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Muhammad v. Garrett

United States District Court, E.D. California

August 20, 2014

CHAD GARRETT, et al., Defendant.


JENNIFER L. THURSTON, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Kareem Muhammad seeks leave to file a Third Amended Complaint. (Doc. 80.) The City of Bakersfield and Christopher Messick (collectively, "Defendants") do not oppose the amendment. (Doc. 82.) Because matter is suitable for decision without oral argument, the motion was taken under submission pursuant to Local Rule 230(g). For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's motion for leave to amend is GRANTED.

I. Relevant Procedural History

Plaintiff initiated this action by filing his complaint on July 23, 2012 (Doc. 1), and filed a First Amended Complaint on August 20, 2012. (Doc. 5.) The Court screened Plaintiff's amended complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1915(e)(2), and found Plaintiff stated cognizable claims for violations of the Fourth Amendment. (Doc. 6 at 6.) Because Plaintiff provided few facts regarding his arrest, the Court granted Plaintiff an opportunity to either (1) cure the deficiencies identified by the Court by providing additional facts to support his claims or (2) notify the Court of his willingness to proceed upon the Fourth Amendment claims. ( Id. )

On September 7, 2012, Plaintiff filed a Second Amended Complaint in which he alleged excessive force and unlawful arrest in violation of the Fourth Amendment. (Doc. 7 at 1). The Court issued an informational order on September 26, 2012, informing Plaintiff that because charges were pending against him, the matter would be stayed if he desired to pursue his claim for unlawful arrest. (Doc. 10 at 6). Accordingly, Plaintiff filed a notice on October 1, 2012, in which he informed the Court that "he desires to abandon his claim for unlawful arrest and proceed only on his claim for excessive force." (Doc. 11). Because Plaintiff's factual allegations in this action were similar, if not identical, to those in Case No. 1:12-cv-2025-AWI-JLT, the actions were consolidated. (Doc. 36.)

On January 24, 2014, Plaintiff initiated an action in Kern County Superior Court, Case No. S-1500-CV-281149-LHB. Plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint against the City of Bakersfield, Bakersfield Police Department, and Officer Christopher Messick on February 3, 2014. The defendants filed a Notice of Removal on May 8, 2014, thereby initiating Case No. 1:14-cv-00683-LJO-JLT before this Court. In addition, the defendants filed a Notice of Related Case, asserting Plaintiff's claims in " Muhammad v. City of Bakersfield, et al., Case No. 1:14-CV-00683-LJO-JLT arise from the same incident occurring on February 26, 2012, wherein plaintiff alleges that Officer Christopher Messick violated his Fourth Amendment rights causing him injury." (Doc. 69 at 1.) The Court issued an order consolidating the actions on May 30, 2014. (Doc. 75.)

Following a conference with the parties, the Court issued is Scheduling Order on May 30, 2014, directing Plaintiff to file "[a]ny requested pleading amendments are ordered to be filed, either through a stipulation or motion to amend, no later than June 30, 2014." (Doc. 76 at 2, emphasis omitted.) In compliance with the Court's Order, Plaintiff filed the motion to amend now pending before the Court on June 28, 2014. (Doc. 80.) Defendants City of Bakersfield and Christopher Messick filed a response to the motion on July 28, 2014, reporting they do not oppose the motion to amend. (Doc. 82.)

II. Legal Standards for Leave to Amend

Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a), a party may amend a pleading once as a matter of course within 21 days of service, or if the pleading is one to which a response is required, 21 days after service of a motion under Rule 12(b), (e), or (f). "In all other cases, a party may amend its pleading only with the opposing party's written consent or the court's leave." Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). Here, Defendants filed their Answer to the Third Amended Complaint on June 2, 2014. (Doc. 77.) Therefore, Plaintiff requires either consent of the defendants or leave of the Court to file an amended complaint.

Granting or denying leave to amend a complaint is in the discretion of the Court, Swanson v. United States Forest Service, 87 F.3d 339, 343 (9th Cir. 1996), though leave should be "freely give[n] when justice so requires." Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). "In exercising this discretion, a court must be guided by the underlying purpose of Rule 15 to facilitate decision on the merits, rather than on the pleadings or technicalities." United States v. Webb, 655 F.2d 977, 979 (9th Cir. 1981). Consequently, the policy to grant leave to amend is applied with extreme liberality. Id.

There is no abuse of discretion "in denying a motion to amend where the movant presents no new facts but only new theories and provides no satisfactory explanation for his failure to fully develop his contentions originally." Bonin v. Calderon, 59 F.3d 815, 845 (9th Cir. 1995); see also Allen v. City of Beverly Hills, 911 F.2d 367, 374 (9th Cir. 1990). After a defendant files an answer, leave to amend should not be granted where "amendment would cause prejudice to the opposing party, is sought in bad faith, is futile, or creates undue delay." Madeja v. Olympic Packers, 310 F.3d 628, 636 (9th Cir. 2002) (citing Yakima Indian Nation v. Wash. Dep't of Revenue, 176 F.3d 1241, 1246 (9th Cir. 1999)).

III. Discussion and Analysis

In evaluating a motion to amend under Rule 15, the Court may consider (1) whether the plaintiff has previously amended his complaint, (2) undue delay, (3) bad faith, (4) futility of amendment, and (5) prejudice to the opposing party. Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962); Loehr v. Ventura County Community College Dist., 743 F.2d 1310, 1319 (9th Cir. 1984). These factors are not of equal weight as prejudice to the opposing party has long been held to be the most critical factor to determine whether to grant leave to amend. ...

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