Williams v. Gorton, No. 74--2627

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore BROWNING and CHOY; CHOY
Citation529 F.2d 668
Docket NumberNo. 74--2627
Decision Date19 January 1976
PartiesRalph L. WILLIAMS and Mary Jane Williams, his wife, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. Slade GORTON and Sally Gorton, his wife, etc., Defendants-Appellees.

Page 668

529 F.2d 668
Ralph L. WILLIAMS and Mary Jane Williams, his wife,
Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
Slade GORTON and Sally Gorton, his wife, etc., Defendants-Appellees.
No. 74--2627.
United States Court of Appeals,
Ninth Circuit.
Jan. 19, 1976.

Page 669

Jennings P. Felix (argued), Seattle, Wash., for plaintiffs-appellants.

Angelo R. Petruss, Asst. Atty. Gen. (argued), Olympia, Wash., for defendants-appellees.

OPINION

Before BROWNING and CHOY, Circuit Judges, and LUCAS, * District Judge.

CHOY, Circuit Judge:

Ralph Williams, 1 a resident of California, brought this Civil Rights Act (42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985) and diversity defamation action against Slade Gorton, the Attorney General of Washington, and fifty unnamed defendants. The district court dismissed the action on Gorton's motion. Williams appeals. 2 We affirm in part and reverse and remand in part.

Background

Williams did business as a Chrysler-Plymouth dealer in Seattle through Ralph Williams' North West Chrysler Plymouth, Inc., of which he was president. In October 1970, the State of Washington brought a consumer protection action against Williams and the

Page 670

dealership alleging various false, deceptive, misleading, and unfair trade practices in selling new and used cars. 3 In December 1970, the assets of the corporation were seized by the State Department of Revenue for non-payment of taxes, and the dealership was terminated, ending the business.

In May 1972, the state court dismissed the consumer protection action, and the State appealed to the State Supreme Court. Pending the appeal, Gorton, while campaigning for re-election in the Fall of 1972, made many uncomplimentary statements about Williams and the car dealership.

In November 1972, Williams filed this action alleging, among other things, that Gorton's statements were defamatory because:

(1) Gorton told a group of lawyers that Ralph Williams was the most flagrant violator of the consumer protection laws that he had ever seen while in office.

(2) Gorton stated in the official voters' pamphlet that he had forced clean-up of questionable car dealer practices, particularly as to Williams.

(3) A Gorton election handbill accused Williams of being a con-man.

(4) Such statements were also made by Gorton in speeches and in radio and television advertisements.

Williams also alleged that these statements deprived him of his constitutional rights.

Gorton moved to dismiss the complaint under F.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1), lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter, and 12(b)(6), failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The district court granted the motion in July 1974, without stating reasons. Subsequent to the dismissal, the state consumer protection action was tried without a jury pursuant to a Washington Supreme Court remand. See State v. Ralph Williams' N.W. Chrysler Plymouth, Inc., 82 Wash.2d 265, 510 P.2d 233 (1973). In November 1974, the state trial court found that Williams had engaged in numerous unfair and deceptive practices in violation of the State's Consumer Protection Act and Unfair Motor Vehicle Business Practices Act and assessed fines and penalties in excess of $270,000. Williams appealed, and the State Supreme Court decision is pending.

In the meantime, Williams has appealed from the district court's dismissal of this action. We must examine each of his two alleged claims for relief separately.

Civil Rights Action

Williams contended that Gorton's statements served to deprive Williams of, in the words of his complaint, 'the right to a fair and impartial trial before an impartial jury.' Also arguing that Gorton acted under color of state law, Williams thus alleged a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985, parts of the Civil Rights Act of 1871.

Two elements are necessary to establish a claim for damages under these sections: (1) the conduct complained of was engaged in under color of state law, and (2) the conduct subjected the plaintiff to the deprivation of rights, privileges, and immunities secured by the Constitution of the United States. Marshall v. Sawyer, 301 F.2d 639, 649 (9th Cir. 1962).

We agree with the district court that Williams' complaint failed to state a claim under the Civil Rights Act. The complaint detailed the allegedly defamatory statements made by Gorton, but defamation itself does not establish a cause of action under these sections. It is the deprivation of constitutional rights for which the Act creates a remedy, and on that score the allegations contained in the complaint were deficient. The complaint

Page 671

contained only conclusory words to the effect that Gorton's statements deprived Williams of a fair trial before an impartial jury. No explanation or more specific allegations were included.

Upon examination of the circumstances, we have difficulty discerning any constitutional deprivation or damages. The implicit argument was that Gorton's statements, deliberately and widely disseminated to voters in the state, served to prejudice potential jurors, whose names are drawn from the list of registered voters, in Williams' consumer protection trial. Williams' brief to this Court cites the right under the sixth amendment, applied to the states under the fourteenth amendment, to...

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259 practice notes
  • Shaw v. Barr, Civ. A. No. 92-202-CIV-5-BR.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Eastern District of North Carolina
    • August 7, 1992
    ...143, 149 (7th Cir.1985); Coakley & Williams, Inc. v. Shatterproof Glass Corp., 706 F.2d 456, 457 n. 5 (4th Cir.1983); Williams v. Gorton, 529 F.2d 668, 672 (9th Cir.1976), aff'd without opinion, 566 F.2d 1186 (9th Cir.1977). Similarly, in the resolution of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the non-mo......
  • Hoesl v. United States, No. C-77-0948-CBR.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
    • April 26, 1978
    ...or useful for the furtherance of that interest." Prosser, supra, at 792 451 F. Supp. 1180 (footnotes omitted); Williams v. Gorton, 529 F.2d 668, 672 (9 Cir. 1976) (Washington This qualified privilege in defamation actions should be distinguished from the qualified immunity available to exec......
  • Expeditions Unlimited Aquatic Enterprises, Inc. v. Smithsonian Inst., No. 74-1899
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • September 16, 1977
    ...131 U.S.App.D.C. at 337, 404 F.2d at 1314. 10 For decisions of other circuits citing Barr with approval, see, e. g., Williams v. Gorton, 529 F.2d 668, 672 (9th Cir. 1976); Mandel v. Nouse, 509 F.2d 1031, 1033 (6th Cir.), cert. denied, 422 U.S. 1008, 95 S.Ct. 2630, 45 L.Ed.2d 671 11 416 U.S.......
  • Briley v. State of Cal., No. 75-2753
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • October 19, 1977
    ...deprived plaintiff of a right, privilege, or immunity secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States. See Williams v. Gorton, 529 F.2d 668, 670 (9th Cir. 1976); Ouzts v. Maryland Nat'l Ins. Co., 505 F.2d 547, 550 (9th Cir. 1974), cert. denied, 421 U.S. 949, 95 S.Ct. 1681, 44 L.Ed.......
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259 cases
  • Shaw v. Barr, Civ. A. No. 92-202-CIV-5-BR.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Eastern District of North Carolina
    • August 7, 1992
    ...143, 149 (7th Cir.1985); Coakley & Williams, Inc. v. Shatterproof Glass Corp., 706 F.2d 456, 457 n. 5 (4th Cir.1983); Williams v. Gorton, 529 F.2d 668, 672 (9th Cir.1976), aff'd without opinion, 566 F.2d 1186 (9th Cir.1977). Similarly, in the resolution of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the non-mo......
  • Hoesl v. United States, No. C-77-0948-CBR.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
    • April 26, 1978
    ...or useful for the furtherance of that interest." Prosser, supra, at 792 451 F. Supp. 1180 (footnotes omitted); Williams v. Gorton, 529 F.2d 668, 672 (9 Cir. 1976) (Washington This qualified privilege in defamation actions should be distinguished from the qualified immunity available to exec......
  • Expeditions Unlimited Aquatic Enterprises, Inc. v. Smithsonian Inst., No. 74-1899
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • September 16, 1977
    ...131 U.S.App.D.C. at 337, 404 F.2d at 1314. 10 For decisions of other circuits citing Barr with approval, see, e. g., Williams v. Gorton, 529 F.2d 668, 672 (9th Cir. 1976); Mandel v. Nouse, 509 F.2d 1031, 1033 (6th Cir.), cert. denied, 422 U.S. 1008, 95 S.Ct. 2630, 45 L.Ed.2d 671 11 416 U.S.......
  • Briley v. State of Cal., No. 75-2753
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • October 19, 1977
    ...deprived plaintiff of a right, privilege, or immunity secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States. See Williams v. Gorton, 529 F.2d 668, 670 (9th Cir. 1976); Ouzts v. Maryland Nat'l Ins. Co., 505 F.2d 547, 550 (9th Cir. 1974), cert. denied, 421 U.S. 949, 95 S.Ct. 1681, 44 L.Ed.......
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