United States District Court, D. Arizona
Bridget S. Bade United States Magistrate Judge.
State of Arizona has filed a motion for judgment on the
pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure. (Doc. 90.) Defendants Navajo County Attorney
Brad Carlyon and Deputy Navajo County Attorney Jason Moore
have joined in the motion. (Doc. 91.) The State of Arizona has
also filed a request for judicial notice in support of the
motion for judgment on the pleadings. (Doc. 92.) Both motions
are fully briefed. (Docs. 95, 99, 102.) Additionally,
Plaintiffs have filed a request for judicial notice in
support of their opposition to Defendants' motion for
judgment on the pleadings. (Doc. 96.) As set forth below, the
Court grants the motion for judgment on the pleadings and
denies the requests for judicial notice as moot.
William Terrence (Terry) Platt and Maria B. Platt, filed this
civil rights action against multiple defendants, pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 1983, and alleged violations of their
constitutional rights based on a forfeiture proceeding in
Navajo County Superior Court. (Doc. 1-1 at 6-44; Doc. 20.)
The State of Arizona intervened as a defendant. (Doc. 16.)
The First Amended Complaint (FAC) alleged five causes of
action. (Doc. 20.) In the Third Cause of Action (Count
Three), which is at issue in the pending Rule 12(c) motion,
Plaintiffs “allege[d] that the ‘incentive
statutes,' Ariz. Rev. Stat. §§ 13-2314.03 and
13-4315, encourage law enforcement officers (including
attorneys for the state, as defined in Ariz. Rev. Stat.
§ 13-4301.1(1)), to seek forfeiture in violation of the
due process clauses of the Arizona Constitution and the
Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution . . .
.” (Doc. 70 at 18; Doc. 20 at ¶¶ 269-75.)
March 15, 2018, the Court issued an Amended Order ruling on
the various motions to dismiss. (Doc. 70.) The Court made several
rulings that are relevant to the pending Rule 12(c) motion.
Specifically, the Court dismissed as moot Plaintiffs'
claims for injunctive and declaratory relief as to Count
Three. (Doc. 70 at 44, 45.) The Court dismissed
Plaintiffs' claims for nominal monetary damages, except
for their claims for nominal monetary damages based on the
federal due process claim asserted in Count Three against
Defendants Carlyon and Moore, both sued in their official
capacities. (Id. at 45-46, 6 at n.6.) The Court also
determined that in the challenged forfeiture proceeding
Defendants Carlyon and Moore were acting as agents of the
state. (Id. at 31.)
result of the Court's rulings, Plaintiffs had the
following two remaining claims: (1) a § 1983 claim for
nominal monetary damages based on an alleged violation of
their federal due process rights by Defendants Carlyon and
Moore, in their official capacity as “state actors,
” (Count Three); and (2) a state law claim for
injunctive relief seeking the return of personal property
against Defendant Milstead (Count Five). (Id. at
46.) The parties subsequently filed a joint stipulation to
dismiss Count Five and Defendant Milstead, and the Court
dismissed Count Five and Defendant Milstead from this case.
(Doc. 94.) Therefore, Plaintiffs' only remaining claim is
for nominal monetary damages against Defendants Carlyon and
Moore, as state actors, based on an alleged violation of
their federal due process rights, as assert in Count Three.
Standard for Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings
Rule 12(c), a party may move for judgment on the pleadings
“[a]fter the pleadings are closed-but early enough not
to delay trial.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). The standard
governing a Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings
is “functionally identical” to that governing a
Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim.
United States ex rel. Cafasso v. Gen. Dynamics C4 Sys.,
Inc., 637 F.3d 1047, 1054-55 n.4 (9th Cir. 2011).
analyzing a Rule 12(c) motion, the court accepts the
nonmovant's allegations as true, see Hal Roach
Studios v. Richard Feiner & Co., Inc., 896 F.2d
1542, 1550 (9th Cir. 1989), and construes factual allegations
in a complaint in the light most favorable to the nonmovant.
Fleming v. Pickard, 581 F.3d 922, 925 (9th Cir.
2009). “Judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c) is
proper when the moving party establishes on the face of the
pleadings that there is no material issue of fact and that
the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law.” Jensen Family Farms, Inc. v. Monterey Bay
Unified Air Pollution Control Dist., 644 F.3d 934, 937
n.1 (9th Cir. 2011).
cannot consider evidence outside the pleadings unless the
court treats the motion as a motion for summary judgment
pursuant to Rule 56. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). However, a document
is not considered “outside the pleadings” if it
is attached to the complaint and its authenticity is not
questioned. Cooper v. Pickett, 137 F.3d 616, 622
(9th Cir. 1997). Additionally, a court may consider documents
“whose contents are alleged in a complaint and whose
authenticity no party questions, but which are not physically
attached to the [plaintiff's] pleading.”
Knievel v. ESPN, 393 F.3d 1068, 1076 (2005) (9th
Cir. 2005) (alteration in original).
Judgment on the Pleadings on Count Three
move for judgment on the pleadings on Count Three of the FAC
because they assert that it does not allege a claim against a
“person” for purposes of § 1983. (Doc. 90 at
3-4.) To support their argument, Defendants cite Will v.
Michigan Dept. of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989),
in which the Supreme Court held that “neither a State
nor its officials acting in their official capacities are
‘persons' under § 1983.” (See
Doc. 90 at 3-4.) Plaintiffs concede that dismissal of Count
Three on this basis is appropriate. (Doc. 95 at 4-5.)
Defendants note, the Court has previously held that
Defendants Carlyon and Moore were acting on behalf of the
State, or were state officials, for purposes of the
allegations against them in Count Three of the FAC. (Doc. 70
at 30-31, 44- 45.) Those allegations were brought pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. 20 at ¶¶ 33, 269-75.)
Section 1983 only provides a cause of action against
“persons.” Will, 491 U.S. at 60-61;
see also 42 U.S.C. § 1983; Monell v.
Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978)
(discussing § 1983 personhood). However, “neither
a State nor its officials acting in their official capacities
are ‘persons' under § 1983” for purposes
of damages claims. Will, 491 U.S. at 71.
the Court has already held that Defendants Carlyon and Moore
were “state actors, ” or state officials, for
purposes of the allegations against them in Count Three, and
state officials are not “persons” under §
1983, Will requires the dismissal of Count Three
because that count does not include allegations against a
“person” for purposes of § 1983. See
Will, 491 U.S. at 71; see also Gilbreath v. Cutter
Biological, Inc., 931 F.2d 1320, 1327 (9th Cir. 1991)
(citation omitted) (affirming dismissal of ...