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Oceanside Organics v. County of San Diego

United States District Court, S.D. California

April 18, 2017

OCEANSIDE ORGANICS; OCEANSIDE FARM TO TABLE, INC.; ALAN SHELTON; JUSTINE SHELTON; RON MIROLLA; LISA RIGG; MICHAEL WINKLEMAN; SARAH DYAL; ANTHONY CARBONNE; RICHARD DAVIS; DAVID SNYDER; DUANE LEWIS; SANDRA LEWIS; WAYNE LARSON; SHAWN SMITH; KYLE SNELLER; BUCK HUTCHERSON; LOGAN PIERCE; BROOK BISHOP; RON BOCIAN, Plaintiffs,
v.
COUNTY OF SAN DIEGO, SAN DIEGO COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT; WILLIAM GORE; TIM CLARK; MATT STEVENS; and DOES 1-10 inclusive, Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS PLAINTIFFS' SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT (ECF 33)

          JANIS L. SAMMARTINO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Presently before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint. (“MTD, ” ECF No. 33.) Also before the Court is Plaintiffs' Response in Opposition to, (“Opp'n, ” ECF No. 35), and Defendants' Reply in Support of, (“Reply, ” ECF No. 37), the MTD. Having considered the parties' arguments and the law, the Court GRANTS Defendants' MTD and DISMISSES WITHOUT PREJUDICE Plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint (“SAC”).

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Oceanside Organics is a “closed loop marijuana collective” operating in San Diego County, California. (SAC ¶ 19, ECF No. 32.) The other plaintiffs are Oceanside Organics' eighteen individual members and a corporation formed to purchase the property upon which Oceanside Organics grows its medical marijuana. (Id. ¶¶ 3-18, 20.)

         Plaintiffs agreed to contact local law enforcement to ensure the legality and compliance of their collective. (Id. ¶ 28.) In mid-July 2014, Plaintiffs' counsel contacted Defendant Tim Clark, a Deputy Sheriff with the San Diego County Sheriff's Department. (Id. ¶¶ 22, 29.) In the course of their correspondence, Plaintiffs' counsel provided to Defendant Clark “copies of all valid recommendations” for medical marijuana. (Id. ¶ 30.) Plaintiffs also “acquired state medical marijuana cards as requested by [D]eputy Clark.” (Id.) According to Plaintiffs' counsel, “Deputy Clark repeatedly indicated to [Plaintiffs' counsel] that no legal action would be taken against the collective operation and that nobody at the cultivation site would be subject to arrest.” (Id.)

         Nevertheless, “Deputy Clark conspired with [D]eputy Stevens[, another Deputy Sheriff with the San Diego County Sheriff's Department, ] to have an illegal search warrant issued which was based on a knowingly false affidavit.” (Id. ¶¶ 23, 31.) Specifically, Defendants “falsely sw[ore] under oath that the marijuana was being cultivated illegally, despite the knowledge of both [Defendants] that the marijuana was being cultivated legally.” (Id. ¶ 31.) On September 12, 2014, Plaintiffs' property was raided, (id. ¶¶ 29, 32), and Plaintiffs Shawn Smith and Kyle Sneller were arrested by Defendants Clark and Stevens “without probable cause, ” (id. ¶¶ 14, 15, 29, 32, 50, 55). “At the time of the raid . . ., there were over 20 valid members of the collective and 31 medical marijuana plants on site.” (Id. ¶ 32.)

         As a result of Defendants' actions, Plaintiffs “suffered loss of illegally confiscated medical marijuana, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, false arrest, [and] violation of civil rights under the Constitution of the United . . . States and the State of California.” (Id. ¶ 33.) Plaintiffs further allege that

The County of San Diego, through the actions of the Board of Supervisors, the District Attorney's Office and the Sheriff's Department maintain a custom, policy and practice of violating the legal rights of valid medical marijuana patients in San Diego County by failing to properly train and supervise deputies regarding the obligation of the deputies to follow the statutory scheme created by the citizens of the State of California to allow cultivation of marijuana in California for medical use, by creating and allowing an enviroment [sic] in which deputies are encouraged and allowed to violated their oath to uphold the laws of the State of California, by creating and allowing an environment in which deputies are encouraged and allowed to violate the laws of the State of California, by creating and allowing an environment in which illegal searches, false search warrant affidavits, false arrests and false criminal prosecutions are encouraged and allowed, by ratifying this illegal conduct of their deputies and by creating and allowing an environment in which deputies are encouraged and allowed to violate the guidelines of the Attorney General for the State of California regarding the security and non-diversion of marijuana grown for medical use in the State of California as well as encouraged to violate prohibitions of the Constitution of the United States against false arrest without probable cause and illegal search and siezue [sic] through knowingly false search warrant affidavits.

(Id. ¶ 25.) “As a proximate result of the custom, policy and practice of the County of San Diego an illegal warrant was issued, [and the] illegal raid . . . t[ook] place . . . .” (Id. ¶ 39.)

         On April 17, 2015, Plaintiffs filed their original Complaint, setting forth six causes of action against Defendants Stevens and Clark or “all Individual Defendants” under both 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (“Section 1983”) and California law. (ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 40-64.) Plaintiffs also alleged a separate cause of action under Section 1983 against Defendants County of San Diego and the San Diego County Sheriff's Department. (Id. ¶¶ 35-39.) The Complaint also named Sheriff William Gore as a defendant, alleging only that he “is the chief policymaker and decision maker for the San Diego County Sheriff's Department on all issues regarding proper police training.” (Id. ¶ 21.)

         The County Defendants filed their MTD on June 22, 2015 (ECF No. 5), and Plaintiffs filed their Request for Preliminary Injunction on June 25, 2015, (ECF No. 7). On November 30, 2015, the Court granted the County Defendants' MTD and denied Plaintiffs' Request for Preliminary Injunction. (ECF No. 22.)

         Plaintiffs filed a First Amended Complaint (“FAC”) on February 17, 2016 (ECF No. 23), and Defendants filed a MTD on March 2, 2016. (ECF No. 25.) The Court granted Defendants' MTD in its entirety on October 20, 2016. (ECF No. 31.)

         Plaintiffs filed a Second Amended Complaint on November 4, 2016. (ECF No. 32.) Defendants filed the instant MTD on November 18, 2016. (ECF No. 33.)

         MOTION TO DISMISS

         I. Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) permits a party to raise by motion the defense that the complaint “fail[s] to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, ” generally referred to as a motion to dismiss. The Court evaluates whether a complaint states a cognizable legal theory and sufficient facts in light of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a), which requires a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Although Rule 8 “does not require ‘detailed factual allegations, ' . . . it [does] demand more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). In other words, “a plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citing Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)). A complaint will not suffice “if it tenders ‘naked assertion[s]' devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 677 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).

         In order to survive a motion to dismiss, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). A claim is facially plausible when the facts pled “allow the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 677 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). That is not to say that the claim must be probable, but there must be “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. Facts “‘merely consistent with' a defendant's liability” fall short of a plausible entitlement to relief. Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). Further, the Court need not accept as true “legal conclusions” contained in the complaint. Id. This review requires context-specific analysis involving the Court's “judicial experience and common sense.” Id. at 678 (citation omitted). “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not ‘show[n]'-‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.'” Id.

         Where a complaint does not survive 12(b)(6) analysis, the Court will grant leave to amend unless it determines that no modified contention “consistent with the challenged pleading . . . [will] cure the deficiency.” DeSoto v. Yellow Freight Sys., Inc., 957 F.2d 655, 658 (9th Cir. 1992) (quoting Schriber Distrib. Co. v. Serv-Well Furniture Co., 806 F.2d 1393, 1401 (9th Cir. 1986)).

         II. Analysis

         A. First Cause of Action: Violation of Civil Rights (Section 1983) Against County Defendants (Monell Theory of Liability)

         Plaintiffs' first cause of action claims violation of civil rights under Section 1983 against Defendants County of San Diego and San Diego County Sheriff's Department, (collectively, the “County Defendants”). A government entity may not be held liable under Section 1983 unless a policy, practice, or custom of the entity can be shown to be a moving force behind a violation of constitutional rights. Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. of the City of N.Y., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978). To establish liability for governmental entities under Monell, a “plaintiff must show: (1) that [the plaintiff] possessed a constitutional right of which [s]he was deprived; (2) that the municipality had a policy; (3) that this policy amounts to deliberate indifference to the plaintiff's constitutional right; and, (4) that the policy is the moving force behind the constitutional violation.” Plumeau v. Sch. Dist. No. 40 Cty. of Yamhill, 130 F.3d 432, 438 (9th Cir. 1997) (alterations in original) (quoting Oviatt ex rel. Waugh v. Pearce, 954 F.2d 1470, 1474 (9th Cir. 1992)) (internal quotation marks omitted).

[T]here are three ways to show a policy or custom of a municipality: (1) by showing “a longstanding practice or custom which constitutes the standard operating procedure of the local government entity”; (2) “by showing that the decision-making official was, as a matter of state law, a final policymaking authority whose edicts or acts may fairly be said to represent official policy in the area of decision”; or (3) “by showing that an official ...

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