McKenzie v. Lamb, No. 82-5499

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore GOODWIN, KENNEDY, and POOLE; KENNEDY
Citation738 F.2d 1005
PartiesJerry McKENZIE and Thomas Herndon, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. Ralph LAMB, Sheriff of Clark County, Detective Gary Barlow, Detective J. McGuckin, Detective Herbert Barrett, Detective Chuck Lee, Detective B. Avants, Sgt. Frank Jergovic, Detective M.J. Maddock, Detective Al Leavitt, and Clifford Hazelton, Defendants-Appellees.
Decision Date17 May 1984
Docket NumberNo. 82-5499

Page 1005

738 F.2d 1005
Jerry McKENZIE and Thomas Herndon, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
Ralph LAMB, Sheriff of Clark County, Detective Gary Barlow,
Detective J. McGuckin, Detective Herbert Barrett, Detective
Chuck Lee, Detective B. Avants, Sgt. Frank Jergovic,
Detective M.J. Maddock, Detective Al Leavitt, and Clifford
Hazelton, Defendants-Appellees.
No. 82-5499.
United States Court of Appeals,
Ninth Circuit.
Argued and Submitted Jan. 11, 1983.
Submission Vacated May 17, 1984.
Resubmitted May 17, 1984. *
Decided July 24, 1984.

Page 1006

Charles W. Daniels, Freedman, Boyd, Daniels, Albuquerque, N.M., for plaintiffs-appellants.

Dana Jonathan Nitz, Barker, Gillock & Perry, Las Vegas, Nev., for defendants-appellees.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Nevada.

Before GOODWIN, KENNEDY, and POOLE, Circuit Judges.

KENNEDY, Circuit Judge:

Appellants Jerry McKenzie and Thomas Herndon sued officers of the Las Vegas, Nevada, police department under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983. The substance of their complaint was that the police officers, in their zeal to solve a brutal murder and robbery that had occurred five months previously, made mistaken arrests and then tried to cover-up their errors, all in violation of the appellants' rights under the fourteenth amendment and under state law.

McKenzie and Herndon are businessmen from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Both were involved in the turquoise jewelry trade. In early 1976, McKenzie, Herndon, and one Michael Hazelton devised a business plan to sell high quality turquoise jewelry to wealthy entertainers. The sales were to be made at private showings arranged

Page 1007

through Hazelton's father, Clifford. Clifford Hazelton had recently moved to Las Vegas from Hollywood, where he had been a screenwriter and supposedly had numerous contacts within the entertainment community.

On April 2, 1976, Michael Hazelton called his father in Las Vegas and discussed the venture. Clifford, skeptical of the plan, was concerned that his son's partners might not be legitimate businessmen. He contacted the Las Vegas police to express his doubts and seek advice.

The Las Vegas police were particularly interested in the report of a plan to sell expensive turquoise jewelry at private showings. In November 1975, a substantial amount of turquoise jewelry had been stolen from a shop owned by Al and Beth Edwards, who were brutally murdered. The police thought Clifford Hazelton's call might be a lead in the case.

In order to pursue the possibility of solving the Edwards murder and robbery case, the police concocted a plan: Wayne Newton, an entertainer acquainted with one of the officers, would feign interest in the appellants' jewelry and request them to show their merchandise in Las Vegas. The Las Vegas police, posing as members of Newton's party, would be able to observe both the jewelry and the appellants.

Pursuant to the police plan, a showing took place on April 9, 1976 at Newton's hotel. A witness from the Edwards' case signaled to the officers that he could not identify the appellants or their jewelry. The appellants were arrested nevertheless, and their merchandise was seized. Appellants allege that during the course of the arrests, the officers, all in plain-clothes, refused to identify themselves and used unwarranted physical intimidation. Appellants were charged with receiving stolen property, a felony, and doing business without an occupational license, a misdemeanor. The felony charge was never prosecuted. On the misdemeanor charge, appellants were acquitted by a jury.

McKenzie and Herndon brought this suit in federal district court, alleging civil rights violations based on unlawful arrest, unlawful seizure of their property, excessive use of force, and conspiracy to deprive them of their civil rights, as well as related state tort claims. The district court granted summary judgment to the defendants on all claims for relief. The district court found as a matter of law that probable cause existed for both the felony and misdemeanor arrests, and that no excessive force was used. In addition, the district court found that Clifford Hazelton did not cause appellants arrest. McKenzie and Herndon appeal. We reverse the summary judgment granted in favor of the officers; we affirm that part of the summary judgment granted in favor of Clifford Hazelton.

Under Sec. 1983 "[e]very person who, under color of [state law], ... [deprives] any citizen of the United States ... of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured ...." 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983. The fourth amendment to the United States Constitution, applicable to the states through the fourteenth amendment, prohibits arrests without probable cause. Beck v. Ohio, 379 U.S. 89, 90-91, 85 S.Ct. 223, 225-226, 13 L.Ed.2d 142 (1964). Arrests without probable cause thus give rise to a cause of action for damages. Gilker v. Baker, 576 F.2d 245 (9th Cir.1978) (Sec. 1983 action); see Bivens v. Six Unknown Agents of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388, 395, 91 S.Ct. 1999, 2004, 29 L.Ed.2d 619 (1971) (constitutional damage action for unlawful arrest under color of federal law).

Appellants allege that their arrests on both the felony and misdemeanor charges were without probable cause. Summary judgment is proper only if no material facts are in dispute and one party is entitled to prevail as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). Our task in determining whether probable cause to arrest existed as a matter of law in this Sec. 1983 action is slightly different from a similar determination in the context of a direct review of a criminal arrest. In the latter situation, we

Page 1008

are called upon to review both law and fact and to draw the line as to what is and is not reasonable behavior. We are not always in agreement as to its location, but a line must be drawn. By contrast, in a Sec. 1983 action the factual matters underlying the judgment of reasonableness generally mean that probable cause is a question for the jury, see Smiddy v. Varney, 665 F.2d 261, 265 (9th Cir.1981), cert. denied, 459 U.S. 829, 103 S.Ct. 65, 74 L.Ed.2d 66 (1982); Gilker, 576 F.2d at 247; and summary judgment is appropriate only if no reasonable jury could find that the officers did or did not have probable cause to arrest. We conclude that the district court erred in granting summary judgment for the defendants on the issue of probable cause to make the felony and misdemeanor arrests.

We first address the existence of probable cause to arrest for the felony of receiving stolen property. Even if we invert the usual analysis, cf. Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157, 90 S.Ct. 1598, 1608, 26 L.Ed.2d 142 (1970) (evidence to be construed in light most favorable to party opposing summary judgment), and resolve all factual questions in favor of the party moving for summary judgment, here the officers, there is no basis on this record for a trier of fact to conclude that there was probable cause to arrest the appellants for a felony. Thus, summary judgment for the officers cannot be sustained on the felony arrest aspect of the case. If no further evidence were adduced by the defendants, no reasonable jury could find probable cause existed for the felony arrests, and the plaintiffs would be entitled to summary judgment. No motion was made for summary judgment by the plaintiffs below, and we leave that question for a determination in the first instance by the trial court upon remand. See Nesmith v. Alford, 318 F.2d 110, 115-21 (5th Cir.1963), cert. denied, 375 U.S. 975, 84 S.Ct. 489, 11 L.Ed.2d 420 (1964) (reversing jury verdict for the defendants on issue of probable cause as unreasonable).

Conclusive evidence of guilt is not necessary to establish probable cause. Mere suspicion, common rumor, or even strong reason to suspect are not enough, however. Henry v. United States, 361 U.S. 98, 101, 80 S.Ct. 168, 170, 4 L.Ed.2d 134 (1959). There must be some objective evidence which would allow a reasonable officer to deduce that a particular individual has committed or is in the process of committing a criminal offense. See, e.g., Beck v. Ohio, 379 U.S. 89, 93-95, 85 S.Ct. 223, 226-227, 13 L.Ed.2d 142 (1964); Wong Sun v. United States, 371 U.S. 471, 480-83, 83 S.Ct. 407, 413-415, 9 L.Ed.2d 441 (1963); Henry v. United States, 361 U.S. at 102-104, 80 S.Ct. at 171-172. "Probable cause exists where the facts and circumstances within the officers' knowledge and of which they had reasonably trustworthy information are sufficient in themselves to warrant a man of reasonable caution in the belief that an offense has been or is being committed by the person to be arrested." Dunaway v. New York, 442 U.S. 200, 208 n. 9, 99 S.Ct. 2248, 2254 n. 9, 60 L.Ed.2d 824 (1979) (quotations and citations omitted).

Taking the evidence in the light most favorable to the officers, the information the officers had did not constitute probable cause to believe appellants had received stolen property. The officers rely primarily upon two pieces of information: the alleged likeness of Herndon to a description of the primary Edwards' murder suspect, and alleged similarities of appellants' jewelry to that stolen from the Edwards' shop. Our review of...

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212 practice notes
  • Marsh v. San Diego County, No. CIV. 05-1568WQH(NLS).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of California)
    • May 5, 2006
    ...decision to prosecute is a superseding cause." Id.,citing Arnold v. Intern. Business Machines, 637 F.2d at 1356-1358; McKenzie v. Lamb, 738 F.2d 1005, 1011 (9th Cir.1984). However, in McKenzie, the court granted summary judgment for defendant because "[h]e played no part in the arrests and ......
  • Lawman v. City & Cnty. of S.F., Case No. 15-cv-01202-DMR
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
    • February 5, 2016
    ...to establish probable cause, “[m]ere suspicion, common rumor, or even strong reason to suspect are not enough.” McKenzie v. Lamb , 738 F.2d 1005, 1008 (9th Cir.1984) (citing Henry v. United States , 361 U.S. 98, 101, 80 S.Ct. 168, 4 L.Ed.2d 134 (1959) ). “Probable cause is lacking if the ci......
  • Hillblom v. County of Fresno, No. CV F 07-1467 LJO SMS.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • February 4, 2008
    ...411 (1985)). The "crucial inquiry" is whether there was "probable cause to make the arrest." Barry, 902 at 772; see McKenzie v. Lamb, 738 F.2d 1005, 1007 (9th Cir. 1984). "Law enforcement officers may make warrantless arrests where there are `reasonable grounds to believe' that a crime has ......
  • Burns v. City, No. C 08-2995 RS
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
    • August 25, 2010
    ...to establish probable cause, "[m]ere suspicion, common rumor, or even strong reason to suspect are not enough." McKenzie v. Lamb, 738 F.2d 1005, 1008 (9th Cir.1984) ( citing 737 F.Supp.2d 1066Henry v. United States, 361 U.S. 98, 101, 80 S.Ct. 168, 4 L.Ed.2d 134 (1959)). Moreover, an arrest ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
212 cases
  • Marsh v. San Diego County, No. CIV. 05-1568WQH(NLS).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of California)
    • May 5, 2006
    ...decision to prosecute is a superseding cause." Id.,citing Arnold v. Intern. Business Machines, 637 F.2d at 1356-1358; McKenzie v. Lamb, 738 F.2d 1005, 1011 (9th Cir.1984). However, in McKenzie, the court granted summary judgment for defendant because "[h]e played no part in the arrests and ......
  • Lawman v. City & Cnty. of S.F., Case No. 15-cv-01202-DMR
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
    • February 5, 2016
    ...to establish probable cause, “[m]ere suspicion, common rumor, or even strong reason to suspect are not enough.” McKenzie v. Lamb , 738 F.2d 1005, 1008 (9th Cir.1984) (citing Henry v. United States , 361 U.S. 98, 101, 80 S.Ct. 168, 4 L.Ed.2d 134 (1959) ). “Probable cause is lacking if the ci......
  • Hillblom v. County of Fresno, No. CV F 07-1467 LJO SMS.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • February 4, 2008
    ...411 (1985)). The "crucial inquiry" is whether there was "probable cause to make the arrest." Barry, 902 at 772; see McKenzie v. Lamb, 738 F.2d 1005, 1007 (9th Cir. 1984). "Law enforcement officers may make warrantless arrests where there are `reasonable grounds to believe' that a crime has ......
  • Burns v. City, No. C 08-2995 RS
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
    • August 25, 2010
    ...to establish probable cause, "[m]ere suspicion, common rumor, or even strong reason to suspect are not enough." McKenzie v. Lamb, 738 F.2d 1005, 1008 (9th Cir.1984) ( citing 737 F.Supp.2d 1066Henry v. United States, 361 U.S. 98, 101, 80 S.Ct. 168, 4 L.Ed.2d 134 (1959)). Moreover, an arrest ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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