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Brown v. Emerald State of Washington

United States District Court, E.D. Washington

October 22, 2014

QUINTON P. BROWN, Plaintiff,
v.
EMERALD STATE OF WASHINGTON, BERNIE WARNER, and HENRY BROWNE, Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS

SALVADOR MENDOZA, Jr., District Judge.

Before the Court, without oral argument, is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 27. Defendants ask the Court to dismiss Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint, ECF No. 14, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c). Having reviewed the pleadings and the file in this matter, the Court is fully informed and grants Defendants' construed Motion to Dismiss.

I. BACKGROUND[1]

Plaintiff, an inmate proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed his First Amended Complaint, ECF No. 14, on April 20, 2014. In it, Plaintiff names the State of Washington; Bernard Warner, the Secretary of the Washington State Department of Corrections ("DOC"); and Henry Browne, a business advisor at the Airway Heights Corrections Center as Defendants. Plaintiff has previously filed a number of lawsuits against various DOC officials, including Brown v. Alden, et al. NO. CV-09-5089-RFW (E.D. Wash.), which resulted in a settlement. ECF No. 14.

Here, Plaintiff brings a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 after Defendants withdrew some of the settlement funds from his personal inmate account. ECF No. 14 at 18. Specifically, Plaintiff argues that RCW 72.09.111 and RCW 72.09.480, the statutes authorizing the withdrawal of legal financial obligations and other fees and costs from prisoner accounts, are unconstitutional under Article I, Section 15 of the Washington State Constitution and the withdrawal goes against RCW 9.92.110. Id. at 3-4. He also alleges that the withdrawal violates the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Id.

Defendants have asked to dismiss Plaintiff's allegations under Rule 12(c). ECF No. 27 at 1. Defendants argue that dismissal on the pleadings is proper as a matter of law because (1) Plaintiff has waived his ability to challenge the mandatory statutory deduction taken from his account by the terms of the settlement; (2) he has failed to sufficiently allege a Fourteenth Amendment equal protection violation, (3) he cannot establish a Fifth Amendment due process violation, (4) he has failed to show an unconstitutional forfeiture in violation of the Washington State Constitution or law, (5) he has failed to adequately allege the personal participation of Defendants Browne and Warner, and (6) the Eleventh Amendment bars suit against Washington State and the DOC. Id. at 8-17.

In turn, Plaintiff responds that he did not waive his right to pursue constitutional claims, that his constitutional claims have merit, that RCW 4.92.090 serves to abrogate sovereign immunity in the suit, and that he has sufficiently pled Defendant Warner's and Defendant Browne's personal involvement to survive the motion to dismiss. ECF No. 31. Further, in his response, Plaintiff also claims that the withdrawal of funds from his account went against the terms of his original plea agreement and was therefore improper. Id. at 18-19.

Even after a liberal construction of the complaint, this Court finds that Plaintiff cannot prevail on his claims as a matter of law. Indeed, the Washington State Supreme Court and the Ninth Circuit have previously dismissed like challenges to the same statutes Plaintiff seeks to invalidate.[2]

II. ANALYSIS

A. Legal standard.

A party may move for judgment on the pleadings after the pleadings are closed but within such time as not to delay trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 7(a), pleadings consist of a complaint and an answer. Defendants have not filed an answer in the present case. While a motion for judgment on the pleadings may not be filed before an answer is submitted, such a motion may be treated by the Court as one to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). 2 James Wm. Moore et al., Moore's Federal Practice § 12.38 (3d ed. 2005). This Court opts to treat Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 27, as such.

A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of a claim. Conservation Force v. Salazar, 646 F.3d 1240, 1241-42 (9th Cir. 2011) (quotation marks and citations omitted). Generally, a court's review is limited to the complaint. Daniels-Hall v. National Educ. Ass'n, 629 F.3d 992, 998 (9th Cir. 2010). Courts may, however, consider matters subject to judicial notice and documents incorporated by reference in the complaint. United States v. Ritchie, 342 F.3d 903, 908 (9th Cir. 2003). The Court must accept the well-pled factual allegations as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Daniels-Hall, 629 F.3d at 998.

To survive a motion to dismiss, the "complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim of relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 667 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic 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). But, in this Circuit, prisoners proceeding pro se are entitled ...


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