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Barnes v. County of Placer

June 29, 2009

BRIGET BARNES, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS GUARDIAN AD LITEM FOR MINOR CHILDREN R.X. AND M.X., JERRY BARNES, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
COUNTY OF PLACER, EMILY HILL, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS AN EMPLOYEE OF THE COUNTY OF PLACER, DEPUTY HARROUN, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS AN EMPLOYEE OF THE COUNTY OF PLACER, AND DOES 1 THROUGH 50, INCLUSIVE, DEFENDANTS.



ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT

This matter comes before the Court on Defendants Emily Hill ("Hill") and Deputy Rick Harroun's ("Harroun") (collectively "Defendants") motion for partial summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Plaintiffs Brigit Barnes ("Brigit"), individually and as Guardian ad Litem for minor children R.X. and M.X., and Jerry Barnes ("Jerry") (collectively "Plaintiffs") oppose the motion. A hearing on this motion was held before the Court on June 3, 2009. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion as to Plaintiffs' first and second claims is GRANTED.

I. FACTS

This Court views the facts and draws inferences in the manner most favorable to Plaintiffs as the non-moving party. Plaintiffs Jerry and Briget Barnes are the grandparents and legal guardians of minor Plaintiffs M.X. (8 year old granddaughter) and R.X. (5 year old granddaughter). Plaintiffs' Complaint, Doc. # 2, ("Compl.") ¶ 6.

On April 22, 2006, Jerry Barnes struck M.X. with an object hard enough to leave marks/bruises on the back of M.X.'s legs after M.X. fell into a pond on the Barnes' property. Pls' Opp. at 1:8-14. Jerry Barnes states he struck M.X. because he wanted to impress upon her the need to stay away from the pond, which she had fallen into on a prior occasion. Id. On April 26, 2006, school officials from St. Joseph's Elementary School noticed marks/bruises on M.X's legs and reported the suspected child abuse to the Child Protective Services Division of the Placer County Department of Health and Human Services. Id. at 15-19. Defendant Emily Hill, a crises intervention social worker, made an emergency response to the school to investigate the call. Defs' Mot. at 1:14-18.

Ms. Hill interviewed M.X. and shortly thereafter, without contacting Brigit or Jerry Barnes, called the Placer County Sheriff's Department to report suspected child abuse. Pl's Separate Statement of Disputed and Undisputed Material Facts, Doc. # 56, ("Pl's Facts") ¶ 19. Defendant Deputy Sheriff Rick Harroun responded and interviewed M.X. and Ms. Hill. Id. ¶ 22. After the interview with M.X. and another discussion with Ms. Hill, Deputy Harroun took M.X. and her five year old sister, R.X. into protective custody and turned them over to Ms. Hill. Id. ¶ 24-26.

On May 2, 2006, a detention hearing took place in the Placer County Juvenile Court. Joint Status Report, Doc. # 15, ("Report") at 3:3. The Court determined on a prima facie basis pursuant to Welfare & Institutions Code Section 319 that M.X. and R.X. should be detained. Id. at 3:4-5. They remained in protective custody until May 19, 2006. Id. at 3:5-6. On May 19, 2006 the Court ordered that the children return to Briget Barnes, but that Jerry Barnes could not remain with them until he completed classes on anger management and parenting. Id. at 3:6-8. The Court permitted Jerry Barnes to return to the home with his grandchildren on July 5, 2006. Id. at 3:8-9.

On August 16, 2007, Plaintiffs brought a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action against Defendants alleging an illegal warrantless seizure of M.X. and R.X. in violation of their Fourth Amendment rights, and in violation of their Fourteenth Amendment rights to familial association. Compl. ¶¶ 82-86. Plaintiffs also allege a violation of M.X.'s and R.X.'s Fourth Amendment right to be free from illegal and/or unreasonable seizures, arising from the continued detention of M.X. and R.X. by Ms. Hill after they were taken into protective custody without a warrant. Id. ¶¶ 87-88. Plaintiffs further assert a violation of Jerry Barnes's First Amendment rights arising from the forced family counseling as a condition of his return to the same house as his grandchildren. Id. ¶¶ 89-91. Plaintiffs also allege pendent state law claims for relief including: false arrest, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligence. Compl. ¶¶ 92-118.

In the instant motion, Defendants move for partial summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. Doc. # 52, 60. Defendants assert they are entitled to qualified immunity as to Plaintiffs' 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 claims. Defendants also request that the Court grant partial summary judgment in their favor on Plaintiffs' state law claims for false arrest, false imprisonment and intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED). Finally, defendants request that the Court decline jurisdiction over the remaining state law negligence claim and dismiss it without prejudice. Plaintiffs oppose the motion. Doc. # 56.

II. OPINION

A. Legal Standard

A motion for partial summary judgment is resolved under the same standard as a motion for summary judgment. See California v. Campbell, 138 F.3d 772, 780 (9th Cir. 1998). Summary judgment is proper "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The purpose of summary judgment "is to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims and defenses." Cleotex v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-324 (1986).

The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 447 U.S. 242, 248-49 (1986). If the moving party meets its burden, the burden of production then shifts so that "the non-moving party must set forth, by affidavit or as otherwise provided in Rule 56, 'specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pacific Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e) and citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323). The Court must view the facts and draw inferences in the manner most favorable to the non-moving party. United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962).

The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the non-moving party's position is insufficient: "There must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for [the non-moving party]." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252. This Court thus applies to either a defendant's or plaintiff's motion for summary judgment the same standard as for a motion for directed verdict, which is "whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement ...


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