Inman v. Anderson

Citation294 F.Supp.3d 907
Decision Date27 February 2018
Docket NumberCase No. 17-CV-04470-LHK
Parties Bruce INMAN, Plaintiff, v. S. ANDERSON, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of California

Kathleen Wells, Attorney at Law, Soquel, CA, for Plaintiff.

Gabrielle Jan Korte, Ryan M. Thompson, Law Offices of Vincent P. Hurley, Aptos, CA, Louis David Nefouse, Office of the County Counsel, Oakland, CA, for Defendants.


Re: Dkt. Nos. 43, 45

LUCY H. KOH, United States District Judge

Plaintiff Bruce Inman ("Plaintiff") filed an amended civil rights complaint against Defendants S. Anderson ("Officer Anderson"), Guillermo Vasquez ("Officer Vasquez"), Dana Rannals ("Officer Rannals"), Pedro Zamora ("Officer Zamora"), Leo Moreno ("Officer Moreno"), the City of Capitola, Steven J. Moore ("ADA Moore"), and the County of Santa Cruz (collectively, "Defendants"). In his amended complaint, Plaintiff asserts five causes of action arising out of his arrest, investigation, and prosecution for allegedly annoying or molesting a child in violation of California Penal Code § 647.6(a). On November 17, 2017, ADA Moore and the County of Santa Cruz (collectively, the "County Defendants") filed a motion to dismiss the amended complaint. ECF No. 43 ("County Mot."). On the same day, Officer Anderson, Officer Vasquez, Officer Zamora, Officer Moreno (collectively, the "City Officers"), along with the City of Capitola (collectively, the "City Defendants") moved (1) to dismiss the amended complaint; and (2) for a more definite statement.1 ECF No. 45 ("City Mot."). Having considered the submissions of the parties, the relevant law, and the record in this case, the Court hereby (1) GRANTS in part and DENIES in part the County Defendants' motion to dismiss; (2) GRANTS the City Defendants' motion to dismiss; and (3) DENIES the City Defendants' motion for a more definite statement.

A. Factual Background

Plaintiff is a resident of the County of Santa Cruz (the "County"). ECF No. 24 ("FAC") ¶ 3. At all times relevant to the instant case, Officers Anderson, Vasquez, Rannals, Zamora, and Moreno were police officers employed by the City of Capitola (the "City"), and ADA Moore was an Assistant District Attorney employed by the County. See id. ¶¶ 4–5.

Plaintiff alleges that on August 9, 2015, Plaintiff was taking photographs in and around the beach of Capitola" when he was "approached in an extremely belligerent manner" by Officers Vasquez and Zamora. Id. ¶¶ 7–8. Plaintiff states that, despite not having a search warrant, Officers Vasquez and Zamora demanded Plaintiff to "turn over his camera to them."Id. ¶ 8. Plaintiff further alleges that after Plaintiff "reluctantly" gave the officers his camera, the officers "arrested [P]laintiff for allegedly taking photographs of a minor without her permission." Id. ¶¶ 8–9. Specifically, Officers Vasquez and Zamora handcuffed Plaintiff and transported Plaintiff to the County jail, where Plaintiff "was booked, fingerprinted, forced to pose for mug shots and incarcerated." Id. ¶ 10. Plaintiff alleges that Officers Anderson, Vasquez, Rannals, Zamora, and Moreno "were all involved in the false arrest and incarceration of [P]laintiff." Id.

Plaintiff states that he "later discovered that he had been arrested for a violation of [ California Penal Code §] 647.6(a)." Id. Specifically, Plaintiff states that "[a]s it turns out, one of the subjects of [P]laintiff’s photographs was a minor who was at the beach that day posing for photographs." Id. Further, when the minor was approached by Officers Vasquez and Zamora, the minor "told them that she was totally unaware of [P]laintiff or his taking photographs of her." Id. Moreover, sometime "[a]fter [P]laintiff’s arrest, the alleged victim was shown a photo lineup of 6 individuals including [P]laintiff," but was "unable to identify anyone." Id. ¶ 14.

After Plaintiff posted bail and was released, ADA Moore "continued to prosecute [P]laintiff for some 9 months ... even though there was no evidence upon which to prosecute [P]laintiff." Id. ¶¶ 11, 13. Plaintiff states that he "is informed and believes and alleges thereon that" the City Officers "conspired with [ADA] Moore to present false incriminating evidence to the court." Id. 13. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that after the alleged victim failed to identify anyone from the photo lineup, Officers Anderson, Vasquez, Rannals, Zamora, and Moreno and ADA Moore "presented a false and misleading probable cause statement to a judge requesting a search warrant for [P]laintiff’s home." Id. ¶ 15. Plaintiff further alleges that his computer and "other supposed possible incriminating evidence" was seized pursuant to the search warrant, but that "no incriminating evidence whatsoever" was found. Id.

Then, after "9 months of persecution," "the charge against [P]laintiff was dismissed by a Superior Court Judge." Id. ¶ 16. Plaintiff alleges that the judge ordered ADA Moore to "return all of [P]laintiff’s possessions that had been seized." Id. ¶ 17. However, Plaintiff states that ADA Moore "refused to return [P]laintiff’s camera and computer, and told [P]laintiff that if he was going to return the camera, he was going to destroy the photos, thereby eliminating the evidence [P]laintiff would require in order to hold the defendants[ ] responsible for their unlawful acts." Id. Plaintiff says that "Defendants have still not returned [P]laintiff’s camera and other seized items." Id. ¶ 18.

B. Procedural History

On August 6, 2017, Plaintiff filed his original complaint along with an application for leave to proceed in forma pauperis ("IFP"). ECF Nos. 1 & 2. Plaintiff’s original complaint asserted five causes of action, including (1) "unlawful search, seizure, arrest" in violation of the Fourth Amendment, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (asserted against all Defendants); (2) "conspiracy to seize the person and deny substantive due process" in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (asserted against all Defendants); (3) a Monell claim against the County based on ADA Moore’s investigative policies, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ; (4) a Monell claim against the City, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ; and (5) violation of the Tom Bane Civil Rights Act ("Bane Act"), Cal. Civ. Code § 52.1 (asserted against all Defendants). See ECF No. 1.

On September 18, 2017, United States Magistrate Judge Nathanael Cousins granted Plaintiff’s IFP application. ECF No. 13. Then, on September 20, 2017, Judge Cousins conducted a sua sponte review of Plaintiff’s original complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 and dismissed Plaintiff’s fourth cause of action for Monell liability against the City with leave to amend. ECF No. 22. On October 4, 2017, Plaintiff filed a first amended complaint ("FAC"). See FAC. Plaintiff’s FAC asserts the same five causes of action as Plaintiff’s original complaint. See id.

Then, on October 4, 2017, the County declined magistrate judge jurisdiction. ECF No. 26. As a result, this case was reassigned to the undersigned judge. ECF No. 28.

On November 17, 2017, the County Defendants filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s FAC, see County Mot., and the City Defendants filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s FAC and for a more definite statement. See City Mot. On December 22, 2017, Plaintiff opposed both motions. See ECF No. 47 ("Opp. County"); ECF No. 48 ("Opp. City"). Then, on January 11, 2018, both the County Defendants and the City Defendants replied. See ECF No. 49 ("County Reply"); ECF No. 50 ("City Reply").

A. Motion to Dismiss Under Rule 12(b)(6)

Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires a complaint to include "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." A complaint that fails to meet this standard may be dismissed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The United States Supreme Court has held that Rule 8(a) requires a plaintiff to plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009). "The plausibility standard is not akin to a probability requirement, but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). For purposes of ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court "accept[s] factual allegations in the complaint as true and construe[s] the pleadings in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Manzarek v. St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co. , 519 F.3d 1025, 1031 (9th Cir. 2008).

The Court, however, need not accept as true allegations contradicted by judicially noticeable facts, see Shwarz v. United States , 234 F.3d 428, 435 (9th Cir. 2000), and it "may look beyond the plaintiff’s complaint to matters of public record" without converting the Rule 12(b)(6) motion into a motion for summary judgment, Shaw v. Hahn , 56 F.3d 1128, 1129 n.1 (9th Cir. 1995). Nor must the Court "assume the truth of legal conclusions merely because they are cast in the form of factual allegations." Fayer v. Vaughn , 649 F.3d 1061, 1064 (9th Cir. 2011) (per curiam) (internal quotation marks omitted). Mere "conclusory allegations of law and unwarranted inferences are insufficient to defeat a motion to dismiss." Adams v. Johnson , 355 F.3d 1179, 1183 (9th Cir. 2004).

B. Leave to Amend

If the Court determines that a complaint should be dismissed, it must then decide whether to grant leave to amend. Under Rule 15(a) of the...

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