Montoya v. Orange Cnty. Sheriff's Dep't

Decision Date13 August 2013
Docket NumberCase No. SACV 11–1922 JGB (RNBx).
Citation987 F.Supp.2d 981
CourtU.S. District Court — Central District of California
PartiesScott MONTOYA, Plaintiff, v. ORANGE COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT, Defendant.

OPINION TEXT STARTS HERE

John S. Kyle, Kyle Ludwig Harris, Peter Dahlquist, Cooley LLP, San Diego, CA, for Plaintiff.

Michael John Rossiter, W. Leo Haluck, Koeller Nebeker Carlson and Haluck LLP, Irvine, CA, for Defendant.

GRANTING IN PART DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT

JESUS G. BERNAL, District Judge.

Before the Court are two motions, a Motion for Summary Judgment (“Def's Mot.,” Doc. No. 61) filed by Defendant Orange County Sheriff's Department (Defendant or “OCSD”) and a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (“Pl's Mot.,” Doc. No. 56) filed by Plaintiff Scott Montoya (Plaintiff or “Montoya”). After considering the papers timely fled and the arguments presented at the June 24, 2013 hearing, the Court GRANTS IN PART Defendant's Motion and DENIES Plaintiff's Motion.

I. BACKGROUND
A. Procedural History

On December 13, 2011, Plaintiff filed a Complaint against OCSD and an individual, Sandra Hutchens, alleging they discriminated against him on the basis of his service in the United States Marine Corp. and intentionally inflicted emotional distress. (Compl., Doc. No. 1.) On January 4, 2012, OCSD filed a motion to dismiss and a motion to strike. (Doc. Nos. 5, 6.) Instead of opposing the motions, Plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint. (“FAC,” Doc. No. 8.) The FAC asserts a single claim against Defendant OCSD for violation of the Uniform Servicemembers Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (“USERRA”) pursuant to 38 U.S.C. § 4311. (FAC ¶¶ 18–20.)

Plaintiff contends OCSD initiated and manipulated multiple personnel investigations against him and eventually terminated him due to a pervasive animus against him due to his service in the Marine Corps and his receipt of the Navy Cross, a medal for his service in Iraq. (FAC ¶ 17.) Plaintiff also alleges that he was the target of service-related harassment from other OCSD deputies and that OCSD failed to investigate or discipline any of the personnel involved. (FAC ¶¶ 12–13.) The FAC also claims that OCSD denied Plaintiff benefits of employment including extending his patrol training, refusing to award him points for military service on his Sergeants' Examination, and refusing to consider his application for the SWAT team. (FAC ¶ 14.)

Defendant answered the FAC on January 27, 2012. (Doc. No. 13.)

1. Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment

On March 1, 2013, Defendant filed its Motion for Summary Judgment. (“Def's Mot.,” Doc. Nos. 61, 63.) Defendant's Motion and all supporting declarations and exhibits were filed under seal pursuant to two Protective Orders by Magistrate Judge Block (Doc. Nos. 18, 32) and an Order of this Court (Doc. No. 59). In support of its Motion, Defendant attached:

Defendant's Statement of Uncontroverted Facts and Conclusions of Law (“Def's SUF,” Doc. No. 62);

Request for Judicial Notice (“Def's RJN,” Doc. No. 59);

• Declaration of John P. Donovan (“Donovan Decl.,” Doc. No. 64);

• Declaration of Michael J. Rossiter (“Rossiter Decl.,” Doc. No. 65);

• Declaration of Richard Himmel (“Himmel Decl.,” Doc. No. 66);

• Declaration of Alan Phillips (“Phillips Decl.,” Doc. No. 67);

• Declaration of Assistant Sheriff Librado Trujillo (“Trujillo Decl.,” Doc. No. 68);

• Declaration of Janet Hayes (“Hayes Decl.,” Doc. No. 69);

• Declaration of Sheriff's Investigator Lavinia Vega (“Vega Decl.,” Doc. No. 70); and

• Index of Exhibits attaching forty-four numbered exhibits authenticated by the above declarations (“Def's Exhs.,” Doc. No. 71) 1

On March 11, 2013, Plaintiff filed his Opposition to Defendant's Motion. (“Pl's Opp'n,” Doc. No. 79.) As noted below, several of the documents filed in support of his opposition were filed under seal. Plaintiff attached:

Plaintiff's Statement of Genuine Issues (“Pl's SGI,” Doc. No. 89)(under seal);

Plaintiff's Evidentiary Objections (“Pl's Opp'n Obj.,” Doc. No. 89) (under seal);

• Declaration of John S. Kyle (“Kyle Decl.,” Doc. No. 79–1);

• Declaration of Crag S. Newton (“Newton Opp'n Decl.,” Doc. No. 79–2);

• Declaration of Scott Montoya (“Montoya Opp'n Decl.,” Doc. No. 79–3);

• Declaration of Willy Aguilar (“Aguilar Decl.,” Doc. No. 79–4); and

• Lodgment of Exhibits attaching twenty-eight numbered exhibits 2 (“Pl's Opp'n Exhs.,” Doc. No. 79–5), twelve of which were filed under seal (Exhs. 1, 9–11, 13, 15, 19–24, Doc. No. 89) (under seal).

On March 18, 2013, Defendant filed its Reply (“Def's Reply,” Doc. No. 80) attaching the following publicly filed documents:

• Declaration of Michael J. Rossiter (“Rossiter Reply Decl.,” Doc. No. 80–1);

• Declaration of Robert Taft (“Taft Decl.,” Doc. No. 80–2);

• Declaration of Douglas Blackburn (“Blackburn Decl.,” Doc. No. 80–3); and

• Declaration of Janet Hayes (“Hayes Reply Decl.” Doc. No. 80–4).

2. Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment

On March 4, 2013, Plaintiff filed his Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. (“Pl's Mot.,” Doc. Nos. 56 (public version), 90 (sealed version).) As indicated below, Plaintiff filed sealed and/or public redacted versions of the documents in support of his Motion:

Plaintiff's Statement of Undisputed Material Facts and Conclusions of Law (“Pl's SUF,” Doc. Nos. 57 (public version), 87 (sealed version));

• Declaration of Scott Montoya (“Montoya Decl.,” Doc. No. 56–2);

• Declaration of Craig S. Newton (“Newton Decl.,” Doc. No. 56–3); and

• Lodgment of Exhibits attaching thirty-one lettered exhibits (“Pl's Exhs.,” Doc. No. 56–4) (public version), thirteen of which were filed under seal (Exhs. E, I, M, N, O, X, Y, Z, AA, BB, DD, EE, Doc. No. 90) (under seal).

On March 11, 2013, Defendant filed its Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion. (“Def's Opp'n,” Doc. Nos. 78 (public version), 94 (sealed version).) In support of its Opposition, Defendant filed public and redacted versions of several supporting documents:

Defendant's Statement of Genuine Disputes of Material Fact (“Def's SGI,” Doc. Nos. 78–1 (public version), 95 (sealed version));

Defendant's Objections to Evidence (“Def's Obj.,” Doc. No. 78–2);

• Declaration of Michael J. Rossiter (“Rossiter Opp'n Decl.,” Doc. Nos. 78–3 (public version), 93 (sealed version)) attaching fourteen numbered exhibits; and

• Declaration of Richard Himmel (“Himmel Opp'n Decl.,” Doc. No. 78–4).

On March 18, 2013, Plaintiff filed his Reply. (“Pl's Reply,” Doc. Nos. 82.) Plaintiff included several documents in support of his Reply. The noted attachments were filed under seal:

Plaintiff's Evidentiary Objections (“Pl's Reply Obj.,” Doc. No. 102) (under seal);

• Declaration of Craig S. Newton (“Newton Reply Decl.,” Doc. No. 82–1);

• Declaration of Willy Aguilar (“Aguilar Reply Decl.,” Doc. No. 82–2); and

• Lodgment of Exhibits (“Pl's Reply Exhs.,” Doc. No 82–3) attaching four numbered exhibits, one of which was filed under seal (Exh. 1, Doc. No. 102) (under seal).

3. Sealed Documents

As outlined above, the parties filed numerous documents in support of an in opposition to the Motions under seal. On April 23, 2012, the Court noted the strong presumption in favor of access to court records, particularly those filed as part of a summary judgment motion. ( See “Order 1” at 2, Doc. No. 104) (citing Kamakana v. City & Cnty. of Honolulu, 447 F.3d 1172, 1178 (9th Cir.2006).) Pursuant to this high bar, the Court ordered that the parties submit supplemental briefing stating why the documents filed under seal met the “compelling reasons” standard necessary for non-disclosure of documents filed in conjunction with dispositive motions. (Order 1 at 2.) In the alternative, the Court permitted the parties to resubmit the sealed documents as public filings, redacting only nonmaterial, confidential information. ( Id.)

On May 6, 2013, Plaintiff refiled redacted versions of Exhibits M, N, O, and EE submitted in support of his Motion, and Exhibit 1 submitted in opposition to Defendant's Motion. (Doc. No. 105.) Plaintiff did not take any position as to whether his remaining documents met the compelling reasons test, and he deferred to OCSD to justify their continued sealing. ( Id.)

OCSD also filed a response to the Court's April 23, 2013 Order on May 6, 2013. (Doc. No. 106.) OCSD did not present any compelling reasons to justify keeping the records sealed and refused to resubmit the sealed documents as redacted public filings. ( Id. at 2.)

On May 23, 2013, the Court found that the parties failed to meet their burden of providing the Court with “articulable facts identifying the interests favoring continued secrecy” and ordered the unsealing of all documents submitted in support of and in opposition to the Motions. (“Order 2” at 3, Doc. No. 107.) The Court required the parties to publicly refile all of the remaining sealed documents, redacting only non-material, confidential information such as social security numbers and non-party names. ( Id. at 3.)

In compliance with the Court's May 23, 2013 Order, Plaintiff refiled all of his remaining sealed documents in support of an in opposition to the Motions as redacted public filings on May 24, 2013. (Doc. No. 109.) On May 29, 2013, Defendant did the same. (Doc. Nos. 110–114.)

In this order, the Court relies only on the public filings submitted by both parties pursuant to their Motions.

B. Preliminary Matters

Defendant states that Plaintiff did not meet and confer with Defendant's counsel prior to filing his Motion. (Rossiter Opp'n Decl., ¶ 2.) Plaintiff's failure to meet and confer violates Local Rule 7–3, which requires counsel to contact opposing counsel and meet, preferably in person, to discuss the substance of the contemplated motion ten days prior to its filing. L.R. 7–3. The Court may deny Plaintiff's motion on this basis alone. See Cucci v. Edwards, 510 F.Supp.2d 479, 486 (C.D.Cal.2007). The necessity of the meet and confer process is paramount in...

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