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Rubenstein v. Whittier Police Department

United States District Court, C.D. California

September 25, 2014

ELISSA RUBENSTEIN, Plaintiff,
v.
WHITTIER POLICE DEPARTMENT, et al., Defendants.

ORDER DISMISSING PLAINTIFF'S FOURTH AMENDED COMPLAINT WITH LEAVE TO AMEND

KENLY KIYA KATO, Magistrate Judge.

I.

INTRODUCTION

On August 27, 2014, plaintiff, proceeding in forma pauperis, filed a pro se Fourth Amended Complaint ("FAC") alleging two civil rights claims against nine named Whittier Police Department ("WPD") officers, in their individual capacities. Upon screening the FAC pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), the Court finds that plaintiff's allegations state a claim under the Fourth Amendment in regard to defendants Nyberg, Plank, Bolanos, Karson, Jensen, Cheng, and Esquivel, but do not state a claim in regard to the remaining two defendants or her other cause of action. Accordingly, the FAC is dismissed with leave to amend. If plaintiff desires to pursue this action, she is ORDERED to file within 28 days of the service date of this Order a Fifth Amended Complaint remedying the deficiencies discussed below or, alternatively, a voluntary dismissal of all claims and defendants unrelated to her cognizable Fourth Amendment claim against the aforementioned seven defendants.

II.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On January 8, 2014, plaintiff Elissa Rubenstein ("plaintiff"), who is at liberty and has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis, filed a pro se Civil Rights Complaint ("Original Complaint") pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983"). (ECF Docket No. ("dkt.") 1). Plaintiff sued the WPD and "Does 1-10" ("Doe Defendants"). Plaintiff sued the Doe Defendants in their individual and official capacities, and sought monetary relief from all defendants.

On January 14, 2014, this Court dismissed the Original Complaint and granted plaintiff leave to amend to the extent plaintiff could state any viable claims against the defendants. (Dkt. 8). On January 28, 2014, plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint which alleged multiple civil rights claims against only defendant WPD - apparently predicated on most of the same misconduct alleged in the Original Complaint-and sought monetary relief from defendant WPD. (Dkt. 9). On February 25, 2014, this Court dismissed the First Amended Complaint because it failed to comply with Rule 8 ("Rule 8") and Rule 10 ("Rule 10") of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and failed to state a viable Section 1983 claim for municipal liability against defendant WPD. (Dkt. 11). The Court granted plaintiff leave to amend to the extent she could state any viable claims against the defendant.

On March 11, 2014, plaintiff filed a Second Amended Complaint which alleged multiple civil rights claims against eleven named WPD officers[1] and defendant WPD, again apparently predicated on most of the same misconduct alleged in plaintiff's first two complaints. (Dkt. 12). Plaintiff sued the individual defendants in their official capacities only, and sought monetary relief from all defendants. On April 23, 2014, this Court dismissed the Second Amended Complaint because it again failed to comply with Rules 8 and 10 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and also failed to state a viable Section 1983 municipal liability claim. (Dkt. 15). The Court granted plaintiff leave to amend to the extent she could state any viable claims against the defendants.

On April 30, 2014, plaintiff filed the Third Amended Complaint, which alleged multiple civil rights claims against defendant WPD and the same eleven named WPD officers, again apparently predicated on most of the same misconduct alleged in plaintiff's first three complaints. (Dkt. 16). Plaintiff again sued the individual defendants in their official capacities only, and sought only monetary relief. On August 15, 2014, this Court dismissed the Third Amended Complaint, finding that plaintiff stated a viable Fourth Amendment claim against nine of the eleven named WPD officers in their individual capacities, [2] but failed to state a claim in regard to all of her other causes of action against all other defendants. (Dkt. 20). The Court also found that plaintiff could plausibly allege facts in support of her procedural due process-based defamation claim in a later complaint. Hence, the Court granted plaintiff leave to amend, instructing plaintiff that she could elect to either (1) proceed solely on her cognizable Fourth Amendment claim against the nine WPD defendants in their individual capacities; or (2) file a Fourth Amended Complaint including her Fourth Amendment claim and additional facts in support of her procedural due process-based defamation claim.

Plaintiff appears to have pursued the latter of these two options. On August 27, 2014, plaintiff filed the instant FAC, asserting two civil rights claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against the nine WPD officers identified by the Court in its Order dismissing the Third Amended Complaint, in their individual capacities. (Dkt. 22). Plaintiff seeks only monetary relief. (FAC at 31-36).

III.

ALLEGATIONS IN THE FAC

A. Factual Allegations

On the afternoon of February 4, 2009, plaintiff was seriously injured in an automobile accident with another car. (FAC at 3-5, 19). Suffering from severe bleeding, Plaintiff left the scene of the accident and went back to her home. (Id. at 5, 19). Suddenly, about twenty minutes after the accident, defendants Nyberg, Plank, Bolanos, Karson, Jensen, Cheng, and Esquivel barged into plaintiff's home, without knocking or asking for plaintiff's consent to enter. (Id. at 19). The defendants did not have a warrant or probable cause. (Id.). Believing plaintiff to have been driving under the influence of alcohol, the defendants seized plaintiff, confined her to her chair, and interrogated her for a two-hour period without any break. (Id. at 20). Throughout the interrogation, plaintiff remained compliant and asserted that while she was not intoxicated, she regretted leaving the scene of the automobile accident. (Id. at 21). Despite plaintiff's statements, the defendants continued interrogating her and never administered any standard drunk driving tests to determine whether she was intoxicated. (Id. at 21-22).

Further, believing plaintiff to be engaged in illegal drug use, the defendants searched plaintiff's desk, drawers, bathroom medicine cabinet, and handbag. (Id. at 20). Upon finding plaintiff's prescription medications, the defendants asked plaintiff ...


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