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Sergei Portnoy v. County of Yolo

May 13, 2013

SERGEI PORTNOY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COUNTY OF YOLO, ET AL.
DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kendall J. Newman United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER

Plaintiff Sergei Portnoy, proceeding without counsel, commenced this action on February 19, 2013, alleging claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and California state law against the Yolo County Sheriff Department and the Monroe Detention Center. (Dkt. No. 1.)*fn1 On February 22, 2013, the court granted plaintiff's request to proceed in forma pauperis and directed service on defendant County of Yolo. (Dkt. No. 3.) In directing service on defendant County of Yolo only, the court noted:

Plaintiff's complaint actually names the Yolo County Sheriff Department and the Monroe Detention Center as defendants. However, defendant Yolo County Sheriff Department is an improper party to the action, because it is merely a department or subdivision of the local government entity that should be properly named as a party, in this case the County of Yolo. See Pellum v. Fresno Police Dep't, 2011 WL 350155, at *2 (E.D. Cal. Feb. 2, 2011); Vance v. County of Santa Clara, 928 F. Supp. 993, 996 (N.D. Cal. 1996) (noting that the term "persons" for purposes of section 1983 does not encompass municipal departments); Stump v. Gates, 777 F. Supp. 808, 816 (D. Colo. 1991) ("naming a municipal department as a defendant is not an appropriate means of pleading a § 1983 action against a municipality"). However, in the interests of efficiency and because the County of Yolo is clearly implicated by plaintiff's allegations regarding the Yolo County Sheriff Department, the court instead directs service on the County of Yolo. Furthermore, because the Monroe Detention Center, as alleged in plaintiff's complaint, is simply a jail operated by the Yolo County Sheriff Department, it is a superfluous party to the action and need not be served in addition to the County of Yolo itself.

(Dkt. No. 3 at 2 n.2.) The court further observed that the order directing service of plaintiff's complaint "does not preclude defendant from challenging plaintiff's complaint through a timely motion pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12 or other appropriate method of challenging plaintiff's pleading." (Id. at 2.)

Subsequently, on April 16, 2013, defendant County of Yolo filed the instant motion to dismiss plaintiff's complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (Dkt. No. 7.) On April 22, 2013, plaintiff filed an opposition to the motion. (Dkt. No. 8.) Defendant County of Yolo filed a reply brief on May 9, 2013. (Dkt. No. 9.) Thereafter, on May 13, 2013, the motion was submitted upon the record and briefs on file without oral argument. See E.D. Cal. L.R. 230(g). (Dkt. No. 10.)

After considering the parties' briefs and the applicable law, the court grants defendant's motion to dismiss with leave to amend.

BACKGROUND

The background facts are taken from plaintiff's original complaint. (See Dkt. No. 1.) Plaintiff, a resident of Woodland, California, alleges that he was delivered by a Woodland Police Department officer to the Yolo County jail (the Monroe Detention Center) on February 23, 2011, for detention without a warrant, but based on a "Probable Cause Declaration" made by a Woodland Police Department officer. (Id. at 2.) The Probable Cause Declaration, attached to plaintiff's complaint, provided the following alleged facts*fn2 in support of probable cause for plaintiff's arrest:

On 11/21/10, 11/23/10, 11/26/10, Sergei deposited three checks from US Federal Savings Bank for $2,000.00 each into his wife's checking account at River City Bank (199 Main St Woodland), for a total of $6,000.00. Sergei then withdrew the $6,000.00 from the checking account. The checks were returned from US Federal Savings Bank stating there were insufficient funds. All the transactions were done at the ATM at River City Bank 199 Main Street Woodland, and were documented on video surveillance footage, which shows Sergei making the deposits and withdrawing the funds.

Sergei had permission from his wife, Elena Portnoy to use the River City Bank account and had been doing so for several transactions prior to 11/21/10.

(Id. at 4.) The booking charge was listed as California Penal Code section 476a, which relates to writing bad checks and can potentially be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor. See Cal. Penal Code § 476a. (Id.) The date/time of plaintiff's arrest was noted to be February 23, 2011, at 11:08 a.m., with a 48-hour expiration date/time of February 25, 2011, at 11:08 a.m. (Id.) The Probable Cause Declaration form also states that the above-mentioned facts relating to probable cause were read to a Judge Fall on February 24, 2011, at 7:30 a.m. (Id.) There is a handwritten February 24, 2011, "OK" notation referencing Judge Fall, suggesting that Judge Fall found probable cause on that date. (Id.)

Plaintiff claims that he continued to be detained after expiration of the 48-hour period on February 25, 2011, at 11:08 a.m. (Dkt. No. 1 at 2.) At around 1:00 p.m. on February 25, 2011, plaintiff was allegedly handcuffed and brought to the courthouse where commissioner Janene Beronio purportedly determined that there were no charges against plaintiff and that he should be released. (Id. at 2-3.) Despite the commissioner's determination, a Yolo County Sheriff Department officer refused plaintiff's request to immediately take off plaintiff's handcuffs, and the commissioner declined to order the officer to do so. (Id. at 3.) After a few hours, plaintiff was then delivered back to the jail, where he was released around 9:00 p.m. that night. (Id.) Plaintiff contends that he was unlawfully detained from 11:08 a.m. (the expiration of the 48-hour period since his arrest) until 9:00 p.m. on February 25, 2011, in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. (Id. at 2-3.) Plaintiff further alleges that he was assaulted by being handcuffed against his will. (Id. at 3.)

Based on these allegations, plaintiff asserts a claim for violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983, as well as claims for assault, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent infliction of emotional distress under California state law. (Dkt. No. 1 at ...


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