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Platt v. Moore

United States District Court, D. Arizona

August 6, 2018

William Terence Platt, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
Jason Moore, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          Bridget S. Bade United States Magistrate Judge.

         Intervenor-Defendant 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.[1] (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.

         I. Background

         Plaintiffs, 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.)

         On March 15, 2018, the Court issued an Amended Order ruling on the various motions to dismiss.[2] (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.)

         As a 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.

         II. Standard for Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings

         Under 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).

         When 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).

         A court 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).

         III. Judgment on the Pleadings on Count Three

         Defendants 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.)

         As 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.

         Because 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 ...


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