United States District Court, E.D. California
Halema BUZAYAN, an individual; Dr. Jamal Buzayan, an individual; Najat Abdalla Darrat, an individual; Mohamed Buzayan, by and through R. Jamal Buzayan, as Guardian Ad Litem for a minor; Yousef Buzayan, by and through Dr. Jamal Buzayan, as Guardian Ad Litem for a minor; Ali Buzayan, by and through Dr. Jamal Buzayan, as Guardian Ad Litem for a minor, Plaintiffs,
The CITY OF DAVIS; James Hyde, individually and in his capacity as Chief of Police of the City of Davis Police Department; Steven Pierce, individually and in his official capacity with the City of Davis Police Department; Pheng Ly, individually and in his capacity as an officer of the City of Davis Police Department; Ben Hartz, individually and as officer of the City of Davis Police Department; David Henderson, individually and in his capacity as District Attorney for the Yolo County Office of the District Attorney; Patricia Fong, individually and in her capacity as Deputy District Attorney for the Yolo County Office of the District Attorney and member of the Davis Police Department Advisory Board, Defendants.
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Gilbert Whitney Leigh, Matthew Lowe Springman, Attorney at Law, Brian James Brazier, Matthew Rutledge Schultz, San Francisco, CA, for Plaintiffs. Bruce Alan Kilday, J. Scott Smith, John A. Whitesides, Angelo Kilday and Kilduff, Sacramento, CA, Douglas Robert Thorn, Douglas R. Thorn, Esq., Citrus Heights, CA, Rochelle L. Wilcox, Los Angeles, CA, for Plaintiffs.
Bruce Alan Kilday, J. Scott Smith, John A. Whitesides, Angelo Kilday and Kilduff, Sacramento, CA, Douglas Robert Thorn, Douglas R. Thorn, Esq., Citrus Heights, CA, Rochelle L. Wilcox, Los Angeles, CA, for Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
MORRISON C. ENGLAND, JR., Chief Judge.
Through the present action, Halema Buzayan and the Buzayan family seek damages as a result of events stemming from hit-and-run charges levied against Halema as a result of an incident which allegedly occurred in Davis, California, on June 7, 2005. Presently before the Court are cross-motions for partial summary judgment brought with respect to two of the claims brought by Plaintiffs in their Second Amended and Supplemental Complaint, filed January 3, 2008. First, both Plaintiffs and Defendants City of Davis, James Hyde, Steven Pierce, Pheng Ly, Ben Hartz, David Henderson and Patricia Fong (collectively referred to as " Defendants" unless otherwise indicated) seek to summarily adjudicate Plaintiffs' Fourteenth Cause of Action, which asserts a violation of Plaintiff's right to privacy under Article I, Section 1 of the California Constitution. Secondly, the same parties also seek partial summary judgment as to the Fifteenth Cause of Action, which alleges violations both of California's common law right to privacy and to statutory rights to private information protected under the California Information Practices Act, California Civil Code § 1798.53, et seq. As set forth below, Defendants' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment will be granted, and Plaintiffs' corresponding cross motion will be denied.
The facts of this matter have already been discussed at length in prior rulings made by the Court. On June 7, 2005, a hit and-run accident occurred in a supermarket parking lot located in Davis, California. An alleged eyewitness, Marc Rowe, claims he saw a Toyota Highlander strike the rear end of a 2001 Mazda Proté gé owned by Adrienne Wonhof-Gustafson. Mr. Rowe also provided a license plate number for the Toyota which allegedly left the scene of the incident. Later that same day, Defendant Pheng Ly, an Officer with the City of Davis Police Department, came to Ms. Wonhof's residence to inspect the damage to her car.
After running a check on the license plate number provided by Mr. Rowe, Officer Ly discovered that the plate matched a 2004 Toyota registered to Plaintiff Jamal
Buzayan and his wife. Plaintiff Najat Darrat at 1131 Pistachio Court in Davis. Officer Ly drove to the Buzayan residence and ultimately found Mr. Buzayan at home at about 9:30 p.m. on the evening of the incident. Ly explained that he was investigating a reported hit-and-run involving a blue Toyota Highlander, license plate number 5GXT958, which Buzayan confirmed was his vehicle. After Mr. Buzayan asked Officer Ly if he wished to examine the vehicle, they went into the garage. The license number of the Highlander parked there matched the number provided by the witness and had corner damage to the right front/passenger bumper. Ms. Darrat then appeared and, while she admitted driving the Toyota to Safeway several times earlier in the day, denied being at Safeway around 6:30 p.m. when the witness observed the alleged incident. Neither Mr. Buzayan nor Ms. Darrat had noticed the Toyota's bumper damage previously. Officer Ly took pictures of that damage.
When Officer Ly inquired with respect to any other drivers in the household, he learned that the couple's daughter, sixteen-year-old Halema, had a driver's license. Officer Ly then asked to speak to Halema, who denied driving the Highlander to Safeway that day. Officer Ly made audio recordings of his interviews with the Buzayans.
According to Officer Ly, as a result of this investigation, which all appears to have occurred the evening of the incident, he concluded that Halema Buzayan had likely been driving the Highlander and collided with the Wonhof-Gustafson Mazda on June 7, 2005. Officer Ly did not arrest Halema, however, until almost a week later, on June 13, 2005, when he returned to the Buzayan/Darrat home at about 9:40 p.m. with Officer Hartz (who also has been named as a Defendant) and transported Halema to the Davis Police Station for booking, fingerprinting and questioning before releasing her to her parents with a Notice to Appear. Halema's arrest was effectuated without any warrant. Officer Ly also made audiotapes of Halema's arrest and her subsequent questioning.
Jamal Buzayan contacted the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in the wake of his daughter's arrest and also complained to the Davis City Council about what had happened. Mr. Buzayan further contends he filed a complaint against the Police Department, which he states was rejected. Mr. Buzayan alleged that his family had been unfairly targeted by the police because of their Muslim background. Thereafter, on or about September 20, 2005, Plaintiffs filed a Government Tort Claim against both the City of Davis and the Davis Police Department.
The Buzayans' claims created an outcry within the City of Davis along with extensive media interest and coverage. Protests were held in the family's honor and public calls for additional police oversight were made.
On or about November 18, 2005, Defendant Patricia Fong, an attorney with the Yolo County Office of the District Attorney, filed juvenile misdemeanor charges against Halema Buzayan. In March and April of 2006, the Buzayans gave interviews to the media and provided a television station, KGO-Channel 7 in Sacramento, with unredacted copies of the audiotapes that had been made by Officer Ly. Portions of audiotapes were subsequently disclosed by KGO.
On or about March 20, 2006, Defendants sought sanctions as well as a media gag order against Plaintiffs in an attempt to prevent all parties from communicating with the media about the case. Plaintiffs' opposition took the position that the " important public interest in understanding how its government operates" weighed in
favor of full media access to the case. ECF No. 246, Ex. B., 5:1-12. The opposition went on to specifically represent that " the minor and her family do not seek to require that these proceedings be kept confidential." Id. at 1:16-18. Yolo County Superior Court Judge Thomas Warriner subsequently denied the motion for sanctions on March 24, 2006, but ordered the parties to refrain from any further disclosures, " except that counsel for the minor and the People may disclose to the public information regarding the procedural status of the case. Id. at Ex. C, 3:26-28.
Despite Judge Warriner's order, media interest in the matter only intensified. Another television station, KXTV-Channel 10, quoted from the audiotapes provided to KGO, commented on the March 24, 2006 court proceedings on Defendants' media gag order request, and cited Jamal Buzayan's statement that he intended to file suit irrespective of the outcome of the criminal proceedings. The Sacramento Bee and The Davis Enterprise newspapers ran similar stories, and a later Davis Enterprise article published on March 26, 2006 cited commentary from Plaintiffs' counsel Whitney Leigh about the March 24th hearing and his future case plans.
Given the increasing media coverage as outlined above, Defendant Fong filed a second motion, seeking sanctions against Attorney Leigh for the March 26, 2006 Davis Enterprise article and asking Judge Warriner to extend that gag order to the Buzayans. That motion was again denied, and the very same day KGO ran another article about the case that included more excerpts from the June 13, 2005 arrest audiotape. In addition, both The Sacramento Bee and The Davis Enterprise ran stories about the April 3rd hearing the following day. Id. at Ex. F, pp. 8-9, 13. By that time, Halema Buzayan had appeared on local television four times. ECF No. 43, ¶ 12.
In the wake of this additional coverage, Defendant Fong filed a third motion several days later, on April 5, 2006, seeking to vacate the gag order in its entirety on grounds of Halema's waiver of any confidentiality, and on grounds that the failure to include the Buzayans in the existing order rendered the flow of information necessarily one-sided. ECF No. 246 at Ex. F. Judge Warriner granted the People's request to dissolve the gag order. Although attorney Leigh requested that the court open the proceedings entirely, the Court ordered that the matter revert to the confidentiality safeguards attendant to a normal juvenile proceeding.
On April 17, 2006, the Yolo County Superior Court granted a motion to dismiss the claim against Halema on grounds that the vehicle damage at issue had already been paid for by Plaintiffs and because the City generally did not pursue criminal charges where such compensation had occurred. About a week later, reporter Lauren Keene from The Davis Enterprise met with Defendant Fong about the dismissed prosecution. According to Fong, she decided at that time that under the circumstances the best way for the public to access what actually happened at the time of the arrest was to release the audio recordings themselves. Fong met with the District Attorney, Defendant David Henderson, and requested his approval. According to Henderson, he approved the request ...