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Hupp v. San Diego County

United States District Court, S.D. California

July 21, 2014

PAUL HUPP, Plaintiff,
v.
SAN DIEGO COUNTY, et al., Defendants.

ORDER: 1) GRANTING DEFENDANTS CITY OF SAN DIEGO AND RAYMOND WETZEL'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [Dkt. No. 204.] 2) DENYING PLAINTIFF'S EX PARTE MOTION TO STRIKE [Dkt. No. 274.] 3) VACATING MOTION HEARING

GONZALO P. CURIEL, District Judge.

Presently before the Court is a motion for summary judgment filed by Defendants City of San Diego and Raymond Wetzel (collectively, "Defendants") pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 56. (Dkt. No. 204.) The Parties have filed several briefs in support of and in opposition to Defendants' motion. (Dkt. Nos. 236, 244, 264, 270.) In addition, Plaintiff has filed an ex parte motion to strike Defendants' reply brief filed in response to Defendants' motion. (Dkt. No. 274.) The Court finds the motions suitable for disposition without oral argument. Civ. L. R. 7.1(d)(1). Having considered the entire record of this case, the Parties' respective briefs, submitted evidence, and the applicable law, and for the following reasons, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's ex parte motion to strike and GRANTS Defendants' motion for summary judgment.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

As detailed in prior orders, this action stems from a lengthy history of state civil contempt and criminal court proceedings against Plaintiff Paul Hupp ("Plaintiff") as well as Plaintiff's subsequent detention in San Diego County jail. The present motions concern the liability of San Diego Police Department Detective Raymond "Charlie" Wetzel ("Defendant Wetzel" or "Detective Wetzel") and the City of San Diego for alleged failure to turn over exculpatory Brady evidence during Plaintiff's civil contempt proceedings, as well as their liability for emotional distress and failure to hire, train, discipline, and retain detectives to properly turn over exculpatory evidence. (Dkt. No. 204.)

As alleged in Plaintiff's Third Amended Complaint ("TAC"), the San Diego Superior Court entered a three-year restraining order against Plaintiff on November 15, 2010. (Dkt. No. 64, "TAC" ¶ 26.) The restraining order prohibited Plaintiff from contacting or harassing Administrative Law Judge Freedman, (id.), a judge who entered a civil judgment against Plaintiff in or around 1998. (Dkt. No. 204-5, "Wetzel Decl." ¶ 3.) On July 20, 2011, ALJ Freedman applied for civil contempt of court charges against Plaintiff based on accusations that Plaintiff sent ALJ Freedman four letters in violation of the restraining order. (TAC ¶ 27.) On November 16, 2011, the Superior Court found Plaintiff guilty of violating the restraining order beyond a reasonable doubt and sentenced Plaintiff to 25 days in custody and a $5, 000 fine. (TAC ¶ 32.) The court ordered Plaintiff to self-surrender on January 3, 2012 to serve his sentence. (Wetzel Decl. ¶ 3.)

On December 30, 2011, Defendant Wetzel, in his capacity as a police officer with the San Diego Police Department, was assigned to investigate "allegations of violations of California Penal Code section 422 (criminal threats) and California Penal Code section 166(a)(4) (Contempt of Court) against Paul Hupp." (Wetzel Decl. ¶ 3.) Detective Wetzel learned that ALJ Freedman received an additional threatening letter on December 29, 2011. ( Id. ¶ 4, Ex. 1.) The letter expressly threatened ALJ Freedman's life. (Id.) Detective Wetzel undertook various steps to investigate the charges against Plaintiff. ( Id. ¶¶ 4-13.) Based on his "investigation, knowledge and experience, " Detective Wetzel determined "that the elements of Penal Code section 422 (Criminal Threats) and Penal Code section 166 (Contempt of Court) were met." ( Id. ¶ 13.) Detective Wetzel then "turned over [his] entire investigative file to the District Attorney's office." ( Id. ¶ 13.)

On January 13, 2012, while in custody serving his civil contempt sentence, Plaintiff was arraigned on the criminal threats and contempt of court charges. (Dkt. No. 264-1, Hupp Decl. Ex. 3.) At the arraignment, the government requested an increase in Plaintiff's bail due to evidence of "prelonged[sic] and apparently escalating threat from Mr. Hupp." (Id.) Describing the threatening letter ALJ Freedman received on December 29, 2011, the government requested a bail increase of $200, 000, for a total bail of $250, 000. (Id.) The court set Plaintiff's bail at $150, 000. (Id.)

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On February 28, 2012 Plaintiff Paul Hupp, proceeding pro se, filed this civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Dkt. No. 1.) On August 28, 2012, Plaintiff filed a TAC, the current operative complaint. (Dkt. No. 64.) The TAC names eight Defendants, including the County of San Diego, the City of San Diego, the City of Beaumont, and five individual Defendants. (Id.) In the TAC, Plaintiff alleges the following causes of action: (1) withholding of "Brady" evidence; (2) conspiracy to withhold "Brady" evidence; (3) interference with legal mail; (4) unlawful detention; (5) intentional infliction of emotional distress; (6) gross negligence in the hiring of deputy district attorneys and peace officers; (7) gross negligence in the training of deputy district attorneys and peace officers; (8) gross negligence in the supervision of deputy district attorneys and peace officers; (9) gross negligence in the retention of deputy district attorneys and peace officers; (10) declaratory and injunctive relief as to the Defendant Kiernan's ineffective assistance as counsel; (11) declaratory and injunctive relief against San Diego Sheriff's Department; (12) interference with free speech, right to petition government and legal proceedings due to wrongful search and seizure. (TAC ¶¶ 47-141.)

On December 6, 2013, Defendants Raymond "Charlie" Wetzel and the City of San Diego filed the present motion for summary judgment or partial summary judgment as to Causes of Action 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 as alleged against them in Plaintiff's TAC. (Dkt. No. 204.) On December 10, 2013, this Court set a briefing schedule requiring Plaintiff to file a response on or by December 27, 2013. (Dkt. No. 128.) On December 24, 2013, Plaintiff filed a motion for extension of time to respond to Defendants' motion for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(d). (Dkt. No. 215.) Plaintiff sought "30 days to respond to CITY and WETZEL'S motion for summary judgment after both have produced meaningful discovery to Plaintiff." ( Id. at 4) (emphasis in original). In support of the motion for extension of time, Plaintiff submitted a declaration stating that Plaintiff is litigating multiple cases simultaneously, (Dkt. No. 215 at 6), and that Plaintiff lacks meaningful discovery from Defendants necessary to prepare an opposition to the motion for summary judgment, (id. at 8-9). The Court found that neither reason justified a stay on consideration of Defendants' motion for summary judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(d).[1] The Court therefore denied Plaintiff's motion for extension of time. (Dkt. No. 220.)

However, recognizing that Plaintiff proceeds pro per, the Court exercised discretion pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 6(b)(1) to grant Plaintiff an extension of time for good cause. (Id.) Accordingly, the Court continued by two months the hearing set to hear Defendants' motion and allowed Plaintiff an additional month, until February 28, 2014, to prepare a responsive brief. (Id.)

On February 28, 2014, Plaintiff filed a second ex parte motion for extension of time to file a response to Defendants' motion for summary judgment. (Dkt. No. 238.) Plaintiff claimed he was not aware he needed to identify the specific facts further discovery would reveal in order to request an extension of time, (id. at 3), and provided a declaration stating that he "expect[ed] specific facts' from [his] INITIAL FIRST ROUND OF DISCOVERY REQUESTS to reveal that Defendants withheld exculpatory evidence from Plaintiff in his civil contempt hearing in 2011." ( Id. at 7) (emphasis in original). On March 28, 2014, the Court again found that Plaintiff had failed to identify specific facts further discovery would reveal to justify an extension of time under Rule 56(d). (Dkt. No. 245 at 3.)

However, again recognizing that Plaintiff proceeds in this matter pro per and that Plaintiff then had a motion to compel discovery from Defendants that was still under consideration by Magistrate Judge Brooks, the Court temporarily stayed the briefing schedule on the present motion for summary judgment pending a ruling on Plaintiff's motion to compel discovery from Defendants. (Id.) On April 10, 2014, Judge Brooks granted in part and denied in part Plaintiff's motion to compel discovery from Defendants City of San Diego and Raymond Wetzel. (Dkt. No. 251.) Specifically, the court granted Plaintiff's motion to compel: (1) two answers from Defendants to Plaintiff's requests for admission; and (2) certain materials pursuant to a protective order limiting the dissemination of those materials. (Dkt. No. 251.) In all other respects, the court denied Plaintiff's motion to compel discovery from Defendants. (Id.) This Court accordingly reset a briefing schedule on the present Motion for Summary Judgment, requiring Plaintiff to file a response to the motion on or by June 20, 2014. (Dkt. No. 252.)

On May 5, 2014, Plaintiff filed a motion to compel compliance with the court's April 10, 2014 order, stating that Defendants had produced only the court-ordered answers to Plaintiff's requests for admission. The Parties were unable to stipulate to a protective order. (Dkt. No. 255, 255-1.) On June 16, 2014, Defendants filed a response to Plaintiff's motion to compel compliance, (Dkt. No. 262), along with an ex parte motion for a protective order, (Dkt. No. 263). On June 24, 2014, the court denied Plaintiff's motion to compel compliance and granted Defendants' request for a protective order, conditioning Plaintiff's receipt of relevant discovery documents on his agreement to Defendants' protective order. (Dkt. No. 265.)

Plaintiff filed a response to Defendants' pending Motion for Summary Judgment on June 20, 2014. (Dkt. No. 264.) Defendants filed a reply on July 7, 2014. (Dkt. No. 270.) On July 18, 2014, Plaintiff filed an ex parte ...


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