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Wilson v. County of Contra Costa

United States District Court, N.D. California

May 6, 2015

COUNTY OF CONTRA COSTA, et al., Defendants.


SUSAN ILLSTON, District Judge.

Currently before the Court are defendants' motions to dismiss, Docket Nos. 67, 90, 91, which for the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part.


In his first amended pro se complaint, plaintiff alleges as follows. On February 2, 2014, at or about 6:10 a.m., plaintiff entered the lobby of the 24-hour Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office (CCCSO). First Amended Complaint (FAC) ¶¶ 24, 27. Plaintiff picked up a white phone at a public service window and told the CCCSO employee who answered the phone that he needed to report some crimes and requested medical attention, asking her to call 911. Id. ¶ 27. The employee then contacted defendant Kelly Challand. Id. Challand summoned defendant deputy sheriff Chad MacDonald to confirm plaintiff's identity. Id. ¶ 28. MacDonald offered to let plaintiff sit down in a nearby chair, which plaintiff refused. Id. ¶ 29. According to plaintiff, MacDonald did not offer him the medical attention he requested nor did he call 911. Id. Plaintiff handed MacDonald a report and request regarding alleged crimes committed by Anthony Piscitelli.[1] Id. Plaintiff alleges that Challand and MacDonald then physically blocked plaintiff from exiting the chair in which he was seated and Challand told plaintiff to leave or he would arrest him for trespassing. Id. ¶ 30. Plaintiff alleges that Challand refused to call 911 for him and ignored his statements that he was having trouble walking and standing. Id.

At or about 6:26 a.m., Challand noticed that plaintiff had an audio recorder and was actively recording. Id. ¶35. Challand seized the recorder, arrested plaintiff, and MacDonald searched plaintiff's person. Id. Plaintiff alleges that Challand, MacDonald, and three other Doe defendants used excessive force upon him, causing him pain, nerve damage, scars, and bruises. Id. ¶ 36. At or about 6:28 a.m. Challand stated to other CCCSO employees that plaintiff "is a nut job." Id. ¶ 39. At or about 6:30 a.m., Challand told defendant Matthew Schuler that dispatch said plaintiff needed a mental health arrest. Id. ¶ 41. At or about 6:31 a.m. defendant Schuler said to everyone in the area, "Evidently, [Plaintiff is] crazy." Id. ¶ 42.

At or about 6:32 a.m., Challand and other defendants searched plaintiff's property. Id. ¶ 43. Plaintiff alleges that Schuler ordered a Doe defendant to run plaintiff's name through ARIES, a database containing information about people with mental disorders. Id. ¶ 44. Defendant Jarred Pereira read part of plaintiff's victim/witness report and discussed with others some of the alleged crimes perpetrated by Anthony Piscitelli. Id. During this period, defendants kept plaintiff in a glass-enclosed room; according to plaintiff, Pereira ignored plaintiff's requests for immediate medical attention as well as his complaints that the handcuffs on his wrists were causing pain and numbness in his hands. Id. ¶ 55.

Plaintiff alleges that defendants put him in an overcrowded group cell for approximately 24 hours, during which he complained about the conditions and begged repeatedly for water, but defendants did nothing to help him. Id. ¶ 63. At or about 3:15 p.m. defendant Michael Elder conducted a 5150 evaluation of plaintiff. Id. ¶ 68. Plaintiff alleges that Elder falsified medical records with false reference to a report from a lobby aid, and a fraudulent diagnosis of mental disorder. Id. Plaintiff further alleges Elder unlawfully searched his medical records and disclosed to other defendants the content of his interview with plaintiff. Id. Plaintiff was released at or about 5:45 a.m. on February 3, 2014. Id. ¶ 76. On February 5, 2014, plaintiff and his attorney met with defendant Ronald Hoekwater to file a confidential internal affairs complaint regarding the alleged wrongdoings of defendants. Id. ¶ 83. Plaintiff alleges that Hoekwater has not kept the complaint confidential and has published false accusations that plaintiff committed crimes related to recording conversations. Id.

On August 1, 2014, plaintiff filed the initial complaint in this case. Docket No. 1. Defendants moved to dismiss plaintiff's initial complaint, which the Court did in part, with leave to amend. Docket Nos. 24, 27, 52. Plaintiff has added twenty-seven new claims in his first amended complaint, and defendants now move to dismiss the first amended complaint.


A complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, " Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 8(a)(2) and a complaint that fails to do so is subject to dismissal pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the plaintiff must allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). This "facial plausibility" standard requires the plaintiff to allege facts that add up to "more than a sheer possibility that a Defendant has acted unlawfully." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). While courts do not require "heightened fact pleading of specifics, " a plaintiff must allege facts sufficient to "raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 544, 555. "A pleading that offers labels and conclusions' or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'" Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). "Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders naked assertion[s]' devoid of further factual enhancement.'" Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). "While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations." Id.

In reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a district court must accept as true all facts alleged in the complaint, and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. See al -Kidd v. Ashcroft, 580 F.3d 949, 956 (9th Cir. 2009). However, a district court is not required to accept as true "allegations that are merely conclusory, unwarranted deductions of fact, or unreasonable inferences." In re Gilead Scis. Sec. Litig., 536 F.3d 1049, 1055 (9th Cir. 2008). If the Court dismisses a complaint, it must decide whether to grant leave to amend. The Ninth Circuit has "repeatedly held that a district court should grant leave to amend even if no request to amend the pleading was made, unless it determines that the pleading could not possibly be cured by the allegation of other facts." Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1130 (9th Cir. 2000) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).

In the Ninth Circuit, courts "construe pro se filings liberally when evaluating them under Iqbal. While the standard is higher, our obligation' remains, where the petition is pro se, particularly in civil rights cases, to construe the pleadings liberally and to afford the petitioner the benefit of any doubt.'" Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010) (quoting Bretz v. Kelman, 773, F.2d 1026, 1027 n. 1 (9th Cir. 1985) ( en banc )). However, a court will not "supply essential elements of the claim that were not initially pled." Ivey v. Bd. of Regents of the Univ. of Alaska, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982). The district court must provide the pro se plaintiff notice of the deficiencies of his or her complaint prior to dismissal, but a pro se plaintiff must still allege facts sufficient to allow the reviewing court to conclude a claim has been stated. Ferdik v. Bonzelet, 963 F.3d 1258, 1261 (9th Cir. 1992); Ivey v. Bd. of Regents of Univ. of Alaska, 673 F.3d 266, 269 (9th Cir. 1982).


I. 42 U.S.C. § 1983

Plaintiff has alleged claims against all individual defendants under Section 1983 for violations of his First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights.[2] Defendants move to dismiss all of plaintiff's Section 1983 claims.

A. Fourth Amendment

Plaintiff alleges his Fourth Amendment rights were violated in three ways: (1) unlawful arrest and seizure; (2) excessive force; and (3) warrantless searches.[3] Defendants contend that the allegations contained in plaintiff's complaint show that there was probable cause to arrest and search him, and that the use of force was reasonable as a matter of law. Defendants further argue that even if there was no probable cause to arrest plaintiff, the defendants are entitled to qualified immunity as to any violations of plaintiff's Fourth Amendment rights.

1. Unlawful Arrest

"Under the Fourth Amendment, a warrantless arrest requires probable cause." United States v. Lopez, 482 F.3d 1067, 1072 (9th Cir. 2007). There is probable cause when, "under the totality of the circumstances known to the arresting officers, a prudent person would have concluded that there was a fair probability that [the defendant] had committed a crime." Id. (quoting United States v. Smith, 790 F.2d 789, 792 (9th Cir. 1986)). "[A] warrantless arrest satisfies the Constitution so long as the officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect has committed or is committing an offense.'" Virginia v. Moore, 553 U.S. 164, 173 (2008) (quoting Michigan v. DeFillippo, 443 U.S. 31, 36 (1979)).

Defendants contend that plaintiff's allegations provide facts that would lead a reasonable officer to believe that plaintiff was trespassing on public property in violation of California Penal Code section 602.1(b). Under section 602.1(b), any person who intentionally interferes with any lawful business carried on by employees of a public agency open to the public by obstructing those attempting to carry on business and who refuses to leave the premises after being requested to leave by a supervisor of the public agency is guilty of a misdemeanor. Cal. Penal Code § 602.1(b).

Plaintiff's complaint alleges that while interacting with defendants Challand and MacDonald in the public lobby of the CCCSO, MacDonald offered to let him sit down in a chair. FAC ¶ 29. The complaint states that Challand and MacDonald physically blocked plaintiff from exiting the chair. Id. ¶ 30. Challand said to plaintiff, "Now get outta here! I'm gonna arrest you for trespassing!" but Challand, MacDonald, and two or three defendant Does simultaneously surrounded plaintiff and physically blocked him from leaving his seat. Id. ¶¶ 30-31. Plaintiff further alleges that he repeatedly stated to defendants that he was having trouble standing and walking and so he remained seated and asked them for help. Id. According to plaintiff, he was arrested when Challand noticed his Olympus Recorder was actively recording. Id. ¶ 35. MacDonald then conducted a search of plaintiff's person and a defendant Doe reached into an outside pocket of plaintiff's bag. Id. In his complaint plaintiff alleges that Challand arrested him, and clarifies that only Challand arrested him, not MacDonald or other defendants. Id. ¶¶ 35, 49, 50. Thus, as to plaintiff's claim for unlawful arrest, the Court finds that plaintiff has failed to state a claim against defendants MacDonald, Schuler, Pereira, McQuoid, Elder, or Hoekwater.

On a 12(b)(6) motion, the Court must accept the facts as alleged in the complaint as true. Additionally, in a pro se civil rights case, the Court must "construe the pleadings liberally" and "afford the petitioner the benefit of any doubt.'" Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010) (quoting Bretz v. Kelman, 773, F.2d 1026, 1027 n. 1 (9th Cir. 1985) ( en banc )). Drawing all facts and reasonable inferences in plaintiff's favor, the Court finds that plaintiff has sufficiently pled a cause of action under the Fourth Amendment against defendant Challand. The allegations stated in plaintiff's amended complaint make it plausible that Challand did not have probable cause to arrest plaintiff. Plaintiff has alleged that he was physically blocked by defendants from exiting his chair, was having trouble walking and standing, and therefore remained seated. FAC ¶¶ 29-31. While evidence presented later in the litigation may demonstrate that plaintiff was ...

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