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Andrade v. Cho

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

July 12, 2017

NALEEN N. ANDRADE, M.D., Plaintiff,
v.
DARREN CHO, COUNTY OF HAWAI‘I, BOBBY L. MACOMBER, THELMA MACOMBER, DARRYL GRACE SR., LEONA GRACE, TRAVIS LEINONAN, and DOE DEFENDANTS 1-20, Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING IN PART DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO DISMISS COMPLAINT

          Derrick K. Watson, United States District Judge

         On December 20, 2016, Plaintiff Naleen N. Andrade, M.D., filed a Complaint (ECF No. 1) initiating the instant lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In the Complaint, Andrade seeks damages for acts that, she alleges, were committed “under color of law, with the intent and for the purpose of depriving Dr. Andrade of rights secured under the Constitution and laws of the United States, including false and unsubstantiated criminal charges being filed against Dr. Andrade . . . .” Compl. ¶ 1. Before the Court are separate-but-related motions to dismiss Andrade's complaint, which were filed by Defendants Bobby L. Macomber, Thelma Macomber, Darryl Grace Sr., Leona Grace, and Travis Leinonan (“Private Defendants”; ECF No. 8); and Defendants County of Hawai‘i and Kona Police Officer Darren Cho (“County Defendants”; ECF No. 10). For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS IN PART both Motions to Dismiss, and the Complaint is hereby DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE.

         BACKGROUND

         The instant lawsuit arises out of a 2013 dispute over what Andrade refers to as “the illegal attempt to remove duly elected officers” from Kahikolu Church.[1]Compl. ¶¶ 30, 23-24. Specifically, Charmayne Pule, Dolly Andrade (Plaintiff Andrade's sister), and Donna “Maka” Falemalu (collectively, “Principal Officers”) had been elected as “Moderator, ” “Vice-Moderator, ” and “Secretary” during an Annual General Membership Meeting at Kahikolu Church on or about March 24, 2013. Compl. ¶ 31. At a General Membership Meeting on April 21, 2013, attendees purportedly elected Bobby L. Macomber as the new “Pastor/Kahu” of Kahikolu Church. Compl. ¶ 35. Andrade disputes the validity of Macomber's election and subsequent actions as the purported Kahu.[2] Compl. ¶¶ 35-41, 44, 49.

         Andrade alleges that following the April 21, 2013 General Membership Meeting, she “heard from several sources about what had been described to her as intimidation and bullying by Mr. Macomber, ” including “physical confrontations” with “a number of [Macomber's] followers.” Compl. ¶ 67. Andrade further complains that “Mr. Macomber and his followers” have “caused the participation and active involvement of, and intimidation by the Kona Police, led by [County Defendant] Officer Cho.” Compl. ¶ 66. The Complaint alleges that “Officer Cho is related to [Kahikolu Church member] Donovan Cho, and is a close friend of [Private Defendants] Darryl and Leona Grace, both of whom are Mr. Macomber's followers.” Compl. ¶ 70.

         Andrade alleges that her only personal involvement with defendants in this case occurred in November 2013 when she, together with the entire congregation, was invited to attend a meeting at Kahikolu Church. Compl. ¶ 68. She traveled from her Honolulu residence to Kona to attend the November 15, 2013 meeting, only to find that the locks to the church gates had been changed. Compl. ¶¶ 76-77. Meeting attendees nonetheless gained entry onto church grounds by climbing a rock wall surrounding the property:

[After discovering that] the entrance gate of the Church grounds was locked [and] [b]ecause there were no “Walking Paths” through the Rock Wall for access to Kahikolu Church, the parties, including the elderly kapuna, were forced to climb over the Hawaiian rock wall. Once inside Kahikolu grounds, they found that the Sanctuary and all other buildings had also been locked; so they held the Meeting in Kahikolu's pavilion.

Compl. ¶ 77.

         After the meeting, uniformed police officers, including Officer Cho, allegedly “interrogated” Dr. Andrade and others regarding their presence on church grounds. Compl. ¶¶ 78-81. According to Andrade, Private Defendant Darryl Grace, “with the cooperation of Mr. Macomber and/or his followers, ” was the person who allegedly alerted the police and asked them to investigate.[3] Compl. ¶ 78. Andrade was later charged with criminal trespassing under Hawaii Revised Statutes (“HRS”) Section 708-815(1) in connection with this incident.[4] Compl. ¶ 82.

         Andrade alleges that while being interrogated by Officer Cho on November 15, 2013, she “specifically informed [him] that she and other members had been invited by the Principal Officers to come [to] the Church for a duly called Meeting.” She further alleges that Officer Cho already knew about the meeting, having met a day earlier with Dolly Andrade and been provided with documentation evidencing their legal presence on church grounds.[5] Compl. ¶¶ 73, 80.

         According to the Complaint, Officer Cho “referred his [trespassing] investigation to the prosecutor's office.” In the “formal incident report” regarding the November 15, 2013 incident, Officer Cho “made no reference”:

(i) to his November 14, 2013 meeting with the Vice Moderator at the Kailua Police Station, or (ii) Officer Cho's specific knowledge of the duly called Church Meeting, or (iii) the fact he had seen and made copies on November 14, 2013 of critical documents regarding the identity and authority of the Principal Officers, or (iv) the fact he attempted to convince Dolly to cancel the Friday night Meeting.

Compl. ¶ 81. This incomplete report, [6] Andrade asserts, resulted in her being charged with criminal trespass on June 10, 2014. See Ex. B, Compl.; ECF No. 10-4); Compl. ¶ 82.

         On January 5, 2015, the Circuit Court of the Third Circuit, State of Hawaii, granted Andrade's unopposed Motion to Dismiss the criminal trespass charges for violation of Andrade's right to a speedy trial. See Cty. Defs.' Reply, Ex. A, Mot. to Dismiss With Prejudice, ECF No. 27-2; Ex. B, No Opp'n to Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 27-3; Ex. C, Notice of Entry and Judgment and/or Order, ECF No. 27-4.

         Procedural Background

          On December 30, 2016, Andrade filed a Complaint (ECF No. 1) alleging violations of 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 by both the County Defendants (Compl. ¶¶ 97-103) and the Private Defendants (Compl. ¶¶ 104-07).[7]

         As grounds her claims, Andrade alleges that Officer Cho violated her rights under the First Amendment by preventing her from attending a meeting that was to take place at the church; that he violated her Fourth Amendment rights by allegedly omitting information from the incident report that he referred for prosecution; and that he violated Andrade's Fourteenth Amendment equal protection rights by way of these alleged violations, which also constitutes “malicious prosecution.” See Compl. ¶¶ 98-103. The Complaint also states that each of the Private Defendants “willfully participat[ed] in joint action with state officials” to deprive Andrade of these constitutional rights, thereby also violating Section 1983. Compl. ¶¶ 105-06. Andrade claims that these violations of her “clearly established constitutional rights” resulted in “severe and substantial damages . . ., includ[ing] litigation expenses [such as] attorneys' fees, humiliation, embarrassment, inconvenience, emotional distress, and other compensatory damages . . . .” Compl. ¶¶ 107-08.

         On February 15, 2017, the Private Defendants moved to dismiss (ECF No. 8), arguing that Andrade's Section 1983 claim “is time-barred under Hawaii's two-year personal injury statute of limitation, ” HRS § 657-7, that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, that Plaintiff lacks standing, and that the Complaint is precluded by the Pullman Abstention Doctrine because “[t]he present matter arises from the same transactions and occurrences that are currently being litigated in state court.” Mem. in Supp. of [Private Defs.'] Mot. to Dismiss 7-9, ECF No. 8-1. The County Defendants moved to dismiss on February 16, 2017 (ECF No. 10), similarly alleging untimeliness based on HRS § 657-7. Mem. in Supp. of [Cty. Defs.'] Mot. to Dismiss 6, ECF No. 10-1. Additionally, the County Defendants assert that Officer Cho is entitled to qualified immunity, that the Complaint does not establish causation between Officer Cho's actions and Andrade's alleged harm, and that the Complaint fails to state a claim of municipal liability against the County consistent with the requirements of Monell v. New York City Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1977). Cty. Defs.' Mem. in Supp. 6, 11, 13-14.

         Andrade opposed both motions on March 10, 2017. Opp'n to Private Defs., ECF No. 24; Opp'n to Cty. Defs., ECF No. 25. Defendants filed their reply briefs on March 17, 2017. Private Defs.' Reply, ECF No. 26; Cty. Defs.' Reply, ECF No. 27. The parties appeared before this Court for a hearing on April 12, 2017 (Tr. of Proceedings, ECF No. 33), after which the Court took matters under advisement.

         Between the Court's April 12, 2017 hearing and the date of this Order, the County Defendants removed a separate, state court action brought by the Principal Officers that arises out of the same events described in Andrade's Complaint. See Notice of Removal, Pule v. Macomber, 1:17-cv-00193-DKW-KJM (filed Apr. 27, 2017), ECF No. 1. That action is also pending before this Court.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)

          A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (“FRCP”) Rule 12(b)(6) challenges a complaint's compliance with the pleading requirements provided by the Federal Rules.

         The Court may dismiss a complaint pursuant to FRCP 12(b)(6) for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted” when there is a “lack of a cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts alleged.” UMG Recordings, Inc. v. Shelter Capital Partners, LLC, 718 F.3d 1006, 1014 (9th Cir. 2013) (quoting Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990)). In other words, plaintiffs are required to allege “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)); see also Weber v. Dep't of Veterans Affairs, 521 F.3d 1061, 1065 (9th Cir. 2008). “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.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Factual allegations that only permit the Court to infer “the mere possibility of misconduct” do not constitute a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief as required by FRCP Rule 8(a)(2). Id. at 677, 679 (explaining that Rule 8 “does not require ‘detailed factual allegations, ' but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation”).

         For purposes of ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court “accept[s] factual allegations in the complaint as true and construe[s] the pleadings in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.” Manzarek v. St. Paul Fire & MarineIns. Co., 519 F.3d 1025, 1031 (9th Cir. 2008); see also Iqbal, 556 U.S. at ...


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