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Stock v. Stanislaus County

United States District Court, E.D. California

January 14, 2020

LISA STOCK, Plaintiff,
v.
STANISLAUS COUNTY, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING LEAVE TO AMEND COMPLAINT (DOC. 1)

          SHEILA K. OBERTO UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         On November 8, 2019, Plaintiff Lisa Stock, proceeding pro se, filed a civil complaint against Defendants Stanislaus County; Stanislaus County Community Services Agency; Stanislaus County Behavioral Health & Recovery Services; Kathryn Harwell, “Director, ” in her individual and official capacities; Laura Rodriguez, “Social Worker IV, ” in her individual and official capacities; Kimberly Rodriguez, “Social Worker V, ” in her individual and official capacities; Marina Wilbur, “Social Worker II, ” in her individual and official capacities; Phillip Ballasch, “SUD Counselor, ” in his individual and official capacities; Melissa Maddox, “Social Worker, ” in her individual and official capacities; and “DOES 9 thru 100.” (Doc. 1.) Plaintiff purports to allege causes of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of her due process rights, namely, violation of her “right to familial association, ” violation of her right to be “free from acts of dishonesty in juvenile court proceedings, ” “perjury, ” “fabrication of evidence, ” and “suppression of exculpatory evidence, ” and for state law claims of “slander” and “libel.” (Id. at 4.) Plaintiff seeks general and punitive damages of $750, 000 for “loss of companionship, depression, anxiety, ” and “time with [her] daughter [she] will never get back.” (Id. at 6.)

         Plaintiff's complaint is now before the Court for screening. The Court finds Plaintiff has not stated a cognizable claim, but may be able to correct the deficiencies in her pleading. Thus, Plaintiff is provided the pleading and legal standards for her claims and is granted leave to file an amended complaint.

         A. Screening Requirement and Standard

         In cases where the plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis, the Court is required to screen each case, and shall dismiss the case at any time if the Court determines that the allegation of poverty is untrue, or the action or appeal is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). If the Court determines that the complaint fails to state a claim, leave to amend may be granted to the extent that the deficiencies of the complaint can be cured by amendment. Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1130 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc).

         The Court's screening of the complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) is governed by the following standards. A complaint may be dismissed as a matter of law for failure to state a claim for two reasons: (1) lack of a cognizable legal theory; or (2) insufficient facts under a cognizable legal theory. See Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). Plaintiff must allege a minimum factual and legal basis for each claim that is sufficient to give each defendant fair notice of what plaintiff's claims are and the grounds upon which they rest. See, e.g., Brazil v. U.S. Dep't of the Navy, 66 F.3d 193, 199 (9th Cir. 1995); McKee ver v. Block, 932 F.2d 795, 798 (9th Cir. 1991).

         B. Pleading Requirements

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a), a complaint 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). Detailed factual allegations are not required, but “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). In determining whether a complaint states a claim on which relief may be granted, allegations of material fact are taken as true and construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Love v. United States, 915 F.2d 1242, 1245 (9th Cir. 1989). Moreover, since plaintiff is appearing pro se, the Court must construe the allegations of the Complaint liberally and must afford plaintiff the benefit of any doubt. See Karim-Panahi v. Los Angeles Police Dep't, 839 F.2d 621, 623 (9th Cir. 1988). However, “the liberal pleading standard . . . applies only to a plaintiff's factual allegations.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 330 n.9 (1989). “[A] liberal interpretation of a civil rights complaint may not supply essential elements of the claim that were not initially pled.” Bruns v. Nat'l Credit Union Admin., 122 F.3d 1251, 1257 (9th Cir. 1997) (quoting Ivey v. Bd. of Regents, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982)).

         Further, “a plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do . . . . Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” See Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal citations omitted); see also Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (To avoid dismissal for failure to state a claim, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.' A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”) (internal citations omitted).

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Plaintiff's Allegations

         Plaintiff alleges that on November 9, 2017, at approximately 12:00 a.m., Defendant Laura Rodriguez “dumped” her teenage daughter Lillian “off at a homeless shelter” in Modesto, California, and “allowed the homeless shelter to confiscate” the daughter's phone. (Doc. 1 at 10.) At approximately 8:30 a.m. that day, “after allegedly ringing [Plaintiff's] front doorbell, while [Plaintiff's] daughter was at the homeless shelter, ” Defendant Laura Rodriguez “placed [Plaintiff's] daughter into protective custody without a warrant, ” and “without an emergency[.]” (Id.) At 8:36 a.m., Defendant Laura Rodriguez left a voicemail on Plaintiff's phone requesting that Plaintiff call her back to “discuss what happened last night between [Plaintiff] and her daughter.” (Id.) At 2:30 p.m., Defendant Laura Rodriguez stated to Plaintiff that “[Plaintiff] wanted to leave [her] daughter in the backyard” and gave Plaintiff an address for a court hearing on November 15, 2017. (Id.) On November 12, 2017, Plaintiff emailed Defendant Laura Rodriguez to refute her allegations that Plaintiff wanted to keep her daughter in the backyard, but she ignored the emails. (Id.)

         On November 15, 2017, Plaintiff went to court and received a “Juvenile Dependency Petition and Detention report, ” which contained “shocking . . . fabricated evidence” and was “perjured.” (Id. at 11.) The report allegedly “perjuriously” stated that Plaintiff's daughter “ran away” and when the police brought her home to Plaintiff's house, they found Plaintiff had “been drinking heavily, ” “locked herself in her room, and refused to talk to the police.” (Id.) Plaintiff claims these events were “conjured up and fabricated by” Defendants Laura Rodriguez and Kimberly Rodriguez. (See id.) Plaintiff alleges the report further falsely stated that Defendant Stanislaus County Community Services agency had a “concern” that Plaintiff “had an alcohol abuse problem, ” and that “[t]hey” never notified Plaintiff “of their false concern” that she had an alcohol abuse problem. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that at court on November 15, 2017, she “denied the allegations and the court based off of the lies of the social workers.” (See id.) Plaintiff alleges that she repeatedly tried to schedule visitations with her daughter, but in court paperwork “they” stated that Plaintiff “failed to schedule any visitations with [her] daughter.” (See Id. at 11-12.)

         On November 16, 2017, Plaintiff went to the “Community Services Agency, where the social workers were located, ” “with the yellow referral that [Plaintiff] was given in the court, ” to “clear up the false ‘concern' that [she] had an alcohol abuse problem, ” when Defendant Wilbur “came running out to the waiting area and asked [Plaintiff] to fill out a family questionnaire.” (Id. at 12.) Defendant Ballasch later called Plaintiff into his office and “began reading off of the Juvenile Dependency Petition and Detention report, reading off the false allegations, ” and then informed Plaintiff she would “have to attend 2 to 3 AA meetings per week and get a hair follicle test.” (Id.) Plaintiff alleges she took a drug test at the office and passed, but Defendant Ballasch nonetheless “completed recommendations and without a basis, that [Plaintiff] attend 2 to 3 AA meetings per week, get a hair follicle test, ” and “never noting that [Plaintiff] took a urine test that was clean[.]” (Id. at 12-13.) Defendant Wilbur also “created a referral to individual and family counseling . . . with no specified reason.” (Id. at 13.)

         Plaintiff alleges that in January 2018, Defendants Wilbur and Ballasch “filed” the “AOD Referral with fabricated recommendations and without a basis” that was used “to substantiate . . . that [Plaintiff] had an alcohol abuse disorder.” (Id.) Plaintiff “submitted Objections and Corrections to the social workers to correct their reports with documents, phone records, signed letters, one from [Plaintiff's] mother showing that the social workers were lying.” (Id.) Plaintiff alleges she emailed “Stanislaus County Counsel” to “point[] out that they were lying, and that [Plaintiff] would report [the Stanislaus County attorney] to the state bar . . . for misleading the Judge and for perjury[.]” (Id.) Plaintiff alleges the attorney for Stanislaus County instead “went before the court and stated [Plaintiff] threatened her, made a show in front of the court as if I were dangerous and considered a restraining order. This was to intimidate [Plaintiff].” (Id.) Plaintiff alleges Defendant Harwell, “the Director, ” received copies of Plaintiff's “filed reports, yet she did nothing about it.” (Id.)

         Plaintiff alleges that “the social workers” never conducted an “in person investigation with [Plaintiff]” and “intentionally avoided [Plaintiff], refused to investigate their wrongdoings, perjured themselves, lied to the court and egregiously blamed [Plaintiff] for their lack of actions and wrongful conduct, and put [Plaintiff] through a living hell.” (Id.) Plaintiff states that “the social workers'” conduct “amounted to kidnapping, extortion, and cruel mental torture.” (Id. at 14.)

         B.Legal Standards

         1. ...


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