United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY
JUDGMENT IN PART AND DISMISSING REMAINING STATE LAW CLAIMS
RE: DKT. NOS. 77, 94
HAYWOOD S. GILLIAM, JR. United States District Judge
Jason Call brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and
California law against Humboldt County and individual
officers employed by the State of California, Humboldt
County, and the City of Eureka (collectively,
“Defendants”), following the execution of a
search warrant at his home. Pending before this Court are two
motions for summary judgment filed by the State of California
defendants, Dkt. No. 77, and the Humboldt County and City of
Eureka defendants, Dkt. No. 94. For the reasons articulated
below, the motions are GRANTED IN PART. The Court declines to
exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's
remaining causes of action, all of which arise under state
law, so those causes of action are DISMISSED without
relevant facts giving rise to this lawsuit are generally
undisputed, except where indicated below.
Obtaining Search Warrant
2011, State Defendant Nelsen of the California Department of
Justice was investigating non-party Ryan Hutson as a
suspected marijuana broker between cultivators and wholesale
suppliers. Dkt. No. 77-3 ¶¶ 12-13. At the time,
Nelsen was the Commander of the North State Marijuana
Investigation. Id. ¶ 5. During the
investigation, Nelsen saw Hutson park her car at
Plaintiff's house at Bayside Cutoff in March 2011. Dkt.
No. 77-4 at BNE-0071. Someone then walked toward
Plaintiff's residence with a duffel bag. Id.
Hutson was seen closing the trunk of her car and leaving
Plaintiff's residence soon after. Id.
Twenty-five minutes later another officer observed her at a
different residence at Stanford Circle; she talked on her
cell phone, retrieved a brown paper shopping bag from her
trunk, and carried it close to her body as she entered
another residence. Id. Nelsen further claimed that
he drove by Plaintiff's house on at least three occasions
and smelled the odor of marijuana. Id. at BNE-0072.
Plaintiff, however, posits that the house is situated too far
back from the street for Nelsen to have smelled marijuana.
See Dkt. No. 83 at 15.
October 2011, the Drug Enforcement Administration submitted
administrative subpoenas for the PG&E records for
locations linked with Hutson during the officers'
surveillance of her, including Plaintiff's residence at
Bayside Cutoff and Stanford Circle. Dkt. No. 77-4 at
BNE-0073-74. The PG&E records from mid-August to
mid-October 2011 for Stanford Circle and Westgate suggested
high usage consistent with indoor growing operations.
Id. at BNE-0074. The records for Plaintiff's
residence suggested slightly higher-than-normal usage, but
were not solely indicative of an indoor growing operation.
Id. In December 2011, Nelsen obtained a search
warrant for additional PG&E records for Plaintiff's
residence from 2009 through the date of the warrant.
Id. at BNE-0078. Over these 24 months, power usage
was consistent with indoor marijuana cultivation.
Id. Usage for other locations associated with Hutson
was similarly high. Id. at BNE-0078-79. In December
2011, a confidential informant told Nelsen that Hutson was
still “very active in the sales of marijuana” and
had higher prices than other marijuana brokers. Id.
at BNE-0080. In January 2012, Nelsen learned from the
Employment Development Department that several of the
individuals linked to Hutson in the investigation, including
Plaintiff, did not have any records of employment, state
disability, or unemployment payments from January 2010
through September 2011. Id. at BNE-0081.
then prepared a search warrant application for several
locations, including Plaintiff's residence. In the
application, Nelsen specifically acknowledged the age of the
information, stating that it was his belief that the warrant
would still “provide evidence of the events reported in
this affidavit despite the lapse of time between the
events described and the anticipated search . . .
.” Id. at BNE-0088 (emphasis added). On the
basis of this information, Humboldt County Superior Court
Judge Timothy Cissna issued a search warrant on January 12,
2012. Id. at BNE-0096. The warrant permitted a
search of, inter alia, Plaintiff's residence,
cars, and person. Id. at BNE-0097-99. The warrant
further permitted the search for and seizure of marijuana,
cultivation aids and equipment, containers in which any of
those items could be found, indicia of the sales of
trafficking of marijuana, including ledgers and receipts,
firearms, financial documentation, computers, telephones,
wiring, and U.S. currency. Id. at BNE-100-103.
Executing Search Warrant
of the Humboldt County Sherriff's Office, Humboldt County
Drug Task Force, and the California Department of Justice,
Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement Task Force, attended a
pre-search briefing conducted by Nelsen. See, e.g.,
Dkt. No. 77-3 ¶ 17. Nelsen explained the nature of the
investigation, the substance of the probable cause supporting
the search warrant, the scope of the search warrant, as well
as everyone's respective assignments. Id.;
see also Dkt. No. 77-2, Ex. B at 147-49.
morning of January 19, 2012, Plaintiff woke to banging on his
front door. Dkt. No. 84 ¶ 14. Someone said “search
warrant, open the door.” Id. ¶ 16. After
Plaintiff opened the door and asked why the officers were
there, an officer “shoulder bunt[ed]” Plaintiff.
Dkt. No. 84 ¶ 18. Plaintiff explained that his front
door opens outward and the officer hit him on his right
shoulder and “shoved past him” to get inside.
Dkt. No. 77-2, Ex. A at 91. He did not seek medical attention
or sustain any injuries as a result. Id. at 93.
response to Plaintiff's repeated questions about why the
officers were there, another officer pointed a gun at
Plaintiff's stomach and said that was “top secret
information.” Dkt. No. 84 ¶ 20. Humboldt County
Sheriff's Department Lieutenant Hanson then handcuffed
Plaintiff with his hands behind his back and ordered
Plaintiff to sit down. Dkt. No. 94-7 ¶ 4; Dkt. No. 84
¶¶ 21, 24. While Plaintiff was handcuffed and
attempting to comply, another officer pointed a gun at
Plaintiff's chest. Dkt. No. 84 ¶ 24. Plaintiff sat
down immediately in response, with his back against the wall.
Id. ¶¶ 24-25.
to Plaintiff's left was a glass door to the room of one
of his roommates. Dkt. No. 84 ¶ 25. Several officers
told Plaintiff's roommate, who was standing behind the
glass door, to open the door. Dkt. No. 77-16 ¶ 4. He did
not immediately comply. Id. The officers did not
know if he was armed or alone. Id. At least one
other officer, California Department of Justice Special Agent
Cervelli,  was concerned that he might be arming
himself. Id. Another officer, Humboldt County Deputy
Sheriff Mendes,  found a nearby skateboard and broke the
glass door. Id. Glass from the door hit Plaintiff,
who was still sitting next to the door. Dkt. No. 84 ¶
26. Plaintiff noticed a cut on his foot that he believes is
from the glass. Id. After securing Plaintiff's
roommate, the officers took them both to the living room,
where a third occupant was already being detained.
Id. ¶¶ 26-28. Hanson watched over the
three during the duration of the search. Id. ¶
officers searched the house and found 78 marijuana plants, a
triple beam scale, individually packaged marijuana,
prescription pills, and multiple firearms. Dkt. No. 77-6
¶ 16. According to Plaintiff, his entire house had been
ransacked by the officers: some had urinated all over his
bathroom, tracked broken glass throughout the house, and left
the contents of drawers, closets, and cabinets all over the
house; officers also left disposable gloves inside
Plaintiff's house and outside in his yard. Dkt. No. 84
point following the discovery of the marijuana plants,
California Department of Justice Special Agent Badgley
entered the living room and asked Plaintiff for the
combination to the safe in his bedroom. Id. ¶
29. Plaintiff said he wanted a lawyer. Id. According
to Plaintiff, at this point Badgley told him that he was
under arrest for violations of Health and Safety Code
§§ 11358, 111359, and 11350. Dkt. No. 77-6 ¶
16-18; Dkt. No. 84 ¶ 29. Plaintiff had told Badgley and
Hanson, however, that the marijuana was legal because his
doctor had prescribed the use of medical cannabis and had
issued him an Informed Medical Consent & Verification
(“IMCV”) under California's Compassionate Use
Act of 1996 (“CUA”), permitting the cultivation
and possession of marijuana. Dkt. No. 84 ¶¶ 5-6,
13, 30-32. Plaintiff's IMCV was also posted in several
locations in his home, including on the wooden frame that
contained the growing marijuana plants. Id.
¶¶ 10-11. It states that Plaintiff can possess up
to 99 mature plants and 19 pounds of cannabis for his
personal use. See Dkt. No. 84-1. Plaintiff only
later heard the sound of his safe being opened. Dkt. No. 84
¶ 29. In it, the officers found prescription pills that
Plaintiff admitted were not prescribed to him. Dkt. No. 77-6
¶ 16; Dkt. No. 77-2, Ex. A at 145-46.
seized evidence, except for the marijuana plants, was
transported to the Redding Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement
evidence vault. Dkt. No. 77-6 ¶ 19. Separately,
non-party Humboldt County Deputy Sheriff Todd Fulton seized
the plants themselves, retained samples as evidence, and
marked the rest to be destroyed. Id. ¶ 20.
the search of Plaintiff's house, Hanson prepared an
Information Bulletin for the Humboldt County Sherriff's
Department that said officers had “located a commercial
indoor marijuana growing operation” at Plaintiff's
address and had arrested Plaintiff “for cultivation and
possession for sales of marijuana.” Dkt. No. 94-8, Ex.
B (Humboldt County Sheriff's Office Information
Bulletin); see also Dkt. No. 84 ¶ 45; Dkt. No.
94-7 ¶ 6. The bulletin was disseminated to the media,
broadcast over radio and television, and made available
online. Dkt. No. 84 ¶ 45.
February 2015, the Humboldt Superior Court quashed the search
warrants, finding that they were based on stale information.
Dkt. No. 86-1. The court stated that the smell of marijuana,
the “critical” factor in the magistrate
judge's finding, was detected eight months prior to the
issuance of the first PG&E warrant and more than nine
months prior to the execution of the search warrant at issue
1, 2015, Plaintiff brought this action in Humboldt County
Superior Court against California State police officers
Badgley and Nelsen (collectively, “State
Defendants”); Humboldt County and Humboldt County
sheriff and deputy sheriffs Downey, Hanson, Kirkpatrick,
Massaro, Musson, and Quennell (collectively, “County
Defendants”); and City of Eureka police officer
Harkness (“City Defendant”). On July 21, 2015,
Defendant Badgley removed the action to federal court. Dkt.
No. 1 at 6.
judgment is proper when a “movant shows that there is
no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(a). A fact is “material” if it “might
affect the outcome of the suit under the governing
law.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. 242, 248 (1986). And a dispute is “genuine”
if there is evidence in the record sufficient for a
reasonable trier of fact to decide in favor of the nonmoving
party. Id. But in deciding if a dispute is genuine,
the Court must view the inferences reasonably drawn from the
materials in the record in the light most favorable to the
nonmoving party, Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith
Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587-88 (1986), and “may
not weigh the evidence or make credibility determinations,
” Freeman v. Arpaio, 125 F.3d 732, 735 (9th
Cir. 1997), overruled on other grounds by Shakur v.
Schriro, 514 F.3d 878, 884-85 (9th Cir. 2008). If the
Court finds that there is no genuine dispute of material fact
as to only a single claim or defense or as to part of a claim
or defense, it may enter partial summary judgment.
respect to summary judgment procedure, the moving party
always bears both the ultimate burden of persuasion and the
initial burden of producing those portions of the pleadings,
discovery, and affidavits that show the absence of a genuine
issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Where the moving party will not
bear the burden of proof on an issue at trial, it “must
either produce evidence negating an essential element of the
nonmoving party's claim or defense or show that the
nonmoving party does not have enough evidence of an essential
element to carry its ultimate burden of persuasion at
trial.” Nissan Fire & Marine Ins. Co. v. Fritz
Cos., 210 F.3d 1099, 1102 (9th Cir. 2000). “If a
moving party fails to carry its initial burden of production,
the nonmoving party has no obligation to produce anything,
even if the nonmoving party would have the ultimate burden of
persuasion at trial.” Id. at 1102-03.
however, a moving party carries its burden of production, the
nonmoving party must produce evidence to support its claim or
defense.” Id. at 1103. In doing so, the
nonmoving party “must do more than simply show that
there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material
facts.” Matsushita Elec., 475 U.S. at 586. A
nonmoving party must also “identify with reasonable
particularity the evidence that precludes summary judgment,
” because the Court's duty is not to “scour
the record in search of a genuine issue of triable
fact.” Keenan v. Allan, 91 F.3d 1275, 1279
(9th Cir. 1996). If a nonmoving party fails to produce
evidence that supports its claim or defense, the Court must
enter summary judgment in favor of the movant.
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323.
Court first addresses the application of qualified immunity
to the federal claims against Defendants and then addresses
Plaintiff's state law claims.
immunity is an entitlement, provided to government officials
in the exercise of their duties, not to stand trial or face
the other burdens of litigation. Saucier v. Katz,
533 U.S. 194, 200 (2001). The doctrine of qualified immunity
attempts to balance two important and sometimes competing
interests - “the need to hold public officials
accountable when they exercise power irresponsibly and the
need to shield officials from harassment, distraction, and
liability when they perform their duties reasonably.”
Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 231 (2009)
(quotation omitted). The doctrine thus intends to take into
account the real-world demands on officials such as police
officers in order to allow them to act “swiftly and
firmly” in situations where the rules governing their
actions are often “voluminous, ambiguous, and
contradictory.” Mueller v. Auker, 576 F.3d
979, 993 (9th Cir. 2009). “The purpose of this doctrine
is to recognize that holding officials liable for reasonable
mistakes might unnecessarily paralyze their ability to make
difficult decisions in challenging situations, thus
disrupting the effective performance of their public
determine whether an officer is entitled to qualified
immunity, the Court must consider whether (1) the
officer's conduct violated a constitutional right and (2)
that right was clearly established at the time of the
incident. Pearson, 555 U.S. at 232. Courts are not
required to address the two qualified immunity issues in any
particular order, and instead may “exercise their sound
discretion in deciding which of the two prongs of the