United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT CDCR'S MOTION TO DISMISS [Re: ECF 6]
BETH LABSON FREEMAN, District Judge.
In this civil rights action, defendant California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR") seeks to dismiss the pro se plaintiff Khalid Mohammad's ("Plaintiff") claim against it for failure to state a claim and as barred by the Eleventh Amendment. CDCR Mot., ECF 6. Plaintiff opposes this motion. Pl.'s Opp., ECF 8. Having carefully considered the parties' respective written submissions, the Court finds this matter suitable for submission without oral argument and accordingly VACATES the motion hearing presently scheduled for April 9, 2015. Civ. L.R. 7-1(b). For the reasons stated herein, CDCR's Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED WITHOUT LEAVE TO AMEND.
After dismissal of CDCR from this suit, the only remaining defendants are anonymous "Doe" defendants. "As a general rule, the use of John Doe' to identify a defendant is not favored." Gillespie v. Civiletti, 629 F.2d 637, 642 (9th Cir. 1980). However, in circumstances where the defendants' identities are not known prior to filing the action, an action should not be dismissed without giving Plaintiff an opportunity to identify the defendants through limited discovery, "unless it is clear that discovery would not uncover the identities or that the complaint would be dismissed on other grounds." Wakefield v. Thompson, 177 F.3d 1160, 1163 (9th Cir. 1999) (quoting Gillespie, 629 F.2d at 642); see also Youngblood v. 5 Unknown Cim Corr. Officers, 536 F.Appx. 758 (9th Cir. 2013) ("Dismissal of [plaintiff's] action... was premature as [plaintiff] should have been given an opportunity to identify the defendants through limited discovery. See Gillespie v. Civiletti, 629 F.2d 637, 642 (9th Cir.1980) (holding that where a plaintiff is unaware of the identity of alleged defendants, plaintiff should be given an opportunity through discovery to identify the unknown defendants, unless it is clear that discovery would not uncover the identities or that the complaint would be dismissed on other grounds'); see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 45 (permitting third party subpoenas); Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(d) (prohibiting discovery prior to a Rule 26(f) conference except when authorized... by court order').").
Because it is not clear that limited discovery regarding the Doe Defendants' identities would be futile, the court declines to dismiss the action in its entirety without first granting Plaintiff the opportunity to identify and serve the remaining Defendants.
Plaintiff alleges that he was arrested on November 16, 2004, transported to the King City Police Department, and then incarcerated by CDCR from November 16, 2004 to November of 2011 "without an underlying conviction of guilty, a plea of guilty, or a verdict of guilty." Complaint at 3, ECF 1. While incarcerated, Plaintiff was "subjected to acts that caused him to lose his consciousness and received treatments for loss of his consciousness on multiple occasions." Id. It is not clear what this means, though Plaintiff's allegation that he suffered "physical injuries from acts of violence by other prisoners and staff" suggests that Plaintiff is alleging he was physically attacked to the point of losing consciousness while imprisoned. See id. at 5.
In addition to CDCR, Plaintiff names a number of "John Doe" defendants including "DOE-AO, " a police offer of the King City Police Department; "DOE-DA, " a prosecutor of the County of Monterey; "DOE-PD, " a public defender in the City of Las Vegas; and "DOE-CDC, " the warden of CDC. Id. at 2. Plaintiff alleges that DOE police officer arrested him "without probable cause for prosecution, " that DOE prosecutor "never pursued a trial of the circumstances that resulted in Plaintiff's imprisonment, " and that DOE public defender never sought any trial of Plaintiff's innocence and further did not seek "a speedy trial, probable cause hearing, release on recognizance, a bail hearing, or a motion to dismiss." Id. at 3-4.
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).
To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must plead sufficient factual matter that, when accepted as true and construed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, "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 court does 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). A pleading that offers "labels and conclusions, " "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action, " or "naked assertions devoid of further factual enhancement" will not survive a motion to dismiss. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing and quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 557 (2007)).
Here, the Court is mindful that "a document filed pro se is to be liberally construed, ' and a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'" Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)). "Unless it is absolutely clear that no amendment can cure the defect... a pro se litigant is entitled to notice of the complaint's deficiencies and an opportunity to amend prior to dismissal of the action." Lucas v. Dep't of Corr., 66 F.3d 245, 248 (9th Cir. 1995) (quoted with approval in Merritt v. Countrywide Fin. Corp., 759 F.3d 1023, 1041 (9th Cir. 2014)).
Defendant CDCR forwards three independent bases to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint. First, CDCR argues that Plaintiff's claims against it are barred by the Eleventh Amendment. Second, CDCR argues that it is not a "person" for purposes of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, under which Plaintiff's claim is brought. Finally, CDCR argues that Plaintiff's claim is barred by the Supreme Court's ...