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Flores v. Shephard

January 21, 2009


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

Order Denying Plaintiff's Motion for Attorneys Fees and Costs [Doc. No. 228]

Plaintiff Antonio Flores moves the Court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988 for an award of reasonable attorneys fees, in the net amount of $57,546.25, and reimbursement of expert witness fees, in the amount of $13,479.50. Defendant has filed an opposition and Plaintiff has filed a reply. The Court previously found the motion appropriate for submission on the papers and without oral argument, and the January 12, 2009 hearing was vacated. For the reasons set forth herein, Plaintiff's motion is DENIED.


Plaintiff Antonio Flores, his wife Juana Flores, and their two young children Giovanni Flores and Abigail Flores, brought this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging violation of their civil rights by Defendants Steven Shephard, the City of National City, J.C. Penney Corporation, Inc., and J.C. Penney Manager John Sanchez. Plaintiffs also alleged state law causes of action against all Defendants.

Plaintiffs' allegations stemmed from a November 14, 2003 incident at the J.C. Penney store in the Plaza Bonita shopping center in National City. In the afternoon of November 14, 2003, Plaintiffs went to the J.C. Penney store to return a pair of pants which Antonio Flores had purchased earlier that day. Antonio Flores went to customer service to return the pants while the rest of his family shopped. After Antonio Flores completed the return, he and his cousin Alejandro Galeana browsed through the store.

National City police officer Steven Shephard was also at J.C. Penney store the afternoon of November 14, 2003, investigating a shoplifting incident reported by store employees earlier in the day.*fn1 At some point, J.C. Penney employees identified Antonio Flores and Alejandro Galeana and told Officer Shephard that Antonio and Alejandro were in the store earlier in the day when the shoplifting incident occurred.

Officer Shephard approached Antonio Flores and his cousin and asked for identification. Antonio Flores presented a California driver's license while his cousin provided a Matricula Consular card. After initially speaking with the two men, Officer Shephard asked if they were with anyone else at the store that day. Antonio Flores responded they were shopping there with their family, and Officer Shephard asked to speak with his other family members.

Antonio Flores took Officer Shephard to another part of the store where his wife and his aunt, Marfelix Arceta, were shopping. Officer Shephard asked both women for identification. Juana Flores presented a Matricula Consular card, but Marfelix Arceta had no identification with her. Officer Shepard had the entire Flores family leave the store and follow him to his patrol car, where he called Border Patrol.

When Border Patrol officials arrived shortly thereafter, they took Alejandro Galeana and Marfelix Arceta into custody because they could not provide evidence of their legal status within the United States. Both were deported to Mexico later that day. Antonio Flores and his wife and children were permitted to leave.

Plaintiffs*fn2 filed a complaint in San Diego County Superior Court on November 9, 2004, alleging causes of action under both 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and California's civil rights law, Cal. Civ. Code § 52.1 and 51.5. Plaintiffs also alleged causes of action for false imprisonment, negligent infliction of emotional distress, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligence. [Doc. No. 1.]

On March 16, 2006, the Court granted in part and denied in part Defendants' motions for summary judgment. The Court dismissed Plaintiffs' claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the City of National City; dismissed Plaintiffs' claims against J.C. Penney and John Sanchez under Cal. Civ. Code § 52.1; and dismissed Plaintiffs' state law claims against J.C. Penney and John Sanchez for false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. The Court denied summary judgment on all remaining claims. [Doc. No. 108.]

Defendants National City and Steven Shephard appealed the Court's denial of its summary judgment motion based upon qualified immunity, and the remainder of this case was stayed pending that appeal. The Court of Appeals affirmed and the case returned to this Court for trial.

Prior to trial, Plaintiffs entered into a settlement agreement with J.C. Penney and John Sanchez. Under the settlement agreement, J.C. Penney paid Plaintiffs the total amount of $35,000. The Court entered an order approving the settlement and determining such settlement was in good faith pursuant to Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 877.6. [Doc. No. 201.]

Plaintiffs proceeded to trial on their claims against National City and Officer Shephard. Prior to the start of trial, Plaintiffs withdrew their state law claims for intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress. [Doc. No. 204.] During trial, the Court granted Defendant National City's motion for judgment under Fed. R. Civ. P. 50 as to Plaintiffs' claims under Cal. Civ. Code ยง 52.1. [Doc. No. 208.] Plaintiffs also withdrew their claim for false imprisonment before the case went to the jury. [Doc. No. 209.] As a result, the only claim presented to the jury ...

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