United States District Court, D. Idaho
JOHN F. THORNTON, Plaintiffs
KENNETH J. and DEANNA L. BARRETT, a married couple residing in Michigan, LUKINS & ANNIS, P.S., a Washington Professional Services Corporation, MICHAEL SCHMIDT, an individual residing in Idaho, TERRI BOYD-DAVIS, a married woman residing in Idaho, BONNER COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT, a governmental agency, DARYL WHEELER, in his capacity as Bonner County Sheriff, SALLY MITCHELL, in her capacity as Bonner County Deputy Sheriff, and LEANNE BANKSON, in her capacity as Bonner County Deputy Sheriff, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
before the Court is Defendants Kenneth and Deanna
Barretts' Motion to Dismiss (Dkt. 7), Defendants Terri
Boyd-Davis, Lukins & Annis, P.S., and Michael
Schmidt's Motion to Dismiss and Joinder in Barretts'
Motion to Dismiss (Dkt. 13), and Defendants Bonner County
Sheriff's Department, Daryl Wheeler, Sally Mitchell and
Leanne Bankson's Motion to Dismiss and Joinder in
Barretts and Terri-Boyd Davis, Lukins & Annis, P.S. and
Michael Schmidt's Motions to Dismiss (Dkt. 17). Having
reviewed the record, the Court finds that the facts and legal
argument are adequately presented in the briefs. Accordingly,
in the interest of avoiding further delay, and because the
Court finds the decisional process would not be significantly
aided by oral argument, the Court decides the Motions on the
record without oral argument. Dist. Idaho Loc. Civ. R.
7.1(d)(2)(ii). For the reasons set forth below, the Court
GRANTS each Motion to Dismiss.
case arises out of a 2013 state court case, Thornton v.
Mary E. Pandrea and Kari A. Clark, CV 2013-1334
(“state court action”) and its aftermath. Because
the history of the state court action (and its brief foray
into federal court) provides the background for this case,
some detail with respect to the state court action is
August 14, 2013, Plaintiff John F. Thornton
(“Thornton”) sued Mary Pandrea and Kari Clark,
two sisters who owned land bordering Thornton's property,
to quiet title to his land and for damages. The dispute
involved a “Well Piece, ” which was on land
Thornton believed he owned and claimed to have exercised
control over. In 1993, prior to owning the land,
Thornton rented the property from Mary Pandrea and Robert
Wiltse, Pandrea's husband at the time. When Thornton
first took possession of the property to rent, he claimed
Wiltse and Pandrea described the physical boundaries of the
property as including the Well Piece.
1998, Thornton purchased the land he had been renting
(hereinafter the “Property”) via a Warranty Deed,
recorded May 7, 1998, in Bonner County. Thornton claims he
believed the land he had purchased included the Well Piece,
but that in December of 1993, without his knowledge, Wiltse
and Pandrea deeded the Well Piece to Clark and Pandrea, as
tenants in common, via a Quitclaim Deed. The Quitclaim Deed
was recorded on December 27, 1993, in Bonner County, and
reserved unto Clark and Pandrea “the right and use of
the existing well.” Dkt. 2, ¶ 3.6.
Despite this recording, Thornton claims he did not learn the
Well Piece had been alienated from the Property until 2013,
when he had the Property surveyed and discovered the Well
Piece was also omitted from the property description
contained in his 1998 Warranty Deed.
subsequently filed the state court action against Pandrea and
Clark to quiet title to the Well Piece, as well as to quiet
title to an easement located on another area of the Property
and designated by the parties as the “Driveway
Piece.” Pandrea filed a Motion to Dismiss
Thornton's Complaint on November 7, 2013. Because both
the Motion to Dismiss and Thornton's Opposition to the
Motion to Dismiss contained matters outside the pleadings
which were not subject to judicial notice, the State Court
treated Pandrea's Motion to Dismiss as a Motion for
Summary Judgment. See, 2:17-cv-00367, Dkt. 1-6, p.
Motion, Pandrea claimed Thornton was not a bona fide
purchaser of the Well Piece because the 1993 Quit Claim Deed
gave Thornton constructive notice of Pandrea's interest
in it. In addition, Pandrea argued the Well Piece was not
included in Thornton's 1998 Warranty Deed for the
Property so he could not consider himself to be a bona fide
purchased for value. Thornton responded that the physical
property description contained in his deed did not, but
should have, included the Well Piece, that he had no notice
of Pandrea's 1993 conveyance of the Well Piece, and that
his 1998 Warranty Deed did not include “any language
reflecting the  conveyance, or otherwise referring the
right to use the water from the well.” Id.,
pp. 4-6. However, both Pandrea and Thornton failed to provide
the state court with a copy of Thornton's 1998 Warranty
Deed to the Property. Thus, the state court could not decide
Pandrea's claim that “since the [Well Piece] is not
contained in Thornton's property description, Thornton
cannot consider himself to be a bona fide purchaser for
value” on summary judgment. Id., p. 11. In
addition to the parties' omission of Thornton's 1998
Warranty Deed, other issues of material fact, such as
Pandrea's representations to Thornton regarding the Well
Piece, precluded summary judgment on Thornton's claim
that he had purchased the entire “removal
action”). That removed federal action was No.
2:17-cv-00367-DCN. Ultimately, this Court remanded the case
to state court. Much of the state court record was submitted
with the removal action, rather than in the instant suit. As
will be further discussed, the Court takes judicial notice of
the record in both the state court and removal actions and
will cite to the removal action for the state court records
where such documents have not been submitted in this case.
The Court references documents filed in the instant suit by
docket number, and documents filed in the removal action by
reference to both the case and docket number. Property in
good faith and without constructive notice of Pandrea and
Clark's ownership of the Well Piece.
in his Complaint, Thornton also appeared to claim ownership
of the Well Piece by adverse possession. The State Court
determined Thornton failed to present material facts to
establish he had occupied the Well Piece for the twenty-year
statutory period required for adverse possession under Idaho
Code section 5-210. Id., pp. 20-23. Because he could
not satisfy each element of adverse possession, the Court
held as a matter of law that Thornton had not adversely
possessed the Well Piece. Id., p. 23. The State
Court granted Pandrea summary judgment on this issue, and
Thornton did not appeal the Court's ruling.
Thornton's Complaint, Clark counterclaimed against
Thornton for interference with her easement rights, for
permanent injunction, to quiet title, and for damages.
Shortly after the State Court issued its decision on
Pandrea's Motion to Dismiss, Clark filed her own
“Motion for Summary Judgment of Dismissal of
Thornton's Complaint and Motion for Partial Summary
Judgment on Clark's Counterclaims.” Dkt. 9-1. The
primary focus of Clark's claims against Thornton was her
right to use the Driveway Piece as an easement, and the
allegation that Thornton had interfered with this right when
he erected a locked gate to block Clark's access to the
Driveway Piece. However, in deciding Clark's Motion for
Summary Judgment, the State Court noted:
When this Court issued its Memorandum Decision and Order
Granting in Part and Denying in Part Defendant Pandrea's
Motion to Dismiss (Motion for Summary Judgment) on February
14, 2014, the Court had not at that time been provided a copy
of Thornton's [1998 Warranty Deed to the Property]. Two
weeks after that decision was issued, when Clark filed the
instant motion for summary judgment, was the first time the
Court was provided a copy of Thornton's deed…. It
is now apparent that at all times Thornton was deeded this
parcel, the metes and bounds description . . . did not
include the ‘Well Piece.'
Id., p. 7.
deciding Clark had an easement appurtenant to the Property,
the State Court also explained Thornton's 1998 Warranty
Deed contained clear language granting Clark an easement to
use the Driveway Piece. Id., p. 18. The Warranty
Deed thus put Thornton on notice that Clark had an easement,
and Thornton did not have a right to erect a locked gate to
attempt to keep Clark from using the easement. The State
Court accordingly granted Clark's Motion for Summary
Judgment. Id., p. 22. The State Court
entered Judgment in favor of Clark on April 30, 2014.
2:17-cv-00367-DCN, Dkt. 1-8.
and Pandrea stipulated to dismiss Thornton's claims
against Pandrea on May 21, 2014. Id., Dkt. 1-9. On
June 30, 2014, the State Court entered its Amended Judgment
awarding Clark $41, 530.17 jointly and severally against
Thornton and his attorney/wife, Val Thornton. Id.,
Dkt. 1-10. The award was granted to Clark as the prevailing
party and included sanctions against Thornton and his wife
based on the State Court's conclusion that Thornton
brought the case frivolously because his 1998 Warranty Deed
both referenced Clark's easement for the Driveway Piece
and did not include the Well Piece. The State Court held
Thornton and his wife had not been candid with the Court and
should have produced the deed, instead of waiting for Clark
to produce it, to resolve the case much sooner. Dkt. 9-8, p.
8. The $41, 530.17 Amended Judgment was recorded
with the Bonner County Recorder the same day it was entered,
on June 30, 2014. Dkt. 9-3. Thornton filed a Notice of Appeal
with the Idaho Supreme Court the same day. Dkt. 9-4. Mrs.
Thornton also filed a Motion to Intervene in order to appeal
the award of sanctions against her. Dkt. 9-6.
the appeal was decided, but after Clark recorded her Amended
Judgment of $41, 530.17 against Thornton and his wife,
Defendants Kenneth and Deanna Barrett purchased Clark's
property and Clark assigned her rights in the state court
action to them. On August 4, 2014, the State Court
substituted the Barretts in Clark's stead and entered an
order assigning the Barretts Clark's right to collect the
Amended Judgment. Dkt. 9-5. The substitution was also
approved by the Idaho Supreme Court. Dkt. 9-8, p. 8.
subsequently quitclaimed the Well Piece to Thornton on
October 23, 2014. Dkt. 9-7. The Barretts thereafter made
several attempts to execute on their Amended Judgment, and,
though they obtained partial satisfaction, were still owed
$17, 779.74 as of February 18, 2016. 2:17-cv-00367, Dkt.
1-21. On February 26, 2016, the Barretts obtained a Writ of
Execution permitting a Sheriff's sale of the Well Piece.
Id., Dkt. 1-22.
the Barretts' collection efforts were proceeding, the
Thorntons' appeal was pending before the Idaho Supreme
Court. After the Sheriff's sale of the Well Piece on
April 26, 2016, Thornton filed a “Motion to Set Aside
the Sale of Exempt Homestead Property.” Id.,
Dkt. 1-24. In his Motion, Thornton claimed a number of
irregularities with the Sheriff's sale-the same errors
Thornton asserts in the instant suit-including that the Well
Piece was sold in violation of his homestead exemption on the
Property, that the Barretts did not object to his claimed
homestead exemption, and that he had tendered payment of the
full amount authorized on the Writ of Execution prior to the
sale but that the Barretts and the Bonner County Sherriff
refused to accept it. Id. The Barretts filed an
objection to Thornton's motion pursuant to Idaho
Appellate Rule 13(b) because the matter was then pending on
appeal, depriving the State Court of jurisdiction to rule on
the Motion to Set Aside Sale. Id., Dkt. 1-29. When
the State Court set a hearing date for Thornton's Motion
to Set Aside Sale, the Barretts also filed an Opposition to
Thornton's motion. Id., Dkt. 1-33.
their Opposition, the Barretts challenged each of the
purported defects Thornton claimed warranted setting aside
the Sherriff's sale. Specifically, Thornton failed to
submit a claim of homestead exemption after being served with
the Writ on April 2, 2016, and instead relied on a Claim of
Exemption he had provided to the Sheriff two years earlier
when a previous writ had issued in the state court
action. Further, because Thornton failed to submit
a claim of exemption within two weeks of issuance of the
Writ, as required under Idaho Code section 11-203, the
Barretts had no notice of Thornton's alleged claim of
exemption and could not object to it. Id. Finally,
the Barretts argued Thornton could not claim a homestead
exemption for the Well Piece because Thornton did not acquire
the Well Piece until October 23, 2014, when Pandrea quit
claimed her interest in the Well Piece to Thornton. However,
the Amended Judgment was recorded four months earlier, on
June 30, 2014. Under Idaho Code section 55-1005, a homestead
“is subject to execution or forced sale in satisfaction
of judgments obtained . . . [b]efore the homestead was in
effect, and which constitute liens upon the premises.”
Idaho Code § 55-1005. As such, even if the Well Piece
could be considered part of Thornton's homestead, it was
nonetheless subject to a forced sale since the Amended
Judgment was obtained and recorded before Thornton owned the
Well Piece, and thus, before the homestead exemption could
have come into effect.
State Court held a hearing on Thornton's Motion to Set
Aside Sale on September 12, 2016. Id., Dkt. 39. In
its September 13, 2016, Order denying the Motion to Set Aside
Sale, the State Court stated: “Thornton's Motion is
denied based on the District Court's lack of jurisdiction
to rule on the Motion pursuant to I.A.R. 13(b)”; and
“[a]ny and all statements of the Court placed on the
record at the hearing of the Motion shall form the basis of,
and shall serve as and in place of a written memorandum
decision and order.” Id.
after the State Court denied Thornton's Motion to Set
Aside Sale, the Supreme Court issued its Decision in favor of
the Barretts on each of the issues Thornton had appealed,
including finding the State Court properly awarded a total of
$41, 530.17 for attorney fees under Idaho Code Section 12-121
and Rule 11 sanctions. Dkt. 9-8, pp. 17-22. The Supreme Court
also awarded the Barretts an additional $13, 386.76 in
attorney fees pursuant to Idaho Code section 12-121 for
having to defend against Thornton's frivolous appeal.
Id., p. 27. Following the Supreme Court's
decision, jurisdiction returned to the State Court and
Thornton could have renewed his motion to set aside the
Sherriff's sale, but did not. The State Court thereafter
entered multiple orders in the case, including an order
entered on November 2, 2016, awarding the Barretts'
sanctions for Thornton's frivolous filing of the Motion
to Set Aside Sale while the Supreme Court appeal was pending,
a Third Amended Judgment on December 20, 2016, for the amount
still owed the Barretts, and an Order for Examination of
Judgment Debtors John and Val Thornton on August 14, 2017.
2:17-cv-00367-DCN, Dkt. 1-43; 1-47; 1-50. The State Court set
the debtor's examination for September 6, 2017. While he
did not file any objection with the State Court opposing the
debtor's examination, Thornton did not appear for the
scheduled examination. Dkt. 9, ¶ 13. Instead, Thornton
filed a Notice of Removal to Federal Court on September 6,
2017, attempting to remove the state court action to this
Court, and seeking an order from this Court quashing the
State Court order for a debtor's examination. Dkt.
2:17-cv-00367-DCN, Dkt. 1; Dkt. 5.
January 5, 2018, this Court entered a Memorandum Decision and
Order finding the removal improper, remanding the case to
State Court, denying Thornton's Motion to Quash, and
retaining jurisdiction for the sole purpose of determining
the amount of fees and costs to award the Barretts.
Id., Dkt. 13. This Court determined fees and costs
were appropriate because the removal was meritless,
frivolous, and done with the intent to delay the pending
state court post-judgment proceedings. Id., pp. 7-8.
February 22, 2018, this Court awarded the Barretts $4, 103.00
in attorney fees they incurred in obtaining a remand of this
case to state court. Id., Dkt. 18. Two months later,
Thornton filed the instant suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1983 against the Barretts, the Barretts' attorney, law
firm and paralegal (“Attorney Defendants”), and
the Bonner County Sheriff's Department, Sherriff, and two
Deputy Sheriffs (“State Defendants”), alleging
constitutional violations associated with the 2016
Sherriff's sale of the Well Piece.
Rule 12(B)(6) Standard
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). To sufficiently state a claim to 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.”
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555
(2007). 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. 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. at 556. The plausibility standard is
not akin to a “probability requirement, ” but
does require more than a sheer possibility that a defendant
acted unlawfully. Id.
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009), the
Supreme Court identified two “working principles”
that underlie Twombly. First, although a court must
accept as true all factual allegations in a complaint when
ruling on a motion to dismiss, the court need not accept
legal conclusions as true. Id. “Rule 8 marks a
notable and generous departure from the hyper-technical,
code-pleading regime of a prior era, but it does not unlock
the doors of discovery for a plaintiff armed with nothing
more than conclusions.” Id. at 678-79. Second,
only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief
will survive a motion to dismiss. Id. at 679.
“Determining whether a complaint states a plausible
claim for relief will . . . be a context-specific task that
requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial
experience and common sense.” Id.
light of Twombly and Iqbal, the Ninth
Circuit has 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).
Apart from factual insufficiency, a complaint is also subject
to dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) where it lacks a cognizable
legal theory, Balistreri v. Pacifica Police
Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990), or where
the allegations on their face show that relief is barred for
a legal reason. Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 215
dismissal without leave to amend is improper unless it is
beyond doubt that the complaint “could not be saved by
any amendment.” Harris v. Amgen, Inc., 573
F.3d 728, 737 (9th Cir. 2009). The Ninth Circuit has held
that “in dismissals for failure to state a claim, a
district court should grant leave to amend even if no request
to amend the pleading was made, unless it determines that the
pleading could not possibly be cured by the allegation of
other facts.” Cook, Perkiss and Liehe, Inc. v. N.
California Collection Serv., Inc., 911 F.2d 242, 247
(9th Cir. 1990).
Rule 12(b)(1) Standard
subject matter jurisdiction is challenged pursuant to Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), the plaintiff bears the
burden of persuasion. Indus. Tectonics, Inc. v. Aero
Alloy, 912 F.2d 1090, 1092 (9th Cir. 1990) (citations
omitted). A party who brings a Rule 12(b)(1) challenge may do
so by referring to the face of the pleadings or by presenting
extrinsic evidence. See White v. Lee, 227 F.3d 1214,
1242 (9th Cir. 2000) (“Rule 12(b)(1) jurisdictional
attacks can be either facial or factual.”). In the
former, the challenger asserts that the allegations contained
in a complaint are insufficient on their face to invoke
federal jurisdiction. Safe Air for Everyone v.
Meyer, 373 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir. 2004). “By
contrast, in a factual attack, the challenger disputes the
truth of the allegations that, by themselves, would otherwise
invoke federal jurisdiction.” Id. In resolving
a factual attack on jurisdiction, the court need not presume
the truthfulness of the plaintiff's allegations and may
review evidence beyond the complaint without converting the
motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment.
threshold matter, Thornton suggests the Court should ignore
any rulings or filings in both the state court action and the
removal action as matters outside the pleadings. However,
Thornton acknowledges that such court filings are documents
subject to judicial notice. Under Federal Rule of Evidence
201(b), a court may take judicial notice of a fact not
subject to reasonable dispute because it is either: (1)
generally known within the territorial jurisdiction of the
trial court; or (2) capable of accurate and ready
determination by resort to sources whose accuracy cannot
reasonably be questioned. FRE 201(b). The Court “may
take judicial notice of court filings and other matters of
public record.” Reyn's Pasta Bella, LLC v. Visa
USA, Inc., 442 F.3d 741, 746 (9th Cir. 2006).
Ninth Circuit has consistently held that courts may take
judicial notice of documents filed in other court proceedings
to establish the fact of such litigation and the face of
averments made. U.S. v. Black, 482 F.3d 1035, 1041
(9th Cir. 2007) (a federal court may take notice of
“proceedings in other courts, both within and without
the federal judicial system, if those proceedings have a
direct relation to the matters at issue”) (internal
quotation and citation omitted); Bryant v. Carleson,
444 F.2d 353, 357 (9th Cir. 1971) (taking judicial notice of
proceedings and filings in other courts, including a decision
of the California Supreme Court issued while the parties'
appeal in the federal case was pending). Here, judicial
notice of the record in both the state court action and the
removal action is proper. The court documents are matters of
public record from sources whose accuracy cannot reasonably
be questioned. Additionally, those cases directly relate to
the matters at issue here.
Court takes notice of the filings in the state court and
removal actions for the limited purpose of recognizing the
fact that certain court proceedings took place, the subject
matter of the litigation, and the allegations and judicial
acts recorded in them. The Court will consider such noticed
documents for purposes of the pending Motions to Dismiss
under 12(b)(6). U.S. v. Ritchie, 342 F.3d 903,
907-908 (9th Cir. 2003) (A court may consider matters of
judicial notice without converting the motion to dismiss into
one for summary judgment).
Motions to Dismiss by Barretts and ...