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Gomez v. State

United States District Court, D. Arizona

November 17, 2017

Raymond P Gomez, et al., Plaintiffs,
State of Arizona, et al., Defendants.


          David G. Campbell United States District Judge.

         This case has been pending for almost one year. Four different complaints have been filed. Docs. 1, 57, 60, 141. In the most recent second amended complaint, Plaintiff Jesus Gomez, in his capacity as guardian for Catalina Gomez, filed a complaint with a federal cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Doc. 141. Plaintiff relies on this federal claim to trigger supplemental jurisdiction over her remaining state-law claims. Id. ¶ 14 (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1367). As the Court previously noted, it will first consider the viability of this federal claim before addressing arguments regarding the dismissal of state-law claims against various Defendants. Doc. 140.

         The Maricopa County Public Fiduciary, Maricopa County Attorney's Office, Andrea Cummings, and Jennifer Murphy (collectively, “County Defendants”) have moved for judgment on the pleadings on the § 1983 claim. Doc. 164. The motion is fully briefed, and no party requests oral argument. For the reasons that follow, the Court will dismiss the § 1983 claim and decline to exercise jurisdiction over the remaining state-law claims.

         I. Background.

         For purposes of this motion, Plaintiff's factual allegations are accepted as true. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Catalina Gomez stands at the factual heart of this case. In connection with an ongoing conservatorship/guardianship matter brought in Maricopa County Superior Court (PB2015-091767), Ms. Gomez was found incompetent. Doc. 141 ¶ 15. Shortly before this finding of incompetence, Ms. Gomez executed a deed of trust on a commercial parcel she owned located at 202 E. Broadway Road in Mesa, Arizona (the “Property”), in return for a $175, 000 loan. Id. ¶¶ 19-20.

         On March 24, 2016, the probate court appointed the Maricopa County Public Fiduciary (“MCPF”) as temporary conservator of Ms. Gomez's estate. Id. ¶¶ 31-32; Doc. 164-1 at 3. MCPF employee Jennifer Murphy handled the estate with the help of Andrea Cummings from the Maricopa County Attorney's Office (“MCAO”). Id. ¶¶ 33-34. On April 25, 2016, the beneficiary of the deed of trust, Dafni LLC, recorded a notice of trustee's sale on the Property. Id. ¶ 21; Doc. 164-1 at 16; Doc. 170-1 at 45. On May 16, 2016, the County Defendants filed an emergency motion to stay this sale for 180 days (Doc. 164-1 at 11), and the probate court addressed the motion at a June 16, 2016, evidentiary hearing. Doc. 141 ¶¶ 37, 39; Doc. 170-2 at 41. The County Defendants did not make an oral argument at the hearing (id. ¶ 42), but the court later prohibited sale of the Property without its prior approval. Doc. 164-1 at 46; Doc. 170-2 at 58.

         On July 6, 2016, the probate court replaced the County Defendants with a permanent conservator, Southwest Fiduciary, Inc. Id. ¶ 16. On September 30, 2016, the trustee's sale occurred and Dafni purchased the Property with a credit bid of $179, 118.16. Id. ¶ 22. On October 4, 2016, the trustee executed a deed conveying the Property to Dafni. Id. ¶ 23.

         Southwest Fiduciary subsequently filed an initial inventory and appraisement of Ms. Gomez's estate, which estimated the value of the Property at $290, 800. Id. ¶¶ 18-19; Doc. 164-1 at 83. It also identified the deed of trust on the Property securing a $175, 000 loan. Doc. 141 ¶¶ 18-19. These figures suggest that Ms. Gomez had more than $100, 000 equity in the Property, but sale of the Property for a credit bid effectively eliminated any equity. See Id. ¶¶ 19-20, 22, 27.

         Plaintiff alleges that the County Defendants failed to take any action to avoid the trustee's sale. Id. ¶ 26. Plaintiff asserts a claim against the County Defendants pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 under this theory: “the Plaintiff was deprived of her property and valuable property rights, including, among other things, her property and due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, in violation of the Constitution, and other Federal laws.” Id. ¶ 81.

         II. Legal Standard.

         Rule 12(c) is functionally identical to Rule 12(b)(6) and the same standard applies to motions brought under either rule. Cafasso v. United States ex. rel. Gen. Dynamics C4 Sys., Inc., 637 F.3d 1047, 1055 (9th Cir. 2011). Thus, a successful Rule 12(c) motion must show either that the complaint lacks a cognizable legal theory or fails to allege facts sufficient to support its theory. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1988). A complaint that sets forth a cognizable legal theory will survive a motion for judgment on the pleadings as long as it contains “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “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. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

         III. Scope of Review.

         The County Defendants ask the Court to take judicial notice of several exhibits, which they characterize as public records. Doc. 164 at 3 n.3. A court may not consider evidence outside the pleadings unless it converts the Rule 12(c) motion into a Rule 56 motion for summary judgment and gives the nonmovant an opportunity to respond. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d); United States v. Ritchie, 342 F.3d 903, 907 (9th Cir. 2003). A court may, however, consider matters of judicial notice without converting the motion into one for summary judgment. See Northstar Fin. Advisors, Inc. v. Schwab Invs., 779 F.3d 1036, 1042 (9th Cir. 2015); Ritchie, 342 F.3d at 908. The Ninth Circuit has explained:

Courts may only take judicial notice of adjudicative facts that are “not subject to reasonable dispute.” Fed.R.Evid. 201(b). Facts are indisputable, and thus subject to judicial notice, only if they are either “generally known” under Rule 201(b)(1) or “capable of accurate and ready determination by resort to ...

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