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Markus M. Hall, Monique G. Rankin, Lindsey K. Sanders v. City of Fairfield

January 7, 2013

MARKUS M. HALL, MONIQUE G. RANKIN, LINDSEY K. SANDERS, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
CITY OF FAIRFIELD, OFFICER NICK MCDOWELL, OFFICER CHRIS GRIMM, OFFICER TOM SHACKFORD, OFFICER ZACK SANDOVAL, AND SERGEANT STEVE CRANE, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Garland E. Burrell, Jr. Senior United States District Judge

ORDER GRANTING PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT IN FAVOR OF DEFENDANTS ON PLAINTIFFS' STATE LAW FALSE ARREST CLAIMS*fn1

A Tentative Ruling granting partial summary judgment sua sponte in favor of Defendants on Plaintiffs' state law false arrest claims was filed on April 11, 2012. (ECF No. 169.) The April 11, 2012 Tentative Ruling ("Tentative Ruling") gave the parties an opportunity to file and serve written objections to any part of the Tentative Ruling.

Plaintiffs filed objections to the Tentative Ruling on May 14, 2012. Defendants filed a "Response" to the Tentative Ruling on May 14, 2012, in which they state that they "agree with the Court's tentative ruling[,]" but "contend [the] ruling necessarily requires the Court to also grant summary judgment in Defendants' favor as to the federal false arrest claims pursuant to the qualified immunity doctrine." (Defs.' Resp. 1:5-9, ECF No. 170.)

After considering the parties' filings, the Court will grant partial summary judgment in favor of Defendants on Plaintiffs' state law false arrest claims. Defendants' request to expand the scope of the Tentative Ruling will be denied.

I. LEGAL STANDARD

"District courts unquestionably possess the power to enter summary judgment sua sponte, even on the eve of trial." Norse v. City of Santa Cruz, 629 F.3d 966, 971 (9th Cir. 2010). As prescribed in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(f)(3): "[a]fter giving notice and a reasonable time to respond, the court may . . . consider summary judgment on its own after identifying for the parties material facts that may not be genuinely in dispute."

"A fact is 'material' when, under the governing substantive law, it could affect the outcome of the case." Thrifty Oil Co. v. Bank of Am. Nat. Trust & Sav. Ass'n, 322 F.3d 1039, 1046 (9th Cir. 2003) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). An issue of material fact is "genuine" when "'the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.'" Id. (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248).

The evidence must be viewed "in the light most favorable to [Plaintiffs]," and "all reasonable inferences" that can be drawn from the evidence must be drawn "in [Plaintiffs'] favor . . . ." Nunez v. Duncan, 591 F.3d 1217, 1222-23 (9th Cir. 2010) (internal quotation marks omitted). However, "[t]he district court must . . . undertake some initial scrutiny of the inferences that could be reasonably drawn from the evidence" to determine "whether there remains sufficient probative evidence which would permit a finding in favor of [Plaintiffs] based on more than mere speculation, conjecture, or fantasy." Barnes v. Arden Mayfair, Inc., 759 F.2d 676, 680-81 (9th Cir. 1985).

II. FACTUAL SUMMARY

This litigation concerns Plaintiffs' arrests at an In-N-Out Burger restaurant in Fairfield, California during the early morning hours of July 4, 2009.

It is undisputed that all three Plaintiffs were arrested pursuant to the citizen's arrests of In-N-Out Burger's manager, Marc Young. (Pls.' Objections 5:6-9, ECF No. 171; Am. Joint Pretrial Statement 3:4, 4:12-19, ECF No. 98; Arrest Reports of Monique Rankin, Markus Hall & Lindsey Sanders pp. 000403-000410, filed as Ex. E to the Decl. of Garret D. Murai in Supp. of Pls.' Mot. for Summ. Adjudication, ECF No. 56-2.) However, Plaintiffs dispute the legality of Mr. Young's citizen's arrests and the circumstances surrounding the citizen's arrests, i.e., whether Mr. Young or the defendant officers initiated them. (Pls.' Objections 2:8-10, 5:14-15, 8:11-27.)

III. DISCUSSION

"[T]he federal Constitution requires police officers to have independent probable cause when effectuating a citizen's arrest . . . ." Hopkins v. Bonvicino, 573 F.3d 752, 774 (9th Cir. 2009). In contrast, "California law explicitly exempts officers effectuating a citizen's arrest from civil liability." Id. (citing Cal. Penal Code § 847(b)(3)); see also Meyers v. Redwood City, 400 F.3d 765, 772-73 (9th Cir. 2005) (stating "California courts have held that . . . an officer cannot be sued civilly if he makes [an arrest pursuant to a citizen's arrest] and, it turns out, there were no grounds for the citizen's arrest"). Since the undisputed facts establish Defendants arrested Plaintiffs pursuant to Mr. Young's citizen's arrests, the Tentative Ruling issued granting partial summary judgment in favor of Defendants on Plaintiffs' state law false arrest claims. (Tentative Ruling 4:3-6.)

Plaintiffs object to the Tentative Ruling, arguing "there [are] genuine issue[s] of material fact" as to "the lawfulness of Marc Young's citizen's arrest[s]" and as to who initiated the citizen's arrests, which prevent the Court from granting partial summary judgment in favor of Defendants on their state false arrest ...


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