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Mortimer v. Baca

February 5, 2010

ROGER D. MORTIMER, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS REPRESENTATIVE OF THE CLASS OF PERSONS DEFINED IN AVERMENT 15; DEANE DANA; DON KNABE, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
LEROY D. BACA, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California Dean D. Pregerson, District Judge, Presiding D.C. No. CV-00-13002-DDP.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Callahan, Circuit Judge

FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

Argued and Submitted August 7, 2009 -- Pasadena, California.

Before: Kim McLane Wardlaw and Consuelo M. Callahan, Circuit Judges, and Ralph R. Beistline,*fn1 Chief District Judge.

OPINION

Plaintiffs brought this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Los Angeles County Sheriff, Leroy Baca ("Baca"), in his official capacity. Plaintiffs allege that their civil rights were violated when they were kept in custody by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department ("LASD") for periods of time ranging from twenty-six to twenty-nine hours after the court had authorized their releases, and that their over-detentions were the result of a policy of deliberate indifference to their constitutional rights. We determine that our prior opinion in this litigation, Berry v. Baca, 379 F.3d 764 (9th Cir. 2004), did not preclude the district court from considering defendant's motion for summary judgment on its merits, and that the court properly granted defendant's motion for summary judgment because the proffered evidence would not support a finding of deliberate indifference.

I.

As noted in our prior opinion, plaintiff Roger Mortimer was acquitted at 11:45 a.m. on August 14, 2000, the Superior Court authorized his release, and he was released on August 15, 2000 at 4:57 p.m. Berry, 379 F.3d at 767. The Superior Court ordered plaintiff Anthony Hart's release from jail on August 17, 2000, and he was released on August 18, 2000, at 2:02 p.m., just over twenty-nine hours after the court authorized his release. Id. The Superior Court authorized the release of plaintiff Rodney Berry on February 1, 2001 at 11:30 a.m., and he was released on February 2, 2001, at 2:02 p.m. Id. Plaintiff S.A. Thomas was held in the Los Angeles County Jail until June 23, 2004, but claims that he should have been released two days earlier on June 21, 2004. Plaintiffs filed their actions in the United States District Court for the Central District of California alleging "a policy of deliberate indifference to their constitutional rights that resulted in unlawful periods of over-detention." Id. at 766. Their cases were consolidated before the district court. Id.

A. Berry v. Baca, 370 F.3d 764

On May 29, 2003, the district court granted Baca's motion for summary judgment based on the Ninth Circuit's decision in Brass v. County of Los Angeles, 328 F.3d 1192 (9th Cir. 2003). Plaintiffs appealed and we reversed and remanded. Id. at 773. We first set forth the applicable law and explained the district court's ruling as follows:

In order to hold Baca liable under § 1983, plaintiffs must demonstrate that " 'action pursuant to official municipal policy of some nature caused a constitutional tort.' " Brass, 328 F.3d at 1198 (quoting Monell, 436 U.S. at 691 . . .). We have stated that "a local governmental body may be liable if it has a policy of inaction and such inaction amounts to a failure to protect constitutional rights." Oviatt v. Pearce, 954 F.2d 1470, 1474 (9th Cir. 1992) (citing City of Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 388, . . . (1989)). However, the policy of inaction must be more than mere negligence, see Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 333-36, . . . (1986); it must be a conscious or deliberate choice among various alternatives. See Lee v. City of Los Angeles, 250 F.3d 668, 681 (9th Cir.2001).

In order to impose liability based on a policy of deliberate inaction, the "plaintiff must establish: (1) that he possessed a constitutional right of which he was deprived; (2) that the municipality had a policy; (3) that this policy 'amounts to deliberate indifference' to the plaintiff's constitutional right; and (4) that the policy [was] the 'moving force behind the constitutional violation.' " Oviatt, 954 F.2d at 1474 (quoting City of Canton, 489 U.S. at 389-91, . . . ).

The district court did not discuss this four-step showing, because it did not address the plaintiffs' claims that the County's policies amount to a policy of deliberate indifference to their constitutional rights. Instead, the district court found that it "is bound by the holding in Brass and finds that the County's challenged policies did not result in a violation of the plaintiffs' constitutional rights."

Id. at 767.

We then found that Brass was distinguishable. We noted that "Brass's primary claim focused on the County's policy of releasing prisoners pursuant to court order only after the completion of processing all inmates ...


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