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Stypeck v. City of Clarkdale

United States District Court, D. Arizona

May 24, 2016

Donna L. Stypeck, Plaintiff,
v.
City of Clarkdale et al., Defendants.

          AMENDED ORDER

          DAVID G. CAMPBELL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On March 4, 2016, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint, asserting claims against Defendant Kathy Parker under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985. Doc. 54. Defendant Parker moves for judgment on the pleadings. Doc. 62. The issues are fully briefed, Docs. 67-68, and no party has requested oral argument. The Court will grant the motion.

         I. Background.

         In June 2015, Plaintiff’s dog was involved in an altercation with Richard Calvert’s horse. Doc. 1. Calvert told the authorities that Plaintiff’s dog bit his horse and that veterinary treatment was required. Id. In August 2015, Defendant Parker sent a letter to Plaintiff asking to interview her about the incident. Doc. 54, ¶ 4. The letter was signed by Jonathan Millet, an attorney with the firm Boyle, Pecharich, Cline, Whittington, & Stallings, P.L.L.C. (“Boyle PLLC”). Id. at 12. Boyle PPLC has contracted with the Town of Clarksdale to serve as its town prosecutor. Doc. 21 at 18-22.

         When Plaintiff called Parker, Parker allegedly told Plaintiff: “And here’s how it goes. If you don’t pay the vet bill [for Calvert’s horse], then charges will be filed.” Doc. 54, ¶ 4. Plaintiff agreed to pay the vet bill. Parker sent a follow-up letter, signed by Millet, confirming this agreement and stating that Millet would “reconsider [his] decision not to file charges” if she did not pay the vet bill as agreed. Id., ¶ 5, and p. 13.

         Plaintiff filed claims under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985 against Millett and Parker, asserting that they violated the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments. Doc. 1. Defendants filed a Rule 12(c) motion. The Court dismissed the claims against Millet, finding that his conduct was protected by absolute prosecutorial immunity. Doc. 40 at 2-3. The Court held that Parker was not entitled to absolute immunity because she performed only an administrative role and was not “‘responsible for the decision to initiate or continue a proceeding.’” Id. at 4 (quoting Butz v. Economou, 438 U.S. 478, 515 (1978)). The Court further found that Plaintiff had not adequately pleaded any claim against Parker. Id. at 5. The Court therefore dismissed the claims against Parker, but granted Plaintiff leave to amend her complaint. Id. at 6. Plaintiff filed an amended complaint which asserts that Parker violated the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments, and is therefore liable under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985. Doc. 54.

         II. Legal Standard.

         A Rule 12(c) dismissal is proper when “the moving party clearly establishes on the face of the pleadings that no material issue of fact remains to be resolved.” Hal Roach Studios, Inc. v. Richard Feiner & Co., Inc., 896 F.2d 1542, 1550 (9th Cir. 1989). The Court applies the “same standard of review” in ruling on a 12(c) motion as a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. Dworkin v. Hustler Magazine, Inc., 867 F.2d 1188, 1192 (9th Cir. 1989). Dismissal is appropriate if the complaint does not contain “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citation omitted).

         III. Analysis.

         Defendant argues that she enjoys absolute or qualified immunity, and that Plaintiff fails to state a claim. Doc. 62.

         A. Absolute Immunity.

         In dismissing Plaintiff’s original complaint, the Court concluded that Parker was not entitled to absolute immunity because she performed only an administrative role and was not “‘responsible for the decision to initiate or continue a proceeding.’” Id. at 4 (quoting Butz, 438 U.S. at 515). Defendant disagrees with this ruling, and offers new reasons why she believes absolute immunity applies. Doc. 62 at 5-8. If Defendant disagreed with an aspect of the Court’s prior ruling, however, she should have filed a motion for reconsideration. The deadline for filing such a motion has long since passed, LRCiv 7.2(g)(2), and Defendant fails to identify any good cause for her delay. Even if the Court were inclined to reconsider its prior ruling, Defendant has not shown that the ruling rested on manifest error or is undermined by new facts or legal authority. LRCiv. 7.2(g)(1). The Court will not depart from its prior ruling.

         B. Qualified Immunity.

         Under the doctrine of qualified immunity, government officials are protected from civil damages liability “insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.” Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 231 (2009) (citation and quotation marks omitted). To overcome this immunity, a plaintiff must plead facts showing “(1) that the official violated a statutory or constitutional right, and (2) that the right was clearly ...


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