United States District Court, E.D. California
TEEN RESCUE, CARLTON WILLIAMS as an individual and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
XAVIER BECERRA, Attorney General of the State of California, in his official capacity, WILLIAM LIGHTBOURNE, Director of the State Department of Social Services, in his official capacity, Butte County Department of Children’s Services Division and DOES 1-50, Defendants.
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO
MENDEZ, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
case stems from a dispute concerning the California Community
Care Facilities Act (“CCFA”) and its implications
on the freedom of religion and the rights of parents to raise
their kids in the way they see fit. Plaintiff Carlton
Williams (“Plaintiff”) brings this suit in his
capacity as class representative of the parents and guardians
of the students currently attending River View Christian
Academy (“RVCA”) and seeks declaratory and
injunctive relief. First Amended Comp. (“FAC”),
ECF No. 8. Defendants move to dismiss. Mot., ECF No. 24.
reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS Defendants’
FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Rescue is a California-based religious organization. FAC
¶ 7. As part of its ministry, Teen Rescue established
and operates a Christian boarding school, River View
Christian Academy. FAC ¶¶ 7, 23. Plaintiff Carlton
Williams is the custodial parent of a child enrolled at RVCA.
FAC ¶ 8. Williams is the representative for a class of
similarly situated parents and guardians of RVCA students
(“Parent Class”). FAC ¶ 8.
CCFA was enacted with the primary purpose of establishing
“a coordinated and comprehensive statewide service
system of quality community care for mentally ill,
developmentally and physically disabled, and children and
adults who require care or services by a facility or
organization issued a license or special permit.” Cal.
Health & Safety Code § 1501(a). Until 2016, RVCA was
exempt from licensure as a community care facility and
thereby exempt from the CCFA’s regulations. FAC ¶
57. When the CCFA was amended in 2016 by Senate Bill 524, the
legislature changed the definition of private alternative
boarding school to mean “a group home licensed by the
[D]epartment [of Social Services] to operate a program . . .
to provide youth with 24-hour residential care and
supervision, which, in addition to providing educational
services to youth, provides, or holds itself out as
providing, behavior-based services to youth with social,
emotional, or behavior issues.” Cal. Health &
Safety Code § 1502(A)(19). FAC ¶ 58. Thus, since
2016, the California Department of Social Services has
categorized RVCA as a private alternative boarding school,
subject to the CCFA, the jurisdiction of the California
Department of Social Services, and enforcement by the
California Attorney General. FAC ¶¶ 45, 72. Teen
Rescue disputes this categorization, alleging it does not
provide therapeutic activities or engage in behavior
modification other than providing students with a combination
of a structured environment and spiritual guidance. FAC
¶¶ 39, 42.
also alleges the CCFA impermissibly requires private
alternative boarding schools to allow students full autonomy
on matters of religion and sexual identity. FAC ¶ 1.
RVCA admits that its religious practices violate those
portions of the CCFA. FAC ¶ 62. Williams alleges he
specifically sends his child to RVCA for the spiritual
guidance it provides. FAC ¶ 64. Thus, Williams alleges
it would be a profound interference with the Parent
Class’ free exercise of religion and parental rights to
place RVCA under the CCFA. FAC ¶¶ 65, 80.
March 13, 2019, Plaintiffs Carlton Williams and Teen Rescue
filed the Complaint. Compl., ECF No. 1. Less than one month
later, Plaintiffs filed the operative First Amended
Complaint, alleging violations of (1) the First
Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause, and (2) the
Fourteenth Amendment’s right to parent. FAC, ECF No. 8.
April 5, 2019, Plaintiffs filed an Emergency Application and
Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order. ECF No. 10. This
Court denied Plaintiffs’ motion and dismissed Teen
Rescue’s claim with prejudice based on Younger
abstention, leaving Carlton Williams as the sole plaintiff.
TRO Order, ECF No. 21, at 5.
now move to dismiss the FAC, arguing Plaintiff lacks standing
and failed to state a cognizable claim under either the First
or Fourteenth Amendment. Mot., ECF No. 24. Williams opposes
the motion. Opp’n, ECF No. 36.
is an essential and unchanging part of the
case-or-controversy requirement of Article III.”
Lujan v. Defs. of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560
(1992). Standing is therefore a “threshold
question” in “determining the power of the court
to entertain the suit.” Warth v. Seldin, 422
U.S. 490, 498 (1975). Moreover, “federal courts are
required sua sponte to examine jurisdictional issues such as
standing.” Bernhardt v. Cty. of Los Angeles,
279 F.3d 862, 868 (9th Cir. 2002) (internal quotation marks
and citation omitted).
establish standing, a “plaintiff must have (1) suffered
an injury in fact, (2) that is fairly traceable to the
challenged conduct of the defendant, and (3) that is likely
to be redressed by a favorable judicial decision.”
Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins,136 S.Ct. 1540, 1547 (2016),
as revised (May 24, 2016). At the pleading stage “[i]t
is the responsibility of the complainant clearly to allege
facts demonstrating that he is a proper party to invoke