Normandeau v. City of Phoenix

Decision Date12 April 2005
Docket NumberNo. CIV 03-0316-PHX-ROS.,CIV 03-0316-PHX-ROS.
Citation516 F.Supp.2d 1054
PartiesDavid NORMANDEAU, Plaintiff, v. CITY OF PHOENIX; Jones, Skelton & Hochuli; Stacey K. Stanton, Division Director of the Motor Vehicle Department, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Arizona

David Normandeau, Phoenix, AZ, pro se.

John T. Masterson, Esq., Eileen Joan Dennis Gilbride, Jones Skelton & Hochuli PLC, James Nelson Smith, Jr., Office of the Attorney General, Liability Management Section, Phoenix, AZ, for Defendants.

OPINION

ROSLYN O. SILVER, District Judge.

Acting pro se, Plaintiff filed an action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants (Doc. # 1), alleging violations of his constitutional rights arising from numerous traffic citations he received in 1989 and 1990 which eventually resulted in suspension of his driver's license. On March 31, 2004, the Court entered an order (Doc. # 40) granting Defendant Stacey K. Stanton's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. # 7), Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings by Defendant City of Phoenix (Doc. # 11), and Motion to Dismiss on Behalf of Defendant Jones, Skelton & Hochuli (Doc. # 12), which disposed of this action. In its March 31, 2004 Order the Court also denied as moot Plaintiff's Motion for Preliminary Injunction (Doc. # 21), Plaintiff's Motion for Preliminary Injunction # 2 (Doc. # 32), Defendant City of Phoenix's Motion to Strike Plaintiff's "Supplement" to his Response to the City's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (Doc. # 29), and Defendant City of Phoenix's Request for Summary Disposition of Defendant City of Phoenix's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (Doc. # 19). The Court stated that a written opinion would follow. This is that opinion.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff was stopped while driving his car in Phoenix, Arizona on July 7, 1989 and was cited for driving with an expired registration and without proof of insurance. [Doc. # 1, ¶ 15]. After appearing in Phoenix Municipal Court ("City Court") and pleading guilty, Plaintiff was fined $420.00 and he requested an extended payment plan. [Id.]. Plaintiff failed to make any payments, after which the City Court allowed him 30 days to pay the fine before his license would be revoked. [Id.]. Plaintiff was subjected to subsequent traffic stops on October 5, 8, 20, and 22, 1989 while driving either to or from work, and was cited each time for driving on an expired registration and without proof of insurance. [Id. ¶ 7].

After failing to appear in City Court with regard to the October 1989 citations, Plaintiff was fined an additional $3,040.00, which he refused to pay. [Id. ¶¶ 12-13]. Thereafter, default judgments were entered against him in City Court for failure to appear, and he was notified that if he did not remit the entire $3,468.00 he then owed, the Motor Vehicle Division of the Arizona Department of Transportation ("MVD") would be asked to suspend Plaintiff's driver's license pursuant to A.R.S. § 28-1080 until the amount owing was paid. [Id.]. MVD subsequently suspended Plaintiff's license.

Plaintiff continued to drive and was stopped again in Phoenix on March 9, 1990, and was again cited for driving on a suspended license, with an expired registration and with no proof of insurance. [Id. ¶ 16]. This time, Plaintiff appeared in City Court where he was found guilty. [Id.]. He was fined $1,102.00 on the charge of driving without proof of insurance, and $600.00 for driving on a suspended license. [Id.]. Plaintiff served a seven-day jail term to satisfy the fine for driving on a suspended license. Plaintiff's license remains suspended today, more than 14 years later. [Id. ¶ 20].

Plaintiff, acting pro se, filed the instant Complaint on February 19, 2003 against the City of Phoenix, the Phoenix law firm of Jones, Skelton & Hochuli ("JSH"), and Stacey K. Stanton, Division Director of the MVD, in her official capacity. Plaintiff alleges that he was fined and had his driver's license revoked without due process of law in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, and was further subjected to unreasonable searches and seizures in violation of the Fourth Amendment. [Doc. # 1, ¶¶ 4, 10]. Plaintiff also alleges that Jones, Skelton & Hochuli were the "ringleaders" in a conspiracy with the City of Phoenix and MVD to initiate the traffic stops giving rise to Plaintiff's license revocation and traffic fines (id. ¶¶ 6-8); that A.R.S. § 28-1601 (formerly A.R.S. § 28-1080) is unconstitutional on its face and as applied to him (id. ¶ 23); that his fine of $1,102.00 for lack of proof of insurance violated the protections of the Eighth Amendment against excessive fines and was cruel and unusual punishment (id. ¶ 29); that he was denied his right of access to the courts due to "harassment" by the City of Phoenix and JSH in the form of repeated traffic stops and citations (id. ¶¶ 33, 37); and that MVD operates a "52-state" computer network pursuant to which Arizona and other states share outstanding traffic citation and license suspension information1 which is not authorized by the Constitution (id. ¶¶ 40-41).

Plaintiff requests declaratory judgments declaring that: (1) his traffic stops and citations in October 1989 constituted harassment and abuse of power, and that the stops, citations, default judgments, and license suspensions were acts intended to further the alleged conspiracy to deprive Plaintiff of his Fourth Amendment right to remain free of unreasonable searches and seizures and of his due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment; (2) his due process rights were denied regarding his citations dated July 7, 1989 and March 9, 1990; (3) that A.R.S. § 28-1601 is unconstitutional on its face and as applied to him; and (4) the Multi-State Highway Transportation Act notification program is unconstitutional. [Doc. # 1, pp. 23-25].

Plaintiff further asks the Court to order that his October 1989 and March 1990 citations be overturned, that he be refunded $ 500.00 in fines paid, and that his driver's license suspension be lifted. [Id.]. Additionally, Plaintiff requests a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction enjoining Defendant Stacey K. Stanton from suspending his driver's license, and enjoining the MVD from notifying other states of Plaintiff's license suspensions, and from denying Plaintiff a license based on his license suspensions in other states. [Id.]. Finally, Plaintiff asks for compensatory damages of $2,000,000.00 and punitive damages of $5,000,000.00 against JSH. [Doc. # 1, p. 25].

As noted, Defendants Stanton and JSH moved to dismiss the Complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b), Fed.R.Civ.P. [Does. Nos. 7, 12]. The City of Phoenix moved for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c), Fed.R.Civ.P.

II. MOTIONS TO DISMISS
A. Legal standard for dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) and Rule 12(c)

A court may not dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim "unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claims which would entitle him to relief." Barnett v. Centoni, 31 F.3d 813, 813 (9th Cir.1994) (citing Buckey, v. Los Angeles, 957 F.2d 652, 654 (9th Cir.1992)). "The federal rules require only a `short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.'" Gilligan v. Jamco Dev. Corp., 108 F.3d 246, 248 (9th Cir.1997) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)). "The Rule 8 standard contains a powerful presumption against rejecting pleadings for failure to state a claim." Id. at 249 (quotation marks omitted). "All that is required are sufficient allegations to put defendants fairly on notice of the claims against them." McKeever v. Block, 932 F.2d 795, 798 (9th Cir.1991) (citing Conley, 355 U.S. at 47, 78 S.Ct. 99; 5 C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice & Procedure § 1202 (2d ed.1990)). Indeed, though "`it may appear on the face of the pleadings that a recovery is very remote and unlikely[,] ... that is not the test.'" Gilligan, 108 F.3d at 249 (quoting Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236, 94 S.Ct. 1683, 40 L.Ed.2d 90 (1974)). "`The issue is not whether the plaintiff will ultimately prevail but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims.'" Id.

It is well established that pro se complaints, "however inartfully pleaded[,] are held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers[.]" Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9, 101 S.Ct. 173, 66 L.Ed.2d 163 (1980) (quotation marks omitted); see Ortez v. Wash. County, 88 F.3d 804, 807 (9th Cir.1996) ("Because Ortez is a pro se litigant, we must construe liberally his inartful pleading[.]") (citation omitted). "In civil rights cases where the plaintiff appears pro se, the `court must construe the pleading liberally and must afford plaintiff the benefit of any doubt." Karim-Panahi v. L.A. Police Dep't, 839 F.2d 621, 623 (9th Cir.1988).

When analyzing a complaint for failure to state a claim, "[a]ll allegations of material fact are taken as true and construed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party." Smith v. Jackson, 84 F.3d 1213, 1217 (9th Cir.1996); see Miree v. DeKalb County, 433 U.S. 25, 27 n. 2, 97 S.Ct. 2490, 53 L.Ed.2d 557 (1977). In addition, the district court must assume that all general allegations "embrace whatever specific facts might be necessary to support them." Peloza v. Capistrano Unified Sch. Dist., 37 F.3d 517, 521 (9th Cir.1994), cert. denied, 515 U.S. 1173, 115 S.Ct. 2640, 132 L.Ed.2d 878 (1995) (citations omitted). The district court need not assume, however, that the plaintiff can prove facts different from those alleged in the complaint. See Associated Gen. Contractors of Cal. v. Cal State Council of Carpenters, 459 U.S. 519, 526, 103 S.Ct. 897, 74 L.Ed.2d 723 (1983).

"Dismissal can be based on the lack of a cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory." Balistreri v. Pacifica...

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