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Croteau v. State

November 21, 2007

HANS S. CROTEAU, AN INDIVIDUAL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA, THE CITY OF SAN DIEGO, BENNETT GOODMAN, MICHAEL W. VAUGHN, ROBERT A. VELASQUEZ, THE SAN DIEGO POLICE DEPARTMENT, MITCHELL WALLACE, AND WILLIAM LANDSDOWNE DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Irma E. Gonzalez, Chief Judge United States District Court

ORDER: 1) GRANTING DEFENDANTS CITY OF SAN DIEGO AND SDPD'S MOTION TO DISMISS [Doc. No. 31];

2) DENYING DEFENDANT STATE OF CALIFORNIA'S MOTION TO DISMISS AS MOOT [Doc. No. 33];

3) DENYING DEFENDANTS GOODMAN, VAUGHN, & VELASQUEZ'S MOTION TO DISMISS AS MOOT [Doc. No. 32];

4) DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO AMEND AND FILE PROPOSED SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT [Doc. No. 35] and

5) GRANTING PLAINTIFF LEAVE TO FILE AN AMENDED COMPLAINT

Presently before the Court are motions to dismiss the first amended complaint for failure to state a claim filed by the City of San Diego ("the City") and the San Diego Police Department ("SDPD") (Doc. No. 31), the State of California (Doc. No. 33), and Bennett Goodman, Michael Vaughn, and Robert Velasquez (Doc. No. 32). Also before the Court is plaintiff's motion for leave to amend and file a proposed second amended complaint (Doc. No. 35), which defendants the City and SDPD have opposed. For the following reasons, the Court dismisses the first amended complaint, denies plaintiff's motion for leave to amend and file proposed second amended complaint, and grants plaintiff leave to file an amended complaint.

BACKGROUND

Factual Background

Plaintiff Hans Croteau brings this action under Title 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging violations of his constitutional rights. Plaintiff's contact with two of the individual defendants, Vaughn and Velasquez, began in late 2002, when plaintiff sought a price quote from Vaughn for the replacement of a broken circuit board. (First Amended Complaint ("FAC") ¶¶ 13-16.) Plaintiff explained he needed the price quote to submit to UPS because the piece had broken in transit. While Vaughn allegedly offered to provide the quote free of charge, plaintiff claims Vaughn began harassing plaintiff in efforts to obtain payment for a $2,000.00 bill. (Id. ¶¶ 17, 21, 23 & 36.)

Plaintiff alleges he contacted SDPD at least five times to complain about Vaughn's harassing telephone calls. (Id. ¶¶ 21-25, 39 & 42.) On one occasion, an officer advised plaintiff to obtain a telephone trap or a temporary restraining order. (Id. ¶ 23.) Although the telephone trap revealed multiple series of hang-up calls from a number registered to Vaughn's company, the police did not pursue criminal charges. (Id. ¶¶ 26-29.)

Plaintiff alleges the SDPD customarily ignores criminal harassment complaints when made against businesses or employees, gives preferential treatment to such employees when accused of criminal conduct, and customarily defers to the statements of attorneys made regarding conduct related to civil judicial proceedings. (Id. ¶¶ 22, 36-37.) Plaintiff alleges the SDPD ignored his criminal allegations against Vaughn and Velasquez because of these policies, which plaintiff argues violate his civil rights.

When the harassment allegedly continued, plaintiff filed a civil complaint in the Superior Court for the County of San Diego against Vaughn, Velasquez, and their business.*fn1 (Id. ¶ 29.) In that case, Vaughn and Velasquez (through their attorney, Bennett Goodman*fn2 ) moved for an order declaring plaintiff a "vexatious litigant" pursuant to California Code of Civil Procedure Section 391 et. seq. (Proposed Second Amended Complaint ("SAC") ¶ 39.) Plaintiff opposed the motion, arguing his claim had merit. He later deposed defendants, obtaining information he believed supported his claim. (Id. ¶¶ 40-41.) He then filed a motion asking Judge Sturgeon to consider the deposition transcripts as part of his opposition to defendant's Section 391 motion. (Id. ¶ 41.) Judge Sturgeon denied plaintiff's motion, and granted defendants' motion, declaring plaintiff a vexatious litigant. (Id. ¶¶ 41-43.) Plaintiff alleges Judge Sturgeon later placed plaintiff's name on the Judicial Council's Vexatious Litigant List, pursuant to Section 391.7(a). (Id. ¶ 44.) Plaintiff also alleges he was not notified or given opportunity to respond to his placement on the list. (Id. ¶¶ 44-45.) Plaintiff's case against Vaughn and Velasquez was subsequently dismissed because plaintiff failed to post the $25,000 bond required by Judge Sturgeon's order under Section 391. (Id. ¶ 47.)

Plaintiff alleges he again contacted the SDPD, which continued to ignore his complaint because it was closely related to a civil judicial proceeding. (FAC ¶ 43.) Plaintiff re-filed his claim against Vaughn and Velasquez in Small Claims Court. (Id. ¶ 45.) Because of plaintiff's designation as a vexatious litigant, plaintiff's small claims action was also dismissed.*fn3 (Id. ¶ 46.) Plaintiff alleges he then contacted numerous entities, including the ACLU, the California Attorney General, and SDPD's Internal Affairs Department, but was unable to obtain relief from the continuing harassment. (FAC ¶¶ 47-48.)

Plaintiff claims that on or around April 6, 2006, he was involved in a dangerous vehicle pursuit with an unknown individual and he received a threatening phone call. (Id. ΒΆ 51.) Plaintiff again contacted the SDPD, who allegedly informed plaintiff the matter ...


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