TROTT, Circuit Judge:
Lorna A. Olsen brought this action against the Idaho State Board of Medicine ("Board"), the Idaho State Board of
The district court granted appellees' motion for summary judgment and dismissed Olsen's claims. Because the district court correctly ruled that appellees are functionally comparable to judges and prosecutors and are accordingly entitled to the protections of absolute immunity for their quasi-judicial and quasi-prosecutorial acts, we affirm. We conclude also that none of appellees' alleged administrative acts supports a cognizable § 1983 claim and that Olsen's claim under § 1985 fails to allege sufficient facts to support a cause of action for conspiracy. Finally, we conclude that Olsen cannot state a claim under the Idaho Free Exercise of Religion Act because the Idaho legislature did not intend the Act to apply retroactively to conduct occurring prior to the statute's enactment.
Lorna Olsen registered with the Idaho State Board of Medicine as a physician assistant in 1993.
Following her overdose and while Olsen was still in the hospital, a representative
Olsen subsequently applied for a license to practice in Utah. Though Utah's licensing authorities possessed copies of the Idaho complaint and the Stipulation and Order, Olsen alleges that the Executive Director of the Board, appellee Darlene Thorsted ("Thorsted"), verbally informed the executive director of the Utah Board of Medicine that Olsen was guilty of the charges detailed in the Idaho complaint. Olsen asserts that this exchange between Utah and Idaho authorities delayed her licensing in Utah until 2002.
In September 1998, Olsen also applied and interviewed for a physician assistant position in Twin Falls, Idaho. In November 1998, Olsen attempted to re-register with the Board, requesting that her license to practice in Idaho be reinstated. In conjunction with this request, Olsen appeared before the BOPD for a personal interview on January 9, 1999. Olsen alleges that during this interview she was asked inappropriate questions about her religion and lifestyle. In a certified letter dated February 4, 1999, Thorsted informed Olsen that the Board intended to deny her request for reinstatement and invited her to request an evidentiary hearing. Olsen did request such a hearing, by letter dated February 26, 1999, which included a request for copies of her public records. In connection with that records request, Uranga sent Olsen's attorney a billing statement for $617.50 on July 13, 1999.
The Board appointed an independent hearing officer to review Olsen's request for reinstatement. That officer's recommendation to the Board concluded that Olsen was not entitled to the requested hearing because Olsen had "no existing license" and therefore "neither the Medical Practices nor the Rules and Regulations of the Board nor the Administrative Procedures Act confer [sic] any right to any hearing to Ms. Olsen regarding her November 12, 1998 application for reinstatement." Specifically, the hearing officer found that there was no license to reinstate because either 1) her license had automatically terminated, under applicable regulations, when her supervising physician withdrew in 1996 or, in the alternative, 2) her license had lapsed for failure to submit the required annual renewal application or re-register within two years following cancellation as allowed by applicable Board rules. See IDAPA 22.01.03.051.02-.03 (1998).
Olsen then appealed the Board's denial of reinstatement by filing a lawsuit in Idaho state court, requesting judicial review of the Board's decision as well as both injunctive relief and a declaratory judgment. On May 19, 2000, the state court dismissed all claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, except the claim for judicial review of the Board's decision. Olsen voluntarily dismissed that remaining claim. Olsen also filed a new application for a license in late 1999, the processing of which has not been completed by the Board, owing to Olsen's failure to respond to information requests sent by the Board on December 29, 1999.
Olsen filed the instant action on February 2, 2001, in Idaho State court. After the case was removed to United States District Court for the District of Idaho, Olsen filed an amended complaint on February 5, 2001. That operative complaint avers that several alleged actions by appellees during the process by which Olsen attempted to reinstate her license violated her constitutional rights. Specifically, she asserts that appellees' decisions and actions revoking and denying her license were motivated by their sentiments about her membership in the Mormon Church and her lifestyle choices in that regard. The district court dismissed each of Olsen's claims, concluding that appellees are entitled to absolute immunity for their quasi-judicial and quasi-prosecutorial conduct; that those allegations which fall outside the scope of such immunity were either precluded by the statute of limitations or not sufficient to constitute a viable constitutional claim; that the complaint failed to allege sufficient facts of a conspiracy to violate her constitutional rights; and that the Idaho Free Exercise of Religion Act did not apply retroactively to her claims. Olsen appeals that decision.
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
A. District Court's Decision
The district court reviewed and relied on materials outside the pleadings, and it therefore treated appellees' motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b) as motions for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. Olsen contends that this was improper.
When "matters outside the pleading are presented to and not excluded by the court, the motion shall be treated as
B. Standard of Review
Olsen appeals from the district court's order granting summary judgment for appellees. A grant of summary judgment is reviewed de novo. United States v. City of Tacoma, 332 F.3d 574, 578 (9th Cir.2003). We must determine, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to Olsen, the non-moving party, whether there are any genuine issues of material fact and whether the district court correctly applied the substantive law. Id. We may affirm on any ground supported by the record. Simo v. Union of Needletrades, 322 F.3d 602, 610 (9th Cir.2003). The district court dismissed all of Olsen's § 1983 claims on grounds of absolute immunity and the applicable statute of limitations. The determination of immunity is a question of law, which we review de novo. Buckles v. King County, 191 F.3d 1127, 1132 (9th Cir.1999). The district court's dismissal based on statute of limitations grounds is reviewed de novo. Mann v. Am. Airlines, 324 F.3d 1088, 1090 (9th Cir.2003).
A. 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Cause of Action
1. Absolute Immunity
Absolute immunity is generally accorded to judges and prosecutors functioning in their official capacities. Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 364, 98 S.Ct. 1099, 55 L.Ed.2d 331 (1978) (holding that state circuit judge is immune from suit for all actions within his jurisdiction); Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 430-31, 96 S.Ct. 984, 47 L.Ed.2d 128 (1976) (holding that state prosecutor had absolute immunity for initiation and pursuit of criminal prosecutions, including presentation of case at trial). This immunity reflects the long-standing "general principle of the highest importance to the proper administration of justice that a judicial officer, in exercising the authority vested in him, shall be free to act upon his own convictions, without apprehension of personal consequences to himself." Bradley v. Fisher, 13 Wall. 335, 347, 20 L.Ed. 646 (1871).
Under certain circumstances, absolute immunity is also extended to agency representatives performing functions analogous to those of a prosecutor or a judge. Miller, 335 F.3d at 898. Such immunity assures the independent functioning of executive officials acting in a quasi-judicial capacity, thereby ensuring that they can exercise their adjudicative discretion without fear of intimidation or harassment. Butz v. Economou, 438 U.S. 478, 515-17, 98 S.Ct. 2894, 57 L.Ed.2d 895 (1978). We determine whether the protections of absolute immunity are accorded to an agency whose functions are sufficiently similar to the judicial process using the "functional approach." Cleavinger v. Saxner, 474 U.S. 193, 201, 106 S.Ct. 496, 88 L.Ed.2d 507 (1985) (citing Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 810, 102 S.Ct. 2727, 73 L.Ed.2d 396 (1982)). We must consider whether the actions taken by the official are "functionally comparable" to that of a judge or a prosecutor. Butz, 438 U.S. at 513, 98 S.Ct. 2894.
Appellees argue that they are entitled to absolute immunity because they perform quasi-judicial and quasi-prosecutorial functions. Specifically, they assert that as Idaho's medical board and disciplinary subsidiary, they perform functions similar to that of a federal administrative agency's adjudication and that under the reasoning of Butz, they should be accorded the protections of absolute immunity for all conduct alleged in Olsen's complaint. In Butz, the Court outlined several nonexclusive factors that embody characteristics of the judicial process and aid in the determination of whether to grant absolute immunity: "(a) the need to assure that the individual can perform his functions without harassment or intimidation; (b) the presence of safeguards that reduce the need for private damages actions as a means of controlling unconstitutional conduct; (c) the [agency's] insulation from political influence; (d) the importance of precedent; (e) the adversary nature of the process; and (f) the correctability of error on appeal." Cleavinger, 474 U.S. at 202, 106 S.Ct. 496 (citing Butz, 438 U.S. at 512, 98 S.Ct. 2894).
In Mishler v. Clift, we applied the Butz factors and held that the members of the Nevada medical board are entitled to absolute immunity for their ministerial acts. 191 F.3d 998, 1009 (9th Cir.1999). Mishler was in accord with well-established case law holding medical board officials entitled to absolute immunity for their quasi-judicial and quasi-prosecutorial functions.
Here, we must engage in a similar analysis: using the Butz factors, we must determine whether the Board and the BOPD function in a sufficiently judicial or prosecutorial capacity, thus warranting the application of absolute immunity to protect their discretionary independence and shield their decision-making functions. See Butz, 438 U.S. at 515-17, 98 S.Ct. 2894.
a. Ensuring Performance of Functions without Harassment
The Board is a self-governing agency charged with the regulation and discipline of state-licensed medical practitioners. Idaho Code § 54-1805. The BOPD is a subcommittee of the Board, with authority to conduct investigations and hearings regarding unprofessional behavior and to take action with respect to licensing. Idaho Code § 54-1806A. In Mishler, we found that immunity for a medical board and its members serves important public interests. 191 F.3d at 1005. Specifically, we found that "[i]n view of the public interest of ensuring quality health care, there is a `strong need' to make certain that Board Members can perform these disciplinary functions without the threat of harassment or intimidation." Id. (quoting Horwitz, 822 F.2d at 1509). Here, as in Mishler, the Board's and the BOPD's functions include disciplining physicians and physician assistants. Indeed, Idaho law specifically grants to the Board the authority "to create a board of professional discipline and to delegate to it its role and authority in the enforcement and supervision of professional disciplinary enforcement...." Idaho Code § 54-1806A. Because "disciplinary proceedings and the revocation of a physician's [or physician assistant's] license are acts that are likely to stimulate numerous damages actions[,]" Mishler, 191 F.3d at 1005, granting absolute immunity ensures that those performing these quasi-judicial functions are accorded protection from "harassment and intimidation." Butz, 438 U.S. at 512, 98 S.Ct. 2894.
b. Safeguards Reducing Need for Private Damages Actions
As in Mishler, the Board and BOPD function under a comprehensive set of statutes and regulations, and each is governed by the Idaho Administrative Procedure Act (APA), which contains procedural rules and regulations for state agency activity. See Idaho Code §§ 54-1801, et seq.; Idaho Code §§ 67-5201, et seq.; IDAPA 22.01.03.00 (1998), et seq. Indeed, Idaho regulations set forth procedures to be used in all hearings, which include proper notice, assurances of full disclosure of relevant facts and issues, and opportunities to present evidence and argument. Idaho Code § 67-5242. All orders must be in writing and include findings of fact and statements of available procedures and time limits for reconsideration or administrative relief. Idaho Code § 67-5248(a)-(b).
We conclude that these procedures provide the necessary safeguards for parties, such as Olsen, who appear before the
c. Insulation from Political Influences
As in Mishler, the structure of the Board and "the procedural requirements of their decision-making process show that the Board Members are sufficiently insulated from political influence." Id. at 1007. The Idaho Medical Practice Act, Idaho Code §§ 54-1801, et seq., establishes the Board as part of achieving its purpose of "assur[ing] the public health, safety and welfare in the state by the licensure and regulation of physicians, and the exclusion of unlicensed persons from the practice of medicine." Idaho Code § 54-1802. The law provides that the Board is composed of seven active physicians, two public members, and the director of the Idaho State Police. Idaho Code § 54-1805(2)(a). As we stated in Mishler, the risk that Board members will act out of financial self-interest is diminished by the presence of non-physicians on the Board. 191 F.3d at 1007. The physician members are chosen by the governor from a list of nominees compiled by the Idaho Medical Association, Idaho Code § 54-1805(2)(b), and the public members must have "never been authorized to practice a healing art, [or] had a substantial personal, business, professional, or pecuniary connection with a hearing art...." Idaho Code § 54-1805(2)(c). The BOPD consists of five members appointed and directly supervised by the Board, with power only to make recommendations to the Board. Idaho Code § 54-1806A(1). BOPD members are required to recuse themselves from any proceeding presenting a conflict of interest, Idaho Code § 54-1806A(5), and all formal BOPD hearings must be open to the public. Idaho Code § 54-1806A(7). In addition, under the APA, all agency hearings require notice, full disclosure of facts, and an opportunity to respond and present evidence and argument. Idaho Code § 67-5242. Given the totality of these procedural safeguards, we conclude that the Board, the BOPD, and their respective members are sufficiently insulated from political pressures. See Mishler, 191 F.3d at 1007.
d. Remaining Butz Factors: Precedent, Adversariness, and Correctability
First, the IDAPA sets forth detailed requirements for indexing precedential agency orders and guidance documents. Idaho Code § 67-5250. Additionally, the Board's proceedings are clearly adversarial, a proposition which is not in dispute. Finally, Idaho law provides a scheme of appeal: all orders must be in writing and must include a reasoned statement in support of the decision, with findings of fact, a statement of available procedures, and the applicable time limits for reconsideration or other administrative relief. Idaho Code § 67-5248. In that regard, any party may file a motion for reconsideration of a recommended order. Idaho Code § 67-5243(3). Each final agency action or order in a contested case is subject to judicial review. Idaho Code § 67-5270. Accordingly, each of the remaining Butz factors is evident.
After reviewing Idaho's administrative and procedural scheme for the regulation
2. Scope of Immunity
Our conclusion that appellees' functions are comparable to those of judges and prosecutors and accorded absolute immunity applies only to those actions which are judicial or closely associated with the judicial process. Mishler, 191 F.3d at 1007 (citing Buckley, 509 U.S. at 273, 113 S.Ct. 2606). We must determine, therefore, which of appellees' alleged acts, if any, are not sufficiently connected to their judicial functions to warrant the shield of absolute immunity. Of course, we only need to analyze those actions which are not time-barred, so we will initially apply the statute of limitations and then determine whether the alleged actions fall within the scope of the appellees' absolute immunity. We must then determine if any of those non-immunity-barred, non-time-barred actions amounts to a constitutional deprivation and whether Olsen has put forth facts sufficient to survive a motion for summary judgment.
a. Statute of Limitations
In 42 U.S.C. § 1983 actions, we apply the forum state's statute of limitations for personal injury actions. Knox v. Davis, 260 F.3d 1009, 1012 (9th Cir.2001) (citing Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 276, 105 S.Ct. 1938, 85 L.Ed.2d 254 (1985)). In Idaho, the statute of limitations provides for a limitations period of two years from the date the cause of action accrues. Hallstrom v. Garden City, 991 F.2d 1473, 1476 (1993) (citing Idaho Code § 5-219(4)). "Although state law determines the length of the limitations period, federal law determines when a civil rights claim accrues." Morales v. City of Los Angeles, 214 F.3d 1151, 1153-54 (9th Cir.2000). "[A] claim accrues when the plaintiff knows or has reason to know of the injury which is the basis of the action." TwoRivers v. Lewis, 174 F.3d 987, 991 (9th Cir.1999). In RK Ventures, Inc. v. City of Seattle, we held that in determining when an act occurs for statute of limitations purposes, "the question is when the operative decision was made, not when the decision is carried out." 307 F.3d 1045, 1059 (2002).
In RK Ventures, a case concerning a City's prosecution of an abatement action, we determined that the "operative decision" was the City's decision to institute formal abatement hearings. Id. at 1058. We concluded that the City commenced its abatement action either when the City police chief sent a letter to appellants and their counsel giving formal notice of abatement of the public nuisance, or when the City's Examiner's Office sent a letter to the City and appellants advising them of the commencement date and format of the administrative hearing. Id. We held that the City's continued prosecution of the abatement action during the statute of limitations period did not constitute an actionable event because the actual injury was the City's decision to hold an abatement action and its notice to that effect. Id.
Here, appellees assert that all of Olsen's claims are barred by the statute of limitations. Specifically, they argue that Olsen's complaint, filed on February 2, 2001, is untimely because her claims accrued on the date of the BOPD's interview, on January 16, 1999, the point at which they assert Olsen would have first become aware of appellees' allegedly discriminatory motivations. Olsen contends that her complaint is timely, asserting that her claims accrued on August 12, 1999, the date on which the Board's decision regarding her license reinstatement became final. In the alternative, Olsen contends that the
We hold that Olsen's claim accrued when she received the February 4, 1999 letter notifying her of the Board's proposal to deny her license reinstatement. The letter was "adequately final and represented the [Board's]'official position.'" Id. at 1060 (quoting Del. State Coll. v. Ricks, 449 U.S. 250, 261, 101 S.Ct. 498, 66 L.Ed.2d 431 (1980)). Assuming that Olsen received the letter on February 5, 1999, her complaint, which was originally filed on February 2, 2001, is timely. The actions alleged in Olsen's complaint falling outside of the limitations period, however, are time-barred. Nat'l R.R. Passenger Corp. v. Morgan, 536 U.S. 101, 122, 122 S.Ct. 2061, 153 L.Ed.2d 106 (2002).
b. Ministerial Actions
In Mishler, we explained that the scope of quasi-judicial immunity extends only to
We conclude that of the non-time-barred allegations, only the Board's issuance of the billing statement involves functions that are ministerial, rather than judicial or closely associated with the judicial process. Each of the other allegations involves actions by the appellees directly related to their adjudicatory function and the ultimate resolution of the disciplinary dispute at issue. Indeed, the Board and the BOPD are statutorily authorized to resolve disputes arising from the regulation of licensed medical practitioners in Idaho. Idaho Code §§ 54-1806 & 54-1806A. In this case, the underlying disciplinary dispute involved whether, under applicable Idaho regulations, Olsen was entitled to have her license reinstated after its automatic cancellation after her overdose in 1996. The BOPD's letter indicating its intent to deny reinstatement, the Board's decision not to hold a further hearing, the Board's final order denying her license reinstatement, and the Board's denial of her motion for reconsideration were each procedural steps involved in the eventual decision denying Olsen her license reinstatement. Such acts are inextricably intertwined with appellees' statutorily assigned adjudicative functions and are entitled to the protections of absolute immunity.
We have previously explained that acts occurring during a disciplinary hearing process clearly fall within the scope of absolute immunity. Mishler, 191 F.3d at 1008. In Mishler, we explained further that "[i]t is the available procedures, not the manner in which they are exercised in a particular case, that is the critical inquiry for determining whether there are safeguards that reduce the need for private damages actions." Id. at 1006. Moreover, as in Mishler, "the acts of [appellees] are no less judicial or prosecutorial because they may have been committed in error." Id. Ultimately, we find that each of these actions is intimately connected to the appellees' statutorily authorized function to adjudicate disciplinary disputes involving the licensing of physician assistants. Compare Horwitz v. Bd. of Medical Exam'rs, 822 F.2d 1508, 1515 (10th Cir. 1987) (according absolute immunity to members of boards exercising authority to summarily suspend professional licenses), and Austin Municipal Secs. v. Nat'l Ass'n of Secs. Dealers, 757 F.2d 676, 697 (5th Cir.1985) (same), with Chalkboard, Inc. v. Brandt, 902 F.2d 1375, 1379 (9th Cir.1990) (denying absolute immunity for state officials who contravened state law in summarily suspended license). In this case, appellees determined that Olsen had failed to follow mandated regulations and therefore had no license to reinstate. Because Olsen had a right to judicial review, see Idaho Code § 67-5270, she could have alleged on appeal that this decision was motivated by religious or personal animus rather than any failure on her part to follow regulations. Though Olsen exercised her right to appeal that decision, she chose voluntarily to dismiss that claim and instead bring suit against appellees. We believe that Olsen's litigation strategy is, therefore, in direct contravention of the policy behind absolute immunity: Absolute immunity aids in the "discouragement of
Finally, the only allegation of Olsen's complaint that avoids both the statute of limitations and the protections of immunity involves the Board's billing statement sent to Olsen's counsel for costs and fees incurred with respect to her public records request. We conclude that the billing practices of the Board are not sufficiently comparable to judicial or prosecutorial functions to be accorded the protections of absolute immunity. See Mishler, 191 F.3d at 1008. Indeed, such actions are administrative in nature and are not, therefore, normally associated with the traditional judicial or prosecutorial functions. See id. (holding that the "act of responding to inquiries [was] ... an administrative function entailing examination of records and sending of correspondence"). However, though we find that this action is both ministerial and within the limitations period, we conclude that it cannot support a viable § 1983 claim. We agree with the district court that Olsen "does not allege that she paid the bill, nor does she allege how sending the bill amounts to a constitutional or legal violation under Section 1983." Because there is nothing in this allegation that suggests that Olsen's constitutional rights were violated, it is insufficient to support her § 1983 cause of action.
B. Conspiracy Claim Under 42 U.S.C. § 1985
To state a claim for conspiracy to violate constitutional rights, "the plaintiff must state specific facts to support the existence of the claimed conspiracy." Burns v. County of King, 883 F.2d 819, 821 (9th Cir.1989). The district court dismissed Olsen's conspiracy claim, holding that her "complaint lacks any facts specific to a conspiracy and the claim will be dismissed for failure to state a claim." We review de novo a district court's dismissal for failure to state a claim. Cervantes v. United States, 330 F.3d 1186, 1187 (9th Cir.2003).
Olsen asserts that her complaint provides sufficient evidence of conspiracy by setting forth numerous factual allegations concerning appellees' conduct. Review of her complaint, however, reveals that Olsen has failed to allege sufficiently that the appellees conspired to violate her civil rights. See Karim-Panahi v. Los Angeles Police Dep't., 839 F.2d 621, 626 (9th Cir. 1988). In fact, her complaint is devoid of
Olsen asserts also that she should have been allowed to amend her complaint to state facts sufficient to constitute a § 1985 claim. Generally, a district court should allow a plaintiff to amend the pleadings when a § 1985 claim is insufficiently pled. See Gillespie v. Civiletti, 629 F.2d 637, 641 (9th Cir.1980). In this case, however, Olsen cannot amend the complaint to cure the § 1985 defect, because to state a claim for conspiracy under § 1985, a plaintiff must first have a cognizable claim under § 1983. Caldeira v. County of Kauai, 866 F.2d 1175, 1182 (9th Cir.1989). As previously discussed, Olsen's § 1983 claims were properly dismissed. Accordingly, Olsen cannot cure the defects of her complaint to state a cognizable claim under § 1985. The district court's dismissal of that claim was proper.
C. Free Exercise Claim Under Idaho Code § 73-401
Finally, Olsen asserts that appellees' actions violated the Idaho Free Exercise of Religion Act, which provides that the "government shall not substantially burden a person's exercise of religion." Idaho Code § 73-402(2). The district court dismissed this state law claim, holding that section 73-401 did not apply retroactively to the conduct alleged in Olsen's complaint because the Act has no language indicating that the Idaho Legislature intended that it was to be retroactively applied to activity occurring before the act went into effect on February 1, 2001.
Under Idaho law, statutes are retroactively applied only if "expressly so declared." Idaho Code § 73-101. Olsen urges that the retroactivity of the Idaho Free Exercise of Religion Act is evidenced by the statute's mandate that it "applies to all state laws and local ordinances and the implementation of those laws and ordinances, whether statutory or otherwise, and whether enacted or adopted before, on or after the effective date of this chapter." Idaho Code § 73-403(1) (emphasis added). We conclude that this section is insufficient to meet the clear expression standard of the retroactivity analysis. Rather, we conclude that section 73-403(1) merely establishes that the Free Exercise of Religion Act applies to all state and local ordinances already in existence at the time of its enactment. It does not establish that conduct performed pursuant to those ordinances, though performed prior to the enactment of the Act, falls within its ambit. Accordingly, we affirm the district court's holding that the statute did not apply retroactively to the conduct alleged in Olsen's complaint.
Appellees are not entitled to absolute immunity for all ministerial acts performed during Olsen's license reinstatement process. The only ministerial act alleged in Olsen's complaint that fell within the scope of the statute of limitations does not state a cognizable claim under § 1983. Moreover, Olsen's complaint failed to state sufficient facts to establish a claim for conspiracy under § 1985. Finally, the district court correctly concluded that the Idaho Free Exercise of Religion Act does not apply retroactively to conduct allegedly performed prior to the enactment of the statute. The district court's order dismissing Olsen's complaint is therefore AFFIRMED.