Ferris v. City of San Jose

Decision Date16 November 2011
Docket NumberCase No.: 11-cv-01752-LHK
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of California
PartiesSAM FERRIS, Plaintiff, v. CITY OF SAN JOSE, et al., Defendants.








Plaintiff Sam Ferris ("Ferris") brings this action in propria persona under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985 and California Civil Code § 52.1 against the County of Santa Clara (the "County") and the City of San Jose, the San Jose Chief of Police, and various unnamed police officers in their individual and official capacities (collectively the "City Defendants"), alleging violation of his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure and the use of excessive force, among other constitutional injuries, in connection with a warrantless arrest and two warrantless searches of his home. Before the Court are the City Defendants' and the County's Motions to Dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The Court held a hearing on these motions on November 16, 2011. Having considered the parties' submissions and arguments, as well as the relevant law, the Court hereby GRANTS the City Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, and GRANTS the County's Motion toDismiss.1 Plaintiff is granted leave to amend for the sole purpose of curing the deficiencies addressed in this Order.


Plaintiff is a registered sex offender who was convicted in 1984 for consensual sex with two minors, aged 15 and 17, and sentenced to six months in jail, modified to three months. Compl. ¶ 53. Plaintiff's constitutional claims arise from two distinct incidents involving searches of his property by the City of San Jose police officers. Unless otherwise noted, the following allegations are taken from Plaintiff's Complaint and are presumed to be true and construed in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff for purposes of ruling on Defendants' motions to dismiss. See Zimmerman v. City of Oakland, 255 F.3d 734, 737 (9th Cir. 2001).

A. First Alleged Incident (April 9, 2010)

Ferris lives at 2953 Plumstead Place, San Jose, CA 95148. Ferris is the landlord of the property, but he occupies only the back portion of the house, comprised of a living room, bathroom, and bedroom, with a sliding glass door and a security gate as his main entrance. Although there is a window in the bedroom, neither the window nor the door is visible from the street, as they are in the back yard behind gates. Compl. ¶ 2.

The incidents precipitating the April 9, 2010 arrest occurred one day earlier, on April 8, 2010. Ferris had purchased tree wood from a neighbor and had enlisted someone to haul the wood down the street for him, but the truck driver soon encountered problems with his truck, thereby delaying the process by several hours. While the truck driver sought to repair his truck, Ferris invited the truck driver's girlfriend, Trish, to his room for coffee. Ferris brought Trish to his room, and they made coffee. Another woman, Beverly Jones ("Jones"), was already inside. As Ferris left them, he informed Trish, "If you want out go to the door and holler for me." Id. ¶¶ 45-46. Ferrisreturned approximately twenty minutes later, at which time Trish stated that she and Jones were conversing and drinking coffee, and everything was fine. Ferris left them and returned again after another twenty minutes. Again, everything seemed fine. Id. ¶¶ 47-48.

Ferris left the two women to assist with the truck repair, and this time did not return for another hour or so, although Ferris does not remember exactly how long he was gone. Another female who lives on the property informed Ferris that someone was at the back window shouting that she wanted to get out of Ferris' room. Ferris then walked to the back door and opened the security gate, allowing a "distraught" Trish to come out, "claiming the room was claustrophobic (it is very crow[d]ed), dark (it is dark), and Jones was naked (she was)." Id. ¶¶ 49-50. Ferris brought her back to her boyfriend and explained that he kept the door locked "for security purposes so she would not steal Ferris's items," and Trish "kind of accepted that as reasonable." Id. ¶ 50.

On the morning of April 9, 2010, officers from the San Jose Police Department came to Ferris' house and spoke with four individuals, asking if Ferris kept Jones locked in his room against her will. All four replied that Ferris locked her in, with her permission, for security purposes. Id. ¶¶ 4-5. Ferris claims that he and Jones were sleeping when the officers knocked on the outside door to Ferris' residence, awakening them.

The officers informed Ferris that they wished to speak with Jones and warned that if Ferris did not open the door within one minute, they would proceed to break it down. Ferris attempted to convince Jones to speak with the officers, but she initially refused, and after a minute elapsed with no appearance on her part, the officers repeated their threat to break down the security gate and the glass door. Ferris then went out and locked the security gate to keep the officers out, while also shouting for Jones to come out and speak with them. One of the officers asked Ferris three times to give him the keys to the door, which Ferris refused. The officers then handcuffed Ferris, seized the keys from him, and entered the premises. Id. ¶ 18.

Inside Ferris' home, the officers did a visual protective sweep but also unlocked a deadbolt lock on a closet door, from which they removed some liquor and gave it to Jones. Id. ¶¶ 26-27. The officers questioned Ferris, and approximately four others who also lived at the property, for atleast thirty minutes. Id. ¶ 29. Ferris was then locked, handcuffed, in the police car. Ferris concedes that the police officer "did place the handcuffs on in [a] reasonable manner" but alleges that "for some reason they are made so that if someone were to lean back or sit on them (hands are behind back) they automatically close more." Id. ¶ 74. Ferris alleges that, due to the design of the handcuffs, they closed more on his wrists and were "way to[o] tight for about 10 minutes," although he concedes the officer "did rectify the situation upon complaint by Ferris." Id.

Ferris was eventually taken to jail, where he made tape-recorded statements to the police and was booked on three misdemeanor charges: two counts of false imprisonment, California Penal Code § 236, and one count of resisting arrest, California Penal Code § 148. Id. ¶ 30, 57. Ferris was released on $11,000 bail approximately nine hours later on the same night of the arrest, April 9, 2010. No charges were ultimately brought against Ferris. Id. ¶¶ 34-35, 38.

Ferris suspects, but does not know for a fact, that the police came to his house in response to a report by Trish that he was a registered sex offender and was falsely imprisoning Jones inside his home. Id. ¶ 53. Ferris explains that he "locks Jones in as she is a known drug user and there is over $40,000 worth of computers and other items in [his] room," but he "unlocks the door when Jones wants to go out." Id. ¶¶ 21-22. He further alleges that "[a]lthough neither Jones [n]or Trish could exit from the security gate when its [sic] locked, there is a completely legal, up to code, fire exit in the bedroom," from which persons can safely and easily escape. Id. ¶ 56. The fire exit is on the ground floor, and the window is three to four feet off the ground, designed for fast egress in an emergency. Id.

B. Second Alleged Incident

Plaintiff's second encounter with the City of San Jose police officers occurred on May 29, 2010. On this second occasion, the police arrived at the premises of 2953 Plumstead Place, San Jose, CA to investigate allegations not against Ferris himself, but rather against Shawn Furbay ("Furbay"), a tenant of Plaintiff's. Compl. ¶ 59. Furbay's girlfriend had summoned the police, and Furbay asked Ferris to explain to the police that the room was Furbay's and not the girlfriend's. Ferris went out with a copy of a case and attempted to explain to the officers the limited rights of alicensee, but the officers refused to read the case. Id. ¶ 64. The officers asked Ferris if Furbay's girlfriend had property in the room, and when Ferris replied that she did, the officers stated that she was a tenant. Id.

By the time Ferris and Furbay met with the police, the girlfriend had apparently driven off. Id. ¶¶ 59, 62. Furbay was taken into custody and placed in the back of the police car. Id. ¶ 63. The police then told Ferris they were going to enter the house to "check for 'a pool of blood' or something." Id. ¶ 66. Ferris pointed to a "no trespassing" sign he had posted on the property and denied them entry because they had no warrant, but the officers told Ferris to "sit down and shut up, and that due to his sex offender registration status he should not 'piss us off.'" Id. ¶¶ 66-67. Ferris understood the officers to be implying that "violence would be used by the police against [him] based upon his registration status." Id. During the approximately twenty to thirty minutes that the officers searched the house, Ferris was not allowed to leave the site and was not allowed to go inside and get a jacket unless accompanied by a police officer, which he declined to do. Id. ¶¶ 69-70. Upon exiting the house, the officers "muttered something about building code violations" and then left the premises. Id. ¶ 71.

C. Procedural History

On April 8, 2011, Plaintiff brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985 and California Civil Code § 52.1, alleging that the City Defendants violated his Fourth Amendment rights by arresting him and searching and seizing his property without probable cause, using excessive force, and...

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