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Fanaro v. County of Contra Costa

United States District Court, N.D. California

January 8, 2020

COUNTY OF CONTRA COSTA, et al., Defendants.


          William H. Orrick United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Jearhamel Fanaro brings claims arising out of a brutal attack that occurred in Contra Costa County's Martinez Detention Facility. In addition to bringing suit against the County and his inmate attackers, Fanaro seeks to hold Sheriff's Deputies Omar De Leon and Antonio Rosas accountable for allegedly facilitating his attack, or least overlooking evidence that it was taking place. Before me is their motion to dismiss some but not all of the claims and theories pleaded against them.[1] For the reasons set forth below, the motion is GRANTED.


         I detailed Fanaro's allegations in my October 15, 2019 Order granting in part and denying in part the Contra Costa County Defendants' motion to dismiss; I incorporate that discussion by reference here. See Granting in Part and Denying in Part the County Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (“County MTD Order”) [Dkt. No. 36]. Fanaro filed a Second Amended Complaint in response to that Order on October 30, 2019. See Second Amended Complaint (“SAC”) [Dkt. No. 39]. De Leon filed a motion to dismiss on December 11, 2019, and Rosas joined his motion the following day. See Motion to Dismiss (“MTD”) [Dkt. No. 52]; Joinder in Defendant De Leon's Motion [Dkt. No. 53].


         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a district court must dismiss a complaint if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the plaintiff must allege “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007). A claim is facially plausible when the plaintiff pleads facts that “allow the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citation omitted). There must be “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. While courts do not require “heightened fact pleading of specifics, ” a plaintiff must allege facts sufficient to “raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 570.

         In deciding whether the plaintiff has stated a claim upon which relief can be granted, the court accepts the plaintiff's allegations as true and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Usher v. City of Los Angeles, 828 F.2d 556, 561 (9th Cir. 1987). However, the court is not required to accept as true “allegations that are merely conclusory, unwarranted deductions of fact, or unreasonable inferences.” In re Gilead Scis. Sec. Litig., 536 F.3d 1049, 1055 (9th Cir. 2008). If the court dismisses the complaint, it “should grant leave to amend even if no request to amend the pleading was made, unless it determines that the pleading could not possibly be cured by the allegation of other facts.” Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1127 (9th Cir. 2000).



         De Leon and Rosas move to dismiss claims one, two, and four insofar as they seek to proceed under a theory of Monell liability. MTD 4-6. Fanaro does not oppose the motion to dismiss claims two and four. See Opposition (“Oppo.”) [Dkt. No. 55] 12. As for claim one, Fanaro seems to misunderstand the nature of the defendants' motion. They do not contend that Section 1983 liability is foreclosed, but rather that Monell is the wrong vehicle when it comes to individual defendants. See Reply [Dkt. No. 58] 2-3. There is no dispute that De Leon and Rosas are not public entities; claim one cannot proceed against them insofar as it rests on a theory of Monell liability. The motion is GRANTED. Claims two and four are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE and claim one is DISMISSED insofar as it rests on Monell.

         I also note that Fanaro again wrongly criticizes the defendants for citing district court cases that have not been published in the official reporter. Oppo. 9-10. I addressed this error in my October 15, 2019 Order on the County Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. County MTD Order 7 n.4. The rule Fanaro cites applies to cases that are listed “not for citation.” See Civ. L.R. 3-4(e). As long as they do not bear this warning, district court cases published through Westlaw and Lexis are certainly citable. Fanaro should not repeat this argument in future filings.


         Article I section 7 of the California Constitution provides, “A person may not be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law or denied equal protection of the laws.” Cal. Const. art. I, § 7. De Leon and Rosas move to dismiss Fanaro's claim for money damages for the due process violation alleged in claim six. As set forth below, the positions Fanaro articulates in response are flawed in several respects.

         The California Supreme Court has adopted a test to determine whether to recognize a tort action for damages under a given constitutional provision where the language and history of the provision itself does not clearly indicate the presence or absence of such a right.[2]See Katzberg v. Regents of Univ. of California, 29 Cal.4th 300, 324-25 (2002). The factors are: (i) “whether an adequate remedy exists, ” (ii) “the extent to which a constitutional tort action would change established tort law, ” (iii) “the nature and significance of the constitutional provision, ” and (iv) “the existence of any special factors counseling hesitation in recognizing a damages action.”[3]Id. at 317. In Katzberg, the court determined that money damages are not available for a violation of the due process liberty interest under article I, section 7(a).[4]Id. at 329. In his Opposition, Fanaro concedes that “the first three ...

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