Samaan v. Cnty. of Sacramento

Decision Date09 October 2018
Docket NumberNo. 2:16-cv-00789-KJM-CKD,2:16-cv-00789-KJM-CKD
PartiesNABIL SAMAAN, Plaintiffs, v. COUNTY OF SACRAMENTO, SCOTT JONES, individually and in his capacity as sheriff, and DOES 1 through 10, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of California
ORDER

Nabil Samaan, proceeding pro se,1 sues Sacramento County and Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones, alleging they violated his civil rights by wrongfully revoking his permit to carry a concealed weapon. Defendants move for summary judgment and Samaan opposes. For reasons provided below, the court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part defendants' motion.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
A. Factual Background

Plaintiff Samaan has had a contentious relationship with Sacramento County officials dating back to at least 2013. He now contends Sacramento County and SacramentoCounty Sheriff Scott Jones wrongfully revoked his permit to carry a concealed weapon ("CCW permit") in retaliation for his protected activities arising from prior disputes with County officials. For purposes of this motion, the following facts are construed in a light most favorable to Samaan.2

1. Samaan's Prior Disputes with the County
a. Samaan's 2013 Emails to the County Complaining of Unfair Treatment

In 2013, Samaan exchanged emails with County code enforcement officials concerning enforcement actions taken on Samaan's Sacramento County properties. See Defs.' Ex. I, ECF No. 52-5 at 74-833 ("2013 emails"). In those emails, Samaan complains of discriminatory treatment, claiming the County was mistreating him because of his race. See, e.g., id. at 82 (Nov. 11, 2013 email complaining "county has done nothing to the neighbor that built all kinds of structures with county consent (bribes)? Or at least the county turned a blind eye while driving up to harass the [N-word] boy"); id. at 74 (Nov. 16, 2013 email stating, "I am in shock that the county whined and complained about my project all the while ignoring the white establishment neighbor who has damned [sic] up the creek, placed significant electrical infrastructure in the ravine, including a deck and significant filtering pumping facilities"); id. (Nov. 15, 2013 email, "Why the hell do you treat [N-word] boy differently than everyone else?"). Samaan explains he uses the N-word to "refer[] to himself, as he is African-American/Egyptian." Reply, ECF No. 36 at 3.

b. The Sailor Bar Park Lawsuit

In February 2014, Samaan filed a civil lawsuit against Sacramento County ("the Sailor Bar suit"). UMF 30; ECF No. 35-5 at 22-45 (complaint). He alleged the County wasimproperly using the American River Parkway to store toxic materials. See generally ECF No. 35-5 at 22-45. The court dismissed the Sailor Bar suit a year later. UMF 31. Despite the dismissal, Samaan contends the Sailor Bar suit "forced Sacramento County to clean up the toxic and other harmful materials at Sailor Bar Park and to stop using it as a dumping ground," an obligation that, according to Samaan, has cost the County approximately $5,000,000 to date. Samaan Decl. ¶ 19.

c. Samaan's Email to Mark Rains and the Sheriff Department's Threat Assessment

In February 2016, Samaan exchanged emails with Mark Rains, a Sacramento County Water Resources Department civil engineer, about ongoing work on Samaan's property. See Defs.' RJN, ECF No. 52-3 at 10-16; UMF 37.4 On February 9, 2016, Samaan sent Rains an email stating, in part, "I don't need people at the county threatening . . . . let's not put Mark on the my [sic] crap list. [¶] I would suggest you speak about me in the highest regard or this will go south pretty quickly. [¶] I have no patience for any crap. We clear?" Defs.' RJN at 10. One week later, Rains forwarded Samaan's email to Mike Landy, stating, "For the record, I believe this person could be a threat to County personnel." UMF 39. Landy, a Senior Safety Specialist for the County's Water Resources Department, then asked Rosemarie Codog, a County Sherriff's deputy and workplace violence coordinator, to "review the emails and provide an opinion." UMF 40-42; Defs.' Ex. J, Landy Dep., ECF No. 52-5 at 90. After conducting a violence risk assessment of Samaan, UMF 42, Codog concluded there was no evidence of potential violence, but there was evidence that Samaan intentionally inflicted emotional distress on County employees. Samaan Ex. 3, Codog Depo., ECF No. 58-4 at 12. Codog is not involved in the CCW permitting process at the Sheriff's Department. UMF 43.

2. Samaan's CCW Permit Application, Issuance, Revocation and Appeal

In October 2015, Samaan applied for a CCW permit. UMF 1, 10. A three-person County CCW panel, consisting of Chief Deputy David Torgerson, Captain Michael Goold and Captain Kris Palmer, reviewed and tentatively approved Samaan's application, UMF 11, and his CCW permit was officially issued on February 22, 2016, UMF 13.

After Samaan obtained his CCW permit, Anthony Bennett, Head Ranger of Sacramento County Regional Parks, informed Samaan that a local ordinance prohibited him from carrying weapons in the American River Parkway. Samaan Decl., ¶ 4; Samaan Ex. 11, ECF No. 58-5 at 20. Samaan and his firearms instructor disagreed, concluding "State laws supercede [sic] [the] county [ordinance]" and authorize carrying a weapon in the Parkway with a CCW. Samaan Ex. 12 at 27-29.

On March 1 and March 2, 2016, Samaan and Bennett exchanged several emails on the issue. Id. at 20-26. Samaan requested that Bennett ask "county counsel to give [Samaan] an opinion" on whether state law supersedes the Ordinance. Id. at 26. Bennett refused, arguing Samaan was "mistaken," "local ordinances have been upheld" and if Samaan "violate[s] the county and state code, [he] will be prosecuted." Id. at 25-26. The exchange concluded with Bennett stating, "We will be enforcing the ordinance as it is written.. [sic] This is not the forum to debate the issue[,]" and Samaan responding, "Very well. I am not sure whee [sic] the right forum is short of having a false arrest." Id. at 23. Also on March 2, Samaan emailed Sacramento County Senior Sheriff's Records Specialist, Amber Wong, asking whether his CCW permit allowed him to carry a firearm on the American River Parkway. UMF 14; Defs.' Ex. F, Wong Decl., ECF No. 52-5 at 22 ¶¶ 1-4; Defs.' Ex. A, ECF No. 52-5 at 3. Wong recommended either not carrying or seeking legal advice. Defs.' Ex. A at 2.

On March 4, 2016, Samaan sent an email to the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department entitled "CCW and the American River Parkway." Samaan Ex. 13, ECF No. 58-5 at 31 ("the March 4 email"). In the email, Samaan opined that the Ordinance "mak[es] it a criminal

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/////offense to abide by State law," "is ambiguous and incomplete," and does not account for CCW permit holders. Id. Samaan then stated:

So on advice of counsel, I will carry while on my horse in the parkway when not on Patrol,5 pursuant to State Law, the rights bestowed upon me by my CCW permit, and the Second Amendment.
This is email [sic] is putting the Board of Supervisors, and the Park Rangers on notice that any infringement of mv rights will be cause for the filing of an Unlawful Arrest and/or detainment.
With all due respect I would ask that if I am detained that my horse be treated humanely and promptly returned to my ranch, the location is know [sic] to the Park district.
I look forward to hearing from the Board of Supervisors, the Park Rangers, County Counsel and any other law enforcement officials.

Id.

On March 8, Sheriff's Deputy Elaine Stoops, emailing from the Sheriff's CCW email account, forwarded Samaan's March 4 email to the three-person panel that had tentatively approved Samaan's CCW application, copying County Chief Deputy Phil Brelje and Sergeant Alex McCamy, among others not identified in the parties' briefing. Defs.' Ex. B, ECF No. 52-5 at 6 (email stating in part, "[p]lease review [Samaan's] emailed letter and advise how you would like us to proceed"). Brelje responded that he and McCamy "talked about this yesterday" and were likely "headed toward revoking his CCW and we should have a definitive answer later today." Id.

Wong responded from the Sheriff's CCW email account roughly twenty minutes later: "There's actually already a meeting set up for the 15th in regards to him and how things should be handled..[sic] Apparently he's got parks all stressed..[sic]" Id. at 5; see Defs.' Ex. D, Palmer Decl. ¶ 11 (noting March 8, 2016 email was sent by Wong). Wong's email included an earlier email from Landy stating in full:

All; [sic] the purpose of this meeting is to share factual information regarding interactions and communications with Mr. Samaan.
Desired outcomes include:
• Obtaining factual information from affected departments/staff
• Determining if any issue(s) rise to the level of Work Place Violence
• Identifying appropriate strategies for interacting with Mr. Samaan and other challenging customers
• Determine if the county should draft a letter informing Mr. Samaan of what is acceptable or not acceptable in dealing with departemental [sic] staff
Rose Codog and County Counsel are being asked to attend and offer opinions on appropriate actions any formal communications or recommendations.
If you cannot attend, please send a staff person who has received communications from and/or interacted with Mr. Samaan and/or his representatives or is knowledgeable on this topic.

Defs.' Ex. B at 5.

On an unspecified date, the CCW panel determined Samaan's CCW permit should be revoked, though the panel members do not clearly recall whether they made a final determination or merely recommended revocation. SUF 20, 22. The panel members attribute their revocation decision solely to Samaan's March 4 email stating he would violate the Ordinance by carrying a weapon in the American River Parkway. Defs.' Ex. D, Palmer Decl., ECF No. 52-5 at 12-15 ¶¶ 9-20; Defs.' Ex. E, Goold Decl., ECF No. 52-5 at 17-20 ¶¶ 10-21; Defs.' Ex. H, Torgerson Depo., ECF No. 52-5 at 42-49.

On March 15, 2016, Samaan's 2013 emails complaining of...

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