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Finfer v. City of Reno

United States District Court, D. Nevada

June 8, 2017

CITY OF RENO, a political subdivision including its department Reno Municipal Court, Defendants.



         I. SUMMARY

         This case asserts violations of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (“RA”). Before the Court is Defendant City of Reno's Motion to Dismiss. (ECF No. 10.) The Court has reviewed Plaintiff Stuart Finfer's response (ECF No. 17) and Defendant's reply (ECF No. 21.) For the reasons discussed below, the Motion is granted and the case is dismissed. Plaintiff's motion for preliminary injunction (ECF No. 27) is denied as moot.


         The following facts are taken from Finfer's Complaint. Stuart Finfer is an alcohol and drug addiction counselor licensed by the Nevada State Board of Examiners for Alcohol, Drug, and Gambling (“the Nevada Board”). (ECF No. 1 ¶ 10.) He runs a business called Ability Counseling, and has treated patients in the Reno area since 2003. (Id.) Some of Ability Counseling's clients come to receive court mandated substance abuse counseling. (Id. ¶ 21.) Finfer has dealt with serious health issues since a young age, and underwent a series of seven surgeries between 2010 and 2013. (Id. ¶¶ 13, 14.) During his surgeries and rehabilitation, Finfer's staff handled any alcohol and drug related cases referred to Ability Counseling. (Id. ¶ 14.) After the surgeries, Finfer uses a motorized wheelchair and walker, but is capable of performing the tasks necessary to counsel his clients. (Id. ¶¶ 18-20.)

         In early 2014, Finfer learned, through an attorney with whom he had worked in the past, that at least one judge at the Reno Municipal Court (“RMC”) no longer considered Ability Counseling to be an appropriate agency to fulfill mandatory counseling requirements imposed as part of DUI sentences. (Id. ¶ 22.) Finfer, through an attorney, contacted the Nevada Board and, after some back and forth, confirmed that he was certified and his license was in good standing, and further that no disciplinary action had been taken against him in the past three years. (Id. ¶¶ 25-28.)

         Finfer contacted RMC to find out why he had been removed from the list of approved providers. A court employee informed Finfer that his intern license had expired. (Id. ¶ 30.) Finfer informed that employee that, while he was unable to sit for final licensing exam due to his surgeries, he still held a provisional license, which enabled him to practice. (Id. ¶¶ 30, 31.) Ability Counseling was placed back on RMC's list of approved providers to receive referrals from the court. (Id. ¶ 34.)

         In February 2015, Finfer and Ability Counseling were once again removed from RMC's list of approved providers. (Id. ¶¶ 35, 36.) Finfer contacted the court to inquire why he had been removed again, but he was not given a reason. (Id. ¶ 39.) At least two of Finfer's clients have been told by RMC judges that they would not receive any credit for counseling sessions with Finfer or Ability Counseling. (Id. ¶ 40.) Finfer has never been given a reason for RMC's decision. (Id. 46.)

         Finfer alleges that RMC removed him from its list of approved providers due to his disability, perception of disability, and history of disability. (Id. ¶ 43.) He alleges that doing so makes the City of Reno liable for violations of the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and international interferences with prospective economic advantage.

         Defendant moves for dismissal on several grounds. First, it argues that the decision about which providers to approve is a sentencing decision protected by judicial immunity. Second, it argues that the City cannot be liable for the actions of the judicial branch, over which it cannot exercise control. Third, it argues that the abstention principles of Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971) and O'Shea v. Littleton, 414 U.S. 488 (1974) apply. And finally, Defendant argues that beyond any abstention or immunity problems, Finfer has failed to plead plausible violations of the ADA and Rehabilitation Act. (ECF No. 10 at 4-16.)


         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 Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.) “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. Id. at 678-79. 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 it has not show[n]-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 ...

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