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Harman v. Ahern

United States District Court, N.D. California

April 24, 2015

SUSAN HARMAN, et al., Plaintiffs,
GREGORY J. AHERN, Defendant.


MARIA-ELENA JAMES, Magistrate Judge.

Pending before the Court is Plaintiffs Susan Harman, Nancy Mancias, and Jane Doe's ("Plaintiffs") Motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a). Dkt. No. 23. Defendant Alameda County Sheriff Gregory J. Ahern ("Defendant") filed an Opposition (Dkt. No. 24) and Plaintiffs filed a Reply (Dkt. No. 25). The Court finds this matter suitable for disposition without oral argument and VACATES the April 30, 2015 hearing. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 78(b); Civil L.R. 7-1(b). Having considered the parties' positions, relevant legal authority, and the record in this case, the Court GRANTS Plaintiffs' Motion for the reasons set forth below.


On June 2, 2014, Plaintiffs filed this action in Alameda County Superior Court, alleging that the Alameda County Sheriff's Department requires women arrested and booked into jail to submit to a pregnancy test. Compl. ¶ 1, Dkt. No. 1-1. They allege they were all required to submit to pregnancy tests after being arrested in Alameda County. Id. ¶¶ 7-9. Plaintiffs assert that the policy violates: (1) their privacy rights under article I section 1 of the California Constitution (First Cause of Action); (2) the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution (Second Cause of Action); (3) the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures under article I section 13 of the California Constitution (Third Cause of Action); (4) the requirement that inmates provide informed consent before being subject to non-emergency medical care under California Code of Regulations, title 15 section 1214 (Fourth Cause of Action); and (5) the prohibition of illegally expending public funds under California Code of Civil Procedure section 526(a) (Fifth Cause of Action). Id. ¶¶ 25-43. In their Sixth Cause of Action under the Bane Act, Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 52.1, Plaintiffs seek injunctive and equitable relief for interference with their rights by means of threats, intimidation, or coercion. Id. ¶¶ 44-46. Plaintiffs seek a writ of mandate and injunction directing Defendant to stop requiring female arrestees to take a pregnancy test, and a declaration that his actions in requiring mandatory pregnancy testing are illegal. Id. at 8.

Although Plaintiffs allege that they were all subject to forced pregnancy testing, they brought their Complaint as taxpayers and citizens, with the sole goal of preventing Defendant from engaging in this policy in the future. Id. ¶ 4. For that reason, the operative complaint requests only prospective equitable relief (a writ of mandate, an injunction, and a declaration that the policy is illegal)-not damages. Id. at 8-9.

Defendant removed the case to this Court on July 3, 2014, on the basis of Plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment claim. Dkt. No. 1. Plaintiffs subsequently filed a Motion to Remand on July 24, 2014. Dkt. No. 5. Although Plaintiffs stated that they had no objection to this Court deciding the merits of their case, they were concerned that the Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to do so, and therefore brought the motion "in order to raise this threshold question at the soonest possible time, so that neither the Court nor the parties expend time and resources only to later find that the Court has no power to hear the case." Id. at 2. Plaintiffs noted that for two of the three Plaintiffs-Harman and Doe-the Complaint made no suggestion that they will ever be arrested or subject to Defendant's policy and practice in the future. Id. at 4. Plaintiff Mancias, however, did allege that she "continues to participate in political demonstrations and is sometimes arrested at them, " and that she is suing "so that she will not be forced to undergo this intrusive testing during future arrests in Alameda County, " in violation of her Fourth Amendment rights. Compl. ¶ 8. Defendant opposed the motion, arguing that Plaintiffs' allegations were adequate to establish standing. Dkt. No. 15.

On October 14, 2014, the Court denied Plaintiffs' motion, finding they have standing to pursue their action in federal court. Dkt. No. 16. The Court ruled that Plaintiff Mancias has standing to pursue an injunction because she has pleaded that she may be subject to the policy in the future. Id. at 4. As standing could be shown for at least one plaintiff, the Court determined that it need not consider the standing of the other plaintiffs to raise the same claims. Id.

After this ruling, in the parties' Joint Case Management Conference Statement, Defendant stated that "Whether and/or to what extent Plaintiffs have standing" remains a legal issue in this case, " and that "the Court's prior standing ruling is not necessarily conclusive. New information or circumstances may necessitate, in whole or in part a revised ruling." Dkt. No. 20 at 6 & n.3. Plaintiffs now move for leave to file an Amended Complaint to add a claim for nominal damages, based on the possibility that Defendant may still challenge Plaintiffs' standing. Mot. at 2.


Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15 provides that a party may amend its pleading once as a matter of course within (1) 21 days after serving the pleading or (2) 21 days after the earlier of service of a responsive pleading or service of a Rule 12(b) motion. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(1). Outside of this timeframe, "a party may amend its pleading only with the opposing party's written consent or the court's leave, " though the court "should freely give leave when justice so requires." Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). "Although the rule should be interpreted with extreme liberality, ' leave to amend is not to be granted automatically." Jackson v. Bank of Hawaii, 902 F.2d 1385, 1387 (9th Cir. 1990) (citation omitted).

A court considers five factors in determining whether to grant leave to amend: "(1) bad faith, (2) undue delay, (3) prejudice to the opposing party, (4) futility of amendment; and (5) whether plaintiff has previously amended his complaint." In re Western States Wholesale Nat. Gas Antitrust Litig., 715 F.3d 716, 738 (9th Cir. 2013) (quoting Allen v. City of Beverly Hills, 911 F.2d 367, 373 (9th Cir. 1990)). "Prejudice to the opposing party is the most important factor." Jackson, 902 F.2d at 1387.


A. Bad Faith

Bad faith may be shown when a party seeks to amend late in the litigation process with claims which were, or should have been, apparent early. Bonin v. Calderon, 59 F.3d 815, 846 (9th Cir. 1995). Defendant does not argue that Plaintiffs seek to amend in bad faith. Further, in the record before the Court, there is no indication of a bad faith purpose for Plaintiffs' ...

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