828 F.3d 837 (9th Cir. 2016), 12-55109, Garmon v. County of Los Angeles

Docket Nº:12-55109
Citation:828 F.3d 837
Opinion Judge:Claudia Wilken, Senior District Judge:
Party Name:DETRICE GARMON, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES; STEVE COOLEY, individually and in his official capacity; DEPUTY DA MICHELLE HANISEE, individually and in her official capacity; KAISER PERMANENTE, Defendants-Appellees
Attorney:Brian K. Morris (argued) and Julia A. Vogelzang, Duane Morris LLP, San Diego, California, for Plaintiff-Appellant. Millicent L. Rolon (argued), Principal Deputy County Counsel; Roger H. Granbo and Jennifer A.D. Lehman, Assistant County Counsel; John F. Krattli, County Counsel; Mary C. Wickham, In...
Judge Panel:Before: Milan D. Smith, Jr. and Jacqueline H. Nguyen, Circuit Judges, and Claudia Wilken,[*] Senior District Judge.
Case Date:July 05, 2016
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
SUMMARY

When plaintiff testified at her son's trial, LA County Deputy District Attorney Michele Hanisee published all of plaintiff's medical records that she had subpoenaed from Kaiser without redacting them for the sole purpose of discrediting plaintiff. Plaintiff filed a complaint pro se for monetary damages under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and state law causes of action against Kaiser and Hanisee, as well as... (see full summary)

 
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828 F.3d 837 (9th Cir. 2016)

DETRICE GARMON, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES; STEVE COOLEY, individually and in his official capacity; DEPUTY DA MICHELLE HANISEE, individually and in her official capacity; KAISER PERMANENTE, Defendants-Appellees

No. 12-55109

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

July 5, 2016

Argued and Submitted May 2, 2016, Pasadena, California

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California. D.C. No. 2:10-cv-06609-SJO-PJW. S. James Otero, District Judge, Presiding.

SUMMARY[**]

Civil Rights

The panel reversed in part the district court's dismissal of a civil rights action brought by a plaintiff who was an alibi witness in her son's murder trial.

Because the plaintiff was scheduled to undergo brain surgery with an uncertain outcome, her deposition was taken. She authorized her medical provider to disclose to the prosecution medical records related to her brain tumor. The lead prosecutor instead subpoenaed all of her medical records, erroneously representing that the plaintiff was the murder victim. The plaintiff ultimately testified at her son's trial, and the prosecutor used her medical records to undermine her credibility.

The panel held that the prosecutor and her supervisor, the Los Angeles County District Attorney, were not entitled to absolute immunity for the prosecutor's misrepresentations in her declaration supporting the subpoena application. Following other circuits, the panel declined to adopt a rule that absolute prosecutorial immunity is unavailable against claims of unindicted third-party witnesses. The panel held that the prosecutor was absolutely immune for issuing the subpoena and for using the plaintiff's medical information at trial. She was entitled to qualified immunity, at most, for her declaration. The supervising attorney was immune to the same extent as the prosecutor.

The panel held that the district court abused its discretion by denying the plaintiff leave to amend her claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the County of Los Angeles to allege that actions pursuant to the County's policy or custom caused her injuries.

The panel held that the county, the district attorney, and the prosecutor were not entitled to state statutory immunity because the claims against them were not malicious prosecution claims.

The panel also reversed the dismissal of state law claims against the medical provider. It remanded the case to the district court.

Brian K. Morris (argued) and Julia A. Vogelzang, Duane Morris LLP, San Diego, California, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Millicent L. Rolon (argued), Principal Deputy County Counsel; Roger H. Granbo and Jennifer A.D. Lehman, Assistant County Counsel; John F. Krattli, County Counsel; Mary C. Wickham, Interim County Counsel; Los Angeles County Counsel, Los Angeles, California; for Defendants-Appellees County of Los Angeles, Steve Cooley and Michele Hanisee.

David P. Pruett (argued), Brenda M. Ligorsky, and Michael J. Trotter; Carroll, Kelly, Trotter, Franzen, McKenna & Peabody, Long Beach, California; for Defendant-Appellee Southern California Permanente Medical Group.

Before: Milan D. Smith, Jr. and Jacqueline H. Nguyen, Circuit Judges, and Claudia Wilken,[*] Senior District Judge.

OPINION

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Claudia Wilken, Senior District Judge:

Plaintiff-Appellant Detrice Garmon was an alibi witness in her son's murder trial.1 Because she was scheduled to undergo brain surgery with an uncertain outcome,

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her deposition was taken pursuant to state court procedure. She authorized Defendant-Appellee Southern California Permanente Medical Group (" Kaiser" ) to disclose to the prosecution medical records related to her brain tumor. The next day, Defendant-Appellee Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Michele Hanisee, the lead prosecutor, issued a subpoena duces tecum to Kaiser instead requesting all of Garmon's medical records. Hanisee provided a declaration in support of the application for the subpoena duces tecum, erroneously representing that Garmon was the murder victim in her son's trial. Garmon ultimately testified at her son's trial, and Hanisee used Garmon's medical records from Kaiser to undermine Garmon's credibility.

Garmon, acting pro se, filed a complaint in district court for monetary damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and several state law causes of action against Hanisee and Kaiser, and against Defendants-Appellees Steve Cooley, the Los Angeles County District Attorney at the time of the trial, and the County of Los Angeles. Hanisee, Cooley and the County are referred to as the " County Defendants." Garmon later filed a First Amended Complaint, which is the operative complaint. The court dismissed all causes of action against the County Defendants with prejudice and against Kaiser without prejudice.

We reverse in part and remand for further proceedings. Hanisee and Cooley are not entitled to absolute immunity for Hanisee's misrepresentations in her declaration supporting the application for the subpoena duces tecum. Further, the court abused its discretion by denying Garmon leave to amend her § 1983 claim against the County. The County Defendants are not entitled to the claimed state statutory immunity because the claims against them are not malicious prosecution claims. Finally, because we reverse the dismissal of certain federal claims, we reverse the district court's dismissal of state law claims against Kaiser.

I. Background

A. Underlying Facts

The release Garmon signed encompassed " Information Regarding Specific Injury or Treatment (from 1/08 to Present)," x-ray reports and " only information regarding tumor in pituitary gland."

Hanisee mailed a subpoena duces tecum to Kaiser with a cover letter, which erroneously stated that Garmon was the victim in a murder prosecution. Hanisee evoked a federal regulation under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) that permits disclosure without the consent or notification of the subject of the subpoena. The subpoena commanded Kaiser to produce the documents in its custody " described in the copy of the application for subpoena duces tecum attached hereto which is incorporated herein by reference." The application attached to the subpoena requested " [a]ny and all medical records for DETRICE GARMON," and explained that the " medical records will indicate the character and extent of the injuries inflicted upon DETRICE GARMON and are necessary to establish the elements of the charged crime." The application provided that the statements contained therein were true and correct under penalty of perjury. Accordingly, Kaiser produced all of Garmon's medical records, not just those subject to Garmon's consent, and did not notify Garmon.

When Garmon testified at her son's trial, Hanisee " published all of [Garmon's] medical records that she had subpoenaed from Kaiser Permanente," without redacting them, " for the sole purpose of discrediting

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[Garmon's] testimony." Garmon's son was ultimately convicted of murder.

B. Procedural History

A magistrate judge issued a Report and Recommendation (R& R) on County Defendants' motion to dismiss; the court adopted it in full. The R& R concluded that, under Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 96 S.Ct. 984, 47 L.Ed.2d 128 (1976), Hanisee and Cooley were absolutely immune from suit in their personal capacities. Further, because they were representatives of the State, they could not be sued in their official capacities. With regard to the claim against the County, the R& R explained that Garmon alleged that Hanisee's improper conduct violated...

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