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Cain A. Gonzales v. City of Clovis

October 3, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sheila K. Oberto United States Magistrate Judge



On January 11, 2012, Plaintiff Cain Gonzales ("Plaintiff") filed a complaint against the City of Clovis; the Clovis Police Department; and the Chief of the Clovis Police Department, Janet Davis.(Doc. 1.) The complaint was dismissed, and Plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint ("FAC") on May 14, 2012, naming an additional defendant, Officer Woods ("Defendant Officer Woods").(Doc. 5.)For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's complaint is DISMISSED without prejudice and with 30 days leave to amend.


Plaintiff alleges that on September 13, 2010, police officers with the Clovis Police Department executed a search warrant at his residence, which resulted in charges against Plaintiff for possession of a controlled substance. (Doc. 5, ¶ 34.) Officers, including Defendant Officer Woods, entered Plaintiff's residence via the backdoor, but they failed to announce themselves, state who they were, or the purpose of their presence. (Doc. 5, ¶ 35.) During the course of the search, an officer deployed a "flash-bang grenade" that caused Plaintiff second- and third-degree burns. (Doc. 5, ¶¶ 36, 38.) Further, Plaintiff asserts that unidentified officers present during the search seized some of Plaintiff's property, including gold, jewelry, coins, television sets, laptop computers, and flat-screen monitors. (Doc. 5, ¶ 51.) What the officers did not take, they destroyed and smashed. (Doc 5, ¶ 51.)

Following the search of his residence, Plaintiff was arrested and transported to the Clovis Police Department where he was detained for fifteen hours before being transported to the Fresno Community Hospital, even though he was severely burned and experienced pain and suffering from the grenade. (Doc. 5, ¶ 40.) Plaintiff was treated at the hospital for approximately four hours and was returned to the Fresno County Jail where he was booked. (Doc. 5, ¶ 40.)

After being booked, Plaintiff was released from custody on his own recognizance, due to overcrowding of the jail and downsizing. (Doc. 5, ¶ 41.) However, during the "book and release process," Plaintiff "posted [bail] and while the bail was posted[,] the jail staff never notified the bonds[man] that his client was released on his own recognizance due to overcrowding." (Doc. 5, ¶ 41.)

At some point after his release, Plaintiff was "sought after by bounty hunters, [and] despite his injuries, [they] took Gonzales by brute force " while Plaintiff was in the process of changing a bandage on his burns caused by the "flash bang grenade." (Doc. 5, ¶ 42.)

After his release from jail, Plaintiff called the police department to report that some of his personal property had been stolen during the time that he was detained after his arrest on September 13, 2010. (Doc. 5, ¶ 44.) "While making that report, the police arrested [Plaintiff] again and charged him with receiving stolen property." (Doc. 5, ¶ 44.) Eventually, all charges "[were] dropped, (no charge would be filed at that time), by the [Clovis Police Department]." (Doc. 5, ¶ 46.)

In December 2006,Plaintiff filed a complaint against the City of Fresno, Police Chief Jerry Dyer, the County of Madera, and Madera County Sheriff John Anderson asserting, inter alia, a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Gonzalez v. City of Fresno, et al., 1:06-cv-01751-OWW-TAG). Plaintiff asserts that Defendants'*fn1 actions against him, as set forth above, are part of "a concerted campaign to thwart Plaintiff's efforts to seek redress of his prior lawsuits against the City of Fresno [and] Chief Dyer[,] and to cause him physical harm and emotional anguish." (Doc. 5, ¶ 20.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendants' conduct was motivated from a "desire to retaliate against Plaintiff for having sued the City of Fresno and Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer." (Doc. 5, ¶ 92.) Plaintiff contends that the previous case he filed against the City of Fresno involved "a challenge to the constitutionality of a police officer's search, upon reasonable suspicion, without first having obtained a search warrant." (Doc. 5, ¶ 92.) In that case, the district court issued a decision and order granting the defendants' motions for summary judgment. (Doc. 5, ¶ 94.) Defendants in this matter "were motivated entirely by [an] intent to harass Plaintiff and deny him equal protection of the laws" in retaliation for the prior suit. (Doc. 5, ¶ 95.)


A. Screening Standard

In cases where the plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis, the Court is required to screen each case and shall dismiss the case at any time if the Court determines that the allegation of poverty is untrue, or the action or appeal is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). If the Court determines that the complaint fails to state a claim, leave to amend may be granted to the extent that the deficiencies of the complaint can be cured by amendment. Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1130 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc).

B. Legal Standard

In determining whether a complaint fails to state a claim, the Court applies the same pleading standard used under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a). Under Rule 8(a), a complaint must contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). "[T]he pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not require 'detailed factual allegations,' but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). "[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). "[A] complaint [that] pleads facts that are 'merely consistent with' a defendant's liability . . . 'stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.'" Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). Further, although a court must accept as true all factual allegations contained in a complaint, a court need not accept a plaintiff's legal conclusions as true. Id. "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

C. Claims Pursuant to Section 1983

Plaintiff states his claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In his FAC, Plaintiff pleads six counts enumerating various alleged violations of his constitutional rights.

Section 1983 of Title 42 of the United States Code does not provide substantive rights; rather, it is "a method for vindicating federal rights elsewhere conferred." Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271 (1994) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). In pertinent part, Section 1983 states as follows:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in any action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress

42 U.S.C. § 1983.

To sufficiently plead a cognizable Section 1983 claim, a plaintiff must allege facts from which it may be inferred that (1) he was deprived of a federal right, and (2) a person who committed the alleged violation acted under the color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Williams v. Gorton, 529 F.2d 668, 670 (9th Cir. 1976). Additionally, a plaintiff must allege that he suffered a specific injury and show a causal ...

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