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Ocasio v. Perez

United States District Court, D. Nevada

March 22, 2017

WILLIAM PEREZ, et al., Defendants.


          Gloria M. Navarro, Chief Judge United States District Judge

         Pending before the Court is the Motion to Dismiss, (ECF No. 23), filed by Defendants William Perez (“Officer Perez”), Corey Gribbin (“Officer Gribbin”) (collectively the “Officers”), Debrah Tanner (“Tanner”), and Dr. Bradley Gruner (“Gruner”) (collectively “Defendants”). Pro se Plaintiff Alexander Ocasio (“Plaintiff”)[1] filed a Response, (ECF No. 28), and Defendants filed a Reply, (ECF No. 30). For the reasons discussed below, the Court GRANTS Defendants' Motion to Dismiss.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This case arises from Plaintiff's arrest for stalking a sixteen-year-old female student, Alexis Clark (“Clark”), while he was a student at the College of Southern Nevada's West Charleston Campus (“CSN”) located in Las Vegas, Nevada. (See Am. Compl. 2:13-21, ECF No. 15). Plaintiff alleges he met Clark during his final semester at CSN when he was forty-six years old. (Id. 2:23-25, 3:3-7). According to Plaintiff, “[t]he two students voluntarily exchanged names and phone numbers and communicated sporadically and infrequently primarily by means of telephonic text messaging, at all times while off campus.” (Id. 3:10-13).

         Through text messages, “Plaintiff began to flirt with [Clark].” (Id. 3:26-27). Ultimately, Clark asked Plaintiff to “[l]eave [her] alone, ” and Plaintiff alleges that he did so. (Id.).

         On April 27, 2014, Plaintiff alleges that he visited the CSN computer lab and coincidentally sat “two seats away” from Clark. (Id. 4:1-7). Plaintiff alleges that after working for “30 minutes or so, ” Clark left the building, followed by Plaintiff “[a]bout 2 minutes later.” (Id. 4:13-18). Believing that Plaintiff was following her, Clark called the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (“LVMPD”) and filed a complaint with Officer Perez, a CSN police officer, regarding Plaintiff's behavior the next day. (Id. 5:5-7). On April 28, 2014, Plaintiff alleges that he was arrested on an unrelated charge and released on May 1, 2014. (Id. 5:19-6:3). On the morning of his release at approximately 3:30 a.m., Plaintiff alleges that, unbeknownst to him, his cell phone called Clark's number. (Id. 6:4-12).

         Later that day, as Plaintiff “was in the process of moving out of his apartment, ” Officers Perez and Gribbin, accompanied by LVMPD officers, arrested Plaintiff outside of Plaintiff's apartment for stalking. (Id. 7:6-9, 7:24-8:6). Following his arrest, Plaintiff alleges that Officer Gribbin, also a CSN police officer, “forwarded his police report concerning the arrest of Plaintiff . . . to [Tanner] the Compliance Investigator II of the Affirmative Action Office of the College of Southern Nevada at the West Charleston Campus and to [Gruner] (student conduct officer) the Assistant Vice President of Student Services for administrative action to be taken against the Plaintiff.” (Id. 9:15-23). On May 14, 2014, Plaintiff appeared before Tanner regarding Clark's sexual harassment complaint against him, and on May 27, 2014, Plaintiff before Gruner regarding the charges of student misconduct against him. (Id. 12:26-28, 13:6-8, 16:20-23).

         Plaintiff alleges various constitutional violations against the Officers for their handling of his arrest as well as Tanner and Gruner for their handling of the student misconduct complaints against him. (See generally id.). In the instant Motion, Defendants seek dismissal of Plaintiff's claims against them.


         A. Motion to Dismiss

         Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure mandates that a court dismiss a cause of action that fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. See North Star Int'l v. Ariz. Corp. Comm'n, 720 F.2d 578, 581 (9th Cir. 1983). When considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim, dismissal is appropriate only when the complaint does not give the defendant fair notice of a legally cognizable claim and the grounds on which it rests. See Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). In considering whether the complaint is sufficient to state a claim, the Court will take all material allegations as true and construe them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See NL Indus., Inc. v. Kaplan, 792 F.2d 896, 898 (9th Cir. 1986).

         The Court, however, is not required to accept as true allegations that are merely conclusory, unwarranted deductions of fact, or unreasonable inferences. See Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors, 266 F.3d 979, 988 (9th Cir. 2001). A formulaic recitation of a cause of action with conclusory allegations is not sufficient; a plaintiff must plead facts showing that a violation is plausible, not just possible. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555) (emphasis added). In order to survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must allege “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. “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.” Id.

         “Generally, a district court may not consider any material beyond the pleadings in ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion . . . . However, material which is properly submitted as part of the complaint may be considered on a motion to dismiss.” Hal Roach Studios, Inc. v. Richard Feiner & Co., 896 F.2d 1542, 1555 n.19 (9th Cir. 1990) (citations omitted). Similarly, “documents whose contents are alleged in a complaint and whose authenticity no party questions, but which are not physically attached to the pleading, may be considered in ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss” without converting the motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment. Branch v. Tunnell, 14 F.3d 449, 454 (9th Cir. 1994). Under Federal Rule of Evidence 201, a court may take judicial notice of “matters of public record.” Mack v. S. Bay Beer Distrib., 798 F.2d 1279, 1282 (9th Cir. 1986). Otherwise, if the district court considers materials outside of the pleadings, the motion to dismiss is converted into a motion for summary judgment. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(d); Arpin v. Santa Clara Valley Transp. Agency, 261 F.3d 912, 925 (9th Cir. 2001).

         If the court grants a motion to dismiss, it must then decide whether to grant leave to amend. Pursuant to Rule 15(a), the court should “freely” give leave to amend “when justice so requires, ” and in the absence of a reason such as “undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of the movant, repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, undue prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of allowance of the amendment, futility of the amendment, etc.” Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962). Generally, leave to amend is only denied when it is clear that the deficiencies of the complaint cannot be cured by amendment. See DeSoto v. Yellow Freight Sys., Inc., 957 F.2d 655, 658 (9th Cir. 1992).

         B. Qualified Immunity

         Qualified immunity protects defendants “from suit” and is not “a mere defense to liability.” Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 237 (2009). Defendants can move for qualified immunity at the pleadings stage because “the ‘driving force' behind creation of the qualified immunity doctrine was a desire to ensure that ‘insubstantial claims' against government officials [will] be resolved prior to discovery . . . .” Id. at 231 (quoting Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 640 n.2 (1987)); cf. Butz v. Economou, 438 U.S. 478, 506 (1978) (explaining that qualified immunity is vital “to protect officials who are required to exercise their discretion and the related public interest in encouraging the vigorous exercise of official authority”).

         The qualified immunity test is a two-pronged inquiry in which courts must consider whether the facts alleged “make out a violation of a constitutional right” and whether “the right at issue was ‘clearly established' at the time of defendant's alleged misconduct.” Pearson, 555 U.S. at 816 (quoting Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 201 (2001)). The “relevant, dispositive inquiry is whether it would be clear to a reasonable officer that the conduct was unlawful in the situation he confronted.” Saucier, 533 U.S. at 194-95; see also Anderson, 483 U.S. at 640 (“The contours of the right must be sufficiently clear that a reasonable official would understand that what he is doing violates that right.”). A court may consider the two prongs of the qualified immunity inquiry in any order it pleases. Pearson, 555 U.S. at 234, 239.

         Under the first prong, courts consider whether the alleged facts, taken in the light most favorable to plaintiff, show that defendants' conduct violated a constitutional right. Saucier, 533 U.S. at 201. In resolving this first inquiry, the court determines whether the alleged facts, taken in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, show that defendants were reasonable in their belief that their conduct did not violate the Constitution. Wilkins v. City of Oakland, 350 F.3d 949, 955 (9th Cir. 2003). In other words, even if the defendants' actions did violate the Fourth Amendment, a “reasonable but mistaken belief that [their] conduct was lawful would result in the grant of qualified immunity.” Id. Qualified immunity thus “provides ample protection to all but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law.” Id. (quoting Malley v. Briggs, 475 U.S. 335, 341 (1986)).

         Under the second prong, the court determines “whether the right was clearly established” and applies an “objective but fact-specific inquiry.” Inouye v. Kemna, 504 F.3d 705, 712 (9th Cir. 2007); see Saucier, 533 U.S. at 202. It is not enough that the general rule is established. Id. The critical question is whether “the contours of the right were sufficiently clear that a reasonable official would understand that what he is doing violates the right.” Saucier, 533 U.S. at 202. “The relevant dispositive inquiry in determining whether a right is clearly established is whether it would be clear to a reasonable officer that his conduct was unlawful in the situation he confronted.” Id. The court's “task is to determine whether the preexisting law provided the defendants with fair warning that their conduct was unlawful.” Elliot-Park v. Manglona, 592 F.3d 1003, 1008 (9th Cir. 2010).

         III. ...

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