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Pickett v. Schwarzenegger

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT CENTRAL DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA


January 11, 2010

RICKY PICKETT, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, GOVERNOR OF CALIFORNIA; FRED AGUIAR, CABINET SECRETARY TO GOV.; SUSAN KENNEDY, CHIEF OF STAFF TO GOV.; ETAL. DEFENDANTS.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Dean D. Pregerson United States District Judge

Order (1) Denying Plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration (Dkt. No. 91); (2) Denying Plaintiff's Motion for Review of Magistrate's Order Granting Motion to Quash (Dkt. No. 94); (3) Denying Plaintiff's Motion for Class Certification (Dkt. No. 95); (4) Denying Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to Amend (Dkt. No. 106) [Motions filed on September 21, 24, 29, October 22, 2009]

I. Introduction

Plaintiff Ricky Pickett, a state parolee, was allegedly arrested without reasonable suspicion, charged with violating the terms of his parole without probable cause, and detained for more than forty days before being released to continue his parole term at the conclusion of his final parole revocation hearing. The overarching issue before the Court is whether Plaintiff may pursue his 42 U.S.C. § 1983 damages claims against various state and local officials on behalf of a statewide class consisting of (according to Plaintiff) approximately 200,000 parolees. As explained in greater detail below, the Court concludes that Plaintiff has not established a basis in law or in fact for certifying this case as a class action.

Plaintiff's proposed First Amended Complaint ("FAC") seeks to bolster the class-wide allegations by adding state officials that perform a policymaking function with respect to California's parole procedures, but Plaintiff has not provided a valid reason for seeking leave to amend nearly a month after he filed his motion for class certification, and more than four months after the Court dismissed his claims against the state supervisory-level defendants named in the initial complaint. Further, the Court is persuaded that Plaintiff's proposed FAC does not remedy the deficiencies that prompted the Court to dismiss the claims against the state supervisory-level defendants, and thus, amendment would be futile. Accordingly, the Court will not consider the allegations in the proposed FAC in ruling on the motion for class certification.

II. Background

Plaintiff alleges that on March 15, 2007, four Los Angeles Police Department ("LAPD") officers arrested him for violating a condition of his parole (the condition required him to refrain from associating with known gang members), allegedly without reasonable suspicion. (Compl. ¶¶ 9-10.) He contends that the arresting officers used excessive force, stole or lost $1,200 of his money, and unlawfully impounded and damaged his vehicle. (Id. ¶ 9.)

According to the complaint, Plaintiff was then subjected to a parole hold and charged with violating the gang member association condition of his parole. (Id. ¶ 13.) He contends that "[t]he arrest and manner thereof and parole hold imposition were made in substantial part to gratify the sadistic impulses of the aforesaid [LAPD] officers and [parole] agent, who each took evident pleasure in inflicting said physical torture and emotional anguish upon Pickett." (Id. ¶ 14.)

Plaintiff next alleges, in relevant part, that On April 2, 2007 a probable cause hearing was belatedly held [before the California Board of Parole Hearings ("CBPH")] in which Pickett was denied the right to call witnesses and to confront adverse witnesses. Consequently, he was unable to cross-examine the officers who had stopped and arrested him: without knowing Pickett was on parole and without having any reasonable suspicion that he had committed any crime or violation of his special condition of parole. (Id. ¶ 16.) At Plaintiff's final CBPH parole revocation hearing on April 19, 2007 (which Plaintiff alleges was untimely) the gang association charge against him was dismissed, and he was released to continue his parole. (Id. ¶ 17.)

Plaintiff named 33 state and local officials (all in their individual capacities, some in their official capacity) as defendants in this action. The complaint states numerous violations of the United States and California constitutions, including unreasonable search and seizure, false arrest, non-provision of a speedy preliminary hearing, unconstitutional use of hearsay and denial of the right to confront witnesses, among other claims.

On June 11, 2009, the Court issued an order granting in part and denying in part the state defendants' motion to dismiss.

Approximately three months later, with the close of class certification-related discovery fast approaching, Plaintiff filed a motion to extend the discovery cut-off (and all other calendared deadlines) by five months. The Court denied the motion on the basis of Plaintiff's counsel's repeated failure to comply with Central District Local Rules. (Dkt. No. 88.)

Plaintiff then filed the four motions presently pending before the Court. On September 21, 2009, he filed a motion for reconsideration of the Court's Order denying his motion to extend the cut-off dates for class certification-related discovery. (Dkt. No. 91.) On September 24, 2009, Plaintiff filed a motion seeking review of the Magistrate Judge's order granting the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR")'s motion to quash his third-party subpoena. (Dkt. No. 94.) On September 29, 2009, Plaintiff filed a motion for class certification (Dkt. No. 95), and on October 22, he filed a motion for leave to file an amended complaint, (Dkt. No. 106).

III. Discussion

A. Motion for Reconsideration

Plaintiff asks the Court to reconsider its September 9, 2009 Order denying his motion to extend, by five months, the cut-off dates for class certification-related discovery.

"[A] motion for reconsideration should not be granted, absent highly unusual circumstances, unless the district court is presented with newly discovered evidence, committed clear error, or if there is an intervening change in the controlling law." Carroll v. Nakatani, 342 F.3d 934, 945 (9th Cir. 2003) (internal quotation marks omitted). Further, Local Rule 7-18 provides that:

A motion for reconsideration of the decision on any motion may be made only on the grounds of (a) a material difference in fact or law from that presented to the Court before such decision that in the exercise of reasonable diligence could not have been known to the party moving for reconsideration at the time of such decision, or (b) the emergence of new material facts or a change of law occurring after the time of such decision, or (c) a manifest showing of a failure to consider material facts presented to the Court before such decision. No motion for reconsideration shall in any manner repeat any oral or written argument made in support of or in opposition to the original motion.

Plaintiff ignores Local Rule 7-18's injunction against repeating arguments made in support of the original motion, and appears to contend, without any legal support, that reconsideration of the Court's September 9, 2009 Order is warranted because the ruling imposed a significant burden on Plaintiff's counsel.

In bringing his original motion to extend the class certification-related discovery cut-off, Plaintiff's counsel failed to comply with applicable local rules and did so after the Court admonished him to familiarize himself with relevant local and federal procedural rules, and to carefully observe those rules in all future filings.*fn1 As explained in the Court's order, Plaintiff's counsel's failure to heed the Court's words provided an independent basis, apart from the merits, for denying his motion to extend the discovery cut-off. Accordingly, the Court denies Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration.

B. Review of Magistrate Judge's Ruling

Plaintiff next contends that Magistrate Judge Eick erred in granting the CDCR's motion to quash his third-party subpoena.

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(a) provides that a party dissatisfied with a Magistrate Judge's ruling on a nondispositive matter "may serve and file objections to the order" with the assigned district judge. "The district judge in the case must consider timely objections and modify or set aside any part of the order that is clearly erroneous or is contrary to law." FED. R. CIV. P. 72(a).

As discussed above, on June 11, 2009 the Court issued an order granting in part the state supervisory official defendants' motion to dismiss. In that Order, the Court dismissed Plaintiff's claims against all of the State official defendants except the claims against Parole Agents Almazon and Perez and Board of Parole Hearings Deputy Commissioner Allen, without prejudice. The claims against Defendants Almazon, Perez and Allen arise out of Plaintiff's March 2007 arrest (in which Defendants Almazon and Perez were allegedly involved) and Plaintiff's April 2, 2007 probable cause hearing (at which Defendant Allen allegedly presided). (Complaint ¶¶ 13, 16).

On August 17, 2009 -- approximately two weeks before the cutoff date for class certification-related discovery -- Plaintiff served the CDCR with a subpoena noticing depositions set for August 31, 2009. The CDCR filed a motion to quash Plaintiff's subpoena on August 28, 2009. (Dkt. No. 80.) Magistrate Judge Eick granted the motion to quash, explaining that

[t]he allegations against Defendants Almazon, Perez and Allen, the only remaining State official Defendants, are specific to Plaintiff, and do not support any class action allegations. Hence, the Subpoena seeks information not relevant to the remaining claims and defenses. Further, the Subpoena is grossly overbroad. Therefore, the Motion is granted.

The Court agrees with the Magistrate Judge's reasoning. The claims remaining in this case concern the circumstances of Plaintiff's arrest (e.g., whether Plaintiff was arrested without reasonable suspicion), and the procedures employed in the subsequent probable cause and revocation hearings (e.g., whether Plaintiff's probable cause hearing was timely and whether he was allowed to cross-examine witnesses). Plaintiff's CDCR subpoena sought a broad range of information relating to the state's parole policies. None of this information is relevant to the claims that survived the Court's June 11, 2009 Order.

Plaintiff points out that the Court dismissed many of the claims against the state supervisory-level defendants without prejudice, and contends that this aspect of the June 11, 2009 Order signals that the Court implicitly acknowledged that Plaintiff could state a claim against some or all of the state officials named in the complaint. The Court's dismissal of Plaintiff's claims against the state supervisory-level defendants "without prejudice" is beside the point -- a litigant may not subpoena documents on the basis of hypothetical factual allegations and unstated legal claims. Accordingly, the Court denies Plaintiff's motion for review of Magistrate Judge Eick's September 14, 2009 Order.

C. Motion for Class Certification

Class actions in federal court are governed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23. Rule 23 provides a two-step process for determining whether class certification is appropriate. First, Rule 23(a) sets forth four conjunctive prerequisites for class certification:

(1) the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable, (2) there are questions of law or fact common to the class, (3) the claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses of the class, and (4) the representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class.

FED. R. CIV. P. 23(a); see also Hanon v. Dataproducts Corp., 976 F.2d 497, 508 (9th Cir. 1992). These four requirements are often referred to as numerosity, commonality, typicality, and adequacy. See General Tel. Co. v. Falcon, 457 U.S. 147, 156 (1982).

Assuming the requirements of Rule 23(a) are satisfied, a party seeking class certification must also demonstrate that the action falls within one of the three kinds of actions permitted under Rule 23(b). See FED. R. CIV. P. 23(b). Specifically, Plaintiff must demonstrate that the putative class can be categorized as a prejudice class, an equity class, or a damages class under subdivisions 23(b)(1), (b)(2), or (b)(3), respectively. Id.

As explained above, the Court agrees with Magistrate Judge Eick's conclusion that no class-wide claims remain in this case. The remaining claims concern specific facts surrounding Plaintiff's arrest, detention, and subsequent probable cause and revocation hearings. The remaining defendants are the LAPD and state parole officers that, allegedly, were involved in his arrest, and the CBPH Deputy Commissioner that allegedly presided over his probable cause hearing. All parties responsible for formulating state parole policies have been dismissed from the case. Accordingly, Plaintiff has failed to establish that there are questions of law and fact common to the putative class. The motion for class certification is therefore denied.

D. Motion for Leave to Amend

Finally, Plaintiff seeks leave to amend his complaint. His proposed FAC revives his claims against the previously dismissed state supervisory-level defendants (i.e, the claims that were dismissed for failure to state a claim pursuant to the Court's June 11, 2009 Order).

As the Court noted in its prior order, to prevail on a § 1983 damages claim against a supervisory-level state defendant, a plaintiff must show either personal involvement in the alleged constitutional violation or "a sufficient causal connection between the supervisors['] wrongful conduct and the constitutional violation." Hansen v. Black, 885 F.2d 642, 646 (9th Cir. 1989)(citation omitted). The Court dismissed the claims against the state supervisory-level defendants because Plaintiff's complaint failed to describe any actual policy or practice responsible for the alleged constitutional violations "that has anything more than a vague link to the 22 [supervisory-level] State Defendants." (June 11, 2009 Order 7:19-21.)

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a), which governs requests for leave to amend pleadings, provides that "leave shall be freely given when justice so requires." FED. R. CIV. P. 15(a).

Leave to amend should be provided unless the opposing party makes a showing of undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive, futility of amendment, or prejudice. See Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962); Ascon Props., Inc. v. Mobil Oil Co., 866 F.2d 1149, 1160 (9th Cir. 1989).

Plaintiff's attempt to bring the claims against the supervisory-level defendants back into this action suffers from two glaring defects.

First, Plaintiff has not stated a valid reason for bringing his motion for leave to amend more than four months after the Court dismissed the state supervisory-level defendants from this case. In the meantime, Plaintiff has filed four motions, all premised on the complaint as it stood after the Court's June 11, 2009 Order. The facts alleged in the proposed FAC do not arise from information that Plaintiff obtained in the course of discovery. Indeed, all of the information set forth in the proposed FAC was available to Plaintiff months ago.

Plaintiff's counsel reports that the burdens of litigating this and other cases prevented him from timely filing a motion for leave to amend. This explanation is unpersuasive. A motion for leave to amend need not consume an inordinate amount of time, and the Court identified the specific deficiencies in the complaint in its June 11, 2009 Order. Further, Plaintiff apparently elected to file meritless motions (his baseless motion for reconsideration, for example) in lieu of timely seeking leave to amend.

Although delay alone "is not a dispositive factor in the amendment analysis, it is relevant, especially when no reason is given for the delay." Lockheed Martin Corp. v. Network Solutions, Inc., 194 F.3d 980, 986 (9th Cir. 1999). Further, a finding of undue delay is justified where the "new facts" underlying the amendment were previously available to the party seeking amendment. Chodos v. West Publishing Co., 292 F.3d 992, 1003 (9th Cir. 2002) (affirming denial of motion for leave to amend where "new facts" were available prior to the filing of the proposed first amended complaint).

The Court dismissed the statewide supervisory-level defendants in June. Plaintiff moved to reinstate his claims against them in October. In the interim, Plaintiff's litigation strategy forced opposing counsel (and the Court) to respond to three noticed motions premised on the initial complaint, including a complex motion for class certification. In the light of the above, the Court concludes that Plaintiff's delay in seeking leave to amend was unreasonable.

But even holding the undue delay aside, the Court is persuaded that granting Plaintiff leave to amend would be futile. The proposed FAC does little more than explain the policymaking functions that each of the state defendants perform pursuant to their respective job descriptions. These factual allegations do not articulate a connection tying any of the state defendants to Plaintiff's arrest, or to the alleged procedural shortcomings associated with his hearings before the California Board of Parole Hearings. Accordingly, Plaintiff's motion for leave to amend his complaint is denied.

IV. Conclusion

For the reasons set forth above, the Court:

1) DENIES Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration of the Court's September 9, 2009 Order (Dkt. No. 91)

2) DENIES Plaintiff's motion for review of the Magistrate Judge's September 14, 2009 Order (Dkt. No. 94)

3) DENIES Plaintiff's motion for class certification (Dkt. No. 95)

4) DENIES Plaintiff's motion for leave to file an amended complaint (Dkt. No. 106)

IT IS SO ORDERED.


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