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Muanza v. City of Hercules

United States District Court, N.D. California

April 5, 2017

MABO MUANZA, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF HERCULES, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING IN FORMA PAUPERIS APPLICATION, REVIEWING COMPLAINT UNDER SECTION 1915, AND DISMISSING WITH LEAVE TO AMEND RE: DKT. NO. 2

          JACQUELINE SCOTT CORLEY, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Mabo Muanza brings this civil action against the City of Hercules, unknown City of Hercules law enforcement officers, and Eden Housing Management. (Dkt. No. 1.) The Court has already granted Plaintiff's application to proceed in forma pauperis and now reviews the complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915.[1] One cause of action in the complaint is sufficient to proceed to service, but the other is not, and there are no claims at all against one of the named Defendants. While the complaint could proceed to service on the sole sufficient claim, in the interest in settling the pleadings and defendants before service, the Court DISMISSES the complaint with leave to amend.

         COMPLAINT ALLEGATIONS

         On July 8, 2015, Plaintiff entered Eden Housing Management's office to submit correspondence regarding her rental terms and to request a hearing. (Dkt. No. 1 ¶ 6.) She submitted the document to the manager on duty and requested a signed receipt acknowledging her submission. (Id. ¶ 7.) The manager refused this request, and refused again when Plaintiff asked a second time. (Id. ¶¶ 7-8.)

         The manager then called the police to have Plaintiff escorted out of the office. (Id. ¶ 8.) When the police arrived, the manager stated that she only wanted Plaintiff removed from the property and clarified that Plaintiff had not done anything wrong. (Id.) The manager still did not give Plaintiff a receipt acknowledging her submission. (Id.)

         The police officer who arrived on scene told Plaintiff she had to leave. (Id. ¶ 9.) Plaintiff cooperated and began to follow the officer out of the office. (Id. ¶¶ 9-10.) As Plaintiff followed the officer out the door, when she was halfway over the threshold “the officer violently slammed the door onto [her], causing [Plaintiff] to be smashed between the door and the door frame, severely injuring her shoulder, [and] causing her to fall down to [the] ground in pain.” (Id. ¶ 11.) The officer denied Plaintiff's request for medical assistance and then called to cancel the ambulance that other witnesses called for Plaintiff. (Id. ¶¶ 12-13.) Once the officers left, while Plaintiff waited outside of the office on a bench, witnesses called another ambulance, and Plaintiff was taken to the hospital for treatment. (Id. ¶ 14.)

         In the complaint, filed February 22, 2017 under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Plaintiff brings two causes of action. The first alleges that Eden Housing Management violated her Fourteenth Amendment right to due process by “refus[ing] to provide her with a receipt for a document that she submitted relating to her tenant status and her requesting a formal hearing” and “call[ing] the police as a tactic of intimidation to prevent [her] from exercising her Fourteenth Amendment rights.” (Id. ¶¶ 15-16.) In that cause of action, she alleges that she had a constitutionally protected property interest in Section 8 housing benefits as a low income person. (Id. ¶ 17.) In the second cause of action, Plaintiff alleges that the unnamed Doe Officers violated her Fourth Amendment rights to be free from excessive force. (Id. ¶ 18.)

         DISCUSSION

         I. First Cause of Action Against Eden Housing Management

         To plead a violation of Section 1983, a plaintiff must allege that (1) a person acting under the color of state law (2) violated her constitutional rights or rights secured by federal statute. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Anderson v. Warner, 451 F.3d 1063, 1067 (9th Cir. 2006). The first cause of action is a Section 1983 claim against Eden Housing Management for violating Plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment right to due process by (1) refusing to give Plaintiff a receipt for her submission of documents and hearing request and (2) calling the police as a tactic of intimidation to prevent Plaintiff from exercising her Fourteenth Amendment rights with respect to her document and hearing request. (Dkt. No. 1 ¶¶ 15-16.)

         A. Plaintiff Fails to Allege that Eden Housing Management was Acting Under Color of State Law

         This cause of action fails to state a claim because there are no facts alleged that would support a finding that Eden Housing Management's complained of actions were done “under color of state law.” See Allen v. Gold Country Casino, 464 F.3d 1044, 1048 (9th Cir. 2006) (affirming the district court's dismissal of the plaintiff's § 1983 claims “because there is no allegation that any defendant was acting under color of state law”). Plaintiff alleges that Eden Housing Management is a “private company engaged in the property management of property [sic] in the State of California.” (Dkt. No. 1 ¶ 2.) Generally, private companies do not act under color of state law. See Price v. Hawaii, 939 F.2d 702, 707-08 (9th Cir. 1991).

         Merely alleging an unsupported conclusion that a defendant was acting under color of state law is not enough. See, e.g., Ingram v. City of San Francisco, No. C12-3038 JSC, 2012 WL 2862266, at *2 (N.D. Cal. July 11, 2012). Instead, a plaintiff may plead a private entity has become a state actor by alleging facts sufficient to plausibly establish that the entity conspired with a state official, engaged in joint activity with state officials, became so closely related to the state that the person's actions can be said to be those of the state itself, or performed public functions or being regulated to the point that the conduct in question is practically compelled by the state. See Price, 939 F.2d at 708-09 (citations omitted); see also Peng v. Penghu, 335 F.3d 970, 980 (9th Cir. 2003). No such connection between Eden Housing Management and the state is pleaded in the complaint. The only connection between Eden Housing Management and the state alleged here is that the office manager called the police. But “courts have repeatedly held that a private citizen does not become a ‘state actor' under Section 1983 by making a complaint to the police.” Johnson v. OfficeMax, Inc., No. CIV 2:11-cv-2578-MCE-JFM (PS), 2011 WL 6141280, at *6 (E.D. Cal. Dec. 9, 2011) (citations omitted); see Collins v. Womancare, 878 F.2d 1145, 1155 (9th Cir. 1989).

         Plaintiff's Section 1983 claim against Eden Housing Management therefore fails to state a claim and, consequently, fails to pass muster under Section 1915. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) (noting that courts must dismiss in forma pauperis complaints that fail to state a claim); Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1126-27 (noting that for failure to state a claim, § 1915(e)(2) paralegals Rule 12(b)(6)); see also Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-57 (noting ...


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