United States District Court, N.D. California
MOTION TO DISMISS Re: Dkt. No. 7
JAMES DONATO, District Judge.
After foreclosure proceedings, the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office evicted pro se plaintiff Ronald Cupp from his home and property. Cupp and his tenant, Elias Stavrinides, sued the County of Sonoma and Sheriff's Officer Katie Straley, for trespass and unreasonable seizure, violation of the equal protection and due process clauses, loss of social standing, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
The genesis of this case lies in the foreclosure of real property at 4640 Arlington Ave., Santa Rosa, CA 95407. As alleged in the complaint, in May 2013 the Federal National Mortgage Association, commonly known as Fannie Mae, filed an unlawful detainer action in Sonoma County Superior Court, with the case number MCV-228269. See Complaint, Case No. 3:14-cv-01597-JD, Dkt. No. 1. According to the complaint in that case, Ronald and Monica Cupp defaulted on a promissory note secured by the property, which resulted in the property being sold to Fannie Mae. Id. 4-5, 7. Fannie Mae filed the unlawful detainer action to take possession of the property from the Cupps. See id. at 8-9, 11.
The complaint further alleges that on April 2, 2014, a Sonoma County Sheriff's Officer posted a Notice to Vacate on Ronald Cupp's house door, apparently as a result of a writ of possession issued by the Sonoma County Superior Court in case number MCV-228269 on February 18, 2014. See Complaint ¶¶ 22-23, Dkt. No. 1; Writ of Possession, Dkt. No. 20, Ex. A. Cupp and his tenant, Elias Stavrinides, were present at the time. Id. ¶¶ 25-27. Over the next few days, Stavrinides - and later his lawyer, David Bush - attempted unsuccessfully to file copies of Form CP10, "Claim of Right to Possession and Notice of Hearing" with the Sheriff's Office to stop the eviction. Id. ¶¶ 29-41.
On April 7, 2014, Cupp removed case number MCV-228269 to federal court in this district on April 7, 2014, as case number 3:14-cv-01597. Id. ¶ 42. The next day, Cupp filed a Notice of Stay of Proceedings in Sonoma County Superior Court, told Sheriff's Officer Katie Straley about the removal and the Notice of Stay, and posted copies of the Notice of Removal and the Notice of Stay on the front door of the property at 4640 Arlington Ave. Id. ¶¶ 53, 55-57, 59-60. He returned home that night to find that the Sheriff's Office had locked the gate of the property and that "[a]ll doors to his house, work sheds, buildings, [and] trailers were broken into and left in the open position." Id. ¶¶ 61-62.
On July 29, 2014, the Court remanded case number 3:14-cv-01597 to state court. See Case No. 3:14-cv-01597, Dkt. No. 11.
On April 6, 2015, Cupp and Stavrinides filed their complaint in this case, which alleges that the County of Sonoma violated the Fourth Amendment's prohibition against unlawful search and seizure, the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments' guarantee of due process of law, and the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantee of equal protection, apparently because they proceeded with the eviction despite the Notice of Stay filed in state court. See id. ¶¶ 90, 98 & n.1. They also alleged claims for loss of social standing and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Id. ¶¶ 104-14.
Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. See Bender v. Williamsport Area School Dist., 475 U.S. 534, 541 (1986). If not given the power to consider a claim under the United States Constitution or a federal statute, they lack subject matter jurisdiction and must dismiss the claim. See Chen-Cheng Wang ex rel. United States v. FMC Corp., 975 F.2d 1412, 1415 (9th Cir. 1992). The party asserting subject matter jurisdiction bears the burden of showing that it exists. Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of America, 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994).
When a federal court has proper jurisdiction, a complaint that fails to make "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, " as required by Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, may be dismissed under Rule 12(b)(6). To comply with Rule 8's requirements, the complaint must allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). "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." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, (2009) (citing Twombly at 556).
Pro se pleadings are to be liberally construed, and "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) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). Nevertheless, "a liberal interpretation of a pro se civil rights complaint may not supply essential elements of the claim that were not initially pled." Litmon v. Harris, 768 F.3d 1237, 1241 (9th Cir. 2014) (quoting Pena v. Gardner, 976 F.2d 469, 471 (9th Cir. 1992)). "Vague and conclusory allegations of official participation in civil rights violations are not sufficient to withstand a motion to dismiss." Id.
Under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, "review of state court decisions may only be conducted in the United States Supreme Court. Lower federal courts may not review such decisions." Partington v. Gedan, 961 F.2d 852, 864 (9th Cir. 1992). A complaint challenges a state court decision if the constitutional claims are "inextricably intertwined" with the state court's decision in a judicial proceeding. District of Columbia Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462, 483 n.16 ...