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John Pruitt; John Pruitt, Jr., A Minor, By v. County of Sacramento; Sacramento County Sheriff's Department Sheriff

January 20, 2011

JOHN PRUITT; JOHN PRUITT, JR., A MINOR, BY AND THROUGH HIS GUARDIAN AD LITEM, HIS CUSTODIAL PARENT JOHN PRUITT; RE: PHILLIP PRUITT, A MINOR, BY AND THROUGH HIS GUARDIAN AD LITEM, HIS CUSTODIAL PARENT JOHN PRUITT; MICHAEL PRUITT, A MINOR, BY AND THROUGH HIS GUARDIAN AD LITEM, HIS CUSTODIAL PARENT JOHN PRUITT; ISAIAH PRUITT, A MINOR, BY AND THROUGH HIS GUARDIAN AD LITEM, HIS CUSTODIAL PARENT JOHN PRUITT; AND DARRYL BERG, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
COUNTY OF SACRAMENTO; SACRAMENTO COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT SHERIFF JOHN MCGINNESS; SERGEANT SANTOS RAMOS; DETECTIVE SEAN BERRY; DETECTIVE BRAD ROSE; DETECTIVE RANDY MOYA; DETECTIVE JACQUELINE KLOSS; DETECTIVE KEVIN STEED; DETECTIVE STEVE WHARTON; PROBATION OFFICER TIMOTHY RUIZ; DEPUTY THOMAS LYNN; DEPUTY CRAIG HARMON; AND DOES 1-100, INCLUSIVE, DEFENDANTS.



MEMORANDUM AND ORDER MOTION TO DISMISS

Plaintiffs John Pruitt, John Pruitt, Jr., Phillip Pruitt, Michael Pruitt, Isaiah Pruitt, and Darryl Berg brought this action against defendants County of Sacramento, John McGinness, Santos Ramos, Sean Berry, Brad Rose, Randy Moya, Jacqueline Kloss, Kevin Steed, Steve Wharton, Timothy Ruiz, Thomas Lynn, and Craig Harmon, arising out of a series of events culminating in criminal charges brought and later dismissed against John Pruitt and Darryl Berg. The Second Amended Complaint ("SAC") alleges various claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for constitutional violations, various Bivens*fn1 claims, and common law false arrest and false imprisonment. Defendants now move to dismiss plaintiffs' § 1983 and common law claims for failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).

I. Factual and Procedural Background The individual defendants are state law enforcement officers who were part of a drug task force in the Sacramento area. (SAC ¶¶ 1, 31.) In 2008, the officers set a meeting with a suspected methamphetamine dealer, Leslie Shugart, wherein an undercover officer, Brad Rose, would attempt a controlled purchase. (Id. ¶¶ 2, 17, 34-41.) Officer Rose met with Shugart on February 19, 2008. (Id. ¶ 37.) During the meeting, Rose wore a bodywire that two other officers monitored. (Id. ¶ 36.) The wire was also recorded. (Id.) Rose offered to buy methamphetamine from Shugart, who informed him that she needed to acquire more drugs in order to complete the transaction. (Id. ¶ 37.) When she left the meeting site, officers followed her and observed her encounter a white Impala, which they followed. (Id. ¶ 38.) Rose met Shugart forty minutes after their initial meeting, and Shugart sold him 57.2 grams of methamphetamine. (Id. ¶ 40.)

Hours later, officers stopped a white Impala in Rocklin, California. (Id. ¶ 49.) John Pruitt and Darryl Berg were the occupants. (Id.) The officers asked the men to step out of the car and searched them, searched the vehicle, arrested them, and took them to a nearby police station. (Id. ¶¶ 50-54.) Both were eventually charged with violating federal drug laws. (Id. ¶ 57.)

In the criminal case, Pruitt and Berg filed a motion to suppress the evidence obtained as a result of the search of the Impala, arguing that the officers lacked probable cause to support the warrantless search and seizure. (Id. ¶ 64; Defs.' Req. for Judicial Notice Ex. A (Docket No. 59).) Judge Karlton held an evidentiary hearing on the motion, at which the existence of a recording of Rose's bodywire was raised, but several officers denied that such a recording existed. (SAC ¶¶ 68-74; Defs.' Req. for Judicial Notice Ex. D at 23:19-24:9, 25:7-26:4, 34:11-35:4, 66:12-67:19.) Judge Karlton denied the motion to suppress. (SAC ¶ 75; Defs.' Req. for Judicial Notice Ex. D at 135:3.)

Several months after the hearing, the bodywire recording was discovered and produced to the defendants. (SAC ¶ 79.) Pruitt and Berg then moved to dismiss. (Defs.' Req. for Judicial Notice Ex. E.) Judge Karlton held a hearing on the motion, focused primarily on the bodywire recording, and ended the hearing by ordering the parties to come up with a discovery plan for investigation into the alleged suppression of evidence. (Pls.' Req. for Judicial Notice Ex. B (Docket No. 57) at 8:25-9:11, 13:13-15:7, 16:13-17:20, 20:19-22.) Soon thereafter, the government moved to dismiss all charges, which Judge Karlton granted. (SAC ¶¶ 85, 87.)

Pruitt, Berg, and Pruitt's children*fn2 then filed the instant action, complaining that the search, seizure, arrest, and prosecution were unlawful. In their SAC, plaintiffs bring claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for constitutional violations, various Bivens claims, and common law false arrest and false imprisonment claims. Presently before the court is defendants' motion to dismiss the SAC pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

II. Discussion

On a motion to dismiss, the court must accept the allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974), overruled on other grounds by Davis v. Scherer, 468 U.S. 183 (1984); Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319, 322 (1972). "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, --- U.S. ----, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). This "plausibility standard," however, "asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully," and where a complaint pleads facts that are "merely consistent with" a defendant's liability, it "stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility." Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556-57) (internal quotation mark omitted).

In general, a court may not consider items outside the pleadings upon deciding a motion to dismiss, but may consider items of which it can take judicial notice. Barron v. Reich, 13 F.3d 1370, 1377 (9th Cir. 1994). A court may take judicial notice of facts "not subject to reasonable dispute" because they are either "(1) generally known within the territorial jurisdiction of the trial court or (2) capable of accurate and ready determination by resort to sources whose accuracy cannot reasonably be questioned." Fed. R. Evid. 201. Judicial notice may properly be taken of matters of public record outside the pleadings. MGIC Indem. Corp. v. Weisman, 803 F.2d 500, 504 (9th Cir. 1986) (taking judicial notice of a motion to dismiss in a separate suit). This includes proceedings from other cases.

See Bennett v. Medtronic, Inc., 285 F.3d 801, 803 n.2 (9th Cir. 2002) ("[W]e may take notice of proceedings in other courts, both within and without the federal judicial system, if those proceedings have a direct relation to matters at issue.") (quoting U.S. ex rel. Robinson Rancheria Citizens Council v. Borneo, Inc., 971 F.2d 244, 248 (9th Cir. 1992)) (internal quotation marks omitted). Therefore, the court will grant the parties' requests and take judicial notice of several motions and transcripts from the underlying criminal proceedings. The court takes judicial notice of the fact of the proceedings and not of any facts contained within the documents.

A. Collateral Estoppel: First, Second, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Claims The doctrine of collateral estoppel prevents the relitigation of an issue previously argued and resolved in a prior proceeding. Hydranautics v. FilmTec Corp., 204 F.3d 880, 885 (9th Cir. 2000). Federal law controls the collateral estoppel analysis where a federal court has decided the earlier case. See McQuillion v. Schwarzenegger, 369 F.3d 1091, 1096 (9th Cir. 2004).

A prior court decision will have preclusive effect under the doctrine of collateral estoppel where:

(1) the issue necessarily decided at the previous proceeding is identical to the one which is sought to be relitigated; (2) the first proceeding ended with a final judgment on the merits; and (3) the party against whom collateral estoppel is asserted was a party or in privity with a party at the first proceeding.

Hydranautics, 204 F.3d at 885 (quoting Younan v. Caruso, 51 Cal. App. 4th 401, 406-07 (2d Dist. 1996)). The party asserting collateral estoppel bears the burden of showing what the prior judgment determined. Hydranautics, 204 F.3d at 885. "[O]ne general limitation the [Supreme] Court has repeatedly recognized is that the concept of collateral estoppel cannot apply when the party against whom the earlier decision is asserted did not have a 'full and fair opportunity' to litigate that issue in the earlier case." Allen v. McCurry, 449 U.S. 90, 95 ...


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