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Hernandez v. City of San Jose

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

May 15, 2017

JUAN HERNANDEZ, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
CITY OF SAN JOSE, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER SEVERING CLAIMS, DISMISSING ACTIONS WITHOUT PREJUDICE, AND STAYING ACTION

          LUCY H. KOH United States District Judge.

         On March 14, 2017, the Court found that San Jose police officers Loyd Kinsworthy, Lisa Gannon, Kevin Abruzzini, Paul Messier, Paul Spagnoli, Johnson Fong, and Jason Ta were not entitled to qualified immunity and thus denied Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiffs' claim against these officers under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. ECF No. 72, at 35. On March 28, 2017, the City Defendants appealed this ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

         Before the Court are the City of San Jose and San Jose police officers Loyd Kinsworthy, Lisa Gannon, Kevin Abruzzini, Paul Messier, Paul Spagnoli, Johnson Fong, and Jason Ta's (collectively, “City Defendants”) motion to stay pending appeal, ECF No. 82, and motion to sever misjoined parties, ECF No. 84. Having considered the briefing of the parties, the record in the case, and the relevant law, the Court SEVERS the claims against the individual private citizen Defendants and DISMISSES the claims without prejudice for refiling in state court. The Court also STAYS the remainder of the case against the City Defendants pending resolution of the City Defendants' appeal.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         A. Original Complaint and First Motion to Dismiss

         The instant action began with a complaint filed on July 14, 2016. ECF No. 1. In the complaint, fourteen Plaintiffs asserted twenty-eight claims for relief against six named Defendants. Compl. ¶¶ 153-336. The original complaint sued the City of San Jose (“City”), Mayor Sam Liccardo (“Liccardo”), and Chief of Police Edgardo Garcia (“Garcia”) for violations of federal and state law arising from their actions around the time of a June 2, 2016 rally for then-presidential candidate Donald Trump. Id. Individual police officers were not yet named in the original complaint, but instead were sued as 15 Doe Defendants (together with the City, Liccardo, and Garcia, “original complaint City Defendants”). Id. Plaintiffs' complaint also sought to represent a class consisting of “[a]ll persons who attended the June 2, 2016 Trump Rally at the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, California, and exited the rally from the east-northeast exit.” Id. ¶ 146. The original complaint also asserted various state law claims by individual Plaintiffs against Defendants H.A., S.M., Anthony Yi, and 32 Doe Defendants, all of whom are individual private citizens with no connection to the original complaint City Defendants. Id. ¶¶ 186-336.

         The original complaint City Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the original complaint on August 4, 2016. ECF No. 6. The motion sought to dismiss all four claims against the original complaint City Defendants, which were as follows: (1) a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Liccardo, Garcia, and the City for violation of Plaintiffs' rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments (Count 1); (2) a claim for violation of the Bane Act, Cal. Civ. Code § 52.1, against Liccardo, Garcia, and the City (Count 2); (3) a claim for violation of the Ralph Act, Cal. Civ. Code § 51.7, against Liccardo, Garcia, and the City (Count 3); and (4) a California common law negligence claim against Does 1-15 and the City as employer of Does 1-15 (Count 4). Compl. ¶ 153-85.

         On October 13, 2016, the Court granted in part and denied in part the motion to dismiss. ECF No. 30. The Court dismissed with leave to amend Plaintiffs' § 1983 claims because the Court found that Plaintiffs had not sufficiently alleged that Liccardo and Garcia had acted with malicious intent or targeted Plaintiffs because of their political affiliations. Id. at 7-13. The Court also found that Plaintiffs had not alleged a municipal policy sufficient to render the City of San Jose vicariously liable for the actions of Liccardo, Garcia, or the police officers. Id. at 13-18. The Court further found that Plaintiffs' Bane Act and Ralph Act claims were based on essentially the same allegations as Plaintiffs' § 1983 claim, and therefore the Court dismissed with leave to amend the Bane Act and Ralph Acts claims. Id. at 18-21. However, the Court found that Plaintiffs had sufficiently alleged a negligence claim against the Doe police officers and the City. Id. at 21- 25.

         B. First Amended Complaint

         On November 14, 2016, Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint (“FAC”). ECF No. 35. The Plaintiffs in the FAC are Juan Hernandez, Nathan Velasquez, Frank Velasquez, Rachel Casey, Mark Doering, Mary Doering, Barbara Arigoni, Dustin Haines-Scrodin, Andrew Zambetti, Christina Wong, Craig Parsons, the minor I.P., Greg Hyver, Todd Broome, Martin Mercado, Christopher Holland, Theodore Jones, Donovan Rost, Michele Wilson, and Cole Cassady. ECF No. 35, at 1. The FAC sues the City of San Jose; San Jose Police Chief Edgardo Garcia; San Jose police officers Loyd Kinsworthy, Lisa Gannon, Kevin Abruzzini, Paul Messier, Paul Spagnoli, Johnson Fong, Jason Ta; and Does 1-15 as City Defendants (“FAC City Defendants”). Id. The FAC also sues the minor H.A., the minor S.M., Anthony Yi, Victor Gasca, Daniel Arciga, Rafael Medina, Anthony McBride, and Does 16-55 as individual private citizen Defendants who had no connection to the FAC City Defendants. Id.

         The FAC alleges the following facts.

         Plaintiffs are individuals who attended a rally for then presidential candidate Donald J. Trump (“Trump”) on June 2, 2016 at the McEnery Convention Center (“Convention Center”) in San Jose, California. FAC ¶¶ 62-63. At the end of the rally, as Plaintiffs were leaving the building, San Jose police and other police officers directed Plaintiffs from the east-northeast exit of the Convention Center. Id. ¶ 89. A police line outside the exit “directed the Trump supporters to turn north and to proceed along Market Street, into [a] crowd of violent anti-Trump protesters.” Id. ¶ 90. “The police also actively prevented the Trump Rally attendees from proceeding south along Market Street, away from the anti-Trump protesters, or from leaving the convention center through alternative exits.” Id. ¶ 91. When Plaintiffs reached the anti-Trump protesters, the protesters attacked. Id. ¶ 92.

         According to the FAC, Garcia, Kinsworthy, and other unspecified actors devised the crowd-control plan for the Trump Rally and were deliberately indifferent to whether the plan caused harm to Plaintiffs. Id. ¶¶ 75, 87. Plaintiffs also claim that the police officers on duty on the night of the Trump Rally acted with “deliberate indifference, reckless and/or conscious disregard of a known and obvious danger, by directing Plaintiffs into the mob, preventing Plaintiffs from leaving the event through other, safer paths, and by failing to intervene in the many attacks perpetrated on Plaintiffs and the Class members, which would not have occurred but for the police officers' actions.” Id. ¶ 287. Specifically, Plaintiffs allege that violence had been reported as early as 6:00 p.m. on the night of the Trump Rally, and yet police officers Kinsworthy, Gannon, Abruzzini, Messier, Spagnoli, Fong, Ta, and Does 1-15 (collectively, “individual police officers”) continued to direct Plaintiffs out of the same single exit of the convention center even after realizing that doing so placed Plaintiffs in serious danger. Id. ¶ 1. Plaintiffs also claim that the City itself is vicariously liable for the actions of its police officers on the night of the Trump Rally. Id. ¶¶ 292-96, 303-10. Plaintiffs claim that the City is liable in part because after the rally Garcia allegedly praised officers for their “discipline and restraint” because “additional force can incite more violence in the crowd.” Id. ¶ 102.

         The FAC contains 43 claims by 20 individual plaintiffs against 17 named defendants and 55 Doe defendants. ECF No. 35. 39 of the 43 claims in the FAC are made by 17 individual Plaintiffs against 46 individual private citizen Defendants who have no connection to the FAC City Defendants. The FAC describes 11 separate incidents in which individual Plaintiffs or groups of Plaintiffs allege that individual private citizen Defendants or groups of these Defendants attacked them. The facts of each of these incidents are described in detail in Section III.A.2.a.

         The remaining four causes of action in the FAC are alleged against the FAC City Defendants. These claims are: (1) a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Garcia and the individual police officers for violation of Plaintiffs' rights under the Fourteenth Amendment (Count 1); (2) a claim against the City under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Monell v. Department of Social Services of the City of New York, 436 U.S. 658');">436 U.S. 658 (1987) for violation of Plaintiffs' rights under the Fourteenth Amendment the City (Count 2); a claim for violation of the Bane Act, Cal. Civ. Code § 52.1, against Garcia, the City, and the individual police officers (Count 3); and (4) a California common law negligence claim against the City (Count 4). FAC ¶¶ 280-310.

         C. Second Motion to Dismiss

         The FAC City Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the FAC's four claims asserted against the FAC City Defendants on December 22, 2016. ECF No. 44. The Court granted in part and denied in part this motion on March 14, 2017. ECF No. 72. Specifically, the Court found that Plaintiffs had not stated a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 based on any of the FAC City Defendants' actions before the Trump Rally in devising the crowd-control plan. Id. at 35. The Court therefore dismissed this claim with prejudice. Because this was the only claim asserted against Garcia, the Court dismissed Garcia from the case with prejudice. Id. However, the Court found that Plaintiffs had stated a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 based on the actions of individual police officers on the night of the Trump Rally after the officers allegedly noticed that their actions were placing Plaintiffs in danger. Id. The Court denied the FAC City Defendants' motion to dismiss the § 1983 claims against the individual police officers on the basis of qualified immunity because the Court found that the law clearly established that police officers could not direct Plaintiffs into a dangerous situation with deliberate indifference to Plaintiffs' safety. Id. The Court also denied the motion to dismiss the Monell claim against the City because the Court found that the FAC adequately alleged that the City had ratified the individual police officers' actions. Id. The Court granted the FAC City Defendants' motion to dismiss with prejudice the FAC's Bane Act claim. Id. The Court denied the FAC City Defendants' motion to dismiss the FAC's negligence claims. Id.

         Thus, after the second motion to dismiss, the City Defendants who remain in the case are individual police officers Loyd Kinsworthy, Lisa Gannon, Kevin Abruzzini, Paul Messier, Paul Spagnoli, Johnson Fong, Jason Ta, and Does 1-15, as well as the City of San Jose (“City Defendants”).

         D. Notice of Appeal

         On March 28, 2017, the City Defendants filed a notice of appeal to the Ninth Circuit. ECF No. 80. In the appeal, the City Defendants sought interlocutory review of the Court's decision denying the motion to dismiss the FAC's 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim against individual police officers on the basis of qualified immunity. Id. Specifically, the City Defendants appealed the Court's finding that the individual police officers - Loyd Kinsworthy, Lisa Gannon, Kevin Abruzzini, Paul Messier, Paul Spagnoli, Johnson Fong, and Jason Ta - were not entitled to qualified immunity for their actions on the night of the Trump Rally after they allegedly noticed that their actions were placing Plaintiffs in danger because the law clearly established that police officers could not direct Plaintiffs into a dangerous situation with deliberate indifference to Plaintiffs' safety. Id. Under Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 530 (1985), and other relevant case law, a Defendant may appeal a denial of qualified immunity even though final judgment has not been issued.

         The City Defendants did not appeal the Court's denial of the motion to dismiss the Monell claim against the City or the negligence claim against the City, because no case law allows for the interlocutory appeal of denials of a motion to dismiss a Monell or negligence claim. Id. However, on March 30, 2017, the City Defendants filed a document before the Ninth Circuit stating that “Appellants will be requesting that the Ninth Circuit exercise pendent jurisdiction over Plaintiffs' [Monell and negligence] claims against the City as they are inextricably intertwined.” Case No. 17-15576, Dkt. Entry 2, at 2.

         E. Motion for Stay

         On March 29, 2017, the City Defendants filed the instant motion to stay the entire action pending resolution of the City Defendants' appeal of the Court's decision denying the motion to dismiss the FAC's § 1983 claim against individual police officers on the basis of qualified immunity. ECF No. 82. Plaintiffs filed an opposition to the motion to stay on April 12, 2017. ECF No. 89. The City Defendants filed a response on April 19, 2017. ECF No. 91.

         F. Motion to Sever Misjoined Parties

         On March 30, 2017, the City Defendants filed the instant motion to sever misjoined parties. ECF No. 84. Plaintiffs filed an opposition to the motion on April 10, 2017. ECF No. 88. The City Defendants filed a reply on April 19, 2017. ECF No. 91.

         II.LEGAL STANDARD

         A. Severance of Claims

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (“Rule”) 21, “[o]n motion or on its own, the court may at any time, on just terms, add or drop a party. The court may also sever any claim against a party.” A district court has “broad discretion . . . to make a decision granting severance.” Coleman v. Quaker Oats Co., 232 F.3d 1271, 1297 (9th Cir. 2000). Although a court should not “attempt to separate an essentially unitary problem, ” a court may sever claims that are “discrete and separate.” Anticancer, Inc. v. Pfizer Inc., 2012 WL 1019796, at *1 (S.D. Cal. Mar. 26, 2012). In deciding whether to sever a claim under Rule 21, a court considers the following factors:

“(1) whether the claims arise out of the same transaction or occurrence;
(2) whether the claims present some common questions of law or fact;
(3) whether settlement of the claims or judicial economy would be facilitated;
(4) whether prejudice would be avoided if severance were granted; and
(5) whether different witnesses and documentary proof are required for the separate claims.”

SEC v. Leslie, 2010 WL 2991038, at *4 (N.D. Cal. July 29, 2010) (quoting Morris v. Northrop Grumman Corp., 37 F.Supp.2d 556, 580 (E.D.N.Y. 1999)). If the Court severs a claim, the severed claim “must have an independent jurisdictional basis” for subject matter jurisdiction and “can no longer rely on the supplemental jurisdiction afforded by 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a), for there is nothing left to supplement.” Herklotz v. Parkinson, 848 F.3d 894, 898 (9th Cir. 2017).

         B. Motion to Stay

         The filing of an interlocutory appeal of a Court's denial of qualified immunity automatically divests the Court of jurisdiction to proceed with trial on the issues involved in the appeal. City of Los Angeles, Harbor Div. v. Santa Monica Baykeeper, 254 F.3d 882, 886 (9th Cir. 2001); see also Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 530 (1985) (holding that denials of qualified immunity can be appealable).

         “District courts have inherent authority to stay proceedings before them.” Rohan ex. rel. Gates v. Woodford, 334 F.3d 803, 817 (9th Cir. 2003), abrogated on other grounds by Ryan v. Gonzales, 568 U.S. 57 (2013). The power to stay is “incidental to the power inherent in every court to control the disposition of the causes on its docket with economy of time and effort for itself, for counsel, and for litigants.” Landis v. North American Co., 299 U.S. 248, 254 (1936). This power also comes from “the power of every court to manage the cases on its docket and to ensure a fair and efficient adjudication of the matter at hand.” Rivers v. Walt Disney World, 980 F.Supp. 1358, 1360 (C.D. Cal. 1997) (citing Gold v. Johns-Manville Sales Corp., 723 F.2d 1068, 1077 (3d Cir. 1983)). The decision whether to stay a civil action is left to the sound discretion of the district court. Rohan, 334 F.3d at 817.

         In deciding whether to stay a pending proceeding, a court should weigh all relevant “competing interests.” Lockyer v. Mirant Corp., 398 F.3d 1098, 1110 (9th Cir. 2005). ÔÇťAmong those competing interests are the possible damage which may result from the granting of a stay, the hardship or inequity which a party may suffer in being required to go forward, and the orderly course of justice measured in terms of the ...


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