CWS/CMS. Id. ¶¶ 67-68. Plaintiff alleges that the lack of any review mechanism or "right to a hearing for removal from CWS/CMS" deprived him of due process, id. ¶¶ 69-71, and seeks relief in the form of, inter alia, a "Determination of Factual Innocence" or a hearing for such a determination, and an injunction requiring the County to remove Plaintiff's name from the CWS/CMS or an opportunity to contest his inclusion in the system, id. ¶ 97.
On July 8, 2014, the Court dismissed Plaintiff's original complaint with leave to amend, and on July 21, 2014 Plaintiff filed the FAC. This motion followed.
II. LEGAL STANDARD
A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of the claims alleged in the complaint. Ileto v. Glock Inc., 349 F.3d 1191, 1199-200 (9th Cir. 2003). Dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) may be based on either the "lack of a cognizable legal theory" or on "the absence of sufficient facts alleged." Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dept., 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1988).
In assessing the sufficiency of the pleadings, 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). However, the court need not accept as true allegations that are "merely conclusory, unwarranted deductions of fact, or unreasonable inferences." In re Gilead Scis. Sec. Litig., 536 F.3d 1049, 1055 (9th Cir. 2008).
To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, "the factual allegations that are taken as true must plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief, such that it is not unfair to require the opposing party to be subjected to the expense of discovery and continued litigation." Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1216 (9th Cir. 2011); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) ("A claim has facial plausibility when the pleaded factual content allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged."). The plausibility standard "asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully, " and a complaint that pleads facts ...