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BERRY LYNN ADAMS v. DENYING AS MOOT

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA SAN JOSE DIVISION


November 30, 2010

BERRY LYNN ADAMS,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
DENYING AS MOOT DANIEL L. KRAFT, A STATE OF CALIFORNIA PARK
RANGER, ET AL.,
DEFENDANTS.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lucy H. Koh United States District Judge

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United States District Court For the Northern District of California

ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S 12 MOTION FOR LEAVE TO AMEND ) COMPLAINT; DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS 14

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Presently before the Court are various motions filed by both Defendants and Plaintiff.

Defendants have moved for judgment on the pleadings and for sanctions. Plaintiff has moved for 18 leave to amend his complaint. The Court will address Defendants' motion for sanctions in a 19 separate Order. Pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7-1(b), the Court deems Plaintiff's motion for leave 20 to amend his complaint and Defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings appropriate for 21 resolution without oral argument. For the reasons discussed below, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's 22 motion for leave to amend his complaint, and DENIES AS MOOT Defendants' motion for 23 judgment on the pleadings as to Plaintiff's original complaint. 24

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I.BACKGROUND

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A.Plaintiff's Initial Complaint

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Plaintiff Berry Lynn Adams filed his initial complaint on February 2, 2010 making broad 27 allegations regarding alleged "violations of civil rights" against various State Park Rangers and the 28 State of California. In his complaint, Plaintiff alleges that he is a resident of the City of Aptos, 2

California and has been surf fishing at Seacliff State Park for thirty years. Compl. ¶ 4. According 3 to Plaintiff, Seacliff State Park was formerly patrolled by Santa Cruz County Sherriff's Deputies 4

Park in an "officious and overbearing" manner. Id. at ¶ 6. In a June 22, 2009 interview with a 6 local television station, Plaintiff commented that the State of California could save money by not 7 having State Park Rangers patrol State Parks, and instead have the Parks patrolled by local 8

In response to his public criticism of the State Park Rangers, Plaintiff alleges that the State

Park Rangers singled Plaintiff out for harassment. For example, when a former friend of 11

"without being overbearing," but around 1985, California State Park Rangers began patrolling the 5

Sherriff's Deputies. Id. at ¶ 7. 9

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United States District Court For the Northern District of California

Plaintiff's, Greg Inloes, falsely complained to State Park Rangers that Plaintiff threatened him with 12 bodily harm, the State Park Rangers did not independently investigate the claim. Id. at ¶ 9. 13

Bockman arrested Plaintiff on June 24, 2009 for a felony violation based on the alleged criminal 15 threat without talking to any witnesses who were present when Plaintiff allegedly made a threat of 16 physical harm. Id. at ¶ 11. Plaintiff alleges that, had the State Park Rangers performed an 17 independent investigation, they would have determined that Inloes was an "unreliable 18 complainant." Plaintiff further alleges that State Park Rangers Daniel L. Kraft and Phillip Hauck 19 used excessive force in the arrest by kicking Plaintiff's right hand and wrist. Id. at ¶ 25. 20

According to Plaintiff's complaint, the Santa Cruz County Superior Court eventually

21 dismissed criminal charges based on, in part, the State Park Rangers' alleged "suppression" of the 22 actual Inloes complaint. Id. at ¶ 15. Plaintiff alleges that the "suppressed statement" reveals that 23 even though he may have threatened Inloes, that threat did not rise to the level of a criminal 24 violation. Id. at ¶ 16. Thus, Plaintiff alleges that the complaint of threatened bodily harm was a 25 pretext to have Plaintiff restrained from coming to Seacliff State Park and to prevent Plaintiff from 26 further criticism of the State Park Rangers. Id. at ¶ 11. Plaintiff also alleges that supervisory 27 officials, State Park Ranger Sergeant K.P. Best and State Park Superintendent Kirk Lingenfelter, 28 Instead, State Park Rangers Daniel L. Kraft, Phillip Hauck, J.I. Stone, Scott Stipes and Chip 14 "unlawfully arrested" Plaintiff and did "nothing to prevent selective enforcement of the law." Id. 2 at ¶¶ 14, 23. 3 4 Lingenfelter each wrote letters to the Santa Cruz County Office of the District Attorney stating that 6 State Park. Id. at ¶¶ 18-20. Plaintiff alleges that these letters are evidence of a conspiracy to 8 charge him with a pretextual crime and remove him from Seacliff State Park. Plaintiff also alleges 9 that, on July 31, 2009, the State Park Rangers ejected Plaintiff from the State Park beach area for 10 disturbing the peace, even though Plaintiff and witnesses informed the State Park Rangers that Plaintiff had done nothing wrong. Id. at ¶¶ 33-36. In addition, Plaintiff alleges that, in the months prior to his arrest on June 24, 2009, the State Park Rangers: 1) issued him a citation (eventually 13 rescinded) for having an open container of alcohol, which Plaintiff submits was root beer; 2) issued 14 him a $44 parking ticket for parking after the State Park was closed, even though other vehicles 15 were not ticketed; and 3) falsely accused Plaintiff of having injured a sea bird. Id. at ¶¶ 20-25.

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"excessive force"); 3) False Arrest; 4) Battery; 5) Violation of California Bane Act; 6) "Violation 19 of Civil Rights" (discussing an "unreasonable seizure"); and 7) Violation of California Bane Act. 20

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22 current counsel, Attorney Kate Wells, moved to be substituted as counsel because Plaintiff's 23 former counsel, Attorney M. Van Smith, had serious health issues. The Honorable James Ware 24 granted Plaintiff's motion to substitute counsel on July 19, 2010. See Dkt. #53. According to Ms. 25

Further alleged disputes and confrontations are scattered throughout Plaintiff's complaint.

According to Plaintiff, State Park Ranger Daniel L. Kraft and State Park Superintendent Kirk 5 Plaintiff was an "intimidating presence" and created multiple "public disturbances" at Seacliff 7 For the Northern District of California United States District Court

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Based on these allegations, Plaintiff's complaint included seven claims: 1) "Violation of Civil Rights" (discussing an "unreasonable seizure"); 2) "Violation of Civil Rights" (discussing 18

B.Proposed First Amended Complaint

On June 9, 2010, prior to the filing of any motion by the current Defendants,*fn1 Plaintiff's

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Wells, while awaiting the substitution of counsel order, on July 7, 2010 she informed counsel for 2

Defendants that she agreed with certain aspects of Defendants' positions, and in order to ameliorate 3 the need for Defendants to file a motion for judgment on the pleadings and a motion for sanctions, 4

2010. See Pl.'s Mot. for Leave to File First Am. Compl. at 2-3 [dkt. #68]. Defendants' counsel 6 acknowledges agreeing to a July 30, 2010 deadline for Plaintiff to withdraw or amend his initial 7 complaint in regard to Defendants' not-yet-filed motion for sanctions. See Defs.' Reply to Pl.'s 8 Plaintiff would provide Defendants' counsel with a proposed first amended complaint by July 30, 5 Opp'n by Attorney Wells to Mot. for Sanctions at 3 [dkt. #73] ("Ms. Wells is correct in that the 9 parties agreed on a new deadline of July 30, 2010 to allow plaintiff to withdraw or correct his 10 deficient complaint."). Defendants, however, filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings as to the initial complaint on July 14, 2010. Plaintiff's counsel, Ms. Wells, provided Defendants' counsel the proposed First Amended Complaint on July 29, 2010, but did not file the proposed 13 For the Northern District of California

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United States District Court

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First Amended Complaint with the Court at that time. On July 30, 2010, Defendants moved for 14 sanctions on the grounds that Plaintiff's original complaint was filed in violation of Rule 11 as to 15

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17 re-noticed their motions for judgment on the pleadings and sanctions. On October 25, 2010, 18 Complaint ("PFAC") attached as Exhibit 1. The PFAC reorganizes the complaint into 20 chronological order and would make four primary changes: 1) eliminate claims against the State of 21 3) add a claim for deliberate indifference/failure to train as to Defendants Superintendent 23 Lingenfelter and Sergeant Best; and 4) add factual allegations and clarify the claims against 24

ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO AMEND; DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS

Defendants Superintendent Lingenfelter and Officer Best only.*fn2

On August 2, 2010, the case was reassigned to this Court. On October 1, 2010, Defendants Plaintiff filed a motion for leave to amend his complaint, with the proposed First Amended 19 California due to Eleventh Amendment immunity; 2) eliminate the battery claim due to immunity; 22

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Superintendent Lingenfelter and Sergeant Best. The PFAC includes four claims: 1) Violation of 2 Constitutional Rights (based on First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment of U.S. Constitution and 3 various provisions of California Constitution); 2) False Arrest; 3) California Bane Act Violations, 4

California Civil Code § 52.1; and 4) Failure to Train / Supervise. 5

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7 pleading once as a matter of course, either twenty-one days after serving it or within twenty-one 8 days after service of a responsive pleading or a motion under 12(b), (e), or (f), whichever is earlier. 9

II.DISCUSSION

Pursuant to Rule 15 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a party may amend its Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(1). Otherwise, a party may only amend its complaint with the opposing 10 party's permission or with leave from the court. Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(2). Here, as the time to 11 12 amend the complaint as a matter of course has passed, Plaintiff may only amend his complaint with United States District Court For the Northern District of California the opposing party's written consent or the court's leave. Rule 15(a) provides for a policy in favor 13 of leave to amend and states that leave shall be freely given when justice so requires." Fed. R. Civ. 14 P. 15(a); DCD Programs, Ltd., v. Leighton, 833 F.2d 183, 186 (9th Cir. 1987) (noting that leave to 15 amend should be granted with "extreme liberality"). The Court considers five factors in assessing 16 a motion for leave to amend: "bad faith, undue delay, prejudice to the opposing party, futility of 17 amendment, and whether the plaintiff has previously amended the complaint." Johnson v. Buckley, 18 356 F.3d 1067, 1077 (9th Cir. 2004). Not all of the factors merit equal weight; it is the 19 consideration of prejudice to the opposing party that carries the greatest weight. Eminence Capital, 20 LLC v. Aspeon, Inc., 316 F.3d 1048, 1052 (9th Cir. 2003). The non-moving party bears the burden 21 of showing why leave to amend should not be granted. Genentech, Inc. v. Abbott Labs., 127 22 Defendants do not suggest bad faith, and the Court discerns no bad faith on the part of Plaintiff or Plaintiff's prior and current counsel. Defendants instead argue that: 1) they spent 25 substantial time and effort in bringing the motions for judgment on the pleadings and sanctions 26 with respect to the original complaint, and will be prejudiced by having to file another motion 27 attacking Plaintiff's PFAC; 2) amendment would be futile because the PFAC has the same defects 28 as Plaintiff's original complaint; and 3) if leave to amend is granted, the Court should issue 2 sanctions of attorney's fees and costs for Defendants' efforts at bringing motions for judgment on 3 the pleadings and sanctions. 4

ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO AMEND; DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS F.R.D. 529, 530-31 (N.D. Cal. 1989). 23

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6 pleadings, the party objecting to leave to amend must establish substantial prejudice. Genentech, 7 A.Prejudice

In order to overcome Rule 15(a)'s liberal policy with respect to the amendment of 127 F.R.D. at 530-31. Neither delay resulting from the proposed amendment nor the prospect of 8 additional discovery needed by the non-moving party in itself constitutes a sufficient showing of 9 prejudice. Id. at 530-32. Examples of substantial prejudice include instances in which amendment 10 would create a need to reopen discovery and in which amendment would greatly alter the nature of

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the litigation at a late hour in the case. See Morongo Band of Mission Indians v. Rose, 893 F.2d United States District Court For the Northern District of California 1074, 1079 (9th Cir. 1990). 13 14 to Defendants' position that Plaintiff could have amended his complaint earlier. Defendants, 15 however, have not established that allowing leave to amend at this point amounts to substantial 16 prejudice. The case is still at an early stage, as the parties have not engaged in any discovery, and 17 discovery has not yet closed. Moreover, this is Plaintiff's first attempt at amending his complaint. 18

Defendants were on notice as far back as July 7, 2010 that Plaintiff's new counsel intended to file 19 an amended complaint to clarify Plaintiff's claims and add factual allegations. Even though 20

Defendants chose to bring a motion for judgment on the pleadings as to the original complaint on 22

July 14, 2010. Although the Court appreciates Defendants' July 2010 efforts at resolving the 23 alleged deficiencies in Plaintiff's original complaint, it appears that Defendants could have avoided 24 much of the time and effort of which they now complain by simply waiting for the submission of 25

Plaintiff's amended complaint until the agreed-upon deadline of July 30, 2010. At that point, there 26 would have been no need to file motions in response to Plaintiff's original complaint. Defendants 27 could have just attacked the separate allegations in the amended complaint. 28

The Court acknowledges Defendants' efforts in bringing their motions and is sympathetic

Defendants had agreed to allow Plaintiff until July 30, 2010 to submit an amended complaint, 21 2 general practice to allow every plaintiff at least one opportunity to amend. Thus, the Court is not 3 persuaded by Defendants' argument that it will be prejudiced if leave is granted by having to file 4 another motion attacking the pleading. 5

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7 standard as applied on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, see Miller v. Rykoff-Sexton, Inc., 845 F.2d 209, 214 8

As a final point, even when dismissing a case for failure to state a claim, it is this Court's

B.Futility

"[C]courts will determine the legal sufficiency of a proposed amendment using the same (9th Cir. 1988), [however] such issues are often more appropriately raised in a motion to dismiss 9 rather than in an opposition to a motion for leave to amend." See Stearns v. Select Comfort Retail 10

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Corp., 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 84777, *68 (N.D. Cal. July 21, 2010) (Fogel, J.) (citing William W. Schwarzer, et al., CAL. PRAC. GUIDE: FED. CIV. PROC. BEFORE TRIAL § 8:422). Here, United States District Court For the Northern District of California Defendants have not established that allowing leave to amend would be futile. 13 14 the PFAC suffers from the same defects as Plaintiff's original complaint identified in Defendants' 15 motion for judgment on the pleadings. See Defs.' Opp'n to Pl.'s Mot. for Leave to Amend at 2 16 [dkt. #72]. The PFAC, however, appears responsive to many of the alleged "defects" Defendants 17 identified in their motion for judgment on the pleadings. For example, as to the original complaint, 18

Defendants argued that: 1) many of the claims are subject to immunity; 2) Plaintiff failed to 19 identify a specific substantive right that was violated; and 3) Plaintiff failed to allege any basis for 20 his claims against Superintendent Lingenfelter and Sergeant Best. See generally Defs.' Mot. for J. 21 on the Pleadings [dkt. #51]. The PFAC eliminates various claims based on immunity, specifies 22 substantive rights that have been allegedly violated, and alleges that Superintendent Lingenfelter 23 and Sergeant Best are liable for failing to train and supervise the subordinate Park Rangers. See 24

(discussing supervisory liability claims against Superintendent Lingenfelter and Sergeant Best). In 26 these circumstances, the Court finds that the legal sufficiency of Plaintiff's PFAC will be more 27 28

Defendants, in a four-page opposition to Plaintiff's motion for leave to amend, argue that PFAC ¶¶ 23-32 (specifying First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment Violations) and 45-47 25 appropriately addressed in a motion to dismiss that is directed at the PFAC rather than targeted at 2 Plaintiff's original complaint. 3 C.Sanctions 4

"[A] district court, in its discretion, may impose costs pursuant to Rule 15 as a condition of

5 granting leave to amend in order to compensate the opposing party for additional costs incurred 6 because the original pleading was faulty." See General Signal Corp. v. MCI Telecommunications 7

Corp., 66 F.3d 1500, 1514 (9th Cir. 1995). Defendants submit that if leave to amend is granted, 8 the Court should impose sanctions of attorney's fees and costs in favor of Defendants as a 9 condition. The Court, however, has determined that Defendants have not established bad faith, 10 substantial prejudice, or futility. Accordingly, sanctions are not appropriate.

For the Northern District of California

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III. CONCLUSION

United States District Court

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In sum, the Court finds that leave to amend is appropriate without conditions for sanctions.

Accordingly, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's motion for leave to amend his complaint and DENIES 14 as moot Defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings as to Plaintiff's original complaint. 15

Plaintiff shall file the proposed First Amended Complaint by Tuesday, December 7, 2010. The 16 motion hearing scheduled for December 2, 2010 is vacated. The Case Management Conference 17 scheduled for December 2, 2010 at 1:30 p.m. remains as set. 18

IT IS SO ORDERED. 19 20

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