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School v. Bice

United States District Court, E.D. California

February 20, 2018

MICHAEL C. SCHOOL, Plaintiffs,
BICE, et al., Defendants.



         On February 14, 2018, the undersigned held a hearing on defendants' amended motion to dismiss this action pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). (ECF No. 10.) Plaintiff opposed the motion (ECF No. 17), and defendants filed a reply (ECF No. 20). Nicole Roman appeared for defendants, and plaintiff appeared pro se. At the close of the hearing, the court took the matter under submission.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, a Grass Valley resident, is proceeding pro se and has paid the filing fee. This action proceeds on the original complaint filed October 17, 2017. (ECF No. 1, “Compl.”)

         The complaint names as defendants four California Highway Patrol officers: Officer Bice, Officer Morrison, Sergeant Nevins, and Commander Steffenson. It purports to bring both Bivens and § 1983 claims against defendants. Plaintiff alleges that on May 30, 2017 at 9:15 a.m., he was driving his car near an auto parts parking lot when “Officer Bice profiled me, then detained and arrested me when there was no breach of the peace.” (Compl. at 5.) “Officer Bice stated he was taking me to the courthouse to see the magistrate but instead took me to county jail.” (Id. at 6.) Plaintiff characterizes this as a false arrest in which he was denied his federal due process rights, among other rights. (Id. at 4.)

         Plaintiff further alleges:

I was bruised by the handcuffs and forced to sit in an uncomfortable position unable to move my arms. I was placed under moral duress when Sgt. Nevins placed his had on his weapon making angry veiled threats to me in front of a witness. I have suffered financially due to my kidnapping and the ransoming of my automobile, and multiple court dates.

(Id. at 6.) Plaintiff was never given a copy of the ticket until his third arraignment in September. (Id. at 8.) Plaintiff sues defendants in their individual and official capacities and seeks $1 million in damages. (Id. at 4, 6.)


         In order to survive dismissal for failure to state a claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must contain more than a “formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action”; it must contain factual allegations sufficient to “raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007). “The pleading must contain something more . . . than . . . a statement of facts that merely creates a suspicion [of] a legally cognizable right of action.” Id., quoting 5 C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1216, pp. 235-236 (3d ed. 2004).

         Defendants argue that the complaint fails to state a claim under this standard. First, as the Eleventh Amendment prohibits damage actions against state officials in their official capacities, Stivers v. Pierce, 71 F.3d 732, 749 (9th Cir. 1995), plaintiff's official capacity claims must be dismissed. Second, as defendants are not federal officials, plaintiff's Bivens claims must be dismissed.[1] Third, as the complaint fails to allege any facts showing the involvement of defendants Morrison or Steffenson, these defendants must be dismissed. Moreover, insofar as plaintiff's claims are based on alleged state law violations, they are not actionable under § 1983. Cornejo v. County of San Diego, 504 F.3d 853, 855 n. 3 (9th Cir. 2007) (“[A] claim for violation of state law is not cognizable under § 1983.”)

         As to the § 1983 claims against Bice and Nevins, plaintiff ‘s allegations do not show that these defendants committed any constitutional violation. The Civil Rights Act provides:

Every person who, under color of [state law] ... subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States ... to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution ... shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress.

42 U.S.C. § 1983. To state a § 1983 claim, a plaintiff must allege facts showing each named defendant either exhibited some sort of “direct personal participation in the deprivation” or “set[ ] in motion a series of acts by others which the actor [knew] or reasonably should [have known] would cause others to inflict the constitutional injury.” Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743-744 (9th Cir. 1978). There must be an actual causal link between the actions of the named defendants and the alleged constitutional deprivation. See Monell, 436 U.S. ...

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