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Ayala v. Armstrong

United States District Court, D. Idaho

July 30, 2018

ADELA AYALA, individually, and as Next Friend of L.O.A., a minor child, Plaintiff,
RICHARD M. ARMSTRONG, in his official capacity as Director of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare and ELKE SHAWTULLOCH, in her official capacity as Administrator of the Division of Public Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics and Health Statistics, Defendants.


          B. Lynn Winmill, Chief U.S. District Court Judge


         The Court has before it Defendants' Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (Dkt. 37) and Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 38). The Court heard oral argument on the motions on April 5, 2018, and now issues this Memorandum Decision and Order.


         In 2012, Plaintiff Adela Ayala was in a same-sex relationship with Janina Oquendo. Ayala and Oquendo wanted to get married, but the State of Idaho prevented them from doing so because it precluded same-sex marriage. See Ayala Decl. 2, ¶¶ 7 & 35, Dkt. 38-3; Oquendo Decl. at ¶ 3, Dkt. 26-3. Through artificial insemination, Oquendo conceived and gave birth to L.O.A. on August 25, 2012. Ayala Decl., ¶¶ 4-23, Dkt. 38-3. Ayala and L.O.A. have no biological relationship, and Oquendo is listed as the birth mother on L.O.A.'s birth certificate; no birth father is listed. Id. ¶ 25. Ayala is not listed on the birth certificate, but L.O.A retains Ayala's surname. Id. ¶ 28.

         In February 2015, Ayala and Oquendo broke up. Id. ¶ 41. LO.A. was primarily in Ayala's care after the break up. Id. ¶ 42. In the Spring of 2016, Oquendo agreed to give Ayala custody of L.O.A. for three years. Id. ¶ 45. On May 13, 2016, Oquendo executed a power of attorney giving Ayala full parental authority over the care of L.O.A. and Oquendo's son from a prior relationship. Id. ¶ 46. On June 9, 2016, Oquendo revoked the power of attorney and took physical custody of both children. Id. ¶ 47. Oquendo then took L.O.A. to California to stay with her godmother for two months and grandmother for three and one-half weeks. Id. ¶ 48. In July 2016, Oquendo brought L.O.A. back to Idaho, and L.O.A. stayed with Ayala part-time. Id. ¶¶ 50-51. After L.O.A. reported abuse by her brother to Ayala, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (“IDHW”) filed a petition to obtain legal custody of L.O.A. Id. ¶ 54. Although IDHW did not recognize Ayala as L.O.A.'s parent, it placed L.O.A. with Ayala as a foster parent. Id. ¶ 55. Ayala filed her Complaint in this case on November 17, 2016. On November 28, 2017 Oquendo voluntarily agreed to terminate her parental rights of L.O.A. Id. ¶ 65. On January 30, 2018 the State Court entered an order terminating Oquendo's parental rights, and L.O.A. remains in foster care with Ayala.

         This Court issued its decision on the preliminary injunction and motion to dismiss on August 24, 2017, allowing Plaintiffs to proceed on the claims related to I.C. §§ 39-255 and 39-5405. On January 30, 2018, Defendants filed their pending motion for judgment on the pleadings, and Plaintiffs filed their motion for summary judgment two days later.


         1. Judgment on the Pleadings Legal Standard

         Defendants seek dismissal for failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted. When a defendant brings such motion after answering the complaint, the motion is treated as one for judgment on the pleadings under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 12(c), rather than Rule 12(b)(6). Hoeft v. Tucson Unified School Dist., 967 F.2d 1298, 1301 n. 2 (9th Cir.1992). Motions to dismiss under Rules 12(c) and 12(b)(6) differ only in the time of filing; because they are functionally identical, the same standard applies to motions brought under either rule. Cafasso v. Gen. Dynamics C4 Sys., Inc., 637 F.3d 1047, 1054 n.4 (9th Cir. 2011)(citing Dworkin v. Hustler Magazine Inc., 867 F.2d 1188, 1192 (9th Cir.1989)). “A judgment on the pleadings is properly granted when, ‘taking all the allegations in the pleadings as true, the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.'” Gregg v. Hawaii, Dep't of Pub. Safety, 870 F.3d 883, 887 (9th Cir. 2017) (quoting Nelson v. City of Irvine, 143 F.3d 1196, 1200 (9th Cir. 1998).

         Under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court may consider matters that are subject to judicial notice. Mullis v. United States Bank, 828 F.2d 1385, 1388 (9th Cir. 1987). The Court may take judicial notice “of the records of state agencies and other undisputed matters of public record” without transforming the motions to dismiss into motions for summary judgment. Disabled Rights Action Comm. v. Las Vegas Events, Inc., 375 F.3d 861, 866, n.1 (9th Cir. 2004). The Court may also examine documents referred to in the complaint, although not attached thereto, without transforming the motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment. See Knievel v. ESPN, 393 F.3d 1068, 1076 (9th Cir. 2005).

         2. Summary Judgment Legal Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate where a party can show that, as to any claim or defense, “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Such a motion is particularly appropriate in a case like this, where there is no real dispute about the facts of the case. To the extent there is a factual dispute, the evidence, and all reasonable inferences from the evidence, must be viewed in the light most ...

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