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Martinez-Rodriguez v. Giles

United States District Court, D. Idaho

September 14, 2017

CURTIS GILES, an individual; DAVID FUNK, an individual; and JEREMY L. PITTARD, an individual; the business they controlled and/or operated, including FUNK DAIRY, INC., an Idaho corporation; SHOESOLE FARMS, INC., an Idaho corporation, and JEREMY L. PITTARD, ATTORNEY AT LAW, PLLC, an Idaho Limited Liability Company; and DOES 1-10, Defendants.


          David C. Nye, United States District Court


         Pending before the Court is a joint Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendants Jeremy L. Pittard, an individual, and Jeremy L. Pittard, Attorney at Law, PLLC (Collectively “Pittard”). Dkt. 13. Having reviewed the record and briefs, the Court finds that the facts and legal arguments are adequately presented. Accordingly, in the interest of avoiding further delay, and because the Court finds that the decisional process would not be significantly aided by oral argument, the Court will decide the motion without oral argument. Dist. Idaho Loc. Civ. R. 7.1(d)(2)(ii). For the reasons set forth below the Court GRANTS the Motion.


         Plaintiffs are six professional veterinarians from Mexico who allege that Defendants have engaged in a “criminal conspiracy to bring Mexican nationals to the United States illegally for the purpose of forced labor.” Complaint, ¶1. Based on this allegation, Plaintiffs assert claims of Forced Labor and Trafficking into Servitude under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (18 U.S.C. §§ 1589, 1590, and 1595) and civil claims under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).

         Broadly speaking, Plaintiffs assert that Defendants conspired to recruit professional Mexican veterinarians to work in the United States under the false pretense that they would be professional animal scientists, only to be hired as low-wage, general laborers at Funk Dairy, Inc, . Id. Plaintiffs allege that these acts violated U.S. immigration laws. They also assert that they were subjected to long working hours under arduous conditions and forced to stay under threat of deportation, fear, and unfamiliarity with the English language and American legal system. Id.

         Plaintiffs allege that as part of this conspiracy, Jeremy Pittard, the owner of Jeremy L. Pittard, Attorney at Law, PLLC, “aided and abetted” (complaint, ¶3) the other named Defendants by reviewing the visas Plaintiffs filed and by speaking with Plaintiffs prior to their United States Embassy interviews. Complaint, ¶37, ¶40. Believing that these allegations fall short of the standard required to state a plausible claim for relief, Pittard filed the instant Motion to Dismiss.


         A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim challenges the legal sufficiency of the claims stated in the complaint. Conservation Force v. Salazar, 646 F.3d 1240, 1242 (9th Cir.2011). “A complaint generally must satisfy the notice pleading requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) to avoid dismissal under a Rule 12(b)(6) motion.” Id. (citing Porter v. Jones, 319 F.3d 483, 494 (9th Cir.2003)). “Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only ‘a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ' in order to ‘give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.' ” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544(2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)).

         To sufficiently state a claim for relief and survive a 12(b)(6) motion, the pleading “does not need detailed factual allegations, ” however, the “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Id. at 555. Mere “labels and conclusions” or a “formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Id. Rather, there must be “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 570. In other words, the complaint must contain 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).

         In light of Twombly and Iqbal, the Ninth Circuit summarized the governing standard as follows: “In sum, for a complaint to survive a motion to dismiss, the nonconclusory factual content, and reasonable inferences from that content, must be plausibly suggestive of a claim entitling the plaintiff to relief.” Moss v. U.S. Secret Serv., 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009).

         In deciding whether to grant a motion to dismiss, the court must accept as true all well-pleaded factual allegations in the pleading under attack. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 663. A court is not, however, “required to accept as true allegations that are merely conclusory, unwarranted deductions of fact, or unreasonable inferences.” Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors, 266 F.3d 979, 988 (9th Cir. 2001).

         When ruling on a motion to dismiss, the court must normally convert a Rule 12(b)(6) motion into one for summary judgment under Rule 56 if the court considers evidence outside of the pleadings. United States v. Ritchie, 342 F.3d 903, 907 (9th Cir.2003). However, a court may consider certain materials, such as documents attached to the complaint, documents incorporated by reference in the complaint, or matters properly subject to judicial notice, without converting the motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment. Id. at 908.

         In cases decided after Iqbal and Twombly, the Ninth Circuit has continued to adhere to the rule that a dismissal of a complaint without leave to amend is inappropriate unless it is beyond doubt that the complaint could not be saved by an amendment. See Harris v. Amgen, Inc., 573 F.3d 728, 737 (9th Cir. 2009) (issued two months after Iqbal).


         In this case, the Court finds that the allegations against Pittard do not rise above the speculative level, Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, and are not sufficiently supported by “nonconclusory factual content, and reasonable inferences” to survive a motion to dismiss. Moss, 572 F.3d at 969.

         The first allegation against Pittard is that “on or about September 17, 2014, Defendant Giles confirmed that his attorney Jeremy Pittard had reviewed and approved those documents.” Complaint, ¶37. “Those documents” refers to Plaintiffs' U.S. Department of State Form DS-160 questionnaires and other visa/immigration documents.

         There are two problems with this first allegation. First, this claim is based upon what one defendant said about another defendant. Plaintiffs have no independent knowledge of the truthfulness of this statement. Second, even taking the allegation as true, there is no reasonable inference that such ...

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