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Cain A. Gonzales v. City of Clovis

January 29, 2013


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


(Docket No. 7)


On January 11, 2012, Plaintiff Cain Gonzales*fn1 ("Plaintiff") filed a complaint against the City of Clovis; the Clovis Police Department; and the Chief of the Clovis Police Department, Janet Davis.(Doc. 1.) The complaint was dismissed, and Plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint ("FAC") on May 14, 2012, naming an additional defendant, Officer Woods ("Defendant Officer Woods") and DOES 1 through 20.(Doc. 5.) Plaintiff's FAC was dismissed on October 3, 2012, and Plaintiff filed a Second Amended Complaint ("SAC") on November 2, 2012, again naming all the foregoing defendants and adding DOES 1 through 75. (Doc. 7.) For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's SAC is dismissed with leave to amend.


Plaintiff alleges that on September 13, 2010, police officers with the Clovis Police Department executed a search warrant at his residence, which resulted in charges against Plaintiff for possession of a controlled substance. (Doc. 7, ¶ 15.) Officers, including Defendant Officer Woods, entered Plaintiff's residence via the backdoor; the Officers failed to announce themselves by knocking, state who they were, or the purpose of their presence. (Doc. 7, ¶ 16.) During the course of the search, an officer deployed a "flash-bang grenade" causing Plaintiff second- and third-degree burns. (Doc. 7, ¶¶ 17, 22.)*fn2 No warning was provided by the officers before the grenade was detonated. (Doc. 7, ¶ 22.) Plaintiff asserts that unidentified officers present during the search destroyed some of Plaintiff's property, including gold jewelry, coins, television sets, laptop computers, and flat-screen computer monitors. (Doc. 7, ¶ 19.) What the officers did not take, they destroyed and smashed. (Doc 7, ¶ 19.)

Following the search of his residence, Plaintiff was arrested and transported to the Clovis Police Department where he was detained for fifteen hours before being transported to the Fresno Community Hospital, even though he was severely burned and experienced pain and suffering from the grenade. (Doc. 7, ¶ 25.) Plaintiff was treated at the hospital for approximately four hours and was returned to the Fresno County Jail where he was booked. (Doc. 7, ¶ 25.)

After being booked, Plaintiff was released from custody on his own recognizance due to overcrowding of the jail and downsizing. (Doc. 7, ¶ 41.) However, during the "book and release process," Plaintiff "posted [bail] and while the bail was posted, the jail staff never notified the bonds[man] that his client was release[d] on his own recognizance." (Doc. 7, ¶ 29.)

At some point after his release, because the Fresno County Sheriff's office had failed to mention to the bondsman that Plaintiff was released on his own recognizance, Plaintiff was returned to jail by the bondsman because he believed Plaintiff had "skipped bail." (Doc. 7, ¶ 30.) Plaintiff was held for six hours, and then again released on his own recognizance.

After his release from jail, Plaintiff called the police department to report that some of his personal property had been "stolen" while he was detained after his arrest on September 13, 2010. (Doc. 7, ¶ 31.) "While making that report, the police arrested [Plaintiff] again and charged him with receiving stolen property." (Doc. 7, ¶ 31.) Eventually, all charges "[were] dropped, (no charge would be filed at that time), by the [Clovis Police Department]." (Doc. 7, ¶ 33.)

Prior to these incidents with the Clovis Police Department, in December 2006,Plaintiff filed a complaint against the City of Fresno, Police Chief Jerry Dyer, the County of Madera, and Madera County Sheriff John Anderson asserting, inter alia, a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Gonzalez v. City of Fresno, et al., 1:06-cv-01751-OWW-TAG). (See Doc. 7, ¶ 13.) Plaintiff claims that the Defendants named in this case were aware of the Gonzalez v. City of Fresno case and that they arrested him as alleged above in an attempt to punish and intimidate Plaintiff and to "thwart Plaintiff's efforts to seek redress of his prior lawsuit [Gonzalez v. City of Fresno] against the City of Fresno, Chief Dyer and to cause him physical harm and emotional anguish." (Doc. 7, ¶ 13.) Plaintiff asserts that Defendants'*fn3 actions against him, including "unlawful arrests, false prosecutions, police harassment, and excessive use of force," were performed "in an effort to impede and deter Plaintiff from exercising his constitutional rights and to punish him for exercising those rights." (Doc. 7, ¶ 13.)


A. Screening Standard

In cases where the plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis, the Court is required to screen each case and shall dismiss the case at any time if the Court determines that the allegation of poverty is untrue, or the action or appeal is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). If the Court determines that the complaint fails to state a claim, leave to amend may be granted to the extent that the deficiencies of the complaint can be cured by amendment. Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1130 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc).

B. Legal Standard

In determining whether a complaint fails to state a claim, the Court applies the same pleading standard used under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a). Under Rule 8(a), a complaint must contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). "[T]he pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not require 'detailed factual allegations,' but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). "[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). "[A] complaint [that] pleads facts that are 'merely consistent with' a defendant's liability . . . 'stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.'" Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). Further, although a court must accept as true all factual allegations contained in a complaint, a court need not accept a plaintiff's legal conclusions as true. Id. "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

C. Claims Pursuant to Section 1983

Plaintiff states his first two causes of action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Section 1983 of Title 42 of the United States Code does not provide substantive rights; rather, it is "a method for vindicating federal rights elsewhere conferred." Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271 (1994) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). In pertinent part, Section 1983 states as follows:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in any action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress

42 U.S.C. § 1983.

To sufficiently plead a cognizable Section 1983 claim, a plaintiff must allege facts from which it may be inferred that (1) he was deprived of a federal right, and (2) a person who committed the alleged violation acted under the color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Williams v. Gorton, 529 F.2d 668, 670 (9th Cir. 1976). Additionally, a plaintiff must allege that he suffered a specific injury and show a causal relationship between the defendant's conduct and the injury suffered. See Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362, 371-72 (1976).

1. First Cause of Action for Violation of Constitutional Rights Under Section 1983 Plaintiff's SAC sets forth three causes of action; however, under each "cause of action," Plaintiff appears to plead multiple claims. Before any claims may be found to be cognizable, Plaintiff must separate each specific claim he wishes to pursue, identify which Defendants relate to each particular claim, and identify the Constitutional right implicated by each claim. Plaintiff's allegations are considered below and are separated to the extent they appear to state separate claims.

a. First Amendment Claim for Retaliation

Plaintiff claims that his treatment by Defendants in repeatedly arresting him was motivated by Defendants' desire to retaliate against him "for having filed and pursued a claim for civil rights violations and assault and battery in Gonzalez v. City of Fresno, 1:06-cv-01751-OWW-TAG [(E.D. Cal)]." (Doc. 7, ¶ 13.) Plaintiff alleges that the Defendants had no lawful basis for their actions in arresting him on September 13, 2010, or for his subsequent second arrest.

A retaliation claim may be stated where a plaintiff alleges retaliation by state actors for the exercise of his First Amendment rights. See Mt. Healthy City Bd. of Educ. v. Doyle ("Mt. Healthy"), 429 U.S. 274, 283-84 (1977). Retaliation is not expressly referred to in the Constitution, but it is actionable because retaliatory actions may tend to chill an individual's exercise of constitutional rights. See Perry v. Sindermann, 408 U.S. 593, 597 (1972). To adequately state a retaliation claim, the plaintiff must plead facts indicating that the type of activity in which plaintiff was engaged was protected by the First Amendment and that the protected conduct was a substantial or motivating factor for the alleged retaliatory acts. See Mt. Healthy, 429 U.S. at 287. Retaliation is not adequately pled by simply pointing to adverse activity by the defendant after protected speech. Instead, the plaintiff must set forth facts demonstrating a nexus between the two. See Huskey v. City of San Jose, 204 F.3d 893, 899 (9th Cir. 2000) (retaliation claim cannot rest on the logical fallacy of post hoc, ergo propter hoc, i.e., "after this, therefore because of this").

Plaintiff's retaliation claim is not cognizable because there are no facts alleged that suggest a nexus between the filing of Plaintiff's complaint in Gonzalez v. City of Fresno, Case No. 1:06-cv-01751-OWW-TAG and the complained-of-actions of Defendants here in searching Plaintiff's house and arresting him twice. While Plaintiff's arrests occurred after the civil action in Gonzalez v. City of Fresno was filed, a temporal relationship between these events by itself is not sufficient to establish a nexus. Huskey, 204 F.3d at 899. To state a cognizable First Amendment claim for retaliation, ...

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