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Martin v. County of San Diego

October 4, 2010

DAVID MARTIN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COUNTY OF SAN DIEGO; SAN DIEGO COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT; DETECTIVE ROLAND MAUS; DEPUTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY ELIZABETH SILVA; WILIAM A. PHILLIPS; AND ANDY'S ORCHIDS, DEFENDANTS.



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

ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR JUDGMENT NOTWITHSTANDING THE VERDICT OR FOR A NEW TRIAL; DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO SET ASIDE COSTS AWARD

Currently pending before the Court are Plaintiff's motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict or, in the alternative, for a new trial pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 50(b) and 59(a) and Plaintiff's motion to set aside the Clerk's assessment of costs. Defendants filed an opposition as to both motions, and Plaintiff filed a reply. The Court found the motions appropriate for submission on the papers and without oral argument and previously vacated the hearing date. For the reasons set forth herein, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's motions.

Discussion

A. Motion for Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict

Plaintiff moves the Court for entry of judgment notwithstanding the verdict pursuant to Rule 50(b), arguing there were no material disputed facts and he was entitled to judgment as a matter of law on his Fourth Amendment claim. Plaintiff also argues he was entitled to judgment as a matter of law against the County on his claim under Cal. Civ. Code § 52.1(b).

As Defendants point out in opposition, however, Plaintiff did not move for judgment under Rule 50(a) at the close of the case.*fn1 Thus, Plaintiff is foreclosed from moving for judgment as a matter of law at this point in the proceedings. Tortu v. Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, 556 F.3d 1075, 1083 (9th Cir. 2009).

B. Motion for New Trial

Alternatively, Plaintiff moves the Court for a new trial under Rule 59(a)(1). That Rule provides that the Court may grant a new trial "on all or some of the issues ... (A) after a jury trial, for any reason for which a new trial has heretofore been granted in an action at law in federal court." Erroneous jury instructions, as well as the failure to give adequate instructions, may be grounds for a new trial. Murphy v. City of Long Breach, 914 F.2d 183, 187 (9th Cir. 1990). Here, Plaintiff alleges the Court committed four instructional errors requiring a new trial and that the Court erroneously granted summary judgment in favor of the County of San Diego.

1. Instruction Regarding Burden of Proof

Plaintiff argues the Court erroneously placed the burden of proof on him to prove that Maus omitted information from the warrant while "acting with deliberate falsehood or in reckless disregard of the truth." Plaintiff states Maus's intent is relevant only to the determination of qualified immunity, a defense on which Defendants carried the burden of proof. Thus, Plaintiff argues the Court erred in denying his proposed instructions, placing the burden upon Defendants to prove Maus did not act with deliberate falsehood or reckless disregard for the truth.*fn2

As the Court explained in its order on the parties' cross motions for summary judgment, the Ninth Circuit has found that the state-of-mind question for qualified immunity "is embedded in the underlying constitutional issue." Butler v. Elle, 281 F.3d 1014, 1024 (9th Cir. 2002). The court in Butler noted that:

"[O]ur cases effectively intertwine the qualified immunity question (1) whether a reasonable officer should have known that he acted in violation of a plaintiff's constitutional rights with (2) the substantive recklessness or dishonesty question.

Id. Thus, the question of "whether a reasonable officer should have known that he acted in violation of a plaintiff's constitutional rights" depends upon the answer to the question of whether the defendant acted dishonestly or recklessly. Id..; see also Liston v. County of Riverside, 120 F.3d 965, 974 (9th Cir. 1997) (explaining that "a Fourth Amendment violation occurs where 'the affiant intentionally or recklessly omitted facts required to prevent technically true statements in the affidavit from being misleading.")

Contrary to Plaintiff's argument, the Plaintiff has the burden to demonstrate, as part of his substantive Fourth Amendment claim, that Maus deliberately or recklessly made false statements or omissions. Greene v. Camreta, 588 F.3d 1011, 1035 (9th Cir. 2009) (quoting KRL v. Moore, 384 F.3d 1105, 1117 (9th Cir. 2004)) ("To support a ยง 1983 claim of judicial deception, a plaintiff must show that the defendant deliberately or recklessly made false statements or omissions that were material to the finding of probable cause."). The instructions correctly informed the jury that in order to find in favor of Plaintiff on his Fourth Amendment claim ...


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