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Hildreth v. Department of State Hospitals-Coalinga

United States District Court, E.D. California

April 1, 2015

LARRY EDWARDS and ALAN HILDRETH, Plaintiff,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF STATE HOSPITALS-COALINGA, Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS WITH LEAVE TO AMEND

BARBARA A. McAULIFFE, District Judge.

Plaintiffs Larry Edwards and Alan Hildreth ("Plaintiffs"), proceeding pro se, bring this action against their employer Defendant Department of State Hospitals - Coalinga ("Defendant" or "DSH") under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII").[1] On October 29, 2014, Defendant filed an initial motion to dismiss all causes of action for failure to state a claim, which the Court granted with leave to amend. (Doc. 21). On January 14, 2015, Plaintiffs filed a First Amended Complaint ("FAC"). (Doc. 22). The FAC, which is the operative pleading before the Court, alleges a single cause of action for "racial discrimination." FAC at pg. 1.

The parties are presently before the Court on Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' First Amended Complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). (Doc. 23). Plaintiffs filed an opposition to the motion on February 9, 2015. (Doc. 26). On March 4, 2015, the Court deemed the matter suitable for decision without oral argument and vacated the hearing scheduled for March 13, 2015. (Doc. 27). Having considered the moving, opposition papers, and the entire file, Defendant's Motion is GRANTED and Plaintiffs will be granted leave to amend their Complaint.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs' FAC alleges "intentional racial discrimination and reckless acts of discrimination" based on Defendant's display of racially "degrading photographs" in a "display case" located at the "Department of Police Services." FAC at pg. 1.

The facts alleged by Plaintiffs comprise a short one-paragraph narrative as follows:

Located inside the department of Police Services is a case displaying photographs with Lieutenants, Acting Lieutenants, Sergeants, Acting Sergeants and officers. In these photographs, the above mentioned individuals are wearing an Afro and Dashiki mocking the proud heritage of the African-American culture. Displaying intentional discrimination and the reckless act of discrimination in a department which only has ten or less African-Americans. FAC at pg 2.

Defendant moves to dismiss Plaintiffs' FAC for failure to state a claim for which relief can be granted under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (Doc. 24 at 3).

LEGAL STANDARD

A motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) is a challenge to the legal sufficiency of a claim presented in the complaint. Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001). Where there is a "lack of a cognizable legal theory" or an "absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory, " dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) is proper. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990).

To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must contain "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic 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) ( citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). While "[t]he plausibility standard is not akin to a probability requirement, '... it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id. ( quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Naked assertions accompanied by "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. See Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1216 (9th Cir. 2011) ("[A complaint] must contain sufficient allegations of underlying facts to give fair notice... [to] the opposing party... [and] must plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief").

In deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court accepts the factual allegations of the complaint as true and construes the pleadings in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. Ass'n for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs v. County of Los Angeles, 648 F.3d 986, 991 (9th Cir. 2011). However, the court need not accept as true allegations that contradict matters properly subject to judicial notice or by exhibit. Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors, 266 F.3d 979, 988 (9th Cir. 2001). Nor is the court required to accept as true allegations that are conclusory or the product of unwarranted deductions of fact. Id. Finally, if the court concludes that dismissal is warranted under Rule 12(b)(6), the dismissal should be with leave to amend unless the court "determines that the pleading could not possibly be cured by the allegation of other facts." Cook, Perkiss & Liehe, Inc. v. Northern California Collection Serv. Inc., 911 F.2d 242, 247 (9th Cir. 1990).

ANALYSIS

In their FAC, Plaintiffs bring a single claim for racial discrimination. Elaborating slightly on their original discrimination claim, Plaintiffs allege that displaying the racially degrading photographs was an "intentional" and "reckless act" in light of the presumably small number of African-Americans employed at the police department. FAC at pg. 2. ...


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