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Uriarte v. Bostic

United States District Court, S.D. California

May 25, 2017

FRANK URIARTE, RUDY ALARCON, LUIS CASILLAS, STEVEN GARCIA, GERMAN DURAN, GABRIEL RODRIGUEZ, ISAIAS NAVARRO, and STEPHEN FRAZIER, Plaintiffs,
v.
MICHAEL BOSTIC, CITY OF CALEXICO, RICHARD WARNE, and GONZALO C. GERARDO, Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS PLAINTIFFS' SAC; AND [DOC. NO. 42] GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO STRIKE [DOC. NO. 43]

          HON. MICHAEL M. ANELLO, United States District Judge

         Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint (SAC) pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), and move to strike Plaintiffs' state law claims pursuant to California Code of Civil Procedure § 425.16. See Doc. Nos. 42, 43. The Court found the matters suitable for determination on the papers and without oral argument pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7.1(d)(1). For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART Defendants' motion to dismiss and GRANTS Defendants' motion to strike. Doc. Nos. 42, 43.

         Procedural Background[1]

         On July 20, 2015, Plaintiffs Joseph Bielma, Frank Uriarte, Rudy Alarcon, Luis Casillas, Steven Garcia, German Duran, Gabriel Rodriguez, Isaias Navarro, and Stephen Frazier filed this action against Defendants Michael Bostic, City of Calexico, Richard Warne, Gonzalo C. Gerardo, and Maritza Hurtado alleging numerous causes of action. Defendants moved to dismiss the Complaint pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6), and moved to strike the state law claims pursuant to California Code of Civil Procedure § 425.16. Doc. Nos. 7, 8, 9. The Court granted Defendants' motion to dismiss, dismissing some claims with prejudice and granting Plaintiffs leave to amend those claims dismissed without prejudice. Doc. No. 20. The Court denied Defendants' motion to strike without prejudice. Doc. No. 20.

         Plaintiffs then filed the First Amended Complaint (FAC), and Defendants filed a motion to dismiss and a motion to strike the state law claims. Doc. No. 23. The Court granted in part and denied in part Defendants' motion to dismiss. Doc. No. 35. Specifically, the Court dismissed Plaintiff Bielma's First Amendment retaliation claims as to all Defendants with prejudice and without leave to amend, and dismissed all First Amendment retaliation claims against Defendant Hurtado with prejudice and without leave to amend. The Court also dismissed with prejudice and without leave to amend those claims alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 207 et seq., and violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1985(1) and (2).

         The FAC also alleged state law claims for violations of the Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights Act (“POBRA”) pursuant to California Government Code §§ 3300 et seq., violations of the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act (“MMBA”) pursuant to California Government Code sections 3502 and 3506, and tort claims for defamation and false light. The Court dismissed those claims without prejudice and with leave to amend. In particular, the Court found the FAC failed to allege satisfaction of the claims presentation requirements of the California Government Claims Act, California Government Code section 945.4. The Court also denied Defendants' motion to strike the FAC's state law claims without prejudice. Doc. No. 35.

         Subsequently, Plaintiffs Frank Uriarte, Rudy Alarcon, Luis Casillas, Steven Garcia, German Duran, Gabriel Rodriguez, Isaias Navarro, and Stephen Frazier filed the SAC, alleging claims against Defendants Michael Bostic, Richard Warne, Gonzalo C. Gerardo and the City of Calexico.[2] Doc. No. 39. The SAC alleges First Amendment retaliation pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, violations of the MMBA pursuant to California Government Code sections 3502 and 3506, [3] defamation, and false light. Defendants move to dismiss the SAC pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), and move to strike the state law claims pursuant to California Code of Civil Procedure § 425.16. Doc. Nos. 42, 43.

         Legal Standard

         A. Rule 12(b)(6)

         A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss tests the sufficiency of the complaint. Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001). A pleading must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief. . . .” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). However, plaintiffs must also plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). The plausibility standard thus demands more than “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action, ” or “naked assertions devoid of further factual enhancement.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal quotations omitted). Instead, the complaint “must contain allegations of underlying facts sufficient to give fair notice and to enable the opposing party to defend itself effectively.” Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1216 (9th Cir. 2011).

         In reviewing a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), courts must assume the truth of all factual allegations and must construe them in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Cahill v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 80 F.3d 336, 337-38 (9th Cir. 1996). The court need not take legal conclusions as true merely because they are cast in the form of factual allegations. Roberts v. Corrothers, 812 F.2d 1173, 1177 (9th Cir. 1987). Similarly, “conclusory allegations of law and unwarranted inferences are not sufficient to defeat a motion to dismiss.” Pareto v. FDIC, 139 F.3d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1998).

         In determining the propriety of a Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal, courts generally may not look beyond the complaint for additional facts. United States v. Ritchie, 342 F.3d 903, 908 (9th Cir. 2003). “A court may, however, consider certain materials-documents attached to the complaint, documents incorporated by reference in the complaint, or matters of judicial notice-without converting the motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment.” Id.; see also Fed. R. Evid. 201; see also Lee v. City of Los Angeles, 250 F.3d 668, 688 (9th Cir. 2001) overruled on other grounds by Galbraith v. Cnty. Of Santa Clara, 307 F.3d 1119, 1125-26 (9th Cir. 2002).

         Where dismissal is appropriate, a court should grant leave to amend unless the plaintiff could not possibly cure the defects in the pleading. Knappenberger v. City of Phoenix, 566 F.3d 936, 942 (9th Cir. 2009).

         B. Motion to Strike

         California's anti-SLAPP[4] statute provides a mechanism for striking “lawsuits brought primarily to chill the valid exercise of the constitutional rights of freedom of speech and petition for the redress of grievances.” See Cal. Code. Civ. P. § 425.16. “Motions to strike a state law claim under California's anti-SLAPP statute may be brought in federal court, ” whether the court is sitting in diversity or exercising federal question jurisdiction.[5] See Vess v. Ciba-Geigy Corp. USA, 317 F.3d 1097, 1109 (9th Cir. 2003) (citing United States ex rel. Newsham v. Lockheed Missiles & Space Co., 190 F.3d 963, 970-73 (9th Cir. 1999)). However, California's anti-SLAPP statute does not apply to federal law causes of action. See Hilton v. Hallmark Cards, 599 F.3d 894, 901 (9th Cir. 2009).

         “Resolution of an anti-SLAPP motion requires the court to engage in a two-step process.” Jarrow Formulas, Inc. v. LaMarche, 31 Cal.4th 728, 733 (2003) (internal citations and quotations omitted). First, the defendant must make a “threshold showing that the challenged cause of action is one arising from protected activity.” Id. Second, to avoid dismissal, the plaintiff must demonstrate a probability of prevailing on the claim. Id.

         Discussion

         A. Requests for Judicial Notice

         Generally, a district court's review of a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss is “limited to the complaint.” Lee v. City of Los Angeles, 250 F.3d 668, 688 (9th Cir. 2001) overruled on other grounds by Galbraith v. Cnty. Of Santa Clara, 307 F.3d 1119, 1125-26 (9th Cir. 2002) (quoting Cervantes v. City of San Diego, 5 F.3d 1273, 1274 (9th Cir. 1993)). However, without converting a motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment, a court may take judicial notice of matters submitted as part of a complaint, or other matters as to which authenticity is not contested and where the plaintiff's complaint relies on them. Lee, 250 F.3d at 688. A court may also take judicial notice of matters of public record. Id. at 688-89 (citing Mack v. South Bay Beer Distrib., 798 F.2d 1279, 1282 (9th Cir. 1986) (internal quotations omitted).

         Defendants request judicial notice of the following:

1. Copies of Calexico Municipal Code Chapters 2.02, 2.04, 2.10, 2.20, and 2.56;
2. Copies of Calexico Police Department Policy Manual, Chapter 1, sections 200, 300, 340, 344, 346, 1020, 1038, and Organizational Chart;
3. Copies of a Memorandum of Understanding between the City of Calexico and the CPOA and a Memorandum regarding “Tentative Agreement 2012-13 MOU”;
4. Copies of City of Calexico Personnel Commission Rules and Regulations 10.05-10.10
5. The administrative appeals for Plaintiffs Duran, Rodriguez, Alarcon, Frazier, Garcia, Casillas, and Uriarte.
6. The fact that the administrative appeals of German Duran and Frank Uriarte have been denied and that in the course of those administrative proceedings, the parties were represented by counsel and were able to subpoena, call, examine, cross-examine, and impeach witnesses, introduce exhibits, and submit briefs to impartial decision makers, who made factual findings and ultimately issued written decisions stating that the City had cause to terminate Duran and Uriarte, and that a written transcript of each proceeding was prepared.
7. The written decisions in the administrative appeals of Frank Uriarte and German Duran.
8. Government Claim for Damages submitted by the Calexico Police Officers' Association, Rudy Alarcon, Luis Casillas, Frank Uriarte, Steven Garcia, German Duran, Gabriel Rodriguez, and Isaias Navarro against the City of Calexico, Betty Kelepecz, and Norm Traub & Associates, which was received by the City on September 10, 2014.
9. Government Claim for Damages submitted by German Duran against the City of Calexico, John T. Quinn, Richard Warne, Michael Bostic, Maritza Hurtado, and John M. Moreno, which was received by the City on June 22, 2015.
10. Government Claim for Damages submitted by Francisco Uriarte against the City of Calexico, John T. Quinn, Richard Warne, Michael Bostic, Maritza Hurtado, and John M. Moreno, which was received by the City on July 6, 2015.
11. Government Claim for Damages submitted by Luis Casillas against the City of Calexico, John T. Quinn, Richard Warne, Michael Bostic, Maritza Hurtado, and John M. Moreno, which was received by the City on August 13, 2015.
12. Government Claim for Damages submitted by the Calexico Police Officers' Association, Rudy Alarcon, Luis Casillas, Frank Uriarte, Steven Garcia, German Duran, Gabriel Rodriguez, and Isaias Navarro against the City of Calexico, Richard Warne, and Michael Bostic, which is dated December 23, 2014.
13. The fact that Exhibits 2-6 to the Declaration of Gabriela Garcia (Doc. Nos. 7-10, 7-11) (i.e., the government claims referenced in requests for judicial notice 8-12) are the only claims submitted to the City of Calexico before this lawsuit was filed by any of the following individuals: Rudy Alarcon, Luis Casillas, Frank Uriarte, Steven Garcia, German Duran, Gabriel Rodriguez, Isaias Navarro, and Stephen Frazier.

See Doc. No. 42-2. Plaintiffs do not oppose any of Defendants' requests for judicial notice.

         As an initial matter, the Court has previously taken judicial notice of the documents listed in requests 1-4 and 8-12. See Doc. Nos. 20, 35. ...


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