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BELL v. ESTRADA

December 8, 2005.

PATRICK BELL, Plaintiff,
v.
ESTRADA; et al., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: SUSAN ILLSTON, District Judge

ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

INTRODUCTION

Patrick Bell, formerly an inmate at the Alameda County Jail, filed this pro se civil rights action in which he alleged he was subjected to an unlawful arrest. The matter is now before the court on the defense motion for summary judgment. The court will grant the motion and enter judgment against plaintiff.

  BACKGROUND

  This case concerns a warrantless arrest of Patrick Bell by Oakland police officers Brett Estrada and Noah Montgomery on October 25, 2003. At the time, Bell was on parole on October 25, 2003 for grand theft to a person. His parole conditions included a provision that he and his residence and any property under his control could be searched without a warrant.

  Bell provides very few details of his arrest. In his complaint, Bell alleged that police officers "stopped plaintiff as he was walking down the sidewalk without a substantial reason." Complaint, p. 3. He states that they "searched me and found no incriminating evidence. I was arrested based upon the fact I supposively [sic] lied about my parole and address." Complaint, p. 3. His amended complaint was no more specific, as he alleged that officers Estrada and Montgomery "stopped plaintiff while walking on the sidewalk and they had no initial basis for the stop and arrested plaintiff without probable cause." First Amended Complaint, p. 3. In his declaration, Bell again states that he "was walking down the sidewalk and was detained and arrested by defendants. [¶] The defendants declarations and police report does not reveal a founded suspicion by defendants before the approached plaintiff and supposively observed signs of plaintiff on drugs." Bell Decl., ¶¶ 4-5 (grammar and spelling errors in source).

  Defendants agree that they arrested Bell on the day in question. In contrast to Bell's very sketchy description of the events, defendants present a much more detailed explanation of why they did so and of the events that transpired that day. Their version is as follows:

  Officers Montgomery and Estrada were patrolling the streets of Oakland at about 1:00 p.m. and saw Bell as they drove down the 800 block of West MacArthur Boulevard in Oakland. Officer Montgomery recognized Bell from prior contacts with him. Officer Montgomery was familiar with the 800 block of West MacArthur Boulevard, a block "well known for having heavy narcotic activity at all times of the day and night." Montgomery Decl., ¶ 5. Montgomery "suspected that that [sic] Bell was on parole for a narcotic related offense based on my prior contacts with him." Id. Montgomery described their encounter:

 
I approached Mr. Bell and observed that he was showing signs of being on drugs, i.e., rapid speech, fidgety movements, sweating etc. I asked him if he was on parole. He stated that he was not on parole. I suspected that he was not telling me the truth and ran his name via the patrol car laptop computer which is directly connected to the CLETS wants and warrants system. I confirmed that Mr. Bell was in fact on parole. When I confronted him with that information, he continued to deny being on parole. I told him that I would call Sacramento for further confirmation of his parole status and then he said "Ok, I am on parole."
Having learned that Mr. Bell was on parole, I instructed him to submit to a urine test pursuant to the Anti-Narcotic Testing condition of his parole. Mr. Bell refused to let me perform any field sobriety tests and refused to submit to a urine test. Bell also refused to give me his current address and stated that he was homeless.
I contacted the Fugitive Apprehension Team ("FAT"), spoke to a parole officer on duty and informed him of the circumstances surrounding my contact with Mr. Bell. The parole officer placed a parole hold on Bell pursuant to Penal Code Section 3056 for providing false information to an officer regarding the status of his parole and refusing to submit to the anti-narcotic testing in violation of the terms and conditions of his parole. I am also familiar with California State law that permits a parolee to be searched or seized any time by a law enforcement officer without a warrant.
I arrested Bell for a parole violation and Officer Estrada and I transported him to the Oakland City Jail.
Montgomery Decl., ¶¶ 6-9. Officer Montgomery was familiar with what constituted a violation of parole. He knew that a parolee had to have an address and refusal to provide an address to a peace officer was a violation of parole, as were providing false information to a police officer and refusing to submit to anti-narcotics testing.

  When officer Estrada observed Bell, he recognized him "from prior contacts, including an arrest for possession of cocaine earlier that year." Estrada Decl. ¶ 5. Estrada confirmed officer Montgomery's description of the events, i.e., Estrada heard Bell tell officer Montgomery that he was not on parole, observed Montgomery confirm that Bell was on parole, observed Bell refuse to submit to testing, heard Montgomery contact the FAT regarding his contact with Bell. After officer Montgomery arrested Bell, they transported him to jail.

  Two days after Bell's arrest, his parole agent, Dexter Wiggins, received a fax from the FAT informing him of Bell's arrest and describing the circumstances of the arrest. Based on the information parole agent Wiggins received, he "determined that Bell had violated his parole by giving false information to peace officers and recommended that Bell continue on parole under supervision as of October 28, 2003." Wiggins Decl., ¶ 8. Wiggins "did not recommend a parole revocation hearing because Bell was not being charged with a new criminal offense and the violation was a relatively minor one." Id. at ¶ 9. Wiggins explained that not all parole violations result in a revocation and that the parole agent has the discretion to allow the parolee to continue on parole, which is what Wiggins did in Bell's case. Id. Wiggins did not determine that the police officers lacked a basis for arresting Bell. Wiggins states that this parolee's refusal to submit to anti-narcotics testing and refusal to provide an address to a police officer were parole violations. VENUE AND JURISDICTION

  Venue is proper in the Northern District of California under 28 U.S.C. § 1391 because the events or omissions giving rise to the claims occurred in Alameda County, which is located within the Northern District. This court has federal question jurisdiction over this action asserting claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

  LEGAL STANDARD FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

  The court will grant summary judgment "against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial . . . since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986) (a fact is material if it might affect the outcome of the suit under governing ...


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