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Halema Buzayan, An Individual; Dr. Jamal Buzayan, An Individual; Najat v. the City of Davis; James Hyde

February 22, 2012

HALEMA BUZAYAN, AN INDIVIDUAL; DR. JAMAL BUZAYAN, AN INDIVIDUAL; NAJAT ABDALLA DARRAT, AN INDIVIDUAL; MOHAMED BUZAYAN, BY AND THROUGH R. JAMAL BUZAYAN, AS GUARDIAN AD LITEM FOR A MINOR; YOUSEF BUZAYAN, BY AND THROUGH DR. JAMAL BUZAYAN, AS GUARDIAN AD LITEM FOR A MINOR; ALI BUZAYAN, BY AND THROUGH DR. JAMAL BUZAYAN, AS GUARDIAN AD LITEM FOR A MINOR,
PLAINTIFFS,
v.
THE CITY OF DAVIS; JAMES HYDE, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS CAPACITY AS CHIEF OF POLICE OF THE CITY OF DAVIS POLICE DEPARTMENT; STEVEN PIERCE, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY WITH THE CITY OF DAVIS POLICE DEPARTMENT; PHENG LY, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS CAPACITY AS AN OFFICER OF THE CITY OF DAVIS POLICE DEPARTMENT; BEN HARTZ, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS OFFICER OF THE CITY OF DAVIS POLICE DEPARTMENT; DAVID HENDERSON, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS CAPACITY AS DISTRICT ATTORNEY FOR THE YOLO COUNTY OFFICE OF THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY; PATRICIA FONG, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HER CAPACITY AS DEPUTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY FOR THE YOLO COUNTY OFFICE OF THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY AND MEMBER OF THE DAVIS POLICE DEPARTMENT ADVISORY BOARD, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Morrison C. England, Jr. United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Through the present action, Halema Buzayan and the Buzayan family allege that their constitutional rights were violated as a result of events stemming from hit-and-run charges levied against Halema as a result of an incident which allegedly occurred on June 7, 2005. Defendants City of Davis, James Hyde, the former Davis Chief of Police, and two officers with the City of Davis Police Department, Pheng Ly and Ben Hartz, along with Yolo County District Attorney David Henderson and Deputy District Attorney Patricia Fong (collectively referred to as "Defendants" unless otherwise noted), now move for partial summary judgment as to the Fifth and Sixth Causes of Action contained within Plaintiffs' First Amended Complaint on grounds, inter alia, that there is no evidence of a conspiracy to violate Plaintiffs' constitutional rights as required said causes of action, which are predicated on claims that Defendants conspired together to pursue criminal charges against Plaintiff Halema Buzayan for exercising her constitutional rights, or, alternatively, to retaliate against Plaintiffs for complaining about the allegedly discriminatory treatment they were subjected to on the basis of their race/ethnicity/religion.

As set forth below, Defendants' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment will be granted.

BACKGROUND

The facts of this matter have already been discussed at length in prior rulings made by the Court. At approximately 7:40 p.m. on the evening of June 7, 2005, Officer Ly was dispatched by the City of Davis Police Department to the home of Adrienne Wonhof-Gustafson to investigate Ms. Wonhof-Gustafson's claim that her 2001 Mazda Protege had sustained damage as a result of a hit-and-run collision. Ms. Wonhof-Gustafson told Officer Ly that after shopping at Safeway earlier that evening, she noticed damage to the rear bumper and found a note attached to her windshield from a witness who claimed to have witnessed a collision. According to the note, a blue Toyota Highlander was involved, license plate number 5GXT958. The witness who wrote the note left his name and telephone number.

After running a check on the license plate number provided by the witness Rowe, Officer Ly discovered that the plate matched a 2004 Toyota registered to Jamal Buzayan and his wife Najat Darrat at 1131 Pistachio Court in Davis. Officer Ly drove to the Buzayan residence and ultimately found Mr. Buzayan at home at about 9:30 p.m. Ly explained that he was investigating a reported hit-and-run involving a blue Toyota Highlander, license plate number 5GXT958, which Buzayan confirmed was his vehicle. After Mr. Buzayan asked Officer Ly if he wished to examine the vehicle, they went into the garage.

The license number of the Highlander parked there matched the number provided by the witness and had corner damage to the right front/passenger bumper. Ms. Darrat then appeared and, while she admitted driving the Toyota to Safeway several times earlier in the day, denied being at Safeway around 6:30 p.m. when the witness observed the alleged incident. Neither Mr. Buzayan or Ms. Darrat had noticed the Toyota's bumper damage previously. Officer Ly took pictures of the damage.

When Officer Ly inquired with respect to any other drivers in the household, he learned that the couple's daughter, sixteen-year-old Halema, had a driver's license. Officer Ly then asked to speak to Halema, who denied driving the Highlander to Safeway that day.

According to Officer Ly, as a result of this investigation, which all appears to have occurred the evening of the incident, he concluded that Halema Buzayan had likely been driving the Highlander and collided with the Wonhof-Gustafson Mazda on June 7, 2005. Officer Ly did not arrest Halema, however, until almost a week later, on June 13, 2005, when he returned to the Buzayan/Darrat home at about 9:40 p.m with Officer Hartz and transported Halema to the Davis Police Station for booking, fingerprinting and questioning before releasing her to her parents with a Notice to Appear. Halema's arrest was effectuated without any warrant.

In October of 2005, during the course of what Plaintiffs believed was supposed to be a conciliatory meeting between Plaintiffs, their former counsel, Etan Rosen, and attorney Douglas Thorne representing the City of Davis and the Davis Police Department, Plaintiffs claim that Thorne was in fact "rude, antagonistic, threatening, and aggressive in tone." Decl. of Jamal Buzayan, ¶ 4; Decl. of Etan Rosen, ¶ 2. Among other untoward comments, Thorne allegedly told Plaintiffs that "we are going to teach you a lesson in confrontation."

Despite this alleged threat, the Deputy District Attorney ultimately assigned to the case, Patricia Fong, stated she never spoke to Thorne or anyone else before filing misdemeanor criminal charges against Halema Buzayan on or about November 18, 2005. Fong Dep., 23:18-23, Ex. 2 to the Whitesides Reply Decl.; see also Decl. of Patricia Fong, ¶ 2 ("I was the attorney who made the decision to prosecute HALEMA BUZAYAN.... I did not communicate with any CITY OF DAVIS employee or official concerning the arrest or whether to prosecute Ms. BUZAYAN prior to filing the juvenile petition on November 18, 2005"). Moreover, and significantly, Fong goes on to state that she was unaware of Halema's religious beliefs (Muslim), her ethnicity (Libyan), or whether she had submitted a tort claim against the City of Davis, prior to Fong's initiation of charges. Importantly, too, the only time Fong ever spoke to Douglas Thorne was during a phone conversation that occurred on March 13, 2006, months after the charges were filed and well after the October 25, 2005 meeting objected to by Plaintiffs. Fong Dep. at 38:1-40:3; 41:24-43:16.

During the pendency of the criminal charges against Halema Buzayan, there is no evidence of anything other than relatively routine investigative contact between Fong, on the one hand, and City representatives, on the other. See Defs.' Reply, pp. 3-4.*fn1

Defendants argue there is nothing about those communications that "even remotely connote[s] a mutual intent/plan to discriminate on the basis of religion or ethnicity." Id. at 4. Indeed, as Defendants point out, the criminal case was almost six months old before she had any communication at all with the City about the case. Id.

On April 17, 2006, the Yolo County Superior court granted a motion to dismiss the claim against Halema on grounds that the vehicle damage at issue had already been paid for by Plaintiffs, and because the City generally did not pursue criminal charges where such compensation had occurred. Thereafter, on July 14, 2006, Ms. Buzayan, through her father as Guardian Ad Litem, filed suit against Defendants, alleging seventeen causes of action. The Defendants filed a Partial Motion to Dismiss under Rules 12(b)(6) and 12(b)(7) and a Partial Motion to Strike under Rule 12(f) and California Code of Civil Procedure § 425.16. Since Ms. Buzayan had reached the age of majority prior to filing the suit, the Court granted Defendants' Motion to Dismiss under Rule 12(b)(7), and granted Plaintiffs leave to amend the complaint.

On November 3, 2006, Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint which substituted Ms. Buzayan as an individual, and added the additional members of the Buzayan family as Plaintiffs. After Defendants filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings directed to remaining claims in late 2007, Plaintiffs sought and received permission from the Court on December 14, 2007, to file a Second Amended Complaint. As a result, the Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings was taken off calendar.

Plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint, filed on or about January 3, 2008, omitted four additional causes of action set forth in its predecessor. Defendants again moved to dismiss certain causes of action and were successful in eliminating three causes of action in their entirety and another five on a ...


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