United States District Court, E.D. California
HANNA Q. RHEE, Plaintiff,
MEDICAL BOARD OF CALIFORNIA, et al., Defendants.
who is proceeding pro se, brings this civil action. The
matter was referred to a United States Magistrate Judge as
provided by Eastern District of California local rules. On
July 13, 2018, the previously assigned magistrate judge filed
findings and recommendations addressing defendants'
motions to dismiss, which were served on the parties and
which contained notice that the parties may file objections
within the time specified therein. Plaintiff filed timely
objections to the findings and recommendations, ECF No. 37,
and the hospital defendants filed a request for
clarification, ECF No. 36.
accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1)(C) and Local Rule 304(f), this court has conducted
a de novo review of this case. Having reviewed the
file, the court finds the findings and recommendations
regarding state defendant immunities to be generally
supported by the record and by proper analysis and those
findings and recommendations thus will be adopted, with the
exceptions and clarifications described below. The court
declines to adopt the balance of the findings and
recommendations. The court remands the matter back to the
magistrate judge to resolve the motion for clarification and
to issue supplemental findings and recommendations on the
state defendants' motion to dismiss and new findings and
recommendations on the hospital defendants' motion
consistent with this order.
ELEVENTH AMENDMENT IMMUNITY
magistrate judge is correct that the Eleventh Amendment bars
suit against a state agency, which bars plaintiff's
claims against the Medical Board of California. Findings at 4
(citing Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th
Cir. 1989)); Sprague v. Med. Bd. of California
(MBC), 402 Fed.Appx. 275, 276 (9th Cir. 2010)
(citing Prod. & Leasing, Ltd. v. Hotel Conquistador,
Inc., 709 F.2d 21, 21-22 (9th Cir. 1983) (per curiam)
(Eleventh Amendment immunity applies to actions naming state
agencies or state officials sued in their official
capacity)). Additionally, the magistrate judge is correct
that Eleventh Immunity does not bar plaintiff from seeking
prospective injunctive relief or proceeding on declaratory
relief claims against state officials sued in their official
capacities. Findings at 4 (citing Armstrong v.
Wilson, 124 F.3d 1019, 1025 (9th Cir. 1997)). However,
plaintiff's complaint also includes a request for money
damages. Compl., ECF No.1, at 15 (“Dollar amount to be
determined by jury.”). To the extent the state
defendants are sued in their official capacity for damages,
plaintiff's claims for damages must be dismissed. See
Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S.
89, 102- 103 (1984).
QUASI- JUDICIAL AND/OR PROSECUTORIAL IMMUNITY
magistrate judge is also correct that the Medical Board of
California and its officers and attorneys representing the
Medical Board are entitled to quasi-judicial or prosecutorial
immunity. Findings at 5. “Under certain circumstances,
absolute immunity is also extended to agency representatives
performing functions analogous to those of a prosecutor or a
judge.” Olsen v. Idaho State Bd. of Med., 363
F.3d 916, 923 (9th Cir. 2004). To determine ///// whether
absolute immunity should be extended, courts analyze six
nonexclusive factors originally articulated in Butz v.
Economou, 438 U.S. 478, 512-13 (1978):
(1) the need to assure that the individual can perform his
functions without harassment or intimidation; (2) the
presence of safeguards that reduce the need for private
damages actions as a means of controlling unconstitutional
conduct; (3) insulation from political influence; (4) the
importance of precedent; (5) the adversary nature of the
process; and (6) the correctability of error on appeal.
Mir v. Deck, No. SACV 12-1629-RGK SH, 2013 WL
4857673, at *15 (C.D. Cal. Sept. 11, 2013) (citing
Cleavinger v. Saxner, 474 U.S. 193, 202 (1985)),
aff'd, 676 Fed.Appx. 707 (9th Cir. 2017). Ninth
Circuit courts have concluded that officers of state medical
boards are entitled to absolute immunity for quasi-judicial
or quasi-prosecutorial acts based on these factors. See
Olsen, 363 F.3d at 925-26; Mishler v. Clift,
191 F.3d 998, 1007 (9th Cir. 1999); Gambee v.
Williams, 971 F.Supp. 474, 477 (D. Or. 1997); see
also Mir, 2013 WL 4857673, at *12-15. Here, the claims
against defendants MBOC, Kirchmeyer (Director of
MBOC) and Bholat (MBOC member), Compl.
¶¶ 8, 10, are for their alleged actions in
connection with the Medical Board's administrative
proceeding against plaintiff. See Compl. at 10-11
(allegations against “Defendant MBOC” and
“Defendant MBOC Board member Michelle Anne Bholat
MD”). Thus, they were “agency representatives
performing functions analogous to those of a . . .
judge” at the time of the alleged conduct and are
entitled to immunity. Olsen, 363 F.3d at 925-26
(holding members of Idaho Medical Board “function in a
sufficiently judicial or prosecutorial capacity” to be
entitled to immunity); see also Mir, 2013 WL
4857673, at *15 (finding members of Medical Board involved in
administrative proceeding against plaintiff entitled to
absolute immunity for their “quasi-judicial functions
performed in connection with the hearing”). The claims
against defendants Medical Board of California, Kirchmeyer,
and Bholat are therefore DISMISSED with prejudice on the
basis of immunity.
the state attorneys representing the Medical Board are
“immune from lawsuits for any action[s] [they] commit
in discharging [their] litigation-related duties, ”
Yoonessi v. Albany Med. Ctr., 352 F.Supp.2d 1096,
1103 (C.D. Cal. 2005) (referring to attorneys in the Attorney
General's Office) (citing Bly-Magee v.
California, 236 F.3d 1014, 1018 (9th Cir. 2001)).
Accordingly, defendant O'Carroll is entitled to immunity,
as the claims against her arise out of their
litigation-related duties in connection with the MBOC
investigation. See Compl. at 10-12; State Defs.'
Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 12-1, at 14. Though the claims
against defendant Alvarez are unclear, it appears she is
named in the complaint, because she is O'Carroll's
supervisor. Compl. ¶ 17a (“Alexandra M. Alvarez
Esq is a Supervising Deputy Attorney General in the State of
California overseeing Defendant Megan O'Carroll
Esq.”). Accordingly, the same rationale appears to
apply to Alvarez. Finally, although plaintiff's claim
against defendant Attorney General Becerra is also not
entirely clear as pled, to the extent the claim is based on
his actions in supervising the other named deputy attorneys
general, he is entitled to immunity for the same reasons.
Therefore, the claims against O'Carroll are DISMISSED
with prejudice, and the claims against Alvarez and Becerra
are DISMISSED but with leave to amend if possible subject to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11.
magistrate judge recommends the court dismiss all of
plaintiff's claims against all of the defendants under
the doctrine of Younger abstention. Findings at 3-4.
However, the magistrate judge did not analyze the exception
to the Younger doctrine for proceedings undertaken
in bad faith or for harassment, which appears to be at the
heart of plaintiff's claim in this case. See Younger
v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 53-54 (1971); Opp'n to Mot.
to Dismiss, ECF No. 18 at 5-8. The magistrate judge also did
not include an analysis of how Younger abstention
affects plaintiffs' claims against the hospital
the matter will be referred back to the magistrate judge to
address these and any other remaining issues.
HEREBY ORDERED that:
1. The findings and recommendations filed July 13, 2018, are
adopted in part and rejected in ...