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Tuckwell v. California Department of Social Services

United States District Court, N.D. California

April 28, 2015



PHYLLIS J. HAMILTON, District Judge.

Before the court is the motion of plaintiff Elizabeth Tuckwell for leave to file a first amended complaint. Having read the parties' papers and carefully considered their arguments and the relevant legal authority, the court hereby GRANTS the motion.

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15 requires that a plaintiff obtain consent of the defendant or leave of court to amend the complaint once the defendant has answered, but "leave shall be freely given when justice so requires." Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a); see also, e.g., Chodos v. West Pub. Co. , 292 F.3d 992, 1003 (9th Cir. 2002) (leave to amend granted with "extreme liberality"). Leave to amend is thus ordinarily granted unless the amendment is futile, would cause undue prejudice to the defendants, or is being sought by plaintiffs in bad faith or with a dilatory motive. Foman v. Davis , 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962); Eminence Capital LLC v. Aspeon, Inc. , 316 F.3d 1048, 1051 (9th Cir. 2003).

In the present action, plaintiff alleges employment discrimination and retaliation under both federal and state law. She seeks leave to amend the complaint to eliminate the federal statutory causes of action. She asserts that there has been no undue delay in seeking leave to amend; that there is no evidence of bad faith or dilatory motive, and no history of repeated failure to cure the deficiencies of the complaint by amendments previously allowed; that defendant will not be prejudiced if the motion is granted; and that there is no indication that the amendment would be futile.

Defendant opposes the motion, and focuses most of its attention on the factor of "undue delay." The Ninth Circuit does not afford equal weight to the Foman factors. For example, "delay alone no matter how lengthy is an insufficient ground for denial of leave to amend." U.S. v. Webb , 655 F.2d 977, 979 (9th Cir. 1981). On the other hand, the most important factor is whether amendment would prejudice the opposing party. Eminence , 316 F.3d at 1052. "Absent prejudice, or a strong showing of any of the remaining Foman factors, there exists a presumption under Rule 15(a) in favor of granting leave to amend." Id.

The court finds that the motion must be GRANTED. Defendant has not shown that it will suffer any prejudice because of the proposed amendment, or that plaintiff unduly delayed in seeking leave to amend. The case is still in a relatively early stage. Defendant removed the case from Alameda County Superior Court on October 9, 2014. On January 28, 2015, prior to the initial case management conference, plaintiff filed the present motion. At the CMC, she indicated her intent to also seek remand of the case. The briefing of the motion was continued to allow the parties to participate in a settlement conference, which went forward on April 20, 2015. The motion for leave to amend was fully briefed as of April 22, 2015.

Nor has defendant made a strong showing of any of the other Foman factors. Defendant suggests that plaintiff has acted in bad faith, because she is simultaneously pursuing an appeal of a State Personnel Board ruling regarding her challenge to her termination; and also suggests that bad faith is shown by the fact that plaintiff seeks to dismiss the federal statutory causes of action in order to seek remand of the case to the Alameda Superior Court, where it was originally filed. However, the court is not persuaded that plaintiffs' actions constitute bad faith under the circumstances presented here.

Defendant also speculates that plaintiff is "judge shopping, " and asserts that, as an attorney with many years' experience, plaintiff should have known that the remedies afforded under federal law are nearly identical to those afforded under state law, and thus should never have alleged claims under federal law. However, as the "master of the complaint, " plaintiff was within her rights to make the decision to dismiss the federal causes of action.

In accordance with the foregoing, the motion is GRANTED. Plaintiff shall file the first amended complaint no later than April 30, 2015. The date for the hearing, previously noticed for May 6, 2015, is VACATED.


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