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Beecham v. City of West Sacramtento

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA


July 29, 2009

KARENE BEECHAM, INDIVIDUALLY, AND KARENA CRANKSON, INDIVIDUALLY, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
CITY OF WEST SACRAMTENTO, A PUBLIC ENTITY, POLICE OFFICER TIMOTHY TWARDOSZ, POLICE OFFICER GEOFFREY ALBERT, POLICE OFFICER STEVE GODDEN, POLICE OFFICER ED HENSLEY, AND DOES 4 THROUGH 10, JOINTLY AND SEVERALLY, DEFENDANTS.

ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR INJUNCTIVE RELIEF

This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiffs Karene Beecham and Karena Crankson's (collectively "Plaintiffs") motion for injunctive relief against Defendant City of West Sacramento ("Defendant") pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 52(b) and 59(e) to amend the judgment.*fn1 For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiffs' motion is DENIED.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Judgment was entered in this matter on April 9, 2009. It was stipulated and ordered at trial that Plaintiffs would seek injunctive relief after trial for purposes of judicial economy and to conserve resources of the Court, jury, and all parties. The stipulation and order provides: "All parties further agree that Plaintiffs reserve the right to seek injunctive relief on any and all claims on which they presently prevailed, by post-trial motion filed at an appropriate time. Defendants reserve the right to assert all applicable defenses to such injunctive relief." Doc. # 272. In the instant motion Plaintiffs Karene Beecham and Karena Crankson move this Court for injunctive relief against Defendant City of West Sacramento, to require its police department to promulgate and adhere to lawful policies, procedures, and training concerning high-risk traffic stops and officers pointing guns at people. Doc. # 301. Defendant opposes the motion. Doc. # 324.

II. OPINION

In order to assert a claim for prospective injunctive relief, a plaintiff must demonstrate "that he is realistically threatened by a repetition of [the violation]." City of Los Angeles v. Lyons, 461 U.S. 95, 109 (1983)(emphasis added)(holding that plaintiff cannot establish the requisite type of harm simply by pointing to some past injury). As the Ninth Circuit explained in Armstrong v. Davis, 275 F.3d 849 (9th Cir. 2001) there are at least two ways in which to demonstrate that such an injury is likely to be repeated. "First, a plaintiff may show that the defendant had, at the time of the injury, a written policy, and that the injury stems from that policy." Id. at 861. And second, "the plaintiff may demonstrate that the harm is part of a 'pattern of officially sanctioned . . . behavior, violative of the plaintiffs' [federal] rights.'" Id. citing LaDuke v. Nelson, 762 F.2d 1318, 1323 (9th Cir. 1985). In other words, "where the defendants have repeatedly engaged in the injurious acts in the past, there is a sufficient possibility that they will engage in them in the near future to satisfy the 'realistic repetition' requirement." Id. at 861.

Plaintiffs assert they can show that the harm they suffered is part of a "pattern of officially sanctioned . . . behavior, violative of the plaintiffs' [federal] rights." Armstrong, 275 F.3d at 861 citing LaDuke, 762 F.2d at 1323. Plaintiffs argue there is a "very significant possibility" that they could be subjected to another illegal high-risk stop by the West Sacramento Police Department ("WSPD" or the "Department") given the Department's general practice to conduct a high-risk stop whenever a car "fails to yield." Pl's Mot. at 2-5. Plaintiffs rely on class action cases to support their assertion that they have standing to seek injunctive relief. However, as Defendant contends in its Opposition brief, these cases do not support Plaintiffs' argument because the standing analysis differs when the case is being brought on behalf of an entire class of individuals. Def's Opp. 13:7-10.

For example, in Armstrong a class action lawsuit was brought on behalf of all disabled parolees who alleged that California was denying class members the right to fair parole revocation hearings. 275 F.3d 849. The district court found that both the written policies and unwritten practices of the defendant prison violated the rights of the disabled plaintiffs. Id. In support of their holding, the Armstrong Court explained that class membership is a relevant factor in showing an immediate likelihood of future injury. Id. at 864. The Court held that "where a named plaintiff is a member of a plaintiff class, and 'members of the class have repeatedly suffered personal injuries in the past that can fairly be traced to the [defendants'] standard . . . practices,' the defendant's treatment of the class as a whole must be considered to determine whether the individual plaintiff 'has been and will continue to be aggrieved by the defendants' [illegal] pattern of conduct.'" Id. at 864 citing LaDuke, 762 F.2d at 1326. In Armstrong, the plaintiffs provided overwhelming evidence of discrimination against the named plaintiffs as well as other, individually identified class members. Id. at 864. The Court found "that discrimination stretched back in some instances, over ten years, and at the time of trial showed no signs of abating." Id. The record amply supported that named plaintiffs suffered repeated acts of discrimination. Id. Thus, based on past occurrences, the Court found the threat of future injury to the named plaintiffs as well as to the class itself was both real and immediate. Id.

Here, however, the Court can make no such finding. Injunctive relief is not available absent evidence of a real and immediate likelihood that Plaintiffs would again be targeted by the City of West Sacramento. See City of Los Angeles v. Lyons, 461 U.S. 95 (1983). As Defendant argues, the instant case is very similar, if not identical, to the circumstances presented in Lyons. Plaintiffs attempt to distinguish or limit the holding in Lyons is unpersuasive. Plaintiffs have not sufficiently demonstrated a likelihood of future injury because they have not presented evidence of repeated violations or a pattern or practice of officially sanctioned unconstitutional behavior by Defendant. Rather, the only evidence before this Court of an unconstitutional practice by Defendant is the single incident giving rise to this lawsuit. This Court has no evidence of an ongoing problem of constitutional violations by the WSPD through their use of high-risk stops nor is there evidence of an inherently unconstitutional written policy or practice within the police department necessitating an injunction. The WSPD's policy gives the lead officer the discretion to determine whether to call in a "failure to yield" which triggers a high-risk stop response. Def's Opp. at 24-25. Moreover, the lead officer retains ongoing discretion to call off a high-risk stop at anytime. Id. Although Defendant officers acted unreasonably in conducting a high-risk stop in this case, there is no evidence of an immediate likelihood that Plaintiffs would again be targeted by Defendant nor is there any evidence of an ongoing policy, practice, or custom within the City of West Sacramento that will lead to another violation of Plaintiffs' rights.

III. ORDER

For the reasons set forth above, Plaintiffs' Motion for Injunctive Relief is hereby DENIED.

IT IS SO ORDERED.


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