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Blantz v. California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

August 15, 2013

Christine Blantz, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Division of Correctional Health Care Services; James Ruddy, individually and in his official capacity as medical auditor for CDCR; Elizabeth Dos Santos Chen, individually and in her official capacity as Chief Medical Officer for the Southern Region of Clinical Support for the CDCR; Dwight W. Winslow, M.D., individually and in his official capacity as statewide medical director for the CDCR; Terry Hill, M.D., individually and in his official capacity as Chief Medical Officer and governing body member of the CDCR; Steven F. Ritter, D.O., individually and in his official capacity as Regional Director for the Southern District of the CDCR; Does, 1-20, inclusive, Defendants-Appellees.

Argued and Submitted June 6, 2013 —Pasadena, California

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of California M. James Lorenz, Senior District Judge, Presiding D.C. No. 3:09-cv-02145-L-BLM

Suzanne M. Nicholson (argued), George E. Murphy, and Mark A. Campbell, Murphy, Campbell, Guthrie & Alliston, Sacramento, California, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Elizabeth Vann (argued), Deputy Attorney General, Kamala D. Harris, Attorney General of California, Alicia M. B. Fowler, Senior Assistant Attorney General, and Christine Mersten, Supervising Deputy Attorney General, for Defendants-Appellees California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Division of Correctional Health Care Services, James Ruddy, M.D., Elizabeth Dos Santos Chen, Dwight W. Winslow, M.D., and Steven F. Ritter, D.O. Martin H. Dodd (argued), Futterman Dupree Dodd Croley Maier LLP, San Francisco, California, for Defendant-Appellee Terry Hill, M.D.

Before: Sidney R. Thomas, Barry G. Silverman, and Raymond C. Fisher, Circuit Judges.

SUMMARY [*]

Civil Rights

The panel affirmed the district court's dismissal of an action brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law which alleged that plaintiff was terminated without explanation from her independent contractor position as a nurse for the California prison medical care system and given negative job references that effectively barred her from further employment within the system.

The panel agreed with the district court that plaintiff did not have a constitutionally protected property interest in her independent contractor position. The panel held that a state agency does not create protected property interests for its independent contractors simply by instituting performance review procedures.

The panel affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's federal deprivation of liberty claim, determining that plaintiff had not alleged that she was unable to find work as a nurse, only that she was unable to obtain work with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, and that this was insufficient to trigger the due process protections of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The panel affirmed the dismissal of the state law claims against Terry Hill, the former Chief Medical Officer for the Receiver of the California prison medical care system, determining that plaintiff's allegations concerning Hill were conclusory and implausible on their face.

OPINION

FISHER, Circuit Judge:

Plaintiff Christine Blantz was terminated without explanation from her independent contractor position as a nurse for the California prison medical care system. When she applied for another position elsewhere within the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), she was informed that she had received poor recommendations and therefore did not meet the job requirements. Upset that her position had been terminated and that she was unable to find other work within the CDCR, Blantz sued various CDCR employees and the CDCR itself.

The district court dismissed Blantz's two federal claims, which alleged that the defendants deprived her of property and liberty without due process in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. The district court dismissed all of Blantz's claims against defendant Terry Hill (the former Chief Medical Officer for the Receiver of the California prison medical care system) and remanded the remainder of Blantz's state law claims to San Diego Superior Court.

We agree with the district court that Blantz did not have a constitutionally protected property interest in her independent contractor position with the CDCR and that she failed to allege sufficient facts to state a claim for denial of liberty without due process. We also agree that dismissal of the claims against Dr. Hill was appropriate because ...


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