United States District Court, E.D. California
MELISSA M. NEYLON and SHAWN P. NEYLON, Plaintiffs
COUNTY OF INYO, WILLIAM R. LUTZE, RALPH DOUGLAS RICHARDS, MICHAEL DURBIN, and DOES 2 to 50, Defendants
ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS (DOC.,
case stems from the erroneous arrest by Inyo County
Sheriff's deputies of Plaintiff Melissa Neylon
(“Neylon”), pursuant to an outstanding warrant
from Indiana for a Melissa Chapman (“Chapman”).
Defendants now move under Rule 12(b)(6) to dismiss the third
cause of action in the Second Amended Complaint
(“SAC”), which is a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim
for malicious prosecution against Defendant Ralph Richards.
For the reasons that follow, Defendants' motion will be
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a claim may be
dismissed because of the plaintiff's “failure to
state a claim upon which relief can be granted.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). A dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) may be
based on the lack of a cognizable legal theory or on the
absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal
theory. See Mollett v. Netflix, Inc., 795 F.3d 1062,
1065 (9th Cir. 2015). In reviewing a complaint under Rule
12(b)(6), all well-pleaded allegations of material fact are
taken as true and construed in the light most favorable to
the non-moving party. Faulkner v. ADT Sec. Servs.,
706 F.3d 1017, 1019 (9th Cir. 2013). However, complaints that
offer no more than “labels and conclusions” or
“a formulaic recitation of the elements of action will
not do.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009); Johnson v. Federal Home Loan Mortg. Corp.,
793 F.3d 1005, 1008 (9th Cir. 2015). The Court is “not
required to accept as true allegations that contradict
exhibits attached to the Complaint or matters properly
subject to judicial notice, or allegations that are merely
conclusory, unwarranted deductions of fact, or unreasonable
inferences.” Seven Arts Filmed Entm't, Ltd. v.
Content Media Corp. PLC, 733 F.3d 1251, 1254 (9th Cir.
2013). To avoid a Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal, “a complaint
must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to
state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Mollett, 795 F.3d
at 1065. “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.” Iqbal, 556 U.S.
at 678; Somers v. Apple, Inc., 729 F.3d 953, 959
(9th Cir. 2013). “Plausibility” means “more
than a sheer possibility, ” but less than a
probability, and facts that are “merely
consistent” with liability fall short of
“plausibility.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678;
Somers, 729 F.3d at 960. The Ninth Circuit has
distilled the following principles for Rule 12(b)(6) motions:
(1) to be entitled to the presumption of truth, allegations
in a complaint or counterclaim may not simply recite the
elements of a cause of action, but must contain sufficient
allegations of underlying facts to give fair notice and to
enable the opposing party to defend itself effectively; (2)
the factual allegations that are taken as true must plausibly
suggest entitlement to relief, such that it is not unfair to
require the opposing party to be subjected to the expense of
discovery and continued litigation. Levitt v. Yelp!
Inc., 765 F.3d 1123, 1135 (9th Cir. 2014). In assessing
a motion to dismiss, courts may consider documents attached
to the complaint, documents incorporated by reference in the
complaint, or matters of judicial notice. In re NVIDIA
Corp. Sec. Litig., 768 F.3d 1046, 1051 (9th Cir. 2014).
If a motion to dismiss is granted, “[the] district
court should grant leave to amend even if no request to amend
the pleading was made . . . .” Henry A. v.
Willden, 678 F.3d 991, 1005 (9th Cir. 2012). However,
leave to amend need not be granted if amendment would be
futile or the plaintiff has failed to cure deficiencies
despite repeated opportunities. Garmon v. County of
L.A., 828 F.3d 837, 842 (9th Cir. 2016.)
the SAC, Neylon attempted to enter the Inyo County Jail in
connection with her employment on December 4, 2015. At the
Jail, Neylon was arrested and imprisoned based on an
outstanding felony warrant from Indiana for a “Melissa
Chapman.” Neylon's association with the Indiana
warrant was solely based on an alleged hit on one of
Neylon's former legal name, after the former legal name
appeared on a database. Defendant Ralph Richards
(“Richards”), a Sergeant with the Inyo County
Sheriff's Office, mistakenly identified Neylon as
Chapman. Neylon alleges that the name-matching
“hit” did not provide a sufficient basis to
arrest her. After Neylon's arrest, Richards received
additional identifying information regarding Chapman, but
Neylon alleges that the information about Chapman was not
conclusive and not sufficiently similar to Neylon. Neylon
also supplied Richards with exonerating information,
including a denial that Neylon had ever been to Indiana, a
denial that she had an ankle tattoo, and an offer to show
Richards a tattoo on her back. Richards also
“misconstrued” the results of a Live Scan
fingerprinting process to indicate a fingerprint match
between Neylon and Chapman, when in fact there was no match.
the third cause of action, Neylon alleges that Richards
recklessly or knowingly interfered with the prosecutor's
judgment by omitting relevant and material information and
supplying false information that Neylon was Chapman.
Richards's actions resulted in the filing of a felony
complaint against Neylon that was not supported by probable
cause. The complaint was later dismissed. Richards acted with
reckless or callous indifference to her Fourth and Fourteenth
Amendment rights, or his acts were wantonly and oppressively
argue that there are insufficient factual allegations to
state a viable claim for malicious prosecution. First, the
SAC does not identify the specific constitutional right that
Richards intended to deny Neylon, nor does it explain why
Richards would want to cause Neylon's prosecution.
Second, the SAC appears to allege that Richards was
negligent, but a malicious prosecution claim would require
that Richards acted with the intent to deny Neylon a
constitutional right. Finally, the decision to file a
criminal complaint is presumed to result from an independent
determination on the part of the prosecutor. The SAC contains
no factual allegations that would rebut this presumption.
Although the SAC alleges that Richards omitted relevant and
material information and provided false information, the SAC
does not actually identify what information was omitted and
what false information was provided.
reply, Defendants contend that intent is integral to a §
1983 malicious prosecution claim. Reliance on recklessness
and negligence are insufficient to state a viable claim.
Because Neylon has filed multiple complaints and still fails
to allege a viable claim, the third cause of action should be
dismissed without leave to amend.
response to a sur-reply, Defendants argue that Neylon has
misconstrued the law and the Ninth Circuit cases that she
relies upon. Malicious prosecution under § 1983 requires
argues that Richards's arguments are without merit.
the SAC identifies three constitutional rights that were
violated. On pages 10 and 11, the SAC alleges that Richards
deprived Neylon of her Fourth Amendment right to be free from
arrest and imprisonment without probable cause. On pages 4
and 12, the SAC alleges that Richards deprived Neylon of her
Fourteenth Amendment right to an adequate investigation where
there were significant differences between her and Chapman.
Finally, on pages 6 and 7, the SAC alleges that Richards
deprived Neylon of her First and Fourteenth Amendment rights
to familial association with her spouse.
the Court has already determined that a claim for false
arrest has been adequately pled. Richards did not have
probable cause to make an arrest, yet he did so anyway.
Richards was not merely negligent, rather he was actively
instrumental in causing the Neylon's prosecution and
recklessly disregarded the truth that Neylon was not Chapman.
Richards had no probable cause to arrest or pursue a
prosecution in the face of significant differences between
Neylon and Chapman, exonerating information that confirmed
Neylon was not Chapman (e.g. Neylon denying that she had ever
been to Indiana, denying that she had an ankle tattoo, and
offering to show Richards her back tattoo), and a Live Scan
fingerprint result that showed Neylon was not Chapman.
the motion's characterization of the SAC as only alleging
that Richards merely stated Neylon was Chapman is inaccurate.
The SAC alleges that Richards said that Neylon was Chapman,
and this is not a generic fact. Richards disregarded
significant differences between Neylon and Chapman,
disregarded exonerating information, and ...