305 F.3d 1052 (9th Cir. 2002), 01-55304, Henderson v. City of Simi Valley

Docket Nº:01-55304
Citation:305 F.3d 1052
Party Name:Henderson v. City of Simi Valley
Case Date:September 24, 2002
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

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305 F.3d 1052 (9th Cir. 2002)

Eleanor HENDERSON, Plaintiff-Appellant,


CITY OF SIMI VALLEY; Randy Adams, Chief, individually and as the Chief; George Godfrey, Officer; May, Officer, Badge # 318; Samarin, Officer, Badge # 097, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 01-55304.

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

September 24, 2002

Argued and Submitted March 4, 2002.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Earnest CS. Bell, Ventura, CA, for the plaintiff-appellant.

Martin R. Berman, Law Offices of James Aaron Pflaster, Los Angeles, CA, and David H. Hirsch, City Attorney for Simi Valley, Simi Valley, CA, for the defendants-appellees.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California; Carlos R. Moreno, District Judge, Presiding. D.C. No. CV-00-02191-CRM.

Before BROWNING, THOMAS and RAWLINSON, Circuit Judges.

RAWLINSON, Circuit Judge.

It is a sad state of affairs when police officers must stand between a mother and her minor daughter to keep the peace. The aftermath of such a situation brings this case before us. We must decide whether the defendant police officers violated the mother's constitutional rights in their efforts to keep the peace, and whether they used excessive force in the process. We agree with the district court that the police officer's entry into the residence did not run afoul of the Fourth Amendment. The district court reached its conclusion on the Fourth Amendment issue by employing a general reasonableness analysis. We affirm on the alternate ground that the search, such as it was, was reasonable under the definitive special needs exception to the Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement. We also affirm the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants on Eleanor Henderson's excessive force claim.


On August 10, 1999, pursuant to California's Domestic Violence Prevention Act ("DVPA"), Eleanor Henderson's former husband, Lantz Henderson, sought and received an Order to Show Cause and Temporary Restraining Order (the "Order"). See Cal. Fam.Code, § 6200 et seq. Among other things, the Order gave the Hendersons' minor daughter Suzanne "exclusive temporary use, control, and possession of. . . all personal belongings, including (but not limited to) the items specified in the attached list." The attached list included a car, computer, stereo, television, specific items of furniture, and "[a]ll personal effects, clothing, jewelry, and miscellaneous things that were and have always been, or belonged solely and personally to the minor child, and were contained in the bedroom on [sic] the minor child at the time she left to go visit her father on July 29, 1999."

The day after the Order was entered, Suzanne requested that Officers Godfrey and Samarin of the Simi Valley Police Department escort her and stand by while she retrieved the property described in the Order. Upon arrival at the residence, the officers observed a pile of clothing outside the house.

Officer Godfrey attempted to show Eleanor Henderson ("Henderson") the Order.

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With her own copy in hand, Henderson responded that her daughter could only have the clothes, some cats and some pigs. From the beginning of the encounter, Henderson was yelling and screaming that her daughter could not have anything else.

While Officer Godfrey was trying to explain the Order to Henderson, she turned away and made threats to release her two Rottweilers on the officers. Henderson began to untie the Rottweilers from the stairway bannister just inside the house, whereupon Officers Godfrey, May and Samarin entered the house to prevent her from releasing the dogs.1 Despite Officer Godfrey's efforts to restrain her, Henderson continued to fight. Henderson's combativeness and attempts to release the dogs on the officers resulted in her being handcuffed and taken outside.

The officers escorted Henderson to a police car, with Officer Godfrey holding one arm, and Officer May holding the other. Along the way, Henderson threw her feet from underneath her, and the officers had to hold her up to prevent a fall. In the process, Henderson suffered some bruising on her arm.

While Officer May transported Henderson to the police station, Officers Godfrey and Samarin entered the residence a second time to accompany Suzanne while she retrieved her belongings. According to Officer Godfrey's deposition, he was concerned that an unidentified male, previously observed in the residence, could be a threat to Suzanne. Suzanne gathered her property without incident, with the officers only entering the living room and Suzanne's bedroom.

Henderson brought an action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the City of Simi Valley, Chief Randy Adams, and Officers Godfrey, May, and Samarin. Henderson's causes of action included illegal entry; false arrest and illegal imprisonment; excessive force; and a Monell claim for failure to train. A motion for partial summary judgment was filed by Henderson and a motion for summary judgment was filed by the defendants. On January 10, 2001, the district court denied Henderson's motion and granted the defendants' motion.

Henderson filed a timely Notice of Appeal on February 2, 2001. On appeal, Henderson only challenges the district court's ruling on her illegal entry and excessive force claims. She contends that the officers' second entry into her residence violated her Fourth Amendment rights and the officers used excessive force when they arrested her.


We review a district court's grant or denial of a motion for summary judgment de novo. Robi v. Reed, 173 F.3d 736, 739 (9th Cir. 1999). "[W]e may affirm a summary judgment on any ground finding support in the record." Cairns v. Franklin Mint Co., 292 F.3d 1139, 1155 n. 14 (9th Cir. 2002) (citation omitted).

Summary judgment is appropriate if, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, the district court correctly applied the relevant substantive law and there are no genuine issues of material fact. Clark v. City of Lakewood, 259 F.3d 996, 1004 (9th Cir. 2001). Under F.R.C.P. 56(e) "[w]hen a motion for summary judgment is made and supported as provided in this rule, an adverse party may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of the adverse party's pleading, but the adverse party's response,

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by affidavits or as otherwise provided in this rule, must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. If the adverse party does not so respond, summary judgment, if appropriate, shall be entered against the adverse party." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e).



42 U.S.C. § 1983 creates a cause of action against a person who, acting under color of state law, deprives another of rights guaranteed under the Constitution. Section 1983 does not create any substantive rights; rather it is the vehicle whereby plaintiffs can challenge actions by governmental officials. To prove a case under section 1983, the plaintiff must demonstrate that (1) the action occurred "under color of state law" and (2) the action resulted in the deprivation of a constitutional right or federal statutory right. There is no dispute that the officers were acting under color of state law. The dispute in this case was whether the officers unreasonably searched [Henderson's] house in violation of her Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

Jones v. Williams, 297 F.3d 930, 934 (9th Cir. 2002)...

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