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Brown v. State ex rel. Department of Corrections

United States District Court, D. Nevada

March 18, 2014

TONJA BROWN, as an Individual; and TONJA BROWN, administratrix of the Estate of Nolan Klein, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF NEVADA ex rel. The Department of Corrections, et al., Defendants.

ORDER (DEF'S MOTION TO DISMISS - DKT. NO. 12)

MIRANDA M. DU, District Judge.

I. SUMMARY

Before the Court is Defendants State of Nevada ex rel. the Nevada Department of Corrections ("NDOC"), Board of Prison Commissioners, Attorney General Catherine Cortez-Masto, Director James "Greg" Cox, Senior Deputy Attorney General William Geddes, Deputy Attorney General Kara Krause, Secretary of State Ross Miller, and Governor Brian Sandoval's Motion to Dismiss (the "Motion"). (Dkt. no. 12.) For the reasons set out below, the Motion is granted.

II. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Tonja Brown filed the Complaint on June 28, 2013. (Dkt. no. 1.) Plaintiff is proceeding pro se. The Complaint alleges that Plaintiff attended a Board of Prison Commissioners meeting on December 5, 2011. At the meeting, Plaintiff spoke to "publicly expose" Defendant Geddes for withholding exculpatory evidence in a criminal matter involving Plaintiff's brother, Nolan Klein. ( Id. at 2.) Plaintiff had an ongoing lawsuit brought on behalf of Klein against the NDOC. A settlement agreement was executed in that suit ("Settlement Agreement"). ( See dkt. no. 15, Ex. 1.) At the Board of Prison Commissioners meeting, Plaintiff referenced deposition testimony and discovery documents from that suit. After she "finished with her comments, " Plaintiff sought to introduce these documents into the public record. (Dkt. no. 1 at 4.) Defendant Geddes, speaking on behalf of the Attorney General's office and the NDOC, stated that the NDOC reserves the right to strike from the public record any confidential material read or submitted by Plaintiff. (Dkt. no. 15 at 22.)

At the next Board of Prison Commissioners meeting on May 17, 2012, the minutes for the December 5, 2011, meeting were passed and stated: "Due to a settlement agreement, several documents submitted for posting with these minutes have been specified as confidential and therefore will not be posted. Additionally, information on several other documents needs to be redacted before posting. The settlement agreement affects documents listed as attachments 2 and 12. Once the documents in question have been reviewed, all allowable documents will be placed in this record." (Dkt. no. 1 at 19.)

Plaintiff asserts claims under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985 for violation of her First Amendment rights and conspiracy to violate her First Amendment rights. Plaintiff also asserts state law claims for negligent infliction of emotional distress and violation of open meeting law.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Legal Standard

A court may dismiss a plaintiff's complaint for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). A properly pled complaint must provide "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2); Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). While Rule 8 does not require detailed factual allegations, it demands more than "labels and conclusions" or a "formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) ( citing Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)). "Factual allegations must be enough to rise above the speculative level." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Thus, to survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter to "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (internal citation omitted).

In Iqbal, the Supreme Court clarified the two-step approach district courts are to apply when considering motions to dismiss. First, a district court must accept as true all well-pled factual allegations in the complaint; however, legal conclusions are not entitled to the assumption of truth. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Mere recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported only by conclusory statements, do not suffice. Id. at 678. Second, a district court must consider whether the factual allegations in the complaint allege a plausible claim for relief. Id. at 679. A claim is facially plausible when the plaintiff's complaint alleges facts that allow a court to draw a reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the alleged misconduct. Id. at 678. Where the complaint does not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has "alleged-but not shown-that the pleader is entitled to relief." Id. at 679 (internal quotation marks omitted). When the claims in a complaint have not crossed the line from conceivable to plausible, the complaint must be dismissed. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570.

A complaint must contain either direct or inferential allegations concerning "all the material elements necessary to sustain recovery under some viable legal theory." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 562 ( quoting Car Carriers, Inc. v. Ford Motor Co., 745 F.2d 1101, 1106 (7th Cir. 1989) (emphasis in original)). Mindful of the fact that the Supreme Court has "instructed the federal courts to liberally construe the inartful pleading' of pro se litigants, " Eldridge v. Block, 832 F.2d 1132, 1137 (9th Cir. 1987), the Court will view Plaintiff's pleadings with the appropriate degree of leniency.

B. Plaintiff's Federal Law Claims

Plaintiff asserts claims under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985 for violation of her First Amendment rights and conspiracy to violate her First Amendment rights. There are two essential elements to a § 1983 claim: "(1) the defendants acted under color of law, and (2) their conduct deprived [plaintiff] of a constitutional right." Stein v. Ryan, 662 F.3d 1114, ...


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