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Brenda L. Marsh v. San Diego

February 11, 2011

BRENDA L. MARSH,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
SAN DIEGO, AND JAY S.
DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Janis L. SammartinoUnited States District Judge

ORDER: 1 GRANTING IN PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND 2 DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT IN COUNTY OF THE ENTIRETY COULTER, (Doc. Nos. 39, 41.)

Presently before the Court is Plaintiff Brenda L. Marsh's motion for summary judgment (Doc. No. 39 (Plaintiff's MSJ)) and Defendants Jay S. Coulter and County of San Diego's motion for summary judgment. (Doc. No. 41 (Defendants' MSJ).) Also before the Court are the associated oppositions and replies. After consideration, the Court GRANTS Defendants' motion for summary judgment on the 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Monell, and California Civil Code § 52.1 claims. And having dismissed those claims, this Court DECLINES supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state claims and DISMISSES them WITHOUT PREJUDICE. Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment is DISMISSED IN ITS ENTIRETY.

For nearly three decades, the San Diego community has witnessed the legal drama surrounding the Marsh family. In 1983, two-year-old Phillip Buell died while in the care of Kenneth M. Marsh. The state prosecuted Mr. Marsh for Phillip's death and obtained a second-degree murder conviction. The conviction was affirmed on appeal. Mr. Marsh went to prison. Many years passed.

In 2003, Mr. Marsh filed his second petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The San Diego County Superior Court granted the petition at the request of the San Diego District Attorney, whose recently consulted expert could not conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that Phillip was a victim of child abuse. The Superior Court set aside Mr. Marsh's conviction, and he was released. By then, he had spent nearly twenty-one years in prison.

Not long after his release, Mr. Marsh filed a federal action against the County of San Diego and the medical personnel involved in Phillip's autopsy. From that case comes the factual basis for this action.

As part of Mr. Marsh's case, his attorneys deposed Jay S. Coulter, the San Diego Deputy District Attorney who tried Mr. Marsh's criminal prosecution. Coulter testified that, during his tenure as Deputy District Attorney, he photocopied sixteen autopsy photos taken of Phillip's corpse. Coulter further testified that, in February 2006-after his retirement from the District Attorney's Office-he had disseminated at least one such photo to a newspaper and television station.

Based on this testimony, Brenda L. Marsh-Mr. Marsh's wife and Phillip's mother-filed the present action. After three years of litigation and two rounds of Rule 12 motions, five causes of action remain:

(1) A 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim against Coulter for conduct occurring while Coulter was employed by the County as deputy district attorney.

(2) A Monell claim against the County of San Diego for conduct occurring while Coulter was employed by the County as deputy district attorney.

(3) An intentional infliction of emotional distress claim against Coulter and the County.

(4) A negligent infliction of emotional distress claim against Coulter and the County.

(5) Claims for violating California Civil Code §§ 43 and 52.1 against Coulter and the County.

The parties cross motion for summary judgment on every claim. After consideration, the Court grants summary judgment in favor of Defendants on the § 1983, Monell, and California Civil Code § 52.1 claims. With those claims dismissed, the Court declines supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state law claims. They are dismissed without prejudice.

LEGAL STANDARD

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 permits a court to grant summary judgment where the moving party demonstrates (1) the absence of a genuine issue of material fact and (2) entitlement to judgment as a matter of law. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). "Material," for purposes of Rule 56, means that the fact, under governing substantive law, could affect the outcome of the case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Freeman v. Arpaio, 125 F.3d 732, 735 (9th Cir. 1997). For a dispute to be "genuine," a reasonable jury must be able to return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.

The initial burden of establishing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact falls on the moving party. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. The movant can carry his burden in two ways: (1) by presenting evidence that negates an essential element of the nonmoving party's case; or (2) by demonstrating that the nonmoving party "failed to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of her case with respect to which she has the burden of proof." Id. at 322--23. "Disputes over irrelevant or unnecessary facts will not preclude a grant of summary judgment." T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pac. Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987).

Once the moving party establishes the absence of genuine issues of material fact, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to set forth facts showing that a genuine issue of disputed fact remains. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324. The nonmoving party cannot oppose a properly supported summary judgment motion by "rest[ing] on mere allegations or denials of his pleadings." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256. When ruling on a summary judgment motion, the court must view all inferences drawn from the underlying facts ...


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