United States District Court, E.D. California
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS
PLAINTIFF'S FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT (DOC. NO.
matter is before the court on a motion to dismiss claims in
plaintiff Junaid Lateef's first amended complaint brought
on behalf of defendants City of Madera (“City”),
Madera City Council (“City Council”), and Madera
Planning Commission's (“Planning
Commission”). A hearing on the motion was held on
February 21, 2017. Attorney Brian C. Leighton appeared on
behalf of plaintiff Lateef, and attorney Gregory Lee Myers
appeared on behalf of the defendants. Having considered the
parties' briefs and oral arguments and for the reasons
set forth below, the court will grant defendants' motion.
Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint
to the first amended complaint, in 2015, plaintiff Lateef
sought the Planning Commission's approval of a
conditional use permit for the sale of cigarettes, beer, and
wine; a two-parking-stall variance; and a site plan review
for a neighborhood market located at 300 West Olive Avenue,
in Madera, California. (Doc. No. 14 ¶ 8.) Prior to the
Planning Commission's hearing on the matter, Planning
Commission staff unanimously recommended granting plaintiffs
application. (Id. ¶ 9.) Separately, Charles F.
Rigby, a member of the City Council, sent an email to members
of the Planning Commission imploring them to deny plaintiffs
application. (Id. ¶ 8.) On December 8, 2015,
the Planning Commission voted to deny plaintiffs application
by a five-to-one vote. (Id.) Mr. Rigby's email
was not disclosed at the Planning Commission hearing, and
plaintiff was not made aware of the email until weeks after
the hearing. (Id. ¶¶ 8-9.) Plaintiff
alleges that Mr. Rigby's email substantially caused
members of the Planning Commission to deny plaintiffs
application despite the recommendation by Planning Commission
staff. (Id. ¶ 9.)
December 9, 2015, plaintiff appealed the Planning
Commission's decision to the City Council pursuant to
Madera Municipal Code (“MMC”) § 10-3.1309.
(Id. ¶ 10.) At the time of the appeal, MMC
§ 10-3.1310, enacted when the City Council was comprised
five members, provided that a “four-fifths vote of the
whole Council shall be required to grant, in whole or in
part, any appealed application denied by the
Commission.” (Id.) However, because the size
of the City Council increased from five to seven members in
2012, Planning Commission staff and plaintiff agreed to a
continuance of the appeal until § 10-3.1310 could be
amended to reflect a seven-member City Council.
(Id.) The City Council subsequently amended §
10-3.1310 to require a “five-sevenths vote of the whole
of the Council” to grant an appealed application.
(Id. ¶¶ 11, 21.)
4, 2016 the City Council heard plaintiffs appeal.
(Id. ¶ 14.) As of that date, there was one
vacant seat on the City Council, and Mr. Rigby recused
himself from the vote, leaving five voting members for
plaintiffs appeal. (Id.) After the City Council
voted four-to-one in favor of granting plaintiffs appeal, the
members of the City Council and the city clerk appeared to
understand that plaintiffs application had been approved as a
result of that vote, and such approval was announced from the
dais. (Id.) However, following the vote, the City
Attorney took the position that under MMC § 10-3.1310,
five affirmative votes were required to grant plaintiffs
appeal, and because only four members of the City Council
voted in plaintiffs favor, the City, acting through its City
Attorney, denied plaintiff's application. (Id.
Lateef also alleges that he is an immigrant from Pakistan,
lawfully admitted into the United States, and a practicing
Muslim. (See Id. ¶¶ 7, 24.) He alleges
that his application was ultimately denied in part because of
his race, ethnicity, national origin, or religious beliefs.
Specifically, in his first amended complaint plaintiff
alleges he became aware that the City's planning manager
did not like the fact that a young Pakistani Muslim person
was attempting to open a business involving a beer and wine
license; that the City's planning manager recently told
another Muslim individual with a pending project that
“your kind of people will have the hardest time in
opening businesses in Madera;” and that five similar
conditional use permits, involving beer and wine licenses,
were approved for individuals or corporations involving
individuals of Indian descent. (Id. ¶ 24.)
first amended complaint contains three causes of action.
Plaintiff's first and second causes of action allege that
defendants violated his due process rights under the federal
and state constitutions, respectively, when (1) members of
the Planning Commission considered Mr. Rigby's email
without disclosing it to plaintiff, and relied on the email
in denying plaintiff's application; and (2) the City
misinterpreted the Madera Municipal Code and reversed the
City Council's decision to grant plaintiff's appeal.
Plaintiff's third cause of action alleges that defendants
denied plaintiff his right to equal protection by
discriminating against him on the basis of his race,
ethnicity, national origin, or religious beliefs.
December 13, 2016, this court granted in part defendants'
motion to dismiss plaintiff's original complaint, with
leave to amend. (Doc. No. 12.) Specifically, the court
dismissed plaintiff's federal and state due process
causes of action with respect to defendants' alleged
nondisclosure of Mr. Rigby's email prior to the Planning
Commission's vote, as well as plaintiff's federal
equal protection cause of action. The court however, denied
defendants' motion to dismiss plaintiff's due process
causes of action with respect to the City's alleged
misinterpretation of the Madera Municipal Code. (Id.
January 11, 2017, following the filing of plaintiff's
first amended complaint, defendants again moved to dismiss
plaintiff's complaint for failure to state a claim. (Doc.
No. 15.) On January 27, 2017, plaintiff filed an opposition.
(Doc. No. 17.)
purpose of a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) is
to test the legal sufficiency of the complaint. N. Star
Int'l v. Ariz. Corp. Comm'n, 720 F.2d 578, 581
(9th Cir. 1983). “Dismissal can be based on the lack of
a cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts
alleged under a cognizable legal theory.”
Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d
696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). A plaintiff is required to 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 plaintiff pleads factual content
that 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).
determining whether a complaint states a claim on which
relief may be granted, the court accepts as true the
allegations in the complaint and construes the allegations in
the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Hishon v. King
& Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984); Love v.
United States, 915 F.2d 1242, 1245 (9th Cir. 1989).
However, the court need not assume the truth of legal
conclusions cast in the form of factual allegations.
United States ex rel. Chunie v. Ringrose, 788 F.2d
638, 643 n.2 (9th Cir. 1986). While Rule 8(a) does not
require detailed factual allegations, “it demands more
than an unadorned, the defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me
accusation.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. A
pleading is insufficient if it offers mere “labels and
conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action.” Twombly, 550
U.S. at 555; see also Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676
(“Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of
action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not
suffice.”). Moreover, it is inappropriate to assume
that the plaintiff “can prove facts which it has not
alleged or that the defendants have violated the . . . laws
in ways that have not been alleged.” Associated
Gen. Contractors of California, Inc. v. California State
Council of Carpenters, 459 U.S. 519, 526 (1983). In
ruling on a motion to dismiss brought pursuant to Rule