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Clark v. County of Sacramento

United States District Court, E.D. California

July 11, 2017

FELICIA CLARK, Plaintiff,
v.
COUNTY OF SACRAMENTO, et al., Defendants.

          FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

          DEBORAH BARNES UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This action came before the undersigned on February 3, 2017, for hearing of defendants' motion for partial dismissal pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.[1]Plaintiff Felicia Clark appeared on her own behalf. Attorney Jill Nathan appeared on behalf of the defendants. After hearing oral argument, defendants' motion was taken under submission.

         For the reasons stated below, the undersigned will recommend that defendants' partial motion to dismiss be granted in part.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff commenced this action on June 5, 2015, by filing a complaint and a motion to proceed in forma pauperis. (ECF Nos. 1 & 2.) On September 29, 2015, a previously assigned Magistrate Judge granted plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis and ordered service of the complaint.[2] (ECF No. 3.) On January 8, 2016, defendants filed a motion to dismiss. (ECF No. 11.) On July 26, 2016, a previously assigned Magistrate Judge issued findings and recommendation recommending that the complaint's claims for illegal seizure, Monell, and violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act be dismissed with leave to amend. (ECF No. 18.) Those findings and recommendations were adopted in full by the assigned District Judge on August 31, 2016. (ECF No. 21.)

         Plaintiff is now proceeding on a second amended complaint filed November 21, 2016. (ECF No. 29.) Therein, plaintiff alleges, in relevant part, that on June 6, 2013, plaintiff was stranded on a bank of the American River. (Sec. Am. Compl. (ECF No. 29) at 4.[3]) Defendants Andrew Nelson and Christopher Kemp, park rangers with the Sacramento County Parks Department, responded to the scene along with emergency rescue personnel. (Id. at 3-4.) Without plaintiff's consent, defendant Nelson searched plaintiff and confiscated plaintiff's medical marijuana before discarding the marijuana. (Id. at 4.) Plaintiff “raised with Nelson and Kemp the impropriety of Nelson's actions” and the defendants arrested plaintiff without probable cause. (Id.)

         After being arrested, plaintiff was placed in the back of a police vehicle. (Id.) Plaintiff informed defendants Nelson and Kemp that she suffered from claustrophobia. (Id.) Plaintiff asked that the rear window be lowered to accommodate her claustrophobia. (Id.) Defendants refused and plaintiff “kicked the window of the police car, breaking it.” (Id.) Another officer arrived, lowered a window, and transported plaintiff to the Sacramento County Jail. (Id.)

         At the jail, defendant Nelson “and/or” Kemp applied plaintiff's handcuffs “too tightly.” (Id. at 5.) Defendant Nelson then “pushed” plaintiff onto a bench, causing plaintiff's leg to make “slight” contact with defendant Nelson's leg. (Id.) Thereafter, defendant Nelson “violently grabbed plaintiff by the throat and choked her.” (Id.) A Doe defendant “immediately joined . . . Nelson in violently grabbing Plaintiff by the throat and choking her.” (Id.) Plaintiff was eventually released, but her cell phone, driver's license, and medical marijuana license were not returned to her at the time of her release. (Id.)

         Defendants filed the pending motion to dismiss on December 5, 2016. (ECF No. 30.) Plaintiff filed an opposition on January 20, 2017. (ECF No. 33.) Defendants filed a reply on January 27, 2017. (ECF No. 34.) Plaintiff filed a sur-reply on February 17, 2017.[4] (ECF No. 36.)

         STANDARDS

         I. Legal Standards Applicable to Motions to Dismiss Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6)

         The 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).

         In 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). In general, pro se complaints are held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972). 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 Cal., Inc. v. Cal. State Council of Carpenters, 459 U.S. 519, 526 (1983).

         In ruling on a motion to dismiss brought pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the court is permitted to consider material which is properly submitted as part of the complaint, documents that are not physically attached to the complaint if their authenticity is not contested and the plaintiff's complaint necessarily relies on them, and ...


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