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Ogunsalu v. Office of Administrative Hearings

United States District Court, S.D. California

November 7, 2017



          Hon. Gonzalo P. Curiel, United States District Judge.

         On September 1, 2017, Plaintiff Cornelius Oluseyi Ogunsalu (“Plaintiff”), proceeding pro se, filed a complaint against California's Office of Administrative Hearings (“OAH”), the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (the “CCTC”), and the California Attorney General's Office (“COAG”). (ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff concurrently filed a motion to proceed in forma pauperis (“IFP”). (ECF No. 2.) Based on the reasoning below, the Court GRANTS the motion to proceed IFP, but sua sponte DISMISSES Plaintiff's complaint without prejudice because it fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted.


         A. Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis

         All parties instituting any non-habeas “civil action, suit, or proceeding” in a federal district court must pay a filing fee of $400. See 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a).[1] An action may proceed despite a plaintiff's failure to prepay the entire fee only if the plaintiff is granted leave to proceed IFP under § 1915(a). See Andrews v. Cervantes, 493 F.3d 1047, 1051 (9th Cir. 2007). The plaintiff must submit an affidavit demonstrating his inability to pay the filing fee and including a complete statement of the plaintiff's assets. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). When a plaintiff moves to proceed IFP, the court first “grants or denies IFP status based on the plaintiff's financial resources alone and then independently determines whether to dismiss the complaint” pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). Franklin v. Murphy, 745 F.2d 1221, 1226 n.5 (9th Cir. 1984).

         Here, plaintiff asserts that he is presently unemployed, and receives temporary disability benefits of $245.33 per week and $140 per month in food stamps. (ECF No. 2 at 1.) Plaintiff currently has $490 in his bank account. (Id. at 2.) His monthly expenses, not including loan payments, amount to $845. (Id.) Based on this information, the Court concludes that Plaintiff cannot afford the filing fee for this action. Therefore, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's motion for leave to proceed IFP. (ECF No. 2.)

         B. Sua Sponte Dismissal Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)

         A complaint filed by any person proceeding IFP pursuant to § 1915(a) is subject to mandatory sua sponte review and dismissal by the Court if it is “frivolous, or malicious; fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or seeks monetary relief against a defendant immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B); see also Calhoun v. Stahl, 254 F.3d 845, 845 (9th Cir. 2001) (“[T]he provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) are not limited to prisoners.”).

         i. Legal Standard

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), 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). While a plaintiff need not give “detailed factual allegations, ” a plaintiff must plead sufficient facts that, if true, “raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 545 (2007). To state a claim upon which relief may be granted “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 547). A claim is facially plausible when the factual allegations permit “the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. In other words, “the non-conclusory ‘factual content, ' and reasonable inferences from that content, must be plausibly suggestive of a claim entitling the plaintiff to relief.” Moss v. U.S. Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009). “Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will . . . be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Because Plaintiff proceeds pro se, the Court construes the complaint liberally. See Tritz v. U.S. Postal Serv., 721 F.3d 1133, 1139 (9th Cir. 2013).

         ii. Allegations

         Plaintiff's complaint alleges the following facts. Plaintiff received a Preliminary Single Subject Teaching Credential from the CCTC on July 18, 2013, which was set to expire on June 1, 2016. (ECF No. 1-2 at 2.[1]) Plaintiff applied for a Clear Single Subject Teaching Credential on July 1, 2014. (Id.) During the 2013-14 school year, Plaintiff served as a World History and Geography teacher at Bell Middle School in the San Diego Unified School District (the “District”). (Id.) On March 11, 2014, the District served Plaintiff with a notice of “non-reelection” based on the recommendation of the school principal, Michael Dodson. (Id. at 2, 3, 8-9.) According to Plaintiff, Dodson's recommendation included “fabricated and false” information. (ECF No. 1 at 8.)

         The CCTC held a hearing on Plaintiff's non-reelection in Sacramento, California. (Id.) Plaintiff attended the hearing and was represented by an attorney. (Id.) On February 27, 2015, the Commissioner's Committee of Credentials (the “Committee”) advised Plaintiff that “probable cause existed” to suspend Plaintiff's Preliminary Credential for 21 days. (ECF No. 1-2 at 2.) The Committee recommended, however, that Plaintiff's “application for a Clear Credential be granted upon the completion of the suspension of the Preliminary Credential.” (Id.) The Committee informed Plaintiff that he had “the option of requesting an administrative hearing but noted that disciplinary action imposed following the hearing could be greater or less than the action recommended by the Committee.” (Id.) Fearing that accepting the suspension would lead to the denial of his Clear Credential because it would be seen by the CCTC as an admission of wrongdoing, Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing. (Id.; ECF No. 1 at 8.) On June 22, 2016, California Deputy Attorney General Chara L. Crane filed an accusation and statement of issues, and a hearing was set for November 14 and 15, 2016. (ECF No. 1-2 at 1-2.)

         In the meantime, Plaintiff became concerned that the COAG was “strong-arming him and attempting to railroad him into accepting the 21-days suspension, ” particularly because there was a pending federal lawsuit that Plaintiff had filed “in which the [CCTC] and [COAG] were implicated.” (ECF No. 1 at 8.) Plaintiff believed that “the 21-day suspension he'd appealed before the Commissioner and for which he was given proper notice of had turned into something else, i.e., a revocation hearing ...

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