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Vang v. Lopey

United States District Court, E.D. California

April 27, 2017

JESSE VANG, et al, Plaintiffs,
v.
SHERIFF JON LOPEY, et al, Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT SISKIYOU COUNTY'S MOTION TO DISMISS

          JOHN A. MENDEZ, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Defendant Siskiyou County (“the County”) moves to dismiss Plaintiffs' Second Amended Complaint (“SAC”). ECF No. 59.[1]Plaintiffs oppose the motion. ECF No. 61. For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS the County's motion to dismiss.[2]

         I. FACTS

         The Court takes the facts alleged by Plaintiffs-several Hmong individuals who own property in the County-as true for purposes of this motion.

         After an increase in the County's Hmong population, the County “launched an attack” against Plaintiffs. SAC ¶ 5. The Board of Supervisors passed two ordinances placing restrictions on growing medical marijuana. SAC ¶ 6. The County discriminatorily enforced these ordinances against Asian individuals. SAC ¶ 11.

         In early 2016, Plaintiffs “began registering to vote in Siskiyou County, using the County-assigned parcel numbers of their legally owned property as their residential address.” SAC ¶ 18. The County Clerk flagged these voter registration forms for possible voter fraud. SAC ¶ 19.

         On two days in June 2016, County officers visited Plaintiffs' properties, and at least one officer carried an assault rifle with him. SAC ¶ 32. These visits scared at least five plaintiffs out of voting in the June or November 2016 elections. SAC ¶¶ 54, 70, 82, 88, 108.

         The restrictions on marijuana cultivation passed as Measures T and U in the June election. SAC ¶ 36. Since then, “notices of nuisance violations have been issued overwhelmingly to Asian property owners as opposed to white property owners.” Id.

         In September 2016, the County “executed a series of search warrants” on at least some Plaintiffs' properties. SAC ¶ 42. The searching officers “handcuffed and held at gunpoint” individuals who were present during the searches and “ransacked” the properties of those who were not present. SAC ¶ 43.

         Plaintiffs bring four claims against the County in their SAC: (1) unreasonable search and seizure, (2) violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, (3) municipal liability on a failure-to-train theory, and (4) employer liability. SAC at 29-35.

         The Court dismissed Plaintiffs' fourth claim for “employer liability” against the County with prejudice in its January 13, 2017 Order (“1/13/17 Order”). 1/13/17 Order at 7. Accordingly, the Court strikes the fourth claim from the SAC.

         II. OPINION

         A. First Cause of Action: § 1983 Unlawful Search and Seizure Claim

         A local government cannot be held liable pursuant to § 1983 under a theory of “respondeat superior.” Christie v. Iopa, 176 F.3d 1231, 1234-35 (9th Cir. 1999). Instead, municipalities are liable only when action pursuant to official municipal policy causes a constitutional violation. Id. at 1235. The “official policy” requirement “distinguishe[s] acts of the municipality from acts of employees of the municipality, ...


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