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Sanders v. Hallinan

January 11, 2005

PRENTICE E. SANDERS, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
TERENCE HALLINAN, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Breyer, J.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiffs make federal and state law claims against the former San Francisco District Attorney, Terence Hallinan, the City and County of San Francisco, and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Now pending before the Court are defendants' motions to dismiss the federal and state claims. After carefully considering the allegations of the First Amended Complaint, the papers filed by the parties, and having had the benefit of oral argument, defendants' motions are GRANTED as to the two federal causes of action. The ten state law causes of action are DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE to plaintiffs pursuing those claims in state court.

ALLEGATIONS OF THE COMPLAINT

On November 20, 2002, a street fight occurred on Union Street in San Francisco involving Jade Santaro and Adam Snyder, and three off-duty police officers: Alex Fagan, Jr., Matt Tonsing, and David Lee. FAC ¶ 20. Around noon that same day, Police Lt. Dutto assigned two police inspectors to conduct a full investigation of the incident. Id. ¶ 21.

On December 2, 2002, District Attorney Hallinan ("Hallinan") met with Police Chief Earl Sanders ("Chief Sanders") about the incident. Hallinan suggested that Chief Sanders direct the suspect officers to plead to misdemeanors for the fight, and emphasized that if they did so, the officers' cases could be resolved in the same manner as Hallinan's son's assault case. Hallinan informed Chief Sanders that Hallinan's son had received community service for multiple assault convictions. Chief Sanders did not respond. Id. ¶ 23.

By the following day, the police investigators had completed their investigation and presented the case to Hallinan for a prosecutorial decision. Hallinan returned the file to the San Francisco Police Department requesting further investigation. Id. ¶ 24. In particular, Hallinan "prevailed on Lt. Dutto to interrogate every police officer--no matter their rank or role in the case--about the propriety of the investigation." Id. ¶ 26.

On December 11, 2002, the police department submitted its entire file to Hallinan. Id. ¶ 27. On January 13, 2003, before he had made any decision on whether to prosecute the police officers involved in the incident, Hallinan met with Chief Sanders and stated: " 'You know we can still clear this up by having them [the off-duty police officers involved in the INCIDENT] just tell what happened, plead to a misdemeanor and I'll give them a slap on the wrist. Just like my son's case." ' Id. ¶ 45 (emphasis in original omitted). Sanders subsequently advised the Mayor and the Executive Director of the Mayor's Council on Criminal Justice of Hallinan's "proposals and solicitations." Id. ¶ 47.

In retaliation for Sanders' reporting of Hallinan's conduct, Hallinan orchestrated a massive media campaign defaming Chief Sanders and the command staff. Id. ¶ 48.

On February 27, 2003, Hallinan convened a grand jury. Id. ¶ 48. Knowing that he did not have any evidence against Chief Sanders and/or any member of the Chief's command staff, id. ¶ 28, Hallinan "falsely urged, incited, and inflamed the Grand Jury" that Chief Sanders, Deputy Chief Robinson, and members of the command staff " '... obstructed and obstructed and obstructed ...' the investigation of the incident." Id. ¶ 29. At the same time, Hallinan and Assistant District Attorney Albert Murray admitted to the grand jury that there was no evidence of a conspiracy by Chief Sanders, Deputy Chief Robinson, or any of the command staff. Id. ¶¶ 30, 31.

The grand jury indicted Chief Sanders, Deputy Chief Robinson and others for conspiracy to obstruct justice. Id. Exh. 1. As a result, Chief Sanders and Deputy Chief Robinson were "arrested, fingerprinted, subjected to police mug-shots, arraigned and treated like common criminals." Id. ¶ 32.

During Hallinan's investigation of the incident, Hallinan made numerous false statements that implied that Chief Sanders, Deputy Chief Robinson, and the command staff intended to cover-up wrongdoing by themselves and other police officers. Id. ¶ 37. He also made false statements to the grand jury. Id. ¶ 44.

Hallinan dismissed the charges against Chief Sanders and Assistant Chief Alex Fagan Sr. on March 11, 2003. He stated to the court that after reviewing the transcript of the grand jury proceedings, he was dismissing the charges in the "interest of justice." Id. ¶ 33. The court dismissed the charges against the rest of the command staff, including Deputy Chief Robinson, on April 4, 2003. Id. ¶ 34. In so ruling, the court made the following findings: "That the District Attorney's office, including DA HALLINAN, had told the Grand Jury on February 27, 2003 that there was not enough evidence to indict on a conspiracy charge, but that DA HALLINAN presented no other charges other than conspiracy; and "That DA HALLINAN and the District Attorney's Office failed to abide by the ethics code for prosecuting attorneys by failing to dismiss the criminal case when they themselves admitted there was no evidence to support the charges." Id.

Five months later, the superior court granted Chief Sanders' unopposed motion for a finding of factual innocence pursuant to California Penal Code section 851.8. Id. ¶ 35, Exh. 3.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Chief Sanders and Deputy Chief Robinson ("plaintiffs") and their wives, subsequently initiated this lawsuit against Hallinan, the City and County of San Francisco, and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. The First Amended Complaint includes twelve causes of action: 10 state law claims and two federal civil rights claims. Plaintiffs allege that Hallinan's actionable conduct includes indicting plaintiffs without probable cause and in violation of state bar ethics rules, and making defamatory statements about plaintiffs in the news media. FAC ¶ 59.

Now pending before the Court are defendants' motions to dismiss. With respect to the federal claims, defendants contend that plaintiffs have not alleged an actionable constitutional violation and that District Attorney ...


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