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Latasha Parham v. Philip Steemers

June 28, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Carolyn K. Delaney United States Magistrate Judge


This action for damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 arises from a traffic stop and detention of plaintiff Latasha Parham by defendant Philip Steemers and other unidentified police officers from the Suisun City Police Department.*fn1 Presently pending before the court is defendants Philip Steemers and Ed Dadisho's motion to dismiss plaintiff's first amended complaint pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) (dkt. no. 53), which came on for hearing before the undersigned on June 27, 2012.*fn2 At the hearing, plaintiff appeared pro se and Danielle Lewis appeared on behalf of defendants. After considering the papers in support of and in opposition to the motion, the court's record in this matter, the parties' oral argument, and the applicable law, the court now issues the following order.


Facts Giving Rise to the Litigation

The background facts are taken from plaintiff's first amended complaint. (See First Amended Complaint, Dkt. No. 52 ["FAC"].) On September 29, 2009, plaintiff was traveling home in her vehicle. (FAC ¶ 7.) According to plaintiff, defendant Philip Steemers, a police officer with the Suisun City Police Department, made a U-turn and followed plaintiff for approximately one mile without turning on his emergency lights. (FAC ¶¶ 4, 8-9, 36.) Once plaintiff parked in front of her home and stepped out of her vehicle, Steemers pulled up directly beside plaintiff's vehicle, trapping plaintiff between his vehicle and her own. (FAC ¶¶ 10-11.) Plaintiff alleges that Steemers was irate and immediately began yelling at plaintiff, demanding that she return to her vehicle. (FAC ¶ 12.) Fearing for her safety, plaintiff complied. (FAC ¶ 13.) Steemers then reversed his vehicle, parked behind plaintiff's vehicle, and approached plaintiff's car window on foot. (FAC ¶ 14-15.)

At that time, Steemers demanded plaintiff's "private information." (FAC ¶ 15.) When plaintiff asked Steemers to explain the nature of her seizure, Steemers refused to answer and continued to demand to see her "papers." (FAC ¶ 16-17.) Steemers ordered plaintiff to exit her vehicle; he pulled on plaintiff's door handle, but it was locked. (FAC ¶ 18.) Steemers then called for backup. (FAC ¶ 19.) When plaintiff rolled down her window, Steemers reached inside plaintiff's vehicle, unlocked and opened the door, and forcefully pulled plaintiff out of her vehicle by her left arm. (FAC ¶ 20-21.) Thereafter, Steemers frisk searched plaintiff including her breast area and between her legs, placed his hands into her pockets, and removed her hat, whereupon he forced plaintiff's arms behind her back and handcuffed her. (FAC ¶ 22-23.)

Around this time, two unidentified officers arrived on the scene in separate squad cars. (FAC ¶ 24.) After plaintiff informed Steemers that she did not consent to a search of her vehicle, she was forced into and confined to the back seat of Steemers's squad car, and her wallet, which had fallen out of her lap when she was pulled from her vehicle, was confiscated. (FAC ¶¶ 25-28.) Steemers then met with the other two arriving officers, and the three of them questioned plaintiff and threatened to take her to jail and confiscate her vehicle if she did not submit to a search of her vehicle so that her insurance card could be removed. (FAC ¶¶ 27, 29.) As a result, plaintiff "under duress" consented to a search of her glove box. (FAC ¶ 30.)

When plaintiff informed one of the unidentified officers, who introduced himself as a supervisor, that she did not know why she was stopped, was exercising her right to travel, and wanted to be released from custody, the supervisor maintained that Steemers was not required to explain why he was "arresting" plaintiff and that she would not be released "until Defendant Steemers said so." (FAC ¶¶ 31, 32.) After "an unknown amount of time," plaintiff was told that she would be released and not taken to jail if she signed a traffic citation. (FAC ¶ 33.) Throughout the incident, plaintiff was never told why she was stopped, searched, and "arrested." (FAC ¶ 34.) Only when the traffic citation was issued did plaintiff learn that she was cited with reckless driving and failure to identify. (FAC ¶¶ 34, 35.)

Subsequently, Steemers filed a "notice to appear in court" and initiated a "criminal action" against plaintiff, which plaintiff claims was pursued "absent probable cause and evidence that a crime had been committed, was being committed, or was going to be committed, absent a warrant for [p]laintiff's arrest, absent a verified complaint which [p]laintiff demanded in writing, absent a party with legal standing to sue, and before a court absent of jurisdiction," resulting in emotional distress to plaintiff. (FAC ¶¶ 38-40.) Around August 6, 2010, a court commissioner dismissed the notice to appear and "criminal action" against plaintiff "in the interest of justice." (FAC ¶ 41.)

Thereafter, around August 13, 2010, plaintiff mailed a "notice of a pending federal action" and events giving rise to her grievances to all parties involved in her initial "arrest" through dismissal of the state action. (FAC ¶ 42.) Plaintiff mailed this same notice to defendant Ed Dadisho, the chief of police of the Suisun City Police Department, but Dadisho never responded. (FAC ¶¶ 5, 43, 44.)

Procedural History

Plaintiff filed her original complaint on June 1, 2011 asserting eleven causes of action and naming numerous defendants -- defendants Steemers and Dadisho, as well as two bailiffs, two public defenders, three prosecutors, and four state court judges/commissioners that were involved in the eventually-dismissed state court action. (Dkt. No. 1.) An initial round of motions to dismiss followed, and the court ultimately dismissed all defendants from the action with prejudice, except for defendants Steemers and Dadisho. (Dkt. Nos. 45, 49.) The court also dismissed most of plaintiff's claims with prejudice, except that plaintiff was given leave to amend her complaint to state claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violation of the Fourth Amendment and Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment against Steemers and Dadisho, and to state claims under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985 for conspiracy to violate plaintiff's Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights against Steemers and Dadisho. (Id.)

On April 16, 2012, plaintiff filed the operative first amended complaint containing five causes of action: (1) violation of civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Steemers; (2) conspiracy to interfere with rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Steemers; (3) malicious prosecution under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Steemers; (4) supervisory liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Dadisho; and (5) failure to train under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Dadisho. (Dkt. No. 52.) Thereafter, defendants Steemers and Dadisho filed the instant motion to dismiss. (Dkt. No. 53.)


In considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the court must accept as true the allegations of the complaint in question, Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007), and construe the pleading in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, see Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974). However, to avoid dismissal for failure to state a claim, a complaint must contain more than "naked assertions," "labels and conclusions," or "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-57 (2007). In other words, "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). Furthermore, a claim upon which the court can grant relief must have facial plausibility. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads ...

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