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Quinn v. County of Monterey

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

August 8, 2016

COUNTY OF MONTEREY, et al., Defendants.


          BETH LABSON FREEMAN United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Maureen Quinn brings this action pro se to challenge the allegedly biased response of Monterey County deputies to a long-running dispute between Plaintiff and her neighbor. The Court previously dismissed Plaintiff’s § 1983 claim against the County in a reasoned order, but Plaintiff has amended her pleadings to add new claims and introduce new Defendants, including individual County employees and her neighbor’s family member who resides in Idaho. Defendants argue that Plaintiff’s amended complaint still fails to state a claim and that further amendment would be futile. Defendants therefore ask the Court to dismiss the case with prejudice. For the reasons stated below, the Court GRANTS Defendants’ motions.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff alleges the following. Plaintiff has owned property in Monterey County since 1996 and she began building her home and agriculture business there in 2000. FAC ¶ 6. Plaintiff brings this action against seven defendants: Thomas Tankersley, who resides in Idaho but has owned the parcel of land abutting Plaintiff’s property to the north since 2006; the County of Monterey; and six County employees: Steve Bernal, Jason Sclimenti, John Burdick, Lloyd Foster, and Nick Kennedy (“Individual County Defendants”). Id. ¶¶ 6, 7. Because many of Plaintiff’s allegations also concern non-party Steve Tankersley, the Court refers to Defendant Thomas Tankersley as “Tankersley” and Steve Tankersley as “Steve.”

         This dispute arises largely from harassment Plaintiff has allegedly faced from Steve, often emanating from Tankersley’s property, and the County and its employees’ alleged failure to sufficiently respond. Plaintiff alleges that the Individual County Defendants have a powerful alliance with and bias in favor of Steve. Id. ¶ 24. Specifically, Bernal, who is now Sheriff of Monterey County, is personal friends with the Tankersley family, who were among the primary financial contributors to Bernal’s campaign for Sheriff. Id. ¶ 29. Meanwhile, other defendants, including Foster, have an interest in protecting the Tankersleys in order to stay in good favor with now-Sheriff Bernal. Id. ¶ 33.

         Plaintiff alleges that Tankersley’s parcel of land is vacant and undeveloped, but that other members of the Tankersley family own parcels to the north and west of Tankersley’s land and have installed a private easement road along his parcel to access their property. Id. ¶¶ 7, 8; see also Exh. 1 to FAC. The road is 45 feet from Plaintiff’s property. Id. ¶ 9.

         Steve uses the private easement road to harass and threaten Plaintiff in an attempt to get Plaintiff’s property for himself. Id. ¶¶ 10-11. The harassment has taken the form of speeding by in trucks, ATVs, and motorcycles; spinning the tires to kick up dirt and rocks at Plaintiff; and directing high-beam car lights at her residence and revving his engine at night. Id. ¶ 12. Plaintiff has alerted Tankersley of the nuisance on two occasions: first, through an attorney in June 2008 and second, on an unspecified date, by mailing him 2008 court mediation orders. Id. ¶¶ 13, 25.

         In early 2013, Steve and a friend began to fly in a helicopter less than 100 feet above Plaintiff’s property, at times with a video camera or a rifle sticking out. Id. ¶ 16. After Steve and his friend ignored an FAA investigator’s warnings, the FAA investigator advised Plaintiff to contact local law enforcement. Id. ¶¶ 17, 18. Plaintiff did so, but her calls resulted in grossly subjective reports, biased in favor of Steve and his friend. Id. ¶ 18. Plaintiff then sued Steve’s friend in state court. Id. ¶ 19.

         After the helicopter incident, Steve escalated his harassment because he knew he had the support of the Monterey County deputies. Id. ¶ 20. Steve placed a metal target on Tankersley’s property, in front of Plaintiff’s home, and began firing high-powered rifles at the target. Id. ¶ 20. On November 17, 2013, Plaintiff heard a shot originating from Steve’s property and then saw a bullet strike the ground less than 100 feet from where she was standing. Id. ¶ 21. Plaintiff called the Monterey County Sheriff’s department. Sclimenti and Foster responded but fabricated material facts in their report and did not require Steve to comply with state laws and NRA regulations regarding his target. Id. ¶ 21.

         Plaintiff alleges that this contrasted sharply with the treatment she received for a pistol target she had installed on her property in June 2008. After Steve contacted the Monterey County Sherriff’s Department, deputies arrived on Plaintiff’s property and concluded that her target complied with NRA regulations, but asked her to adjust the draw angle for optimum safety. Id. ¶ 15.

         In an evening on or about December 2013, Plaintiff was shaken out of her chair by an explosion. She called 911 to report that a bomb had exploded on Steve’s property. Kennedy and other officers arrived at Plaintiff’s home in about 30 minutes. Id. ¶ 22. Kennedy refused to go investigate on Steve’s property because of the late hour. Id. ¶ 24.

         Four months later, on April 6, 2014, Plaintiff was walking back from firing at her target when Steve began to fire rifles at the target on Tankersley’s property and in her direction. Steve then drove to Plaintiff’s house, stopped on the private easement road 50 feet from Plaintiff’s house, and fired five rounds in rapid succession. Id. ¶ 26. Plaintiff called 911 and Bernal and Burdick came to investigate. Id. ¶¶ 26-27. Plaintiff again complained that the target on Tankersley’s property was not compliant with the law. Bernal and Burdick told her to install a surveillance camera. Id. ¶ 27.

         The next day, Sergeant Irons directed Bernal and Burdick to return to investigate further, and Plaintiff showed them where Steve had been standing when he fired. Nevertheless, Bernal and Burdick did not require Steve to bring his target into compliance with state law and NRA regulations. This enabled Steve to continue endangering Plaintiff’s life with target practice. Id. ¶ 28.

         Plaintiff alleges that Bernal told Steve that Plaintiff was going to install security cameras even though she had made clear that she did not intend to do so. Id. ¶ 29. This enraged Steve who spent the next week driving to Plaintiff’s home every day to video tape her and fired ...

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