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Doe v. County of Kern

United States District Court, E.D. California

June 22, 2017

JANE DOE, Plaintiff,
COUNTY OF KERN, et al., Defendants.



         Jane Doe alleges the defendants are liable for civil rights violations arising under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, related to incidents while she was incarcerated in a juvenile detention facility. (See generally Doc. 1) She now seeks to amend her complaint to identify Anderson's supervisor, Heathe Appleton, as a defendant. (Doc. 19) The County of Kern oppose the motion, asserting leave to amend is futile and could prejudice Mr. Appleton. (Doc. 20)

         Because the Court finds the amended complaint states at least one non-futile claim and leave to amend is appropriate under Rules 15 and 16 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Plaintiff's motion to amend is DENIED in PART and GRANTED in PART.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff alleges that that while she “was incarcerated at the James G. Bowles juvenile detention facility, she was a victim of grooming, exploitation, voyeurism and sexual abuse by Defendant Anderson.” (Doc. 1 at 2, ¶ 2) According to Plaintiff, “Defendant Anderson viewed Plaintiff while she showered and peeped into her cell while she was using the toilet on multiple occasions.” (Id.) In addition, Plaintiff asserts that “Defendant Anderson told Plaintiff that he liked watching her shower, suggested that she should leave her boyfriend for him, and, after a period of time during which he assumed greater and greater familiarity with her, directly propositioned Plaintiff for sex.” (Id.) She alleges she “reported [this] misconduct to a close friend, to her parents, and to a counselor, which led to the police being immediately notified.” (Id. at 2, ¶ 2)

         She asserts the allegations of “sexual abuse of Plaintiff and other wards and juvenile hall” against Defendant Anderson were investigated by the Bakersfield Police Department, which “submitted a report to the Kern County District Attorney's Office to request that … Anderson be charged with three counts of P.C. 289(a)(1)(A) (sexual penetration), three counts of P.C. 149 (assault under color of authority), two counts of P.C. 647(j)(1) (invasion of privacy), and one count of P.C. 647.6(a)(1) (annoying or molesting a child).” (Doc. 1 at 2-3, ¶ 3)

         Plaintiff contends “Defendants Does 1-10, ” collectively identified as “Additional Defendants, ” “were employees of the County of Kern” who acted “under color of law within the course and scope of their duties with respect to their employer.” (Doc. 1 at 4, ¶ 9) She asserts the Additional Defendants “failed to intervene to prevent … [Anderson's] misconduct, even though they had an opportunity to do so.” (Id. at 9, ¶35) In addition, Plaintiff alleges that the Additional Defendants “were deliberately indifferent to the risk or danger of sexual abuse of [Plaintiff] and similarly situated wards.” (Id.) She contends that as of the filing of the complaint, neither Anderson nor the Additional Defendants “have been disciplined, reprimanded, retrained, suspended, or otherwise penalized in connection with the incident.” (Id. at 12, ¶ 67)

         Based upon the foregoing facts, Plaintiff filed a complaint on September 30, 2016, in which she identified the following causes of action: (1) “Civil Rights Action” under 42 U.S.C. § 1983- for violations of the Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments-against Anderson and the Additional Defendants; (2) substantive due process violation against Anderson and the Additional Defendants; (3) unconstitutional custom, practice, or policy in violation of 42 U.S.C. §1983 against the County of Kern; (4) inadequate training/ policy of inaction, against the County; (5) ratification, against the County; and (6) supervisor liability, against the Additional Defendants. (See generally Doc. 1 at 8-14)

         On April 10, 2017, Plaintiff filed a motion for leave to amend her complaint pursuant to Rule 15 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, seeking “to substitute the name ‘Heathe Appleton' for the defendant fictitiously named as “Doe 1.” (Doc. 18 at 2) However, the Court determined that Plaintiff made substantive changes to the allegations in her complaint, and was not seeking only to identify one of the “Doe” defendants. (Doc. 24 at 4) Upon reviewing the proposed amended complaint, the Court found that the amendment was futile because she failed “allege any facts that support her claim for supervisor liability against Appleton, and [did] no more than offer legal conclusions.” (Id. at 9) Thus, Plaintiff's motion to amend the complaint was denied without prejudice. (Id. at 11)

         On May 22, 2017, Plaintiff filed the motion to amend now pending before the Court, again seeking to identify Heathe Appleton as a defendant. (Doc. 29) The County filed its opposition to the motion on June 5, 2017, arguing Plaintiff fails to demonstrate good cause, and that the proposed amendments are futile. (Doc. 31 at 3-5) Further, the County asserts permitting the amendment is potentially prejudicial to Mr. Anderson. (Id. at 6) Plaintiff filed her brief in reply on June 12, 2017. (Doc. 34)

         II. Legal Standards

         A. Scheduling Orders

         Districts courts must enter scheduling orders in actions to “limit the time to join other parties, amend the pleadings, complete discovery, and file motions.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 16(b)(3). In addition, scheduling orders may “modify the timing of disclosures” and “modify the extent of discovery.” Id. Once entered by the court, a scheduling order “controls the course of the action unless the court modifies it.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 16(d). Scheduling orders are intended to alleviate case management problems. Johnson v. Mammoth Recreations, Inc., 975 F.2d 604, 610 (9th Cir. 1992). As such, a scheduling order is “the heart of case management.” Koplove v. Ford Motor Co., 795 F.2d 15, 18 (3rd Cir. 1986).

         Further, scheduling orders are “not a frivolous piece of paper, idly entered, which can be cavalierly disregarded by counsel without peril.” Johnson, 975 F.2d at 610 (quoting Gestetner Corp. v. Case Equip. Co., 108 F.R.D. 138, 141 (D. Maine 1985)). Good cause must be shown for modification of the scheduling order. Fed.R.Civ.P. 16(b)(4). The Ninth Circuit explained:

Rule 16(b)'s “good cause” standard primarily considers the diligence of the party seeking the amendment. The district court may modify the pretrial schedule if it cannot reasonably be met despite the diligence of the party seeking the extension. Moreover, carelessness is not compatible with a finding of diligence and offers no reason for a grant of relief. Although existence of a degree of prejudice to the party opposing the modification might supply additional reasons to deny a motion, the focus of the inquiry is upon the moving party's reasons for modification. If that party was not diligent, the inquiry should end.

Johnson, 975 F.2d at 609 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). Therefore, parties must “diligently attempt to adhere to the schedule throughout the course of the litigation.” Jackson v. Laureate, Inc., 186 F.R.D. 605, 607 (E.D. Cal. 1999). The party requesting modification of a scheduling order has the burden to demonstrate:

(1) that she was diligent in assisting the Court in creating a workable Rule 16 order, (2) that her noncompliance with a Rule 16 deadline occurred or will occur, notwithstanding her efforts to comply, because of the development of matters which could not have been reasonably foreseen or anticipated at the time of the Rule 16 scheduling conference, and (3) that she was diligent in seeking amendment of the Rule 16 order, once it become apparent that she could not comply with the order.

Id. at 608 (internal citations omitted).

         B. Pleading Amendments

         Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a), a party may amend a pleading once as a matter of course within 21 days of service, or if the pleading is one to which a response is required, 21 days after service of a motion under Rule 12(b), (e), or (f). “In all other cases, a party may amend its pleading only with the opposing party's written consent or the court's leave.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). Because Defendant does not consent to the filing an amended complaint, Plaintiff seeks the leave of the Court.

         Granting or denying leave to amend a complaint is in the discretion of the Court, Swanson v. United States Forest Service, 87 F.3d 339, 343 (9th Cir. 1996), though leave should be “freely give[n] when justice so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). “In exercising this discretion, a court must be guided by the underlying purpose of Rule 15 to facilitate decision on the merits, rather than on the pleadings or technicalities.” United States v. Webb, 655 F.2d 977, 979 (9th Cir. 1981). Consequently, the policy to grant leave to amend is applied with extreme liberality. Id.

         There is no abuse of discretion “in denying a motion to amend where the movant presents no new facts but only new theories and provides no satisfactory explanation for his failure to fully develop his contentions originally.” Bonin v. Calderon, 59 F.3d 815, 845 (9th Cir. 1995); see also Allen v. City of Beverly Hills, 911 F.2d 367, 374 (9th Cir. 1990). After a defendant files an answer, leave to amend should not be granted where “amendment would cause prejudice to the opposing party, is sought in bad faith, is futile, or creates undue delay.” Madeja v. Olympic Packers, 310 F.3d 628, 636 (9th Cir. 2002) (citing Yakama Indian Nation v. Washington Dep't of Revenue, 176 F.3d 1241, 1246 (9th Cir. 1999)).

         III. Discussion and Analysis

         As an initial matter, the Scheduling Order in this action set forth a pleading amendment deadline of April 10, 2017, whether by stipulation or a written motion. (Doc. 13 at 3) The motion now pending before the Court was filed on May 22, 2017. (Doc. 29) Thus, Plaintiff is required to demonstrate good cause under Rule 16 for filing an amended pleading out-of-time. See Coleman v. Quaker Oats Co., 232 F.3d 1271, 1294 (9th Cir. 2000) (explaining the question of whether the liberal amendment standard of Rule 15(a) or the good cause standard of Rule 16(b) apples to a motion for leave to amend a complaint depends on whether a deadline set ...

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