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Irwin Douglas v. Sacramento County

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA


February 9, 2011

IRWIN DOUGLAS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SACRAMENTO COUNTY, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

This case is before the undersigned pursuant to Eastern District of California Local Rule 302(c)(21). See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). Presently pending for decision is defendants' motion for summary judgment. Dckt. Nos. 40, 42. For the reasons stated herein, the undersigned will recommend that the motion be granted.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff initiated this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on April 17, 2009 against Sacramento County, Sacramento County Sheriff's Department, Sacramento County Sheriff's Deputy Robert Falk, and Sacramento County Sheriff's Deputy Robert Williams. Compl., Dckt. No. 1. His complaint states that on April 28, 2008, the defendants violated his civil rights because "[he] was arrested (kidnapped) by Deputies Falk and Williams [w]ithout a warrant, and no evidence of any crime." Id. at 1. Plaintiff contends that "[t]here was no warrant ever issued for [his] arrest." Id. The complaint further alleges: "What was the point of my arrest? Malice, amusement, to embarrass me, discrimination, (national origin, race), defame my character (an arrest record makes it very hard to survive and take care of my family). Those actions violated my civil rights, and the Defend[a]nts should be held responsible." Id. at 2.

Defendants filed an answer on July 10, 2009, Dckt. No. 10, and now seek summary judgment on all of plaintiff's claims. Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. ("Defs.' MSJ"), Dckt. No. 42, at 2. Plaintiff opposes the motion, Dckt. Nos. 43-46, and moves the court to disregard certain documents and evidence submitted by defendants in support of their summary judgment motion, Dckt. Nos. 44 and 47. Defendants also object and move to strike certain evidence submitted by plaintiff in opposition to their summary judgment motion. Dckt. No. 50-1.

II. MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Defendants assert that the gravamen of plaintiff's complaint "is that he was arrested without a warrant, ostensibly asserting a claim for relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. [§] 1983 for violation of the Fourth Amendment." Defs.' MSJ at 2. However, defendants contend that the undisputed evidence shows that plaintiff was taken into custody pursuant to a valid arrest warrant and that defendants were entitled to rely on the warrant in effecting the arrest. Id. Thus, defendants contend that plaintiff cannot establish any claims for relief as a matter of law.*fn1 Id.

Plaintiff opposes the motion for summary judgment, arguing that "[t]here was no warrant, outstanding or other, for [his] arrest on the day [he] was kidnapped by Deputies Falk and Williams." Pl.'s Resp. to Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. ("Pl.'s Resp."), Dckt. No. 43, at 2.*fn2 Plaintiff contends that the "warrant" defendants submitted as evidence in support of their summary judgment motion is a "fabricated copy" and that defendants "cannot produce an/the original." Id. at 7.*fn3 Plaintiff argues that "a copy of any 'warrant' is not a valid/legal document" because "[c]opies can be produced at any time" and a copy is "not valid without the carbon-date tested original." Id.

A. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate when it is demonstrated that there exists "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). 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," which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.

Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)).

Summary judgment avoids unnecessary trials in cases with no genuinely disputed material facts. See N.W. Motorcycle Ass'n v. U.S. Dep't of Agric., 18 F.3d 1468, 1471 (9th Cir. 1994). At issue is "whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986). Thus, Rule 56 serves to screen the latter cases from those which actually require resolution of genuine disputes over material facts; e.g., issues that can only be determined through presentation of testimony at trial such as the credibility of conflicting testimony over facts that make a difference in the outcome. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323.

If the moving party meets its initial responsibility, the opposing party must establish that a genuine issue as to any material fact actually does exist. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). To overcome summary judgment, the opposing party must demonstrate a factual dispute that is both material, i.e. it affects the outcome of the claim under the governing law, see Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pac. Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987), and genuine, i.e., the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. See Wool v. Tandem Computers, Inc., 818 F.2d 1433, 1436 (9th Cir. 1987). In attempting to establish the existence of a factual dispute that is genuine, the opposing party may not rely upon the allegations or denials of its pleadings but is required to tender evidence of specific facts in the form of affidavits, and/or admissible discovery material, in support of its contention that the dispute exists. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586 n.11.

In resolving a summary judgment motion, the court examines the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The evidence of the opposing party is to be believed. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. All reasonable inferences that may be drawn from the facts placed before the court must be drawn in favor of the opposing party. See Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587. Nevertheless, inferences are not drawn out of the air, and it is the opposing party's obligation to produce a factual predicate from which the inference may be drawn. See Richards v. Nielsen Freight Lines, 602 F. Supp. 1224, 1244-45 (E.D. Cal. 1985), aff'd, 810 F.2d 898, 902 (9th Cir. 1987). Finally, to demonstrate a genuine issue, the opposing party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts . . . . Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no 'genuine issue for trial.'" Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587 (citation omitted).

B. Facts*fn4

Based on the pleadings and evidence on file in this action, the court finds the following facts to be undisputed:

1. The Warrant

In March 1996, a Payless Drug Store in Sacramento County was burglarized. Pl.'s Resp., Ex. 1 at 7; see also Defs.' Stmt. of Undisp. Facts ("SUF"), Dckt. No. 42-1, ¶ 1.*fn5 In its investigation of the burglary, the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department recovered several fingerprints from the door and broken windows of the drug store. Pl.'s Resp., Ex. 1 at 10. A Sacramento County Crime Scene Investigator determined that one of the recovered fingerprints was made by plaintiff's left thumb. Id. at 9.

Based on the presence and location of the plaintiff's fingerprint, the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department requested a warrant for plaintiff's arrest for second-degree burglary. Id. at 5, 16. In October 1996, an arrest warrant was obtained and activated for "Erwin Douglas." SUF

¶ 1; Defs.' MSJ, Exs. F, I. The arrest warrant included various identifying information regarding Mr. Douglas, including a date of birth, sex, race, height, weight, hair color, eye color, social security number, and driver's license number. SUF ¶ 2. The warrant remained active when plaintiff was arrested on April 28, 2008. SUF ¶¶ 3, 4. 5.*fn6 Plaintiff was aware as early as September 2004 that he was "wanted for burglary" in California. Pl.'s Resp. at 5.*fn7

2. Plaintiff's Arrest

On April 28, 2008, Deputy Falk was on duty at the William R. Ridgeway Family Relations Courthouse in Sacramento County. SUF ¶ 6. Prior to the start of court, Deputy Falk searched the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department's Wants and Warrants computer system for the names of those individuals scheduled to appear before the court. SUF ¶ 7. It is the custom and practice of the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department for deputy sheriffs assigned to courtrooms to do so. SUF ¶ 17.

Plaintiff was scheduled to attend a hearing in the court on that day. Compl. at 1. When Deputy Falk searched for plaintiff's name, the computer system indicated that there was an active warrant for plaintiff's arrest. SUF ¶ 8. It is the custom and practice of the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department to arrest an individual when the Wants and Warrants computer system indicates there is an active warrant for that person's arrest. SUF ¶ 18.

When plaintiff appeared in court, Deputy Falk compared the name, date of birth, and social security number that plaintiff provided with the identifying information listed in the warrant. SUF ¶¶ 9, 10. He also observed that plaintiff's height, weight, and race matched those listed in the warrant. SUF ¶ 10. Upon determining that plaintiff was the person described in the warrant, Deputy Falk arrested him. SUF ¶¶ 11, 12. Plaintiff's date of birth, social security number, race, and gender are the same as on the warrant, and plaintiff admits he formerly resided at the address reflected on the warrant. SUF ¶¶ 15, 16. and declaration of probable cause by John Anderson" and the declarations of Falk and Williams. Id.; see also Dckt. No. 44 at 5. The objections are without merit and are overruled.

As is the practice and custom of the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department, Deputy Williams then transported plaintiff to booking. SUF ¶¶ 13, 19. After booking, plaintiff received an "Inmate Booking Information Receipt." Pl.'s Resp., Ex. 1 at 1. Although this booking receipt indicated that plaintiff did not have any outstanding warrants as of that time, see id., after a person is arrested pursuant to a warrant, the warrant is cleared, meaning the warrant no longer appears as active. Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J., Decl. of Michael Ziegler in Supp. Thereof, Dckt. 42 at 68, ¶ 7.

Plaintiff posted bail that same day and was released. Compl. at 2.

C. Analysis

1. Unlawful Arrest

To prevail on a § 1983 claim for unlawful arrest, a plaintiff must demonstrate that there was no probable cause for his arrest. Cabrera v. City of Huntington Park, 139 F.3d 374, 380 (1998). To determine whether an officer had probable cause at the time of the arrest, a court considers whether at the moment of the arrest, the facts and circumstances within the officer's knowledge were sufficient to warrant a prudent person in believing that the individual arrested had committed an offense. Beck v. Ohio, 379 U.S. 89, 91 (1964). An officer may rely on a judge's probable cause determination and on the technical sufficiency of the warrant so long as the officer's reliance is objectively reasonable. Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 815-819 (1982).

Plaintiff's primary allegation appears to be that he was falsely arrested as "there was no warrant ever issued for [his] arrest." Compl. at 1. Defendants disagree, arguing that a valid warrant existed for plaintiff's arrest. Defendants have provided the Court with a certified copy of the warrant for plaintiff's arrest. Defs.' Ex. I. Although plaintiff contends that the warrant is inadmissible since it is a copy and not the original, the certified copy of the warrant that defendants have submitted, which is accompanied by a signed letter from a Deputy Clerk of the Sacramento County Superior Court certifying that the annexed warrant "is a correct copy of the original on file," is both self-authenticating and admissible in accordance with Federal Rules of Evidence 901 and 902. Fed. R. Evid. 901(b) ("[T]he following are examples of authentication or identification conforming with the requirements of this rule: . . . (7) Public records or reports. Evidence that a writing authorized by law to be recorded or filed and in fact recorded or filed in a public office, or a purported public record, report, statement, or data compilation, in any form, is from the public office where items of this nature are kept."); Fed. R. Evid. 902(b) ("Extrinsic evidence of authenticity as a condition precedent to admissibility is not required with respect to the following: (1) Domestic public documents under seal. A document bearing a seal purporting to be that of the United States, or of any State, . . . or of a political subdivision, department, officer, or agency thereof, and a signature purporting to be an attestation or execution. . . . (4) Certified copies of public records. A copy of an official record or report or entry therein, or of a document authorized by law to be recorded or filed and actually recorded or filed in a public office, . . . certified as correct by the custodian or other person authorized to make the certification . . . ."). The undisputed facts also establish that the warrant was in existence at the time that plaintiff appeared in court on April 28, 2008. SUF ¶ 5.

Although plaintiff contends that the warrant is "fabricated," he has presented no evidence in support of that position. He only offers argument and speculation that the warrant must be a fabrication or somehow invalid. Plaintiff's sole piece of evidence is an "Inmate Booking Information Receipt" that he received after he was booked into the Sacramento County Jail on April 28, 2008, which stated, "OUTSTANDING WARRANTS: NONE." Pl.'s Resp., Ex. 1 at 1. Plaintiff argues that this proves that there was never a warrant issued for his arrest. However, the undisputed evidence shows that there was an active warrant for plaintiff's arrest on the date that plaintiff was arrested but that the warrant was cleared, or deemed inactive, after plaintiff was arrested pursuant to that warrant, thereby explaining why the Inmate Booking Information Receipt noted that plaintiff had no outstanding warrants.

In light of the facially valid warrant that was in existence when plaintiff appeared in court on April 28, 2008, as well as Deputy Falk's verification that the descriptors and identifiers therein matched plaintiff,*fn8 defendants have sufficiently demonstrated that there is no genuine issue of material fact regarding whether Deputy Falk's arrest of plaintiff was both reasonable and supported by probable cause.*fn9 Accordingly, defendants are entitled to summary judgment on plaintiff's § 1983 claim for unlawful arrest.

2. Due Process Violation

Additionally, although the allegations in plaintiff's complaint are unclear, to the extent plaintiff claims his detention was a violation of his right to due process under the Fourteenth Amendment, defendants are entitled to summary judgment.

"Liberty is protected from unlawful state deprivation by the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment." Haygood v. Younger, 769 F.2d 1350, 1354 (9th Cir.1985). The loss of liberty caused by an individual's mistaken incarceration "after the lapse of a certain amount of time" gives rise to a claim under the due process clause. Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 145 (1979). However, not every deprivation of liberty gives rise to a constitutional claim. An arrest and subsequent detention, pursuant to a facially valid arrest warrant, does not violate due process where the detention is not unduly long. Baker, 443 U.S. at 144-145 (where arrest was made pursuant to a facially valid warrant, a three day detention does not amount to a due process violation); Erdman v. Cochise County, 926 F.2d 877, 882 (9th Cir. 1991)(twelve day detention did not violate due process where arrest was made pursuant to facially valid warrant).

Neither party disputes that plaintiff was detained after his arrest. Pl.'s Resp., Ex. 1 at 1-3. However, as noted above, plaintiff has failed to provide any evidence demonstrating that the warrant for his arrest was facially invalid. Plaintiff also does not provide any evidence demonstrating that his detention, which lasted less than a day, was unduly long or that he could or should have been released sooner. Accordingly, defendants are entitled to summary judgment on plaintiff's due process claim.

3. Equal Protection Clause

Finally, to the extent that plaintiff's allegation that "the point of [his] arrest" was "discrimination, (national origin, race)" purports to establish a claim under § 1983 for violation of plaintiff's rights under the equal protection clause, defendants are entitled to summary judgment on that claim. Compl. at 2; see also Pl.'s Resp. at 7 (contending that defendants' actions were "based solely on malice, bigotry, racism").

The equal protection clause commands that no state shall "deny any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." U.S. Const. amend. XIV, § 1. It is not enough to show mere differential treatment; a party must allege and prove the presence of an unlawful intent to discriminate against him for an invalid reason. Snowden v. Hughes, 321 U.S. 1, 8 (1944). Here, plaintiff has failed to provide any evidence demonstrating that he was arrested because of his race or national origin, or for any other invalid reason, or that any of the named defendants acted with any racial animus or discriminatory intent toward plaintiff. Therefore, defendants are entitled summary judgment on plaintiff's equal protection clause claim.

III. CONCLUSION

In accordance with the foregoing, IT IS HEREBY RECOMMENDED that:

1. Defendants' motion for summary judgment, Dckt. No. 40, be granted;

2. Plaintiff's motion to disregard various evidence and documents submitted by defendants, Dckt. Nos. 44 and 47, be denied;

3. Defendants' motion to strike various evidence and documents submitted by plaintiff, Dckt. No. 50-1, be denied; and

4. The Clerk be directed to enter judgment for defendants and close this case.

These findings and recommendations are submitted to the United States District Judge assigned to the case, pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(l). Within fourteen days after being served with these findings and recommendations, any party may file written objections with the court and serve a copy on all parties. Such a document should be captioned "Objections to Magistrate Judge's Findings and Recommendations." Failure to file objections within the specified time may waive the right to appeal the District Court's order. Turner v. Duncan, 158 F.3d 449, 455 (9th Cir. 1998); Martinez v. Ylst, 951 F.2d 1153 (9th Cir. 1991).


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