United States District Court, E.D. California
WILLIAM A. HAMILTON, Plaintiff,
CALIFORNIA AIR RESOURCES BOARD, a California Public Agency; TAJINDER GILL, BARRY HO, in their official capacity as Engineers of the CALIFORNIA AIR RESOURCES BOARD, and KIRK OLIVER, in his official capacity as Esquire, Office of Legal Affairs, of the CALIFORNIA AIR RESOURCES BOARD, Defendants.
ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART
DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS ORDER STAYING THE
William A. Hamilton (“Plaintiff”), acting in pro
per, has filed the instant action against the California Air
Resources Board and several of its employees in their
official capacities. Plaintiff alleges causes of action that
he frames as follows: (1) conspiracy to deprive Plaintiff of
rights protected by the Constitution or the laws of the
United States in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 241; (2)
unlawful search of Plaintiff’s business premises; (3)
interference with existing private contracts; (4)
unreasonable interference with future contracts; (5)
violation of equal protection of the laws; (6) violation of
substantive due process; (7) violation of the Sherman
Anti-Trust Act; (8) defamation per se; (9) false light; (10)
intrusion upon seclusion; (11) malicious prosecution; and
(12) intentional and negligent infliction of emotional
distress. See Doc. 1. On April 21, 2016, the
California Air Resources Board, Tajinder Gill, Barry Ho, and
Kirk Oliver (“Defendants”) have filed a motion to
dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and for
failure to state a claim. Doc. 17. The matter was set for
hearing on June 6, 2016. See Doc. 17. The matter was
taken under submission on June 2, 2016. Doc. 19. Plaintiff
filed an untimely opposition on June 16, 2016. Doc. 21.
Defendants object to Plaintiff’s untimely filing and
request an opportunity to respond if the Court is inclined to
consider Plaintiff’s untimely opposition.
following reasons, Defendants’ motion to dismiss for
lack of jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim will be
granted in part and denied in part.
is the owner and operator of West Coast Diesel, a heavy-duty
truck repair shop at 2320 South Taylor Avenue in Fresno,
California. Complaint, Doc. 1 (“Compl.”) at
¶ 2; Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss, Doc. 17
(“MTD”) at 8. In 2014, the California Air Recourses
Board (“CARB”)-the California agency charged with
enforcing California’s Toxic Air Contaminants laws and
California’s vehicle anti-tampering and aftermarket
parts laws-received complaints that Plaintiff and West Coast
Diesel were “installing illegal diesel particulate
filters in heavy-duty diesel vehicles.” MTD at 8.
Thereafter, it “conducted a site inspection at West
Coast Diesel.” MTD at 8. CARB did not obtain a warrant
to conduct the site inspection. Compl. at ¶ 2. On or
around December 31, 2014, CARB sent a cease and desist letter
to West Coast Diesel. MTD at 8; Compl. at ¶ 3. Plaintiff
contends that the cease and desist letter “restrains
[him] from fulfilling his contractual obligations.”
Compl. at ¶ 3.
2015, CARB continued to document illegal sales and
installation of diesel particulate filters by West Coast
Diesel.” MTD at 8. On October 23, 2015, Carb filed an
action against West Coast Diesel and Plaintiff in Fresno
County Superior Court, seeking injunctive relief and civil
penalties (the “Underlying Action”). See
State of California v. West Coast Diesel, Fresno Cnty.
Super. Ct. No. 15CECG03337; see Defendants’
Request for Judicial Notice, Doc. 17-1 at 4-15. That action
remains pending before the Fresno County Superior Court.
raise three bases for their motion to dismiss: (1) the claims
against CARB and the named defendants in their official
capacities are barred by eleventh amendment immunity; (2) the
Court should invoke Younger abstention to refuse
jurisdiction; and (3) the three individual defendants are
protected under qualified immunity.
an official is entitled to absolute immunity, that immunity
bars the court's jurisdiction as to claims against that
official so that dismissal is warranted pursuant to Rule
12(b)(1).” Uptergrove v. United States, 2008
WL 2413182, *5 (E.D. Cal. 2008) (citing Imbler v.
Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 419 n. 13 (1976)). Similarly, a
court invoking Younger abstention may refuse to
exercise subject matter jurisdiction, a de facto 12(b)(1).
Morris v. Peterson, 2015 WL 4776088, *2 (N.D. Cal.
2015). “Qualified immunity, by contrast, is not
jurisdictional and dismissal is warranted, if at all, only
pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) for defendants who enjoy only
qualified immunity.” Uptergrove 2008 WL
2413182, *5 (citation omitted).
Eleventh Amendment Absolute Immunity
Legal Standard 12(b)(1)
courts are of limited jurisdiction, having subject matter
jurisdiction only over matters authorized by the Constitution
and Congress. See, e.g. Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins.
Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994); A-Z Intern. v.
Phillips, 323 F.3d 1141, 1145 (9th Cir. 2003). “A
party invoking the federal court’s jurisdiction has the
burden of proving the actual existence of subject matter
jurisdiction.” Thompson v. McCombe, 99 F.3d
352, 353 (9th Cir. 1996). Where subject matter jurisdiction
is lacking dismissal is appropriate pursuant to Rule
12(b)(1). Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). A Rule 12(b)(1) motion may
either allege a lack of jurisdiction that exists despite the
formal sufficiency of the complaint (a factual challenge) or,
as here, attack the sufficiency of the pleadings to establish
federal jurisdiction (a facial challenge). See White v.
Lee, 227 F.3d 1214, 1242 (9th Cir. 2000); Thornhill
Publishing Co., Inc. v. General Tel. & Electronics
Corp., 594 F.2d 730, 733 (9th Cir. 1979); Roberts v.
Corrothers, 812 F.2d 1173, 1177 (9th Cir. 1987).
Defendants bring a facial challenge, the court accepts all
allegations of fact in the complaint as true and construes
them in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff. See
Warren v. Fox Family Worldwide, Inc., 328 F.3d 1136,
1139 (9th Cir.2003).
Eleventh Amendment bars a lawsuit against a state or its
instrumentalities absent the state's consent or
abrogation of immunity by Congress. See Papasan v.
Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 276-77 (1986). As Plaintiff notes,
he brings constitutional claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1983.
Doc. 21 at 5. Section 1983 did not abrogate a state's
Eleventh Amendment immunity, see Quernn v. Jordan,
440 U.S. 332, 341 (1979), and California has not waived its
immunity generally for section 1983 claims. See
Atascadero State Hosp. v. Scanlon, 473 U.S. 234, 241
(1985). Insofar as Plaintiff seeks relief directly from
CARB-a state agency-his claims are barred by the Eleventh
Amendment. See Will v. Michigan Dep’t of State
Police, 491 U.S. 58, 66 (1989). Similarly, insofar as
Plaintiff seeks monetary relief from the state official
defendants in their official capacities his claims are
against the officials’ offices and no different than a
suit against the state; his claims are barred by the Eleventh
Amendment. Will, 491 U.S. at 71 (citing Kentucky
v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 165-166 (1985)).
Plaintiff’s first cause of action appears, at least in
part, to seek injunctive relief. See Compl. at
¶ 27 (requesting that this Court stay and/or enjoin the
CARB enforcement action now pending before the Fresno County
Superior Court and enjoin each of the defendants from
“disseminating false information” regarding
Plaintiff). Defendants suggest that by naming the state
official defendants, Plaintiff “is improperly
attempting to evade the state’s Eleventh Amendment
immunity.” Doc. 17 at 11. More specifically, they
contend that the named state officers do not have any
connection with the challenged action-CARB filing an
enforcement action against Plaintiff.
foundational matter, claims for prospective relief against
the state officials in their official capacities based on
violations of federal law are generally not barred by the
Eleventh Amendment. Ex Parte Young, 209 U.S. 123
(1908); Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 667-668
(1974). However, Defendants are correct that the state
officer sued “must have some connection with the
enforcement of the [allegedly unconstitutional] act” in
order to be appropriately named. See Ex Parte Young,
209 U.S. at 157. Such a “connection must be fairly
direct; a generalized duty to enforce state law or general
supervisory power over the persons responsible for enforcing
the challenged provision will not subject an official to
suit.” Los Angeles County Bar Ass’n v.
Eu, 979 F.2d 697, 704 (9th Cir. 1992) (citation
omitted). In sum, where a named defendant has no authority to
enforce the challenge action, he or she is not an appropriate
Plaintiff’s complaint, it is unclear what role
Defendants Gill, Ho, and Oliver had with regard to this
action. It is equally unclear what protected right
or federal law Plaintiff alleges to have been violated by
Defendants (or how they were violated) in his first cause of
action. The Court cannot determine what connection any of
those defendants may have with the prosecution of the
Underlying Action or with any alleged “disseminat[ion]
[of] false information” about Plaintiff. See
Compl. at ¶ 26. As a result of Plaintiff’s
pleading deficiency the Court cannot determine whether it
would be permitted to exercise jurisdiction over the