Ramirez v. Reddish, Civil Action No. 2:18-cv-00176-DME-MEH

CourtUnited States District Courts. 10th Circuit. United States District Court of Utah
Writing for the CourtDavid M. Ebel U. S. CIRCUIT COURT JUDGE
PartiesABEL RAMIREZ, BERENICE RESENDIZ, EDUARDO RAMIREZ, ALICIA AMAYA CARMONA, CARLOS RAMIREZ, J.R., J.R., J.R., and K.F., Plaintiffs, v. JORDAN REDDISH, DERRYL SPENCER, WALTER BOCKHOLT, NICHOLAS CHOURNOS, STEVEN DOUGLAS, DANIEL FERRON, JARED GOLDING, CASEY NELSON, JASON ROOTHOFF, CHARLIE SANDNESS, TYLER WEBSTER, KARSON WELCH, JOHN DOES 1, 3-48, U.S. MARSHALS and ICE AGENTS, and UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. Defendants.
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 2:18-cv-00176-DME-MEH
Decision Date23 April 2020

ABEL RAMIREZ, BERENICE RESENDIZ, EDUARDO RAMIREZ,
ALICIA AMAYA CARMONA, CARLOS RAMIREZ, J.R., J.R., J.R., and K.F., Plaintiffs,
v.
JORDAN REDDISH, DERRYL SPENCER, WALTER BOCKHOLT,
NICHOLAS CHOURNOS, STEVEN DOUGLAS, DANIEL FERRON,
JARED GOLDING, CASEY NELSON, JASON ROOTHOFF, CHARLIE SANDNESS, TYLER WEBSTER, KARSON WELCH,
JOHN DOES 1, 3-48, U.S. MARSHALS and ICE AGENTS, and UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
Defendants.

Civil Action No. 2:18-cv-00176-DME-MEH

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF UTAH

April 23, 2020


ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART INDIVIDUAL DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (Docs. 182, 186), AND GRANTING IN FULL DEFENDANT UNITED STATES' SUMMARY JUDGMENT MOTION (Doc. 183)

This litigation stems from two unsuccessful attempts by members of the U.S. Marshals Service Violent Fugitive Apprehension Task Force ("Task Force") to execute an arrest warrant for Abel Ramirez, Sr. ("Ramirez, Sr.") at his home. Plaintiffs—nine of Ramirez, Sr.'s family members—challenge the Task Force's conduct toward them during those two attempts to find and arrest Ramirez, Sr. Plaintiffs assert two groups of claims.

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First, Plaintiffs assert a series of Bivens1 claims, alleging that individual Task Force members violated Plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment rights. These individual Defendants move for summary judgment (Docs. 182, 186), asserting they are entitled to qualified immunity from these damages claims.

There are material issues of fact that preclude summary judgment on several of these Bivens claims. Specifically there are material factual disputes as to whether Task Force members had any information that Ramirez, Sr. was in his home as the individual Defendants forced their entry to arrest him. In addition, there are material factual disputes as to whether Task Force members, once inside Ramirez, Sr.'s home, confined their search for him only to places where a person could be found. These factual disputes, which a jury will have to resolve, preclude summary judgment to some extent on Counts 1, 2, and 13. Viewing the evidence before the Court in the light most favorable to Plaintiffs, these claims set out Fourth Amendment violations that were clearly established at the time these events unfolded.

The Court grants the individual Defendants qualified immunity on the remainder of Plaintiffs' Bivens claims. Although there are a number of deficiencies in their remaining claims, Plaintiffs' primary problem is that they have failed to identify (and the Court has not found on its own) any relevant authority that made the other Fourth Amendment violations Plaintiffs allege clearly established at the time Task Force members took the actions challenged in this case.

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Plaintiffs assert a second group of claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act ("FTCA"), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1346(b), 2671-2680, seeking to recover damages from the United States for state law torts committed by Task Force members when they attempted to find and arrest Ramirez, Sr. The United States has moved for summary judgment on these FTCA claims. (Doc. 183.) Because Plaintiffs have failed to establish that the United States, through the FTCA, has waived its sovereign immunity from these state law claims, the Court DISMISSES them without prejudice for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

In sum, as will be explained in greater detail, the Court GRANTS the United States' summary judgment motion in full (Doc. 183), and GRANTS in part, and DENIES in part, the individual Defendants' summary judgment motions (Docs. 182, 186).

I. OVERVIEW

The Court views the evidence before it in the light most favorable to Plaintiffs and draws all reasonable inferences from the evidence in their favor. See Donahue v. Wihongi, 948 F.3d 1177, 1187 (10th Cir. 2020). In October 2016, Ramirez, Sr. was charged in Utah state court with driving under the influence. His guilty plea to that offense brought him to the attention of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE"), where his case was assigned to an ICE agent, Defendant Jordan Reddish. Based on Reddish's investigation, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Utah obtained a felony indictment charging Ramirez, Sr., a Mexican citizen, with unlawfully re-entering the United States after having been previously removed. See 8 U.S.C. § 1326. A warrant was then issued for Ramirez, Sr.'s arrest. Neither Ramirez, Sr. nor any of his

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family members knew about the arrest warrant until Task Force members attempted to execute it in April 2017.

In addition to being an ICE agent, Reddish was also a member of the U.S. Marshals Service Violent Fugitive Apprehension Task Force for the District of Utah ("Task Force"). This federal Task Force is comprised of federal, state, and local law enforcement officers who serve any federal arrest warrant as well as state warrants for violent fugitives. During the time relevant here, Defendant Derryl Spencer was the Task Force commander and Defendant Jared Golding was his second-in-command.

ICE agent Reddish enlisted the Task Force's assistance in executing the arrest warrant for Ramirez, Sr. Reddish was responsible for developing information the Task Force used in their attempts to find and arrest Ramirez, Sr. Reddish had information that Ramirez, Sr. lived in an apartment complex in Heber City, Utah. As Task Force members would later discover, a number of Ramirez, Sr.'s immediate family members lived in three separate apartments in that same complex.2

The first attempt to arrest Ramirez, Sr. occurred at midday on Monday, April 10, 2017. Task Force members Golding, Reddish, Nelson, Welch, Ferron, and Roothoff

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knocked at apartment A103 ("A103"), announced their presence and, when no one answered, entered. In the apartment, the Task Force discovered Ramirez, Sr.'s wife, Plaintiff Alicia Amaya Carmona ("Carmona"), who was babysitting four of her grandchildren, ranging in age from two to six years old.3 Task Force members found Carmona and her grandchildren hiding in a back bedroom. Ramirez, Sr. was not there.

The Task Force then turned its attention to the apartment across the breezeway, apartment A104 ("A104"), because "Abel Ramirez" had signed the lease for that apartment. At that time, Task Force members were unaware that Ramirez, Sr. had an adult son named Abel Ramirez, who lived in A104 with his wife and daughter K.F. [5]. After no one answered the door at A104—because no one was home—several Task Force members entered and searched for, but did not find, Ramirez, Sr.

While Task Force members searched these two apartments, ICE Agent Reddish questioned Carmona regarding the whereabouts of her husband, Ramirez, Sr., and about Carmona's own immigration status. When Carmona acknowledged that she was unlawfully in the United States, Reddish arrested her.

In light of Carmona's arrest, she and Agent Reddish summoned three of her adult sons—Plaintiffs Carlos Ramirez, Eduardo Ramirez, and Abel Ramirez, Jr.—to come get the children. Upon the sons' arrival, Reddish and other Task Force members questioned them as to the whereabouts of their father and offered to release their

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mother from custody if the brothers told the Task Force where Ramirez, Sr. was. After about an hour and one-half, the Task Force left with Carmona in custody.

The second attempt to arrest Ramirez, Sr. occurred the next night, April 11. Task Force members—this time Spencer, Golding, Reddish, Bockholt, Chournos, Douglas, Nelson, Sandness, Welch, and Roothoff—knocked again at A103, announced their presence and, when no one answered the door, this time used a battering ram to knock the front door down and enter. Ramirez, Sr. was again not there. Instead, Task Force members discovered Ramirez, Sr.'s daughter-in-law, Berenice Resendiz, and her three children, J.R. [6], J.R. [4], and J.R. [2]. The children had been sleeping in the back bedroom where Resendiz was watching television.

At the same time the Task Force entered A103, several Task Force members knocked at A104 and ordered Abel, Jr., to exit his apartment and stand outside so they could keep an eye on him while the Task Force searched his family members' apartment, A103. Eduardo walked over to A103 from his apartment located in another building, after hearing the Task Force had returned. Carlos Ramirez, who was not at home when Task Force members forced their way into his apartment, soon arrived on-scene. Task Force members—primarily Spencer, Golding, and Reddish—questioned these family members regarding the whereabouts of Ramirez, Sr. and again suggested trading their mother, Carmona, who remained in ICE custody, for their father, Ramirez, Sr. After approximately an hour and one-half, the Task Force left.

These facts provide a general overview of the events underlying Plaintiffs' claims. Necessary additional details will be discussed below.

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II. Bivens claims alleging individual Defendants
violated the Fourth Amendment (Counts 1-22)

Plaintiffs assert twenty-two Bivens claims alleging that the individual Defendants—the Task Force members involved in the two raids—violated Plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment rights to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures during the Task Force's two attempts to find and arrest Ramirez, Sr. In Bivens, the Supreme Court recognized damages claims against individual federal agents for violating the plaintiff's Fourth Amendment rights during his arrest and the search of his home. 403 U.S. at 389; see also Ziglar v. Abbasi, 137 S. Ct. 1843, 1856-57 (2017) (acknowledging reluctance to expand Bivens remedy, but declining "to cast doubt on the continued force, or even the necessity, of Bivens in the search-and-seizure context in which it arose").4

In their summary judgment motions, the individual Defendants contend that they are entitled to qualified immunity from these Bivens claims. (Docs. 182, 186.) To overcome that defense, Plaintiffs must "satisf[y] a heavy two-part burden." McCowan v.

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Morales, 945 F.3d 1276, 1281-82...

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