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Brockmeier v. Solano County Sheriff's Dep't

August 18, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Morrison C. England, Jr. United States District Judge


Through the present action, Plaintiff Carolyn Brockmeier ("Plaintiff") seeks damages pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of her Fourth Amendment rights stemming from the forced entry and search of her home. She also seeks damages arising out of subsequent citations issued to her for violations of the housing code. Presently before the Court is Defendants' County of Solano, Sergeant Walt Gilliam, Deputy Enoch Knight, Deputy Hans Munck, and David James ("Defendants") Motion for Summary Judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' Motion is denied.


On or around October 18, 2004,*fn2 the Solano County Sheriff's Department received a 911 call reporting an attempted burglary at Plaintiff's home. Defendants Knight and Kramer were dispatched to the home where they met Plaintiff outside. She was carrying a gun, which she turned over to Defendants, explaining that she had heard a noise at the front door, ran outside with her gun, and surprised a man trying to open her sliding glass door. Frightened, she fired a shot into the ground, and the man ran off.

Defendant Munck arrived and searched the surrounding area for 45 minutes, but was unable to find a trace of the suspect. Officers were likewise unable to find a bullet hole in the ground or shell casings to corroborate Plaintiff's story. Notwithstanding the lack of evidence of a shot being fired, and fearing that the suspect might be inside the home, potentially injured, Defendant Gilliam asked to search inside Plaintiff's home. She refused, stating that she had already searched the house and there was no one inside. Defendant Gilliam believed there to be exigent circumstances to enter and search the home for victims or suspects. Two officers, Deputy Thompson and Defendant Munck, tore off a window screen and entered Plaintiff's home.

They were inside for approximately two minutes, during which time they noted garbage and debris on the floor, the stench of spoiled food, stagnant water in the bathtub and feces in the toilet.

They also noted that the ceiling in the living room had collapsed and that the swimming pool in the backyard was home to scores of breeding mosquitos. During their search they did not locate a suspect. Defendants claim that the officers inside the home did not search Plaintiff's file cabinets, while Plaintiff contends that files containing sensitive information were in disarray when she reentered her home. (Pl.'s Decl. in Resp. to Decl. of Walt Gilliam p. 2.) Plaintiff is a semi-retired attorney, and she contends that the officers invaded the attorney-client privilege. Plaintiff also claims that the officers threatened her prior to entering her home and that they kept their hands on their pistols the entire time. (Pl.'s Decl. in Resp. to Decl. of Hans Munck p. 3.) She further claims that the officers intentionally smashed her fax machine. (Id. p. 2.)

The officers reported Plaintiff's home to the Solano County Department of Resource Management ("DRM") for suspected health and safety violations. Shortly thereafter, Defendant James conducted two drive-by inspections and one outdoor inspection of the property. He noted five inoperative vehicles as well as a missing support beam on the front porch, and fire hazards due to overgrowth of vegetation and debris. When Plaintiff would not grant his request to further search the property, Defendant James applied for and was granted a warrant to conduct an inspection inside the home.

During this inspection he noted various violations. He then posted a notice outside the home declaring the structure inhabitable.

Plaintiff complained to the DRM about Defendant James. She maintains that he deterred prospective buyers, telling them that the home was about to be demolished and to "stay away from the deal." (Pl.'s Decl. in Resp. to Decl. of David James p. 2.) Defendant James denies these allegations and claims that he only informed potential buyers of the defects and violations that he had noted. The home eventually sold for $273,000.

Defendants now move for summary judgment. They argue that no reasonable jury would find that the actions of the Officer Defendants violated the constitutional rights of Plaintiff. They further contend that Defendant James did not violate Plaintiff's rights when citing her home for violations of the housing code. Plaintiff opposes Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment and brings several additional Motions for Contempt, to Compel, to Strike and Request for Sanctions, and to Continue.


The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide for summary judgment when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c).

One of the principal purposes of Rule 56 is to dispose of factually unsupported claims or defenses. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986).

Rule 56 also allows a court to grant summary adjudication on part of a claim or defense. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a) ("A party seeking to recover upon a claim...may...move...for a summary judgment in the party's favor upon all or any part thereof"); see also Allstate Ins. Co. v. Madan, 889 F. Supp. 374, 378-79 (C.D. Cal. 1995); France Stone Co., Inc. v. Charter Township of Monroe, 790 F. Supp. 707, 710 (E.D. Mich. 1992).

The standard that applies to a motion for summary adjudication is the same as that which applies to a motion for summary judgment. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a), 56(c); Mora v. ChemTronics, 16 F. Supp. 2d. 1192, 1200 (S.D. Cal. 1998).

Under summary judgment practice, the moving party always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file together with the affidavits, if any," ...

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