871 F.3d 901 (9th Cir. 2017), 15-56146, Sharp v. County of Orange

Docket Nº:15-56146
Citation:871 F.3d 901
Opinion Judge:EBEL, Circuit Judge:
Party Name:MERRITT L. SHARP III; CAROL SHARP, Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. COUNTY OF ORANGE; RYAN ANDERSON; JEREMIAH PRESCOTT; ALEXANDRA FLORES; JUSTIN CHEVALIER; MARK VAN DE KREEKE; ANTON PEREYRA, Defendants-Appellants
Attorney:Michael J. Rossiter (argued), Zachary M. Schwartz, and William L. Haluck, Koeller Nebeker Carlson & Haluck LLP, Irvine, California, for Defendants-Appellants. Brenton Whitney Aitken Hands (argued) and Jerry L. Steering, Law Office of Jerry L. Steering, Newport Beach, California, for Plaintiffs-Ap...
Judge Panel:Before: David M. Ebel,[*] Milan D. Smith, Jr., and N. Randy Smith, Circuit Judges. N.R. SMITH, Circuit Judge, dissenting in part. N.R. SMITH, Circuit Judge, dissenting in part:
Case Date:September 19, 2017
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
SUMMARY

Plaintiffs Merritt L. Sharp III and Carol Sharp filed suit against officers for violation of their constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. 1983, as well as California law. This case arose out of the execution of an arrest warrant for Merritt L. Sharp IV, the son of Sharp III and Carol. Sharp III was mistakenly arrested and detained instead of Sharp IV. The Ninth Circuit held that the district court ... (see full summary)

 
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Page 901

871 F.3d 901 (9th Cir. 2017)

MERRITT L. SHARP III; CAROL SHARP, Plaintiffs-Appellees,

v.

COUNTY OF ORANGE; RYAN ANDERSON; JEREMIAH PRESCOTT; ALEXANDRA FLORES; JUSTIN CHEVALIER; MARK VAN DE KREEKE; ANTON PEREYRA, Defendants-Appellants

No. 15-56146

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

September 19, 2017

Argued and Submitted, Pasadena, California April 3, 2017.

As Corrected September 28, 2017

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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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. 8:14-cv-00331-AG-JPR. Andrew J. Guilford, District Judge, Presiding.

Sharp v. Cnty. of Orange, (C.D. Cal., Feb. 29, 2016)

SUMMARY[**]

Qualified Immunity / 42 U.S.C. § 1983

The panel affirmed the district court's denial of qualified immunity to sheriff deputies as to plaintiff Merritt L. Sharp III's retaliation claim, as well as the denial of state-law immunities on plaintiffs' state claims; reversed the denial of qualified immunity on plaintiff Carol Sharp's retaliation claim and Sharp III's claims for the seizure of his person, the use of excessive force against him, and the search of his person, as well as plaintiffs' shared claim concerning the search of their home; and remanded for further proceedings.

The case arose out of the execution of an arrest warrant for plaintiffs' son, Merritt L. Sharp IV, whom sheriff deputies thought was residing in his parents' home. The sheriffs mistakenly arrested, searched and detained Sharp III, and searched the entire house. Plaintiffs alleged violations of their constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and several pendent California state law claims.

First, the panel addressed Sharp III's claims that the deputies unlawfully seized him in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Concerning the initial mistaken arrest of Sharp III on the front lawn and initial transfer to the patrol vehicle, the panel held that this initial arrest based on mistaken identity was constitutionally unreasonable, and thus illegal, but it did not violate clearly established law, and thus qualified immunity was warranted. Concerning the subsequent detention of Sharp III inside the patrol vehicle after the deputies discovered that he was not the warrant subject, the panel held that the categorical detention rule in Michigan v. Summers, 452 U.S. 692, 101 S.Ct. 2587, 69 L.Ed.2d 340 (1981), did not apply to arrest warrants at issue in this case. Because there were no particular circumstances justifying Sharp III's detention after learning he was not the arrest-warrant subject, the panel concluded that detention was unconstitutional. The panel, further held, however, that the detention did not violate clearly established law because of the legal ambiguity existing at the time of the arrest as to whether the categorical Summers exception applied to arrest warrants. The panel concluded that qualified immunity should have been granted.

The panel next addressed Sharp III's claims that Deputy Anderson violated the Fourth Amendment by using excessive force when Sharp III was arrested. The panel held that while the degree of force here was significant, Deputy Anderson was entitled to qualified immunity because plaintiffs did not offer anything other than general legal propositions which cannot clearly establish that Deputy Anderson's particular conduct was unlawful.

Concerning Sharp III's assertion of a Fourth Amendment violation based on the search of his person during the initial arrest, the panel held that since the arrest was not clearly proscribed by established law, neither was the subsequent search. Accordingly, qualified immunity should have been granted.

The panel addressed the plaintiffs' assertion that the deputies' search of their residence violated the Fourth Amendment. The panel held that the officers reasonably believed that Sharp IV resided in plaintiffs' home. The panel further held that Sharp IV's probation condition requiring him to submit his property to suspicionless searches defeated plaintiffs' claims that the deputies exceeded the scope of the authorized search by looking in areas where Sharp IV would not be found. The panel also held that there was no established law clearly proscribing the deputies' reliance upon Sharp IV's probation condition for their search of the residence. For these two reasons, the panel concluded that qualified immunity was warranted on this claim.

Concerning Sharp III's First Amendment claim based on the deputies' alleged retaliation against him for being argumentative, the panel held that Sharp III suffered unconstitutional retaliation that was clearly proscribed by established law. The panel concluded that qualified immunity was properly denied.

The deputies asserted four immunities under California state law to plaintiffs' various state law claims. The panel held that two immunities - " discretionary" immunity under Cal. Gov. Code § 820.2 and " prosecutorial" immunity under Cal. Gov. Code § 821.6 - did not apply as a matter of law. The panel also held that the remaining two immunities - arrest-warrant immunity under Cal. Civ. Code § 43.55(a) and false-arrest immunity under Cal. Penal Code § 847(b) - did not apply as a consequence of the panel's determination that the deputies' actions here were unreasonable. The panel concluded that the district court properly denied these immunities.

The panel held that the district court did not err in declining to award summary judgment to deputies not implicated in certain claims where the district court welcomed a motion to release specific defendants, but the deputies neglected to make one.

Judge N.R. Smith dissented in part. Judge N.R. Smith agreed with the majority that the deputies violated the Constitution when the deputies seized Sharp III, when the deputies used force against him, and when the deputies searched his person. Judge N.R. Smith disagreed whether the rights were " clearly established" at the time of the violation. He wrote that the majority failed to view the facts in the light most favorable to Sharp III when analyzing the Fourth Amendment claims, and consequently the majority improperly granted the deputies qualified immunity for their initial arrest of Sharp III, their use of excessive force against Sharp III, their subsequent search of Sharp III, and their continued arrest of Sharp III. Judge N.R. Smith would hold that Sharp III's Fourth Amendment claims stemming from these violations should go to trial along with Sharp III's claim of First Amendment retaliation.

Michael J. Rossiter (argued), Zachary M. Schwartz, and William L. Haluck, Koeller Nebeker Carlson & Haluck LLP, Irvine, California, for Defendants-Appellants.

Brenton Whitney Aitken Hands (argued) and Jerry L. Steering, Law Office of Jerry L. Steering, Newport Beach, California, for Plaintiffs-Appellees.

Before: David M. Ebel,[*] Milan D. Smith, Jr., and N. Randy Smith, Circuit Judges. N.R. SMITH, Circuit Judge, dissenting in part.

OPINION

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EBEL, Circuit Judge:

This case arises out of the execution of an arrest warrant gone wrong. Plaintiffs Merritt L. Sharp III (Sharp III) and Carol Sharp (Carol) were in their home when several sheriff deputies arrived. The deputies had an arrest warrant for Plaintiffs' son Merritt L. Sharp IV (Sharp IV), whom they believed was residing in his parents' home. During the pursuit of Sharp IV, however, the deputies mistakenly arrested his father Sharp III, believing him to be the subject of the warrant. In the course of that arrest, one of the deputies forcefully restrained Sharp III and searched his person. After they discovered their mistake, the deputies still kept Sharp III handcuffed and locked in a patrol car while several of them searched Plaintiffs' home for Sharp IV, the true subject of the arrest warrant. They also removed Carol from the house and forced her to wait during the home search. Meanwhile, Sharp III was kept detained in the patrol car after one of the deputies told him that he was being too argumentative to be let out of the car during the search of his home. Plaintiffs testified that when they returned to their house, they discovered that the deputies had not just searched for their son in the home, but also had searched through bedroom drawers and kitchen cabinets without a search warrant.

Plaintiffs brought this lawsuit asserting violations of their constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and also raised several pendent claims under California law. On motion for summary judgment, Defendants raised various immunities from suit, including qualified immunity from the § 1983 claims and a handful of state-law immunities from the state claims.1 The district court denied all immunities. In its view, the deputies violated clearly established law, thereby precluding qualified immunity, and the district court further held that the asserted state-law immunities were inapplicable as a matter of law and fact.

We AFFIRM in part and REVERSE in part. The district court properly denied qualified immunity on Sharp III's retaliation claim, and appropriately rejected all state-law immunities. However, the deputies are entitled to qualified immunity on Carol's retaliation claim and Sharp III's claims for the seizure of his person, the use of excessive force against him, and the search of his person, as well as Plaintiffs' shared claim concerning the search of their home. Although we conclude that much of this conduct was unconstitutional, we hold that qualified immunity was nevertheless warranted on these claims. Our conclusions are driven by recent Supreme Court pronouncements on qualified immunity and rest principally on the failure by Plaintiffs to...

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