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James Bozajian v. County of Los Angeles; Steve Cooley

January 28, 2013

JAMES BOZAJIAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES; STEVE COOLEY, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY; CURTIS HAZELL, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY; JOHN SPILLANE, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY; JOHN ZAJEC, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY; JACQUELYN LACEY, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY; JANET MOORE, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY; SHARON MATSUMOTO, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY AND DOES 1--10; DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Otis D. Wright, II United States District Judge

O

ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS' CONVERTED MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [41], MOTION TO DISMISS [34], AND MOTION TO STRIKE [35]

Defendants County of Los Angeles, Steve Cooley, Curtis Hazell, John Spillane, John Zajec, Jacquelyn Lacey, Janet Moore, and Sharon Matsumoto filed three motions with this Court. The first is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. (ECF No. 34.) The Court converted the Motion to Dismiss into a motion for summary judgment on the sole issue of statute of limitations (i.e., the second motion). (ECF No. 41.) The third motion is Defendants' Motion to Strike. (ECF No. 35.) For the reasons explained below, the three motions are DENIED.*fn1

I.BACKGROUND

Plaintiff James Bozajian has been employed since 1990 as a Deputy District Attorney ("Deputy DA") for the County of Los Angeles. (SAC ¶ 8.) Defendant Steve Cooley was the District Attorney for the County of Los Angeles, and Defendants Curtis Hazell, John Spillane, John Zajec, Jacquelyn Lacey, Janet Moore, and Sharon Matsumoto were top ranking officials in the Cooley administration. (SAC ¶¶ 10--11.) Bozajian alleges that Defendants illegally discriminated against him at work, in matters pertaining to promotions, transfers, and discipline. (SAC ¶ 11.)

Cooley and Bozajian used to be friends-but through the years, they parted ways. (SAC ¶¶ 23--25.) Bozajian served on the Board of Directors for the Association of Deputy District Attorneys ("ADDA"), an organization that Cooley allegedly approved of at one time. (SAC ¶¶ 23--28.) After Cooley's 2000 election victory, Bozajian claims that Cooley changed-he became critical of the ADDA. (SAC ¶¶ 29--32.) Cooley allegedly urged Bozajian to not seek re-election to the ADDA Board of Directors, and admitted that Bozajian was one of his top political enemies. (SAC ¶¶ 29--30, 33.)

Bozajian's Second Amended Complaint recounts various incidents between 2001 and 2010 where Defendants discriminated against him for either (1) affiliating with the ADDA, or (2) criticizing the Cooley administration. For instance, between 2001 and 2010, Bozajian's duty assignments were changed annually, something Bozajian claims is highly unusual for a Deputy DA of his seniority. (SAC ¶¶ 34--35.) He also alleges that these transfers were punitive, and happened not only to him, but to other top Deputy DAs that criticized Cooley. (SAC ¶¶ 36, 39--42, 88--99.)

Bozajian admits that he publically criticized some of Cooley's actions, as well as those of Cooley's closest allies. For example, in 2005, Bozajian and the ADDA criticized Cooley for: his lawsuit seeking to overturn voter-imposed term limits; his political stance towards California's Three Strikes law; and his derogatory comments concerning a jury that acquitted Robert Blake of murder. (SAC ¶¶ 43--46.) Bozajian also uncovered an instance of prosecutorial misconduct concerning a sexual-relationship cover-up, openly opposed Cooley in his 2008 re-election, and criticized Lacey in her 2009 efforts to become United States Attorney for the Central District of California. (SAC ¶¶ 54--72, 100--104, 114--118.)

In addition to the punitive assignment transfers, Bozajian alleges that Defendants retaliated against his constitutionally protected activities by: unfairly denying him a promotion; improperly lowering his performance review; suspending him; and ransacking his office. (SAC ¶¶ 47--49, 51--53, 73--75, 102--104, 119--131.)

Ultimately, Bozajian received a 30-day suspension, which began on January 25, 2010. In response, Bozajian filed a complaint on January 26, 2010, with the Los Angeles County Civil Service Commission ("LACCSC"). (SAC ¶ 132--133.) Bozajian subsequently filed this federal suit and withdrew his complaint with the LACCSC. (SAC ¶ 135.)

Defendants now seek to dismiss Bozajian's claims, contending that he: (1) is barred under the statute of limitations; (2) fails to allege with sufficient specificity what individual defendants have done; and (3) fails to state a Monell claim against the County. (ECF No. 34.) The Court converted the Motion to Dismiss, as to the statute of limitations issue, into a motion for summary judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(d). (ECF Nos. 40, 41.) Defendants also filed a Motion to Strike portions of Bozajian's Second Amended Complaint, alleging those portions are immaterial, impertinent, and scandalous. (ECF No. 35.) The Court first turns to the statute of limitations issue.

II.MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

A. Legal standard

Summary judgment should be granted if there are no genuine issues of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The moving party bears the initial burden of establishing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323--24 (1986).

Once the moving party has met its burden, the nonmoving party must go beyond the pleadings and identify specific facts through admissible evidence that show a genuine issue for trial. Id.; Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). Conclusory or speculative testimony in affidavits and moving papers is insufficient to raise genuine issues of fact and defeat ...


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