United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division
ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING PART
DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS; GRANTING DEFENDANTS'
MOTION TO STRIKE RE: DKT. NO. 59
H. KOH United States District Judge.
Joseph Ryan (“Plaintiff”) sues Defendants Santa
Clara Valley Transportation Authority (“SCVTA”)
and Joseph Fabela (“Fabela”) (collectively,
“Defendants”). ECF No. 37. Before the Court is
Defendants' motion to dismiss and/or motion to strike the
Third Amended Complaint (“TAC”). ECF No. 59
(“Mot.”). The Court finds this matter suitable
for resolution without oral argument and hereby VACATES the
motion hearing set for July 26, 2017, at 1:30 p.m. Having
considered the submissions of the parties, the relevant law,
and the record in this case, the Court hereby DENIES
Defendants' motion to dismiss as to Count One, and GRANTS
with prejudice Defendants' motion to dismiss as to Counts
Two and Three. The Court also GRANTS Defendants' motion
“is an independent special district agency that
provides” public transportation services in Santa Clara
County, California. ECF No. 58 (Third Amended Complaint, or
“TAC”), ¶¶ 9, 23. Fabela is the General
Counsel for SCVTA. Id. ¶ 8. Plaintiff was
employed at SCVTA in the position of Senior Assistant
Counsel. Id. ¶ 22.
also employed an individual named David Terrazas
(“Terrazas”). Id. ¶ 25. Plaintiff
“complained to management” during his time at
SCVTA “that Terrazas was incompetent.”
Id. According to the SAC, “[t]he fact that
Terrazas was a poor performer was widely known by management
and recognized by [Fabela] and legal staff at SCVTA.
was also a member of the Santa Cruz City Council.
Id. ¶ 26. In June 2014, Plaintiff
“published for one day an internet webpage entitled
‘Anyone But Terrazas For City Council.'”
Id. ¶¶ 28, 43. Plaintiff published this on
his Facebook page. Id. ¶ 39. Plaintiffs posting
was “critical of Terrazas' campaign for re-election
to City Council in 2014, ” and Plaintiff “cite[d]
some misrepresentations listed on Terrazas' campaign web
page, including the misrepresentation that Terrazas was a
‘Transportation Manager, ' rather than the true
fact that he was a ‘Labor Relations
Supervisor'” at SCVTA. Id. ¶ 27.
Plaintiff alleges that Plaintiff made the speech “on
his own time, at night after working hours, using his own
computer equipment.” Id. ¶¶ 28, 43.
February 2015, Terrazas alleged that SCVTA and Plaintiff
“retaliated against Terrazas for whistleblower
activity.” Id. ¶ 25-27. The TAC does not
identify Terrazas's “whistleblower activity,
” or how Terrazas was retaliated against. See
February 2015, Plaintiff informed Fabela that Plaintiff had
made the webpage posting about Terrazas in June 2014.
Id. ¶ 28. Fabela “was provided with a
printout of the webpage.” Id. Plaintiff
“informed [Fabela] that the webpage was protected
off-duty political activity.” Id. Fabela did
not take any action against Plaintiff at that time.
3, 2015, Terrazas entered into a settlement agreement with
SCVTA regarding the retaliation that Terrazas allegedly
suffered. Id. ¶ 29. Nuria Fernandez
(“Fernandez”), the General Manager of SCVTA,
signed the settlement agreement with Terrazas on June 5,
same day, June 5, 2015, Fabela “informed [Plaintiff]
that he would be terminated by [SCVTA] or that he could
retire, but that [Plaintiff] must leave the office that
day.” Id. ¶ 30. “When [Plaintiff]
asked [Fabela] why” he was being terminated, Fabela
“replied that the action was taken for reasons
previously discussed, referring to the previous discussion
regarding Mr. Ryan's aforementioned webpage.”
filed suit on July 18, 2016, against SCVTA, Fabela, and
Fernandez. ECF No. 1. Plaintiff's complaint alleged 22
causes of action against Defendants, including claims under
42 U.S.C. § 1983; Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of
1964 (“Title VII”); the Age Discrimination in
Employment Act (“ADEA”), 29 U.S.C. § 621;
the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42
U.S.C. § 12101; and violations of California state law.
September 29, 2016, the parties filed a stipulation regarding
Plaintiff's filing of a First Amended Complaint. ECF No.
18. Specifically, the parties agreed that Plaintiff would
dismiss Fernandez with prejudice, that Plaintiff would
“[r]emove any and all allegations that Plaintiff was
entitled to a ‘Skelly' hearing, and that
[SCVTA]'s failure to provide Plaintiff a
‘Skelly' hearing constituted a due process
violation.” Id. Plaintiff also stipulated to
dismiss the Complaint's twentieth cause of action.
Id. The Court entered an Order granting the
parties' stipulation on September 30, 2016. ECF No. 19.
October 17, 2016, Plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint.
ECF No. 26. On that same day, Plaintiff filed a notice of
voluntary dismissal of Fernandez, ECF No. 27, which this
Court granted on October 19, 2016, ECF No. 29.
November 9, 2016, the parties filed a stipulation regarding
Plaintiff's filing of a Second Amended Complaint
(“SAC”), ECF No. 32, which the Court granted that
same day, ECF No. 34.
December 14, 2016, Plaintiff filed the SAC. The SAC alleged
13 causes of action against Defendants, including claims
under § 1983 for violation of Plaintiff's First
Amendment rights, claims under § 1983 for violation of
Plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment rights, claims under
Title VII and FEHA for racial discrimination and retaliation,
claims under the ADEA and California's Fair Housing and
Employment Act (“FEHA”) for age discrimination,
claims under the ADA and FEHA for disability discrimination,
and a claim for violation of California Government Code
January 13, 2017, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the
SAC or, in the alternative, a motion for more definite
statement or a motion to strike. ECF No. 41. On January 27,
2017, Plaintiff filed an opposition and a request for
judicial notice. ECF Nos. 47 & 48. On February 3, 2017,
Defendants filed a Reply, a request for judicial notice, and
oppositions to Plaintiff's request for judicial notice.
ECF Nos. 49, 50, 51.
March 30, 2017, the Court granted in part and denied in part
Defendants' motion to dismiss the SAC. ECF No. 54;
Ryan v. Santa Clara Valley Transp. Auth., 2017 WL
1175596 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 30, 2007). First, the Court addressed
Plaintiff's claims in Counts One and Two, which asserted
causes of action under § 1983 for violation of
Plaintiff's First Amendment rights. Ryan, 2017
WL 1175596, at *3. In analyzing these claims, the Court noted
that “[t]he distinction between Plaintiff's claims
in Counts One and Two [wa]s unclear.” Id. n.
1. Specifically, Plaintiff brought Count One against SCVTA
and Fabela in his individual capacity and labeled the claim
“Illegal Intrusion on First Amendment Right to Free
Speech.” Id. Plaintiff brought Count Two
against only SCVTA and labeled it “Retaliation for
Exercising Free Speech Monell Action.”
Id. However, the allegations in Counts One and Two
were substantially the same, and Plaintiff analyzed both
Counts One and Two as retaliation causes of action.
Id. Thus, the Court “construe[d] both Counts
One and Two as First Amendment retaliation claims under
§ 1983, with Count One alleged against Fabela in his
individual capacity and Count Two alleged against SCVTA under
a Monell theory of liability.” Id.
Court then analyzed Plaintiff's allegations in Counts One
and Two. The Court held that Plaintiff had stated a plausible
claim for relief in Count One against Fabela in his
individual capacity for First Amendment retaliation.
Id. at *8. However, the Court held that Plaintiff
had failed to adequately allege in Count Two that SCVTA was
liable under Monell. Id. Specifically, the Court
held that Plaintiff “failed to sufficiently alleged
that Fabela's allegedly unlawful conduct was the result
of a longstanding practice or custom of SCTVA, was the result
of SCVTA's failure to train municipal employees, or that
Fabela was a final policymaker within the meaning of
Monell.” Id. at *10. The Court
granted Plaintiff leave to amend “because Plaintiff may
be able to allege facts to support a theory of
Monell liability.” Id.
Court next addressed Plaintiff's claim in Count Three for
violation of California Government Code § 3203. The
Court noted that Plaintiff and Defendants both analyzed the
California Government Code § 3203 claim exactly the same
as the parties analyzed Plaintiff's § 1983 claims
for First Amendment retaliation. Id. Neither party
addressed salient differences, if any, between federal law
and state law. Id. The Court noted, however, that a
district court in this Circuit recently expressed doubt that
California Government Code § 3203 provided a private
cause of action for retaliation. Id. n. 4.
Nonetheless, because neither party addressed the issue, and
because both parties analyzed the state law claim exactly the
same as the § 1983 claims in Counts One and Two, the
Court did not dismiss Count Three. Id.
Court then addressed Plaintiff's claims under the
Fourteenth Amendment and Plaintiff's claims for race
discrimination, age discrimination, disability
discrimination, and retaliation for reporting race
discrimination. The Court dismissed all of these causes of
action with leave to amend because Plaintiff had pled only
legal conclusions. Id. at *12. Finally, the Court
addressed Plaintiff's requests for punitive damages. The
Court dismissed with prejudice Plaintiff's claim for
punitive damages as to SCVTA because SCVTA was immune from
punitive damages. Id. at *16. However, the Court
denied Defendant's motion to dismiss Plaintiff's
claim for punitive damages as to Fabela. Id. at *16.
April 18, 2017, Plaintiff filed a TAC. Plaintiff's TAC
did not reallege Plaintiff's claims for violation of the
Fourteenth Amendment, race discrimination, age
discrimination, disability discrimination, or retaliation for
reporting race discrimination. See TAC.
Plaintiff's TAC alleged claims only for (1) Illegal
Intrusion on First Amendment Right to Free Speech, in
violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against Fabela in his
individual capacity; (2) Retaliation for Exercising Free
Speech Monell Action, in violation of 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983, against SCVTA and Fabela in his official
capacity; and (3) violation of California Government Code
§ 3203, against SCVTA. Id.
2, 2017, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss and/or motion
to strike the TAC. ECF No. 59 (“Mot.”). On May
16, 2017, Plaintiff filed an opposition. ECF No. 60
(“Opp.”). On May 23, ...