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La Fuente v. State

United States District Court, D. Arizona

January 9, 2017

Roque De La Fuente, Plaintiff,
v.
State of Arizona, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          John Z. Boyle United States Magistrate Judge

         Pending before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion to Amend (Doc. 11) and Defendant Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 7). For the reasons below, the Court will deny Plaintiff's Motion to Amend and grant Defendant Reagan's Motion to Dismiss.

         I. Background

         On July 20, 2016, Plaintiff filed his initial Complaint in this matter. (Doc. 1.) In his Complaint, Plaintiff asserts claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. More specifically, Plaintiff challenges the constitutionality of Arizona state election laws, A.R.S. § 16-801, A.R.S. § 16-803, and A.R.S. § 16-341, which impose petition requirements to establish a new political party in Arizona and to allow an independent political candidate to appear on a ballot. (Id.) Plaintiff's Complaint seeks judgment (1) declaring that the Arizona statutory provisions he challenges are unconstitutional, (2) enjoining Defendants from enforcing each of the provisions, and (3) ordering that Plaintiff be placed on the 2016 presidential ballot in Arizona. (Id. at 7-8.)

         On September 23, 2016, Defendant Reagan filed a Partial Motion to Dismiss, requesting the Court dismiss Plaintiff's claim for injunctive relief in the form of a Court order requiring that he be placed on the 2016 presidential ballot in Arizona because such relief is barred by the doctrine of laches. (Doc. 7.) On September 30, 2016, the Court issued an Order directing Plaintiff to respond to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss on or before October 31, 2016, and warning him of the consequences of his failure to respond. (Doc. 10.) Specifically, the Court cautioned Plaintiff that it “may, in its discretion, treat your failure to respond to Defendant's Partial Motion to Dismiss as consent to the granting of that Motion without further notice, ” and “[i]f the Court grants the Partial Motion to Dismiss, your claim for injunctive relief will be dismissed.” However, Plaintiff has not responded to the Motion to Dismiss.

         Instead, on November 2, 2016, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Amend his Complaint. (Doc. 11.) Plaintiff's proposed First Amended Complaint asserts the same claims and allegations against Defendants as his initial Complaint (see Docs. 1, 12). However, Plaintiff, appearing to acknowledge that his case would not be litigated in time for him to appear on the 2016 presidential ballot, seeks to amend his Complaint to add a claim for compensatory damages he asserts resulted from Arizona's unconstitutional statutory scheme. (Doc. 11 at 2.) On November 16, 2016, Defendants State of Arizona and Reagan filed a Response in Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion to Amend. (Doc. 13.) Plaintiff has not filed a reply, and the time to do so has passed. LRCiv. 7.2(d).

         II. Plaintiff's Motion to Amend

         Plaintiff seeks to amend his Complaint to include a claim for compensatory damages resulting from Defendants' enforcement of the statutory provisions Plaintiff challenges. (Docs. 11, 12.)

         Rule 15(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that “the court should freely give leave [to amend] when justice so requires.” However, a district court has the discretion to grant or deny a motion to amend. See, e.g., Ventress v. Japan Airlines, 603 F.3d 676, 680 (9th Cir. 2010); Chappel v. Laboratory Corp. of Amer., 232 F.3d 719, 725 (9th Cir. 2000). Factors that may justify denying a motion to amend are undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive, futility of amendment, undue prejudice to the opposing party, and whether the plaintiff has previously amended his or her pleadings. Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962); Bonin v. Calderon, 59 F.3d 815, 845 (9th Cir. 1995). “Futility of amendment can, by itself, justify the denial of a motion for leave to amend.” Bonin, 59 F.3d at 845; see also Lockheed Martin Corp. v. Network Solutions, Inc., 194 F.3d 980, 986 (9th Cir. 1999) (“Where the legal basis for a cause of action is tenuous, futility supports the refusal to grant leave to amend.”).

         Defendants oppose Plaintiff's Motion to Amend on the basis that the proposed amendment is futile. (Doc. 13.) More specifically, Defendants contend that Plaintiff's request for monetary damages against Defendants is barred by the Eleventh Amendment.

         The Eleventh Amendment prohibits Plaintiff from bringing a claim for damages against the State of Arizona or the Secretary in her official capacity. See Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 100 (1984) (“This Court's decisions thus establish that ‘an unconsenting State is immune from suits brought in federal courts by her own citizens as well as by citizens of another state.'” (internal citations omitted)); Cortez v. Cty. of L.A., 294 F.3d 1186, 1188 (9th Cir. 2001) (“a state and its officials sued in their official capacity are not considered ‘persons' within the meaning of § 1983, due to the sovereign immunity generally afforded states by the Eleventh Amendment.”). There is, however, an exception to this general rule for claims seeking prospective relief. See Will v. Mich. Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989).

         Here, Plaintiff's proposed amendment seeks damages against the State and a State official in her official capacity. Therefore, Plaintiff's proposed amendment is barred by the Eleventh Amendment and is futile. Plaintiff has not provided any basis for the Court to find otherwise. Accordingly, the Court will deny Plaintiff's Motion to Amend.

         III. Defendant Reagan's Partial Motion to Dismiss

         Also pending before the Court is Defendant Reagan's Partial Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. 7.) Defendant requests the Court dismiss Plaintiff's claim for an order requiring Defendants to place Plaintiff on the 2016 presidential ballot ...


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