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Crime, Justice & America, Inc. v. Scott Jones

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA


January 10, 2013

CRIME, JUSTICE & AMERICA, INC., A CALIFORNIA CORPORATION; AND RAY HRDLICKA, AN INDIVIDUAL, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
SCOTT JONES, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY OF SHERIFF OF THE COUNTY OF SACRAMENTO,*FN1 CALIFORNIA, DEFENDANT.

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

ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE AMENDED COMPLAINT AND DENYING MOTION TO JOIN PARTY

Plaintiffs move under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 20(a)(2) for an order joining the present Sheriff of the County of Sacramento, Scott Jones, as a Defendant. (Mot. 14:14-15:2.) However, this portion of Plaintiffs' motion is denied since current Sheriff Scott Jones is already the Defendant in this action under Rule 25(d). See Fed. R. Civ. P. 25(d) ("[W]hen a public officer who is a party in an official capacity . . . ceases to hold office while the action is pending[, t]he officer's successor is automatically substituted as a party."); see also Brandon v. Holt, 469 U.S. 464, 470 (1985) (recognizing the same).

Plaintiffs also move under Rules 16(b)(4) and 15(a)(2) for "leave to amend the Complaint to add claims for violations of due process[,] equal protection," and damages. (Mot. 1:24-25.) Defendant opposes Plaintiffs' motion to amend the complaint, arguing that Plaintiffs have not established good cause justifying the amendment as required under Rule 16. "Rule 16(b)'s 'good cause' standard primarily considers the diligence of the party seeking the amendment. . . . If that party was not diligent, the inquiry should end." Johnson v. Mammoth Recreations, Inc., 975 F.2d 604, 609 (9th Cir. 1992). Defendant contends Plaintiffs did not exercise due diligence because Plaintiffs waited to seek leave to amend the complaint until after a decision was issued on the summary judgment motion. (Opp'n 7:19-8:9.) Plaintiffs argue they could neither seek amendment earlier nor comply with the Status (Pretrial Scheduling) Order because Defendant failed to disclose the bases for Plaintiffs' proposed claims until over nine months after the close of the period for amendments and until two weeks before the deadline for Plaintiffs' opposition to Defendant's summary judgment motion, at which point "Plaintiffs' focus and efforts were on the summary judgment motion." (Reply 6:26-27.) Defendant fails to sufficiently controvert Plaintiffs' position on this matter, and therefore, given an "overall evaluation of [t]he rights of the parties, the ends of justice, and judicial economy," Defendant has not shown that Plaintiffs failed to satisfy the good cause standard. United States v. Dang, 488 F.3d 1135, 1143, 1142 (9th Cir. 2007) (affirming modification of the schedule based on the district court's "overall evaluation of [t]he rights of the parties, the ends of justice, and judicial economy" even though plaintiff could have sought leave to amend earlier) (internal quotation marks omitted).

Defendant additionally contends under Rule 15 that he would be unfairly prejudiced by the addition of Plaintiffs' claims because he "may be unable to identify and/or locate witnesses with knowledge of incidents occurring approximately eight (8) years earlier, witness recollection may now be unclear, and relevant documents may be lost or destroyed." (Opp'n 14:26-28.) However, Defendant has not sustained his "burden of showing prejudice" from Plaintiffs' proposed amendments, DCD Programs, Ltd. v. Leighton, 833 F.2d 183, 187 (9th Cir. 1987), which come at this late date largely due to Defendant's own delay in disclosing the bases for Plaintiffs' proposed claims. Nor-despite his separate arguments concerning bad faith, futility and unfair delay-has Defendant made a strong showing under any of these factors. See Eminence Capital LLC v. Aspeon, Inc., 316 F.3d 1048, 1052 (9th Cir 2003) ("Absent prejudice, or a strong showing of any of the remaining Foman factors, there exists a presumption under Rule 15(a) in favor of granting leave to amend.").

Therefore, Plaintiffs' motion for leave to amend the complaint is granted, except for the portion in which they seek to recover punitive damages from Defendant in his official capacity. (See ECF No. 60-1, Ex. A, 12:12-13; Reply 15:1-10.) This portion of the request is denied since an official sued in his official capacity is not liable for punitive damages. Mitchell v. Dupnik, 75 F.3d 517, 527 (9th Cir. 1996); Shoshone-Bannock Tribes v. Fish & Game Comm'n, 42 F.3d 1278, 1284 (9th Cir. 1994). Plaintiffs have ten (10) days leave from the date on which this Order is filed to file the amended complaint referenced in this Order.


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