903 F.3d 943 (9th Cir. 2018), 16-55518, Scott v. County of San Bernardino

Docket Nº:16-55518
Citation:903 F.3d 943
Opinion Judge:NGUYEN, Circuit Judge.
Party Name:David SCOTT, as guardian ad litem for his minor daughter, S.S.; Angelica Santana, as guardian ad litem for her minor daughter, L.R.; Dejah Hall, as guardian ad litem for her minor daughter, R.H., Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. COUNTY OF SAN BERNARDINO; Luis Ortiz; Anthony Thomas, Defendants-Appellants, Andrew Garcia, Defendant, Etiwanda School ...
Attorney:Laura L. Crane (argued), Deputy County Counsel; Jean-Rene Basle, County Counsel; San Bernardino County Counsel, San Bernardino, California; for Defendants-Appellants. Brenton Whitney Aitken Hands (argued), Law Office of Jerry L. Steering, Newport Beach, California, for Plaintiffs-Appellees.
Judge Panel:Before: Jacqueline H. Nguyen and Andrew D. Hurwitz, Circuit Judges, and Richard K. Eaton, Judge.
Case Date:September 10, 2018
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
 
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903 F.3d 943 (9th Cir. 2018)

David SCOTT, as guardian ad litem for his minor daughter, S.S.; Angelica Santana, as guardian ad litem for her minor daughter, L.R.; Dejah Hall, as guardian ad litem for her minor daughter, R.H., Plaintiffs-Appellees,

v.

COUNTY OF SAN BERNARDINO; Luis Ortiz; Anthony Thomas, Defendants-Appellants, Andrew Garcia, Defendant, Etiwanda School District; Balbina Kendall; Janella Cantu-Myricks, Cross-Defendants.

No. 16-55518

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

September 10, 2018

Argued and Submitted November 13, 2017, Pasadena, California

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Laura L. Crane (argued), Deputy County Counsel; Jean-Rene Basle, County Counsel; San Bernardino County Counsel, San Bernardino, California; for Defendants-Appellants.

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

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California, Virginia A. Phillips, Chief Judge, Presiding, D.C. No. 5:14-cv-02490-VAP-KK

Before: Jacqueline H. Nguyen and Andrew D. Hurwitz, Circuit Judges, and Richard K. Eaton,[*] Judge.

SUMMARY[**]

Civil Rights

The panel affirmed the district court's summary judgment in an action brought by three middle school girls who alleged that a Sheriff's deputy arrested them on campus without probable cause, in violation of their Fourth Amendment rights and state law.

The middle school's assistant school principal had asked the Sheriff's deputy, a school resource officer, to counsel a group of girls who had been involved in ongoing incidents of bullying and fighting. After concluding that the girls were unresponsive and disrespectful, the deputy arrested the girls "to prove a point" and "make [them] mature a lot faster."

Applying the two-part reasonableness test set forth in New Jersey v. T.L.O., 469 U.S. 325, 333 (1985), the panel held that the arrests were unreasonable because they were not justified at their inception nor reasonably related in scope to the circumstances. The panel held that the summary arrest, handcuffing, and police transport to the station of the middle school girls was a disproportionate response to the school's need, which was dissipation of what the school officials characterized as an "ongoing feud" and "continuous argument" between the students. The panel further held that police officers were not entitled to qualified immunity because no reasonable officer could have reasonably believed that the law authorizes the arrest of a group of middle schoolers in order to teach them a lesson or to prove a point.

The panel held that the evidence was insufficient to create probable cause to arrest the students for violating California Penal Code § 415(1) or Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 601(a), and that plaintiffs were entitled to summary judgment in their favor on their state false arrest claim.

OPINION

NGUYEN, Circuit Judge.

On October 8, 2013, a group of seventh grade girls (twelve and thirteen year-olds)

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were handcuffed, arrested, and transported in police vehicles from their middle school campus to the police station. An assistant principal had asked a school resource officer, Sheriff’s Deputy Luis Ortiz, to counsel a group of girls who had been involved in ongoing incidents of bullying and fighting. School officials gathered the girls in a classroom to wait for Deputy Ortiz. The group included both aggressors and victims, and the school did not identify or separate them. When he arrived on campus, Deputy Ortiz initially intended to verify the information the school had given him and to mediate the conflict. Within minutes, however, Deputy Ortiz concluded that the girls were being unresponsive and disrespectful. He decided to arrest the girls because, as he explained to them, he was not "playing around" and taking them to jail was the easiest way to "prove a point" and "make [them] mature a lot faster." Deputy Ortiz stated that he did not care "who [was] at fault, who did what" because "it [was] the same, same ticket, same pair of handcuffs."

Three of the girls sued the arresting officers and the County of San Bernardino for unlawful arrest in violation of state laws and the Fourth Amendment. The district court denied the defendants qualified immunity and granted summary judgment in favor of the students. We affirm.

I.

Factual Background

A. Events Leading to the Arrests

In September and October of 2013, seventh-grade student L.V. harassed and bullied several classmates, including Plaintiffs L.R. and S.S., at the Etiwanda Intermediate Middle School ("EIS") in Rancho Cucamonga, California. On September 6, 2013, L.V. assaulted L.R. on the school’s playground. L.V. approached L.R. during a classroom break, grabbed her hair, and punched her in the face. R.H., the third plaintiff in this case, tried to pull L.V. off L.R. L.R. did not hit L.V. back, but the school suspended both girls. According to L.R.’s mother, Angelica Santana, the Assistant Principal, Balbina Kendall, told L.R. and Santana that it was school policy to suspend any student involved in a fight, regardless of who was at fault.

After the incident, Santana asked school officials for help in filing a police report with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. Deputy Anthony Thomas, a school resource officer, met with L.R. and Santana about the altercation. Santana asked Deputy Thomas about filing a restraining order against L.V. to protect her daughter L.R., but he replied that it would not be "practical" since the girls attended school together.1 Deputy Thomas also told his colleague, Deputy Ortiz, that he had taken a report regarding a fight on campus, but did not share any further details.

A few weeks later, L.V. told other students that she was going to assault S.S. On October 2, 2013, S.S. confronted L.V. and said "[i]f you’re going to beat me up, get it over with," and "hit me, bitch." L.V. made good on her threat by punching S.S., who did not hit L.V. back. S.S. later successfully asked the school to change her schedule to separate her from L.V. Over the following weekend, L.V. and another student, A.J., attempted to assault L.R. and S.S. in a local park. The victims fled, seeking assistance at the home of a stranger, who allowed them to call their parents to pick them up.

  1. The Arrests

On the morning of October 8, 2013, Santana notified the school that L.V. had attacked

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her daughter, L.R., over the weekend, and that she was afraid L.V. would attack L.R. again at school. That same morning, L.R., S.S., and R.H. went together to the school office and asked to speak with someone about L.V.’s bullying and threats. No administrator was available to speak with them, and the girls were sent to class. Later, the three girls and two other students, L.V. and A.J., were summoned to a group meeting to discuss the conflict. Two other students, M.L. and H.P., were brought to the room shortly after.

Assistant Principal Kendall had asked Deputy Ortiz to come to school in order to speak to the students. Kendall, Deputy Ortiz, and the school’s principal, Janella Cantu-Myricks, were present at the meeting. Kendall told Deputy Ortiz that she had gathered a group of female students who had been involved in an "ongoing feud." Kendall had previously told Deputy Ortiz that EIS had made multiple unsuccessful attempts to stop the conflict and that the problem was escalating. Deputy Ortiz had responded to an "unusually high" number of physical fights between students since the start of the school year.

Kendall addressed the students first, stating that "the threats, the fights after school, the threats [to] fight [at] school ... this needs to end." She told them "[s]o far as I know, all five ... all...

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