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Carl William Coleman, et al v. County of Butte

October 9, 2012

CARL WILLIAM COLEMAN, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
COUNTY OF BUTTE, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Craig M. Kellison United States Magistrate Judge

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Plaintiffs, who are proceeding pro se, bring this civil rights action. The second amended complaint names the following defendants: County of Butte; Steven J. Howell; Michael Candela; Clare Keithley; Michael Ramsey; Jeff Greeson; Ron Belser; Jacob Hancock; John Angle; David Kennedy; Heather Murphy; Pamela Richards; Dennis Hoptowit; Jesus Rodriguez, and Leo Battle. Howell, Candela, and Keithley are Butte County Superior Court judges. Ramsey and Greeson are prosecutors with the Butte County District Attorney's Office. Belser, Hancock, and Angle are law enforcement officers. Kennedy, Murphy, and Richards are county social workers. Hoptowit, Rodriguez, and Battle are county public defenders. Pending before the court are the following motions:

1. Motion to dismiss filed by defendant Battle (Doc. 42).

2. Motion to dismiss filed by defendant Hoptowit (Doc. 43).

3. Motion to dismiss filed by defendant Rodriguez (Doc. 44).

4. Motion to dismiss filed by defendants Howell, Candela, and Keithley (Doc. 45).

5. Motion to dismiss filed by defendants County of Butte, Angle, Greeson, Hancock, Kennedy, Murphy, Ramsey, and Richards (Doc. 46).

6. Motion to dismiss filed by defendant Belser (Doc. 48).

The parties appeared for a hearing on September 13, 2012. Gregory Einhorn, Esq., Kevin Reager, Esq., Tahj Gomez, Esq., and Douglas Thorn, Esq., appeared for defendants. Plaintiffs appeared pro se. After hearing arguments, the matters were submitted.

I. PLAINTIFFS' ALLEGATIONS

Very generally, plaintiffs allege that defendants conspired "to conduct an illegal search and seizure on the Coleman residence. . . ." According to plaintiffs, defendant Hancock misinformed the judge regarding a confidential informant's credibility in order to obtain a search warrant. Plaintiffs state that, on February 13, 2009, police officers conducted a "raid" on their home pursuant to the search warrant and that, on February 16, 2009, separate criminal complaints were filed against the Colemans alleging felony violations of the California Health and Safety Code in relation to marijuana plants seized from the Coleman residence. Specifically, officers seized $47,000 in cash, 60 pounds of unprocessed marijuana, and five pounds of processed marijuana. Plaintiff allege that they "in fact have a legitimate medicinal marijuana co-operative, with a substantial amount of medicinal patients." They also claim that it is the custom, policy, or practice of Butte County law enforcement officials to keep seized marijuana for themselves for re-distribution rather than destroying it as required by law.

Plaintiffs state that they hired defendant Hoptowit, who they say was also a public defender at the time, but that Hoptowit conspired to deprive them due process with respect to the seized cash. According to plaintiffs, the initial complaints against the Colemans were voluntarily dismissed by the district attorney and, on October 20, 2010, the charges were re-filed, again in separate complaints, this time with an additional charge that Carl Coleman transported marijuana across state lines. Ultimately, the re-filed complaint against Carl Coleman was dismissed for failure to hold a preliminary hearing within 60 days. A third criminal complaint was filed against Carl Coleman, but was dismissed on defendant's demurrer. According to plaintiffs, the court dismissed the third complaint "to prevent improper successive attempts to prosecute."

As to the re-filed complaint against Joelle Coleman, plaintiffs state that defendant Howell, the judge presiding over the initial arraignment, failed to adequate advise her of her speedy trial rights, which she waived "out of fear of reprisals for 'not going along.'" Ultimately, the charges against Joelle Coleman were dismissed.

Next, plaintiffs discuss the October 8, 2008, arrest of Lisa M. Coleman, Carl Coleman's daughter, on charges of child endangerment and subsequent hearing held on May 27, 2010, to determine whether Lisa Coleman's two minor children should be placed in foster care. In placing the children in ...


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