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Demoura v. Ford

July 2, 2010

ADDISON J. DEMOURA, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
ANDREW J. FORD, ET AL. DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Oliver W. Wanger United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND 10 ORDER RE: DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS (DOC. 27.)

INTRODUCTION

On July 31, 2009, Plaintiffs filed a complaint in United States District Court for the Eastern District of California, alleging eight causes of action against Tuolumne County Sherriff's Deputies Andrew Ford ("Ford") and Gary Guffey 9 ("Guffey"), Stanislaus County Sherriff's Deputies William Pooley ("Pooley") and Jason Tosta ("Tosta"), the County of Stanislaus ("Stanislaus"), the County of Tuolumne ("Tuolumne"), and the City of Oakdale ("Oakdale"). (Doc. 1.) Plaintiffs allege (1) unlawful search; (2) excessive force; (3) Conspiracy under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985; (4) failure to adequately train and supervise agents; (5) Presenting a false affidavit in support of a search warrant; (6) assault; (7) battery; (8) damages and equitable relief under Cal. Civ. Code § 52 et seq. (Doc. 1.)

Before the court for decision is Defendants' motion to dismiss pursuant Federal Rule Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (Doc. 27.) Plaintiffs oppose. (Doc. 29.) The matter came on for hearing in Courtroom 3 (OWW) on June 28, 2010, at 10:00 a.m.

BACKGROUND

This is a civil rights action filed by Addison Demoura, Jessica Demoura, and John Doe (a minor suing through his father, Addison Demoura). Plaintiffs were involved in the operation of a medical marijuana dispensary authorized under California law. On July 31, 2007, Defendants Ford, Guffey, Pooley, and Tosta executed a search warrant for Plaintiffs' residence. (Doc. 1 at ¶ 20.) Plaintiffs were detained while the residence was searched. Id. Plaintiffs' eight causes of action result from the events surrounding the issuance and execution of the search warrant. Plaintiffs allege that the search warrant for their residence was based on false information and/or material omissions. (Doc. 1 at ¶ 16.) As a result, they claim to have been subject to an unlawful search in violation of their Fourth Amendment rights. They further allege that excessive force was used during the execution of the warrant in violation of the Fourth Amendment. (Doc. 1 at ¶ 20.) Plaintiffs allege that the officers' actions were a direct result of local efforts to eradicate medical marijuana dispensaries.

STANDARDS OF DECISION

Dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) is appropriate where the complaint lacks sufficient facts to support a cognizable legal theory. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1988). To sufficiently state a claim for relief and survive a 12(b)(6) motion, the pleading "does not need detailed factual allegations" but the "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Mere "labels and conclusions" or a "formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Id. Rather, there must be "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570. In other words, the "complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (internal quotation marks omitted).*fn1 The Ninth Circuit has summarized the governing standard, in light of Twombly and Iqbal, as follows: "In sum, for a complaint to survive a motion to dismiss, the non- conclusory factual content, and reasonable inferences from that content, must be plausibly suggestive of a claim entitling the plaintiff to relief." Moss v. U.S. Secret Serv., 572 F.3d 962, 969 (9th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks omitted). Apart from factual insufficiency, a complaint is also subject to dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) where it lacks a cognizable legal theory, Balistreri, 901 F.2d at 699, or where the allegations on their face "show that relief is barred" for some legal reason, Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 215 (2007). In deciding whether to grant a motion to dismiss, the court must accept as true all "well-pleaded factual allegations" in the pleading under attack.

Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950. A court is not, however, "required to accept as true allegations that are merely conclusory, unwarranted deductions of fact, or unreasonable inferences." Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors, 266 F.3d 979, 988 (9th Cir. 2001); see, e.g., Doe I v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 572 F.3d 677, 683 (9th Cir. 2009). "When ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, if a district court considers evidence outside the pleadings, it must normally convert the 12(b)(6) motion into a Rule 56 motion for summary judgment, and it must give the nonmoving party an opportunity to respond." United States v. Ritchie, 342 F.3d 903, 907 (9th Cir. 2003). "A court may, however, consider certain materials -- documents attached to the complaint, documents incorporated by reference in the complaint, or matters of judicial notice-without converting the motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment." Id. at 908.

ANALYSIS

A. CAUSES OF ACTION AGAINST OAKDALE

Defendants move to dismiss the causes of action against the City of Oakdale on the grounds that Plaintiffs do not allege a constitutional violation by any Oakdale employee. (Doc. 27 at 6:15-17.) Plaintiffs note that their complaint contains allegations against DOES 1 through 40. Since the filing of the Complaint, Plaintiffs discovered that two of the search warrant affidavits indicate that employees with the Oakdale Police department were involved in the investigation that established probable cause and the execution of the search warrant. (Doc. 29 at 11-12.) However, the Complaint contains no such allegations. Alternatively, Plaintiffs assert that Oakdale had a local policy to "not recognize medical marijuana dispensaries," and that the search warrant was executed in furtherance of Oakdale's policy and goal of eradicating such dispensaries. Plaintiffs maintain that any such policy is preempted by the Medical Marijuana Program and California Health and Safety Code § 11362.83, and appear to assert that, because Oakdale's policy against medical marijuana dispensaries is preempted by state law, the justification for probable cause given in the search warrant affidavits was invalid.

Plaintiffs' theory is not totally baseless. Allen v. Kumagi, 356 Fed. Appx. 8, 2009 WL 3416113 (9th Cir. 2009), held that "the officers' knowledge of [plaintiffs] medical authorization may be relevant to whether they had probable cause to believe he had committed a crime." Id. at *9. Accordingly, if the officers knew of Plaintiffs' status as a medical marijuana user or dispenser, but deliberately omitted such information from their search warrant affidavit, a constitutional claim may exist. However, Plaintiffs do not allege such a claim in their Complaint. Nor does this theory connect any employee of the city of Oakdale to the constitutional violation. Plaintiffs cannot state a claim against the City of Oakdale without alleging a sufficient Monell claim, as there is no vicarious liability under the Civil Rights Act. If Plaintiffs assert that any defendant deliberately omitted material information pertaining to Plaintiffs' status as a ...


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