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Sanchez v. State

United States District Court, D. Oregon

October 18, 2018

DAVIDA SANCHEZ, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
STATE OF WASHINGTON, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          MICHAEL H. SIMON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiffs are a mother (Davida Sanchez), her two adult children, and her one minor child, bringing pro se claims against the State of Washington, several Washington state court judges and officials, several attorneys practicing in Washington, and a Washington family advocacy entity and its employees. In Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint, it appears that they are alleging three claims: (1) one claim under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”); (2) one claim under Title III of the ADA; and (3) one claim under the Rehabilitation Act.[1] Plaintiffs do not specifically identify what claims are brought against which defendants. Plaintiffs allege both that they are “regarded as” being disabled and that they are actually disabled under the ADA. The crux of Plaintiffs' allegations is that Defendants discriminated against Plaintiffs and failed to accommodate Plaintiffs' disabilities and provide Plaintiffs with appropriate access to the courts and family law system while Ms. Sanchez adjudicated her marriage dissolution and child custody issues.

         Before the Court are motions for judgment on the pleadings brought by Defendants Tierra A. Busby, Michael H. Evans, Mary Fairhurst, Stephen M. Warning (“Judicial Officer Defendants”), and State of Washington (ECF 94), Defendants Cowlitz Family Advocacy, Christina Day-Connelly, and Tanaja Gravina (“Cowlitz Defendants”) (ECF 96), and Defendant Alex Styve (ECF 101).[2] The Court shall collectively refer to the moving defendants as “Defendants.” For the following reasons, Defendants' motions are granted, and the Court also sua sponte dismisses all claims against the defendants who have not filed motions. See, e.g., Omar v. Sea-Land Serv., Inc., 813 F.2d 986, 991 (9th Cir. 1987) (noting that a court may sua sponte dismiss claims under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), even shortly before trial); Silverton v. Dep't of Treasury, 644 F.2d 1341, 1345 (9th Cir. 1981) (noting that a trial court “may properly on its own motion dismiss an action as to defendants who have not moved to dismiss where such defendants are in a position similar to that of moving defendants or where claims against such defendants are integrally related”).

         STANDARDS

         A. Judgment on the Pleadings under Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure

          “Analysis under Rule 12(c) is ‘substantially identical' to analysis under Rule 12(b)(6) because, under both rules, a court must determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint, taken as true, entitle the plaintiff to a legal remedy.” Pit River Tribe v. Bureau of Land Mgmt., 793 F.3d 1147, 1155 (9th Cir. 2015) (quoting Chavez v. United States, 683 F.3d 1102, 1108 (9th Cir. 2012)). Dismissal for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) “is proper if there is a ‘lack of a cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory.'” Conservation Force v. Salazar, 646 F.3d 1240, 1242 (9th Cir. 2011) (quoting Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir.1988)). In addition, “to survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter to state a facially plausible claim to relief.” Shroyer v. New Cingular Wireless Services, Inc., 622 F.3d 1035, 1041 (9th Cir. 2010) (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)); see also Cafasso, United States ex rel. v. Gen. Dynamics C4 Sys., Inc., 637 F.3d 1047, 1054 n.4 (9th Cir. 2011) (noting that the Iqbal standard applies to review of Rule 12(c) motions).

         B. Personal Jurisdiction

         The plaintiff bears the burden of demonstrating that the court's exercise of jurisdiction is proper. See Schwarzenegger v. Fred Martin Motor Co., 374 F.3d 797, 800 (9th Cir. 2004) (citing Scher v. Johnson, 911 F.2d 1357, 1361 (9th Cir. 1990)). When the court's determination is based on written materials rather than an evidentiary hearing, “the plaintiff need only make a prima facie showing of jurisdictional facts.” Id. (quotation marks and citation omitted). In resolving the motion on written materials, the court must “only inquire into whether the plaintiff's pleadings and affidavits make a prima facie showing of personal jurisdiction.” Id. (quotation marks omitted) (quoting Caruth v. Int'l Psychoanalytical Ass'n, 59 F.3d 126, 128 (9th Cir. 1995)). A plaintiff cannot solely rest on the bare allegations of its complaint, but uncontroverted allegations in the complaint must be taken as true. Id. Conflicts between the parties over statements contained in affidavits must be resolved in the plaintiff's favor. Id. (citing Am. Tel. & Tel. Co. v. Compagnie Bruxelles Lambert, 94 F.3d 586, 588 (9th Cir. 1996) and Bancroft & Masters, Inc. v. Augusta Nat'l Inc., 223 F.3d 1082, 1087 (9th Cir. 2000)).

         C. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

         Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. Gunn v. Minton, 568 U.S. 251, 256 (2013) (quotation marks omitted). As such, a court is to presume “that a cause lies outside this limited jurisdiction, and the burden of establishing the contrary rests upon the party asserting jurisdiction.” Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994) (citations omitted); see also Robinson v. United States, 586 F.3d 683, 685 (9th Cir. 2009); Safe Air for Everyone v. Meyer, 373 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir. 2004). A motion to dismiss for lack of “subject-matter jurisdiction, because it involves a court's power to hear a case, can never be forfeited or waived.” United States v. Cotton, 535 U.S. 625, 630 (2002). An objection that a particular court lacks subject matter jurisdiction may be raised by any party, or by the court on its own initiative, at any time. Arbaugh v. Y&H Corp., 546 U.S. 500, 506 (2006); Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). The Court must dismiss any case over which it lacks subject matter jurisdiction. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3); see also Pistor v. Garcia, 791 F.3d 1104, 1111 (9th Cir. 2015) (noting that when a court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, meaning it lacks the statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate a case, the court must dismiss the complaint, even sua sponte if necessary).

         A motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction may be either “facial” or “factual.” See Safe Air for Everyone, 373 F.3d at 1039. A facial attack on subject matter jurisdiction is based on the assertion that the allegations contained in the complaint are insufficient to invoke federal jurisdiction. Id. “A jurisdictional challenge is factual where ‘the challenger disputes the truth of the allegations that, by themselves, would otherwise invoke federal jurisdiction.'” Pride v. Correa, 719 F.3d 1130, 1133 n.6 (9th Cir. 2013) (quoting Safe Air for Everyone, 373 F.3d at 1039)). When a defendant factually challenges the plaintiff's assertion of jurisdiction, a court does not presume the truthfulness of the plaintiff's allegations and may consider evidence extrinsic to the complaint. See Terenkian v. Republic of Iraq, 694 F.3d 1122, 1131 (9th Cir. 2012); Robinson, 586 F.3d at 685; Safe Air for Everyone, 373 F.3d at 1039. A factual challenge “can attack the substance of a complaint's jurisdictional allegations despite their formal sufficiency.” Dreier v. United States, 106 F.3d 844, 847 (9th Cir. 1996) (citation and quotation marks omitted).

         D. The Rooker-Feldman Doctrine

         Pursuant to the Rooker-Feldman[3] doctrine, federal courts lack jurisdiction to hear cases that amount to collateral attacks on state court judgments. The basic premise of that doctrine is that “a federal district court does not have subject matter jurisdiction to hear a direct appeal from the final judgment of a state court.” Noel v. Hall, 341 F.3d 1148, 1154 (9th Cir. 2003). Instead, the United States Supreme Court is the only federal court with jurisdiction to hear appeals from state courts. Id.; see 28 U.S.C. § 1257.

         The scope of the Rooker-Feldman doctrine includes de facto appeals from a state court decision and “any issue raised in the suit that is ‘inextricably intertwined' with an issue resolved by the state court in its judicial decision.” Noel, 341 F.3d at 1158. A claim is inextricably intertwined with a state court judgment if the federal claim can succeed only to the extent that the state court wrongly decided the issues before it, or if the relief requested in the federal action would effectively reverse the state court decision or void its ruling. Doe & Assocs. Law Offices v. Napolitano, 252 F.3d 1026, 1029-30 (9th Cir. 2001) (citations omitted).

         Rooker-Feldman bars a suit from going forward if the following four factors are satisfied: (1) the plaintiff in the federal suit lost in the state court proceeding; (2) the state court determination is at the core of the federal lawsuit; (3) the federal lawsuit seeks review and rejection of the state court verdict; and (4) the state court judgment was entered before commencement of the federal action. McKithen v. Brown, 481 F.3d 89, 97 (2nd Cir. 2007). A dismissal under this doctrine generally is without prejudice, although one from which the plaintiff will not be able to replead in this Court. See White v. Dobrescu, 651 Fed.Appx. 701, 703 (9th Cir. 2016) (“Because we affirm the dismissal on the basis of the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, we treat the dismissal as one without prejudice.”); see also Kelly v. Fleetwood Enters., Inc., 377 F.3d 1034, 1036 (9th Cir. 2004) (dismissals for lack of subject matter jurisdiction should be without prejudice).

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs allege that each of them has a mental health disability. Plaintiffs then allege that Defendants[4] improperly regarded Plaintiffs as mentally ill and suffering from parental alienation syndrome (“PAS”), bipolar disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”). Plaintiffs allege that Defendants “faked” the existence of these conditions, plus a spinal injury, to deem Ms. Sanchez unfit to care for her children.[5] Plaintiffs further allege that Defendants discriminated against Plaintiffs because of these perceived disabilities. Plaintiffs also allege that Defendants refused to provide Plaintiffs with appropriate accommodations necessary to ensure that Plaintiffs had full access to court proceedings to which Plaintiff Davida Sanchez was a party and at which the custody of Plaintiffs Tyler Larson (then a minor) and G.L. (Ms. Sanchez's children) were at issue.

         From Plaintiffs' allegations, in 2015 she and her ex-husband dissolved their marriage through litigation that resulted in a property settlement agreement and parenting plan. These agreements provided Ms. Sanchez with spousal support, “residential custody, ” and visitation of GL. Plaintiffs allege that in reaching this litigated resolution, Defendants “stereotyped and stigmatized” Ms. Sanchez and “perpetuated the use of PTSD . . . to prejudice Ms. Sanchez and other women in the family courts.” Plaintiffs also allege that their Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights were implicated when they were forced into mental health evaluations with providers not of their choice, and their mental health information was discussed in open court.

         Plaintiffs allege that the Title II entities involved in this case did not perform appropriate self-evaluations. Plaintiffs further allege that if those entities had performed adequate ...


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