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Vaughn v. Bonaventure

United States District Court, N.D. California, San Francisco Division

May 8, 2014

ROSA RENETIA VAUGHN and DELVON MORGAN, JR., Plaintiffs,
v.
OFFICER C. BONAVENTURE, OFFICER D. KACALEK, SGT. J. CHU, OFFICER J. LUNA, Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

RICHARD SEEBORG, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Rosa Renetia Vaughn and her son, Delvon Morgan, Jr., proceeding in pro se, brought this suit against four officers of the Berkeley police department for alleged misconduct during the execution of a search warrant on Vaughn's apartment on November 16, 2011, and the subsequent arrest of Morgan. The officers filed a motion for summary judgment, to which plaintiffs have not responded. The motion was determined to be appropriate for disposition without oral argument according to Civil Local Rule 7-1(b). Plaintiffs' time to respond having expired, and good cause appearing, defendants' motion is hereby granted for the reasons set forth below.

II. BACKGROUND

On November 16, 2011, Sergeant Jeffrey Chu obtained a warrant to search Rosa Renetia Vaughn's residence at 3320 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way in Oakland based on probable cause that her son, Delvon Morgan, Jr., resided at the residence and had been involved in two armed robberies, for which the investigation was ongoing. Plaintiffs do not challenge the issuance of the search warrant.

Officers Darren Kacalek, Christopher Bonaventure, and Jeffrey Luna participated in serving the search warrant with Sergeant Chu. When the officers entered the apartment, they had their handguns unholstered and in a "low ready" position. Vaughn was home alone with her baby. Once inside the apartment, Officer Bonaventure and Officer Kacalek found cocaine packaged for sale and a loaded handgun in the upper northwest bedroom, as well as several pieces of Vaughn's identification in that same room, all of which were seized by the officers. Vaughn was then arrested and handcuffed. In a separate bedroom, Sergeant Chu located and seized stolen property as well as Morgan's Social Security card. Morgan was later convicted of robbery.

In the complaint, Vaughn states she was "not aware of the drugs or a gun in my bedroom, " noting that she had hosted a social gathering two nights before the officers searched her home. In her deposition, she again stated she does not know how the narcotics and the gun came to be in her bedroom, but she suggested they belonged to a male friend named Darnell or were otherwise left there after a party. Vaughn nevertheless pled guilty or no contest to possession of narcotics.

Morgan was not present during the search, and Officers Kacalek, Bonaventure, and Luna deny ever coming into contact with him. Sergeant Chu met Morgan at the police station after he was in police custody and in the presence of a third party officer the day before the search warrant was served. Chu denies using force against Morgan or threatening or coercing him in any manner, and states he did not see anyone else do so. Vaughn admits that although she claims the unnamed officer that arrested Morgan struck him, she does not claim that any of the four officers named in this lawsuit did so.

Vaughn states in the complaint that she is suing for "defamation of character, " a state law claim. She further alleges it was improper for the officers to have seized her identification cards and cell phone and that the officers improperly had their weapons drawn at the time they entered the apartment. Finally, plaintiffs allege the officers used excessive force in the arrest of Morgan.

III. LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 56(a). The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986); see also Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 56(c)(1)(A). If the movant succeeds, the burden then shifts to the nonmoving party to "set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Id. at 322 n.3; see also Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 56(c)(1)(B). A genuine issue of material fact is one that could reasonably be resolved in favor of the nonmoving party, and which could "affect the outcome of the suit." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The Court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all justifiable inferences in its favor. See id. at 255.

IV. DISCUSSION

A. State Tort Claims

The California Tort Claims Act provides that public entities and employees are liable in tort only to the extent provided by statute. Cal. Gov't Code § 815. Government Code § 905 requires the presentation of "all claims for money or damages against local public entities" before suit is filed, subject to exceptions not relevant here. City of Stockton v. Superior Court, 42 Cal.4th 730, 737, (2007). Failure to file a pre-lawsuit claim is fatal to a state law claim for damages against covered entities. State v. Superior Court (Bodde), 32 Cal.4th 1234, ...


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