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Martin v. County of San Diego

August 12, 2009


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


Following remand of this case from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Plaintiff David Martin and Defendants Roland Maus ("Det. Maus") and the County of San Diego have filed cross-motions for summary judgment/adjudication. Both parties filed opposition and reply briefs regarding the cross-motions.

A hearing was held before Chief Judge Irma E. Gonzalez on August 4, 2009. Upon consideration of the arguments presented by the parties, for the reasons set forth herein, the Court denies Plaintiff's motion for summary adjudication and grants in part and denies in part Defendants' motion for summary judgment.

Factual and Procedural Background

The underlying facts regarding this case are fully set forth in this Court's March 17, 2006 order and will be re-stated herein only as necessary in the discussion of the parties' arguments. In short, Plaintiff's complaint arises from the May 1, 2002 execution of a search warrant, which Defendant Maus procured the previous day, calling for "sufficient hair, blood, and saliva samples for comparison purposes." Det. Maus obtained the search warrant as part of his investigation of a December 29, 2000 robbery which occurred at William Phillips' business in Encinitas, California, Andy's Orchids.

Plaintiff's complaint alleged nine causes of action against the County of San Diego, San Diego County Sheriff's Department, Det. Maus, District Attorney Elizabeth Silva, William Phillips, and Andy's Orchids. This Court initially granted summary judgment in favor of all the County Defendants on all of Plaintiff's substantive claims*fn1 on March 17, 2006. The Court found none of the alleged misrepresentations or omissions from the search warrant affidavit were material, and further found that even if all the identified misrepresentations and omissions were considered, the totality of circumstances supported a finding there was probable cause to issue the warrant. Based thereon, the Court dismissed all Plaintiff's federal and state law claims against the individual County Defendants as well as the County of San Diego. By separate order filed on March 30, 2006, the Court denied Defendants Phillips and Andy's Orchids' motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff, however, settled and dismissed his claims against these Defendants on August 2, 2006.

The Ninth Circuit reversed this Court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the County and Det. Maus, but affirmed the grant of summary judgment in favor of District Attorney Silva. The court found Det. Maus omitted four pieces of material information from his affidavit: (1) Phillips had a motive to lie and falsely accuse Plaintiff; (2) Det. Maus knew federal agents believed in Plaintiff's credibility and honesty; (3) Plaintiff claimed he had potentially exculpatory phone records placing him 190 miles from the scene of the crime on the morning of the burglary; and (4) Det. Maus knew, based on statements from federal agents, that Plaintiff displayed no visible signs of injury one week after the burglary, despite Phillips' contention that the had drawn significant amounts of blood during his altercation with the burglar. The Ninth Circuit determined that an affidavit which included the omitted material would not have established probable cause, and thus remanded for further proceedings as against the County and Det. Maus.

Both parties now, again, move for summary adjudication or summary judgment.

Summary Judgment Standard

Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 56, a party may move for summary judgment on all or part of the claims in the case. Summary judgment is appropriate where the pleadings and other evidence show "that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). A material issue of fact is a question the trier of fact must answer to determine the rights of the parties under the applicable substantive law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

A dispute is genuine "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id. at 248. Summary judgment may be granted in favor of a defendant on an ultimate issue of fact where the defendant carries its burden of "pointing out to the district court that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325; see Nissan Fire & Marine Ins. Co. v. Fritz Cos., 210 F.3d 1099, 1106 (9th Cir. 2000).

The moving party bears "the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. To satisfy this burden, the moving party must demonstrate that no genuine issue of material fact exists for trial. Id. at 322. However, the moving party is not required to negate those portions of the non-moving party's claim on which the non-moving party bears the burden of proof. Id. at 323. To withstand a motion for summary judgment, the non-movant must then show that there are genuine factual issues which can only be resolved by the trier of fact. Reese v. Jefferson Sch. Dist. No. 14J, 208 F.3d 736, 738 (9th Cir. 2000) (citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 56; Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323).

The nonmoving party may not rely on the pleadings but must present specific facts creating a genuine issue of material fact. Nissan Fire, 210 F.3d at 1103. The inferences to be drawn from the facts must be viewed in a light most favorable to the party opposing the motion, but conclusory allegations as to ultimate facts are not adequate to defeat summary judgment. Gibson v. County of Washoe, Nev., 290 F.3d 1175, 1180 (9th Cir. 2002). The Court is not required "to scour the record in search of a genuine issue of triable fact," Keenan v. Allan, 91 F.3d 1275, 1279 (9th Cir. 1996), but rather "may limit its review to the documents submitted for purposes of summary judgment and those parts of the record specifically referenced therein." Carmen v. San Francisco Unified Sch. Dist., 237 F.3d 1026, 1030 (9th Cir. 2001).


Plaintiff moves for summary adjudication of Defendants' liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 as well as each state law cause of action. Plaintiff argues the Ninth Circuit's decision, finding that Det. Maus omitted material facts from the search warrant affidavit and further finding that the corrected affidavit would not have established probable cause, requires a finding of liability against both Maus and the County of San Diego on each of Plaintiff's causes of action. Defendants, by contrast, once again move for summary judgment on the basis of qualified immunity. Defendants argue that notwithstanding the Ninth Circuit's finding there were material omissions, and the warrant lacked probable cause, Det. Maus reasonably believed probable cause existed and relied thereon. Defendants also argue Plaintiff has failed to establish there are genuine issues of material fact and they are entitled to judgment on Plaintiff's state law claims.

1. Plaintiff's Claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983

The first question raised by the parties' motions is whether Det. Maus is entitled to qualified immunity on Plaintiff's claims under § 1983. "The principles of qualified immunity shield an officer from personal liability when an officer reasonably believes that his or her conduct complies with the law." Pearson v. Callahan, __ U.S. __, 129 S.Ct. 808, 823 (2009). In determining whether an officer is entitled to qualified immunity, the court generally determines first whether the alleged facts establish the defendant violated a constitutional right, and second whether the right at issue was "clearly established" at the time of the alleged misconduct. Rodis v. City and County of San Francisco, 558 F.3d 964, 968 (9th Cir. 2009) (citing Saucier v. Katz, 53 U.S. 194, 201 (2001)).

Plaintiff argues Det. Maus is not entitled to qualified immunity and, instead, Plaintiff is entitled to summary adjudication on the issue of liability under § 1983 because the Ninth Circuit determined Det. Maus violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. By contrast, Defendants argue Det. Maus is entitled to qualified immunity on Plaintiff's claim because Det. Maus, at all times, reasonably believed there was probable cause for the warrant.

In cases alleging judicial deception in the procurement of a search warrant, in order to establish a violation of the Fourth Amendment under the first prong of the qualified immunity inquiry, the plaintiff must show that "in allegedly omitting relevant information from his affidavit in support of the application for a search warrant ... [the officer] acted 'with deliberate falsehood or reckless disregard for the truth'." Butler v. Elle, 281 F.3d 1014, 1024 (9th Cir. 2002) (quoting United States v. Stanert, 762 F.2d 775, 781 (9th Cir. 1985)). Thus, the Ninth Circuit has articulated the following standard to be applied on summary judgment in cases alleging judicial deception:

The plaintiff alleging judicial deception must make a substantial showing of deliberate falsehood or reckless disregard for the truth and establish that but for the dishonesty, the challenged action would not have occurred.

Butler, 281 F.3d at 1024 (quoting Hervey v. Estes, 54 F.3d 784, 788-89 (9th Cir. 1995)). This "deliberate falsehood or reckless disregard for the truth" standard does not require plaintiff to demonstrate defendant acted with a subjective intent to mislead. Lombardi v. City of El Cajon, 117 F.3d 1117, 1123 (9th Cir. 1997). Where the plaintiff has made a "substantial showing" that the officer intentionally or recklessly omitted the information, "the question of intent or recklessness is a 'factual determination for the trier of fact'." Liston v. County of Riverside, 120 F.3d 965, 974 (9th Cir. 1997) (quoting Hervey, 65 F.3d at 791); Butler, 281 F.3d at 1026.

With regard to the second prong of the qualified immunity analysis, an officer cannot be said to have acted in an objectively reasonable manner so as to be entitled to qualified immunity where the officer has made obvious false misrepresentations or omitted information which was obviously relevant. Lombardi, 117 F.3d at 1126.

In cases of "outrageous" conduct such as Hervey,*fn2 where probable cause is clearly lacking without the false statements, the officer "cannot be said to have acted in an objectively reasonable manner and the shield of qualified immunity is lost."

Id. "However, in other cases, particularly where omissions are involved, materiality may not have been clear at the time the officer decided what to include in, and what to exclude from, the affidavit. In such cases, when it is not plain that a neutral magistrate would not have issued the warrant, the shield of qualified immunity should not be lost, because a reasonably well-trained officer would not have known that the misstatement or omission would have any effect on issuing the warrant." Id.

In examining the second prong of the qualified immunity analysis, the Ninth Circuit has noted that the where the plaintiff has made a substantial showing of judicial deception, the issue of qualified immunity is "effectively intertwine[d]" with the substantive Fourth Amendment ...

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