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C.B v. Sonora School District

February 11, 2011

C.B.,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
SONORA SCHOOL DISTRICT, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Oliver W. Wanger United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM DECISION REGARDING JUDGMENT (Doc. 84)DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY

I. INTRODUCTION.

Plaintiff C.B., a minor, proceeds with an action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants Sonora School District ("the District"), the City of Sonora ("the City"), Mace McIntosh ("McIntosh"), and Hal Prock ("Prock").

The City, McIntosh, and Prock ("Defendants") filed a motion for summary judgment on January 7, 2011. (Docs. 84, 89). Plaintiff filed opposition to the motion for summary judgment on January 24, 2011. (Doc. 93). Defendants filed a reply on January 31, 2011. (Doc. 102).

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND.

On September 29, 2008, Plaintiff was an eleven year-old student at Sonora Elementary School ("the School"). (Def's. SUF 1, 2, 3). Sonora Police Officers McIntosh and Prock responded to a call from dispatch regarding an "out-of-control juvenile" at the School. (Prock Dep. at 6). McIntosh and Prock arrived at the School at approximately the same time; McIntosh set off in search of the juvenile, while Prock went to the school's main office. (McIntosh Dep. at 7). McIntosh encountered Plaintiff and Karen Sinclair ("Sinclair"), a coach at the School, in the vicinity of the School's eastside basketball courts. (Prock Dep. at 11). Plaintiff was sitting on a bench when McIntosh arrived. (McIntosh Dep. at 8). Prock arrived at Plaintiff's location a few minutes after McIntosh did. (McIntosh Dep. at 7).

The parties dispute the distance between Plaintiff's location on the bench and Greenly Road: Defendants contend the distance was 50 yards, while Plaintiff contends the distance was approximately 127 yards. (Response to Def's. SUF 15). The area where Defendants encountered Plaintiff was surrounded by a fence with at least two openings. (Response to Def's. SUF 20).

Before Prock arrived at the scene, Sinclair told McIntosh that Plaintiff had been yelling, cussing, screaming, and was out of control. (McIntosh Dep. at 8). Sinclair also told McIntosh that Plaintiff had not taken his medications for the day. (McIntosh Dep. at 8). McIntosh did not make any further inquiries of Sinclair. (McIntosh Dep. at 8). McIntosh began speaking to Plaintiff, but Plaintiff did not verbally respond. (McIntosh Dep. at 8). Before Prock arrived, Sinclair told McIntosh that she did not want Plaintiff on campus anymore. (McIntosh Dep. at 9).

Prock first spoke with Sinclair when he arrived on the scene; when Prock arrived, Plaintiff was sitting on the bench, complacent, and looking down. (Prock Dep. at 13, 15). Another officer named Bowly was also on the scene when Prock arrived. (Prock Dep. at17). Sinclair told Prock that Plaintiff was out of control, acting up, and might run. (Prock Dep. at 13). Upon hearing Sinclair's statement that Plaintiff might run, Plaintiff looked up and stared at Sinclair with an angry look. (Prock Dep. at 15). Prock attempted to speak with Plaintiff while Plaintiff was seated on the bench, but Plaintiff did not verbally respond. (Prock Dep. at 15). Prock then ordered Plaintiff to stand up, and Plaintiff complied. (Prock Dep. at 15). When Plaintiff stood up, McIntosh signaled to Prock and directed him to handcuff Plaintiff. (McIntosh Dep. at 17). Prock handcuffed Plaintiff. (Id.). McIntosh and Prock took Plaintiff into temporary custody. (Response to Def's. SUF 30). Plaintiff was placed in the back of a patrol car.

The School provided Prock with contact information for Plaintiff's uncle, and Plaintiff was transported to his uncle's place of business and released to the custody of his uncle. The parties dispute whether the Plaintiff's uncle asked for Plaintiff to be taken to him. (Response to Def's. SUF 35).

III. LEGAL STANDARD.

Summary judgment/adjudication is appropriate when "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The movant "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, 106 S. Ct. 2548, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265 (1986) (internal quotation marks omitted).

Where the movant will have the burden of proof on an issue at trial, it must "affirmatively demonstrate that no reasonable trier of fact could find other than for the moving party." Soremekun v. Thrifty Payless, Inc., 509 F.3d 978, 984 (9th Cir. 2007). With respect to an issue as to which the non-moving party will have the burden of proof, the movant "can prevail merely by pointing out that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Soremekun, 509 F.3d at 984.

When a motion for summary judgment is properly made and supported, the non-movant cannot defeat the motion by resting upon the allegations or denials of its own pleading, rather the "non-moving party must set forth, by affidavit or as otherwise provided in Rule 56, 'specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Soremekun, 509 F.3d at 984. (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250, 106 S. Ct. 2505, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202 (1986)). "A non-movant's bald assertions or a mere scintilla of evidence in his favor are both insufficient to withstand summary judgment." FTC v. Stefanchik, 559 F.3d 924, 929 (9th Cir. 2009). "[A] non-movant must show a genuine issue of material fact by presenting affirmative evidence from which a jury could find in his favor." Id. (emphasis in original). "[S]ummary judgment will not lie if [a] dispute about a material fact is 'genuine,' that is, if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. In determining whether a genuine dispute exists, a district court does not make credibility determinations; rather, the "evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor." Id. at 255.

IV. DISCUSSION.

A. Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment Claim

1. Constitutional Violation

Plaintiff asserts a claim under section 1983 against McIntosh and Prock for alleged violation of Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment rights. Plaintiff contends that McIntosh and Prock effected an unreasonable seizure of Plaintiff without probable cause, and that they employed excessive force.

The Fourth Amendment protects students from unreasonable searches and seizures in the school environment. See, e.g., Preschooler II v. Clark County Sch. Bd. of Trs., 479 F.3d 1175, 1178 (9th Cir. 2007); see also Safford Unified Sch. Dist. #1 v. Redding, 129 S. Ct. 2633, 2647 (2009). Although seizures effected by school administrators are reviewed under a special standard of reasonableness, e.g., N.J. v. T. L. O., 469 U.S. 325, 340-42 (1985), seizures of students at a school by a police officers are generally subject to traditional Fourth Amendment analysis when made for traditional law enforcement purposes, see Greene v. Camreta, 588 F.3d 1011, 1026, 1030 (9th Cir. 2009) (holding that N.J. v. T.L.O. standard did not apply to seizure of student at school where child was not seized for a "special need" beyond the normal need for law enforcement). Whether Defendant's seizure of Plaintiff must be evaluated under traditional Fourth Amendment ...


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