Moreno v. Baca

Decision Date07 March 2005
Docket NumberNo. 02-55627.,02-55627.
Citation400 F.3d 1152
PartiesR. MORENO, in his individual capacity and in his capacity as representative of the classes described fully herein, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Leroy BACA; Michael Antonovich; Yvonne Burke; Donald Knabe; Gloria Molina; Zev Yaroslavsky, Defendants, and Banks, Deputy Sheriff # 403862; Garcia, Deputy Sheriff # 412525, Defendants-Appellants.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Ninth Circuit

Devallis Rutledge, Manning & Marder Kass, Ellrod, Ramirez, Irvine, CA, for defendants-appellants.

Stephen Yagman, Marion R. Yagman, Yagman & Yagman & Reichmann, Venice Beach, CA, Kathryn S. Bloomfield, Shreveport, LA, for plaintiff-appellee.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California; Audrey B. Collins, District Judge, Presiding. D.C. No. CV 00-07149 ABC.

Before: PREGERSON, TASHIMA, and CLIFTON, Circuit Judges.

TASHIMA, Circuit Judge:

Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriffs Sean Banks and Thomas Garcia ("Appellants") appeal from the district court's denial of their motion for summary judgment asserting qualified immunity in a § 1983 action brought by plaintiff Richard Moreno. Moreno alleges that Appellants, acting under color of state law, deprived him of his constitutional rights when they arrested and searched him without cause.

Factual Background

One evening in January 2000, Richard Moreno and his companion Joe Rodriguez were on their way to a meeting at St. Lucy's Church in the City Terrace area of Los Angeles. After their car broke down, Moreno and Rodriguez proceeded toward the meeting on foot. At approximately 7 p.m., a marked Los Angeles County Sheriff patrol car passed them as they walked down the street, made a U-turn, and pulled the car onto the curb in their path. Two deputies got out of the car. Deputy Banks, who was riding in the passenger seat, ordered Moreno and Rodriguez to approach. Banks interrogated both men as to their business in the area, patted them down for weapons, emptied the contents of their pockets onto the hood of the patrol car, and locked them into the back seat. While Moreno and Rodriguez sat in the back seat of the car, Deputy Banks entered their names into a computer inside the patrol car and asked the men whether they were on parole. Moreno admitted that he was.

Meanwhile, Deputy Garcia, the driver of the patrol car, walked down the sidewalk in the direction from which Rodriguez and Moreno had approached, shining his flashlight on the sidewalk and into nearby yards as he went. When Garcia returned to the patrol car he had a discussion with Banks, reached into the glove compartment to retrieve a ziploc bag, and then put the bag back into the glove compartment and closed the door. Moreno heard one of the deputies tell the other that Rodriguez was "clean" but that Moreno was on parole. At that point, Garcia opened the rear door of the car and told Rodriguez that he was free to leave, which he did. Moreno was handcuffed and told that he was under arrest for violating his parole. When Moreno asked the deputies what he had done to violate his parole, one of them told him that he was caught in possession of rock cocaine.

Deputies Banks and Garcia gave a somewhat different account of the incident. According to their incident report, Banks noticed that Moreno was "startled" when he saw the patrol car. As the deputies approached, Moreno turned around, reached into his right front pants pocket, and discarded something on the front steps of a nearby residence. Because the deputies were on patrol in a high crime area, and because they were aware that drugs were sold in several houses nearby, they decided to investigate. They detained Moreno and placed him in the patrol car. Banks walked to the area in which he had seen Moreno discard the object and recovered an object he recognized as rock cocaine. One of the deputies did a warrant check on the patrol car's MDT terminal, which revealed an outstanding arrest warrant with $10,000 bail for Moreno.1 The MDT search also revealed that Moreno was on parole, a fact which Moreno orally confirmed. Both deputies declared under oath that they were aware from their training and experience that a standard term of parole was that parolees were subject to warrantless searches by any peace officer. Moreno was placed under arrest, both for possession of cocaine and under the authority of the outstanding arrest warrant, and a parole hold was placed on him. Although the incident report makes no reference to Rodriguez or any other person, both Banks and Garcia refer to "another man" in their sworn declarations describing the encounter.

At the time of the detention, Moreno was indeed a parolee under the supervision of the California Department of Corrections. He had been released from prison more than two years earlier, subject to the following condition: "You and your residence and any property under your control may be searched without a warrant by an agent of the Department of Corrections or any law enforcement officer." As it turns out, Moreno also had an outstanding arrest warrant, which was issued when Moreno failed to make an appearance in state court in 1999. It is undisputed, however, that the deputies learned that Moreno was on parole and that he had an outstanding arrest warrant only after searching and detaining him.

Moreno was subsequently charged in state court with possession of a controlled substance. Deputies Banks and Garcia testified against him at trial and Rodriguez testified for the defense. Moreno was acquitted by a jury in 2002.

Moreno then brought this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, contending that Banks and Garcia violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures when they arrested and searched him without cause. Banks and Garcia responded that Moreno had no right to be free from suspicionless arrests and searches because of the outstanding bench warrant and the parole condition. Even if reasonable suspicion were required to detain Moreno, the officers contended, they had the requisite level of suspicion because of Moreno's nervous behavior and the fact that he was walking in a "high crime" area. The district court sided with Moreno, reasoning that under Griffin v. Wisconsin, 483 U.S. 868, 107 S.Ct. 3164, 97 L.Ed.2d 709 (1987), and United States v. Knights, 534 U.S. 112, 122 S.Ct. 587, 151 L.Ed.2d 497 (2001), "at least reasonable suspicion is required to justify the search, and subsequent seizure, of Moreno." The court further held that, interpreting the facts in the light most favorable to Moreno, the facts "do not come close to the level of suspicion that existed in Knights and Griffin." It rejected the deputies' argument that Moreno's parole search condition and the outstanding arrest warrant retroactively justified the arrest and search even though neither Banks nor Garcia was aware of either circumstance at the time. The court denied the deputies' motion for summary judgment on qualified immunity grounds, holding that Moreno's constitutional right to be free from suspicionless searches was "clearly established" at the time of the detention, and that a suspect's nervousness at the sight of law enforcement, by itself, did not give rise to reasonable suspicion.

The deputies brought this interlocutory appeal of the district court's denial of summary judgment on qualified immunity grounds. We have jurisdiction over the appeal, but only to the extent that it presents legal questions. Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 530, 105 S.Ct. 2806, 86 L.Ed.2d 411 (1985); Jeffers v. Gomez, 267 F.3d 895, 903 (9th Cir.2001) ("Our jurisdiction [to review the denial of qualified immunity] generally is limited to questions of law and does not extend to claims in which the determination of qualified immunity depends on disputed issues of material fact.").


We review the district court's denial of a motion for summary judgment de novo. Billington v. Smith, 292 F.3d 1177, 2664 1183 (9th Cir.2002). Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, we must determine whether there are any genuine issues of material fact and whether the district court correctly applied the relevant substantive law. Oliver v. Keller, 289 F.3d 623, 626 (9th Cir.2002). "[T]he ordinary framework for deciding motions for summary judgment" applies to motions for summary judgment based on official immunity. Butler v. San Diego Dist. Attorney's Office, 370 F.3d 956, 963 (9th Cir.2004). Because the moving defendant bears the burden of proof on the issue of qualified immunity, he or she must produce sufficient evidence to require the plaintiff to go beyond his or her pleadings. Id. The defendant's burden is to demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986).

The determination of whether a law enforcement officer is entitled to qualified immunity involves a two-step analysis. Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 201, 121 S.Ct. 2151, 150 L.Ed.2d 272 (2001). In the first step we must view the record in the light most favorable to the party asserting injury in determining whether the officer's conduct violated a constitutional right. Id. If the plaintiff establishes the violation of a constitutional right, we must next consider whether that right was clearly established at the time the alleged violation occurred. Id. The contours of the right must have been clear enough that a reasonable officer would have understood that what he or she was doing violated that right. Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 640, 107 S.Ct. 3034, 97 L.Ed.2d 523 (1987).


Appellants challenge the district court's order on two fronts. Their primary contention is that Moreno had no Fourth Amendment rights that could have been violated by...

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