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Soler v. County of San Diego

United States District Court, S.D. California

December 4, 2019

JAMES SOLER, Plaintiff,
COUNTY OF SAN DIEGO, et al., Defendants.


          Hon Michael M. Anello United States District Judge

         Plaintiff James Soler brings this civil rights action pursuant to Title 42, United States Code, section 1983, and California state law, against the County of San Diego, and various individually named defendants. Defendants Lisa Wilkins and Ray Hobbs move to stay the action. See Doc. No. 190. Defendants Ernesto Banuelos and County of San Diego (“County Defendants”) join the motion. See Doc. No. 191. In addition, Defendants Wilkins and Hobbs move to dismiss Plaintiff's claims against them. See Doc. No. 189. Plaintiff filed responses opposing both motions, to which Defendants replied. See Doc. Nos. 192-195. For the reasons set forth below, the Court DENIES Defendants' motion to stay and DENIES Defendants Wilkins and Hobbs' motion to dismiss.

         Motion to Stay

         Defendants move to stay this action pending resolution by the United States Supreme Court of County Defendants' petition for a writ of certiorari. This is the only ground asserted in support of the requested stay. On November 18, 2019, the Supreme Court denied the petition. See S.Ct. Case No. 19-289. Accordingly, the Court DENIES Defendants' motion. The Court declines to rule on the parties' competing case management proposals. The Court has referred case management matters to the assigned magistrate judge.

         Motion to Dismiss

         Defendants Wilkins and Hobbs move to dismiss Plaintiff's claims pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), or in the alternative, on various immunity grounds. Plaintiff opposes the motion, arguing, inter alia, that Defendants are precluded from asserting certain arguments due to parallel litigation in the Eastern District of Arkansas.

         A. Background[1]

         This action arises out of events involving a case of mistaken identity and Plaintiff's arrest for a thirty-year old crime he did not commit. At the time in question, Defendant Lisa Wilkins was an attorney employed by the Arkansas Department of Corrections, and Defendant Ray Hobbs was the Director of the Arkansas Department of Corrections. See Third Amended Complaint, Doc. No. 60 ¶ 16. Wilkins prepared an affidavit for Hobbs' signature to support a judicial finding of probable cause to conclude that Plaintiff was a wanted escapee from Arkansas prison, Steven Dishman. Id. The affidavit stated, “I have new and reasonably believe it to be accurate information as to [Mr. Dishman's] current residence at [Mr. Soler's street address], Alpine, California, and is living under the alias of James DeWolfe Soler.” Id. In turn, Hobbs presented the affidavit to an Arkansas judge, who issued an Affidavit of Probable Cause to support the extradition of “Steven Dishman, a/k/a James DeWolfe Soler” from California to Arkansas. Id. These events culminated in Plaintiff's arrest and detention by San Diego County Defendants, and ultimately this action ensued.

         The Court previously held that it lacked personal jurisdiction over Defendants Wilkins and Hobbs. See Doc. Nos. 125, 141. Plaintiff appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, see Doc. No. 162, and filed suit against Defendants Wilkins and Hobbs in the Eastern District of Arkansas. See E.D. AR. Case No. 4:17-cv-00018-BRW. The Arkansas court denied Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiff's claims, and later stayed the action pending resolution of Plaintiff's appeal. See id, Doc. Nos. 18, 26. Thereafter, the Ninth Circuit reversed this Court's determination that it lacked personal jurisdiction over Defendants Wilkins and Hobbs, and remanded the action accordingly. See Soler v. Cty. of San Diego, 762 Fed.Appx. 383 (9th Cir. 2019).

         B. Legal Standard

         A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of the complaint. See Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001). A plaintiff must plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). The plausibility standard thus demands more than a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action, or naked assertions devoid of further factual enhancement. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Instead, the complaint “must contain allegations of underlying facts sufficient to give fair notice and to enable the opposing party to defend itself effectively.” Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1216 (9th Cir. 2011). In reviewing a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), courts must accept as true all material allegations in the complaint and must construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Cholla Ready Mix, Inc. v. Civish, 382 F.3d 969, 973 (9th Cir. 2004) (citing Karam v. City of Burbank, 352 F.3d 1188, 1192 (9th Cir. 2003)).

         C. Plaintiff's Federal Claims

         As a threshold matter, Plaintiff argues that Defendants Wilkins and Hobbs are collaterally estopped from relitigating certain issues raised in their pending motion to dismiss with respect to Plaintiff's federal civil rights claims. Specifically, Plaintiff argues that the court in the Eastern District of Arkansas previously considered and rejected Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiff's federal claims, as well as Defendants' assertions of qualified immunity from suit over those claims.

         “Res judicata encompasses two subsidiary doctrines, claim preclusion and issue preclusion.” Americana Fabrics, Inc. v. L & L Textiles, Inc., 754 F.2d 1524, 1529 (9th Cir. 1985). “[I]ssue preclusion, or collateral estoppel, bars relitigation, even in an action on a different claim, of all ‘issues of fact or law that were actually litigated and necessarily decided' in the prior proceeding.” Id. (quoting Segal v. American Tel. & Tel. Co., 606 F.2d 842, 845 (9th Cir. 1979)). As such, “[w]hen the same claim or issue is litigated in two courts, the second court to reach judgment should give ...

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