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Addison J. Demoura, et al v. andrew J. Ford

October 9, 2012

ADDISON J. DEMOURA, ET AL.,
PLAINTIFFS,
v.
ANDREW J. FORD, ET AL.,
DEFENDANTS.



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

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS THAT THE APPLICATION FOR MINOR'S COMPROMISE OF CLAIM OF JOHN DOE BE GRANTED OBJECTIONS DUE: 5 DAYS

I. INTRODUCTION

On September 6, 2012, settlement proceedings were held in this case before Magistrate Judge Sheila K. Oberto, and the case settled. (Docs. 245-48.) On September 20, 2012, Plaintiffs Addison Demoura ("Addison"), Jessica Demoura ("Jessica") and John Doe ("Minor Plaintiff Doe" or, collectively, "Plaintiffs") filed an Application for Order Approving Minor's Compromise of Claims (the "Minor's Petition"). (Doc. 249.) Addison, as the court-appointed guardian ad litem of the named Minor Plaintiff Doe, seeks approval of the proposed settlement between Plaintiffs and Defendants Andrew Ford ("Ford"), Jason Tosta ("Tosta")*fn1 , County of Stanislaus ("Stanislaus"), and City of Oakdale ("Oakdale" or, collectively, "Defendants"). No opposition has been filed.

The Court has reviewed the Minor's Petition and supporting documents and determined that this matter is suitable for decision without oral argument pursuant to the Local Rules of the United States District Court, Eastern District of California, Rule 230(g). For the reasons set forth below, the Court RECOMMENDS that the Application for Order Approving Minor's Compromise of Claims (Doc. 249) be APPROVED and GRANTED.

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs' initial complaint was filed on July 31, 2009. (Doc. 1.) The current operative complaint is the fifth amended complaint, filed on January 27, 2012, against Defendants Ford, Tosta, Stanislaus, and Oakdale. (Doc. 164.)

This action arises out of the alleged unlawful execution of search warrants. Pursuant to the fifth amended complaint, Plaintiffs allege that on July 25, 2007, Defendant Ford, a police officer, presented to a magistrate judge a statement of probable cause in support of a search warrant for the search of Plaintiffs' residence and Addison's place of business, which operated under the business name Oakdale Natural Choice Collective ("ONCC"). (Doc. 164, ¶¶ 14, 33-35.) Plaintiffs assert that Ford's affidavit contained material misstatements and omissions, that it failed to allege sufficient credible evidence to establish probable cause for the search, and that Ford and Tosta agreed to present to the magistrate judge the affidavit knowing that it contained material misstatements and omissions. (Doc. 164, ¶¶ 33-35.)

Plaintiffs allege that Defendants possessed facts that ONCC "may have been an association of medical marijuana patients commonly known as a medical marijuana collective that was established under the provisions of the California Medical Marijuana Program Act." (Doc. 164, ¶ 63.) During a multi-agency investigation of the ONCC, Plaintiffs claim that a confidential informant procured marijuana that was "clearly labeled 'for medical use only.'" (Doc. 164, ¶ 66.) Plaintiffs allege that the confidential informant "reported that ONCC operated in a manner that was the same as those operating procedures of another medical marijuana collective that was identified as the California Health Collective" ("CHC"), and that "[a]ll natural person Defendants" were aware that the CHC "was an association of medical marijuana patients and caregivers operating under California State Law within the provisions of the California Medical Marijuana Program Act" ("MMPA"). (Doc. 164, ¶¶ 66, 70.)

Plaintiffs claim that Defendants, prior to obtaining the search warrant, "agreed to conceal and/or omit any evidence plainly relevant to CHC's compliance with the MMPA, which would negate probable cause for the search, in an effort to mislead the judge in securing a search warrant." (Doc. 164, ¶ 72.) Plaintiffs allege that the affidavit submitted in support of the search warrant "omitted all exculpatory observations and evidence which would establish that Addison and ONCC were engaged in the lawful distribution of marijuana under the provisions of the Medical Marijuana Program Act." (Doc. 164, ¶ 75.)

On July 31, 2007, the search warrant was executed and Plaintiffs' residence was searched. (Doc. 164, ¶¶ 36-38.) Plaintiffs were allegedly detained "with the use of handcuffs, and a threat of lethal force, and force involving the pressing of the muzzle of their automatic firearms against Addison's person, and pointing their automatic firearms at Plaintiffs." (Doc. 164, ¶ 39.) Minor Plaintiff Doe, who was 2 years and eight months old at the time, was present when Plaintiffs' residence was searched. (See Doc. 249, ¶ 3.) While Plaintiffs allege that Minor Plaintiff Doe "suffered physical and psychological trauma" due to Defendants' conduct, Plaintiffs do not allege any specific injury suffered by Minor Plaintiff Doe and the prayer for relief seeks only general and punitive damages as related to the Minor Plaintiff. (Doc. 164, ¶ 8, p. 24.)

On May 12, 2009, in the criminal prosecution resulting from evidence obtained during the searches, Addison filed a motion to quash and traverse the search warrant "on the grounds that the search warrant affidavit contained material misstatements and omissions" and thus failed to allege sufficient credible evidence to establish probable cause. (Doc. 164, ¶ 77.) On October 16, 2009, the California Superior Court granted Addison's motion and dismissed the underlying criminal action. (Doc. 164, ¶ 78.) The prosecution did not appeal the order and dismissal. (Doc. 106, ¶ 79.)

Plaintiffs' suit is based upon the alleged unlawful search of their residence. Plaintiffs' fifth amended complaint alleges causes of action for (1) violation of Constitutional rights, unlawful search; (2) excessive force in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments; (3) conspiracy; (4) violation of Constitutional rights by failing to adequately train and supervise; (5) assault; (6) battery; and (7) statutory and state constitutional violations based on presenting a false affidavit in support of a search warrant and executing a search warrant supported by the false affidavit. (Doc. 164.)

III. DISCUSSION

A. Legal Standard for Compromise of ...


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