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Mazzaferro v. Parisi

United States District Court, N.D. California

July 7, 2017

RONALD MAZZAFERRO, Plaintiff,
v.
WILLIAM PARISI, KEN JOHNSON, SPENCER CRUM, BRUCE GOLDSTEIN, JOSHUA MYERS, and LYNN SEARLE, Defendants.

          ORDER ORDER DENYING MOTION TO DISMISS, GRANTING MOTION FOR A MORE DEFINITE STATEMENT, AND VACATING HEARING

          WILLIAM ALSUP UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         INTRODUCTION

         In this Section 1983 action, defendants move to dismiss pursuant to FRCP 41(b), or in the alternative for a more definite statement. For the reasons below, the motion to dismiss is Denied. The motion for a more definite statement is Granted.

         STATEMENT

         The history of this case is recited at length in previous orders (see Dkt. No. 80), therefore this order repeats only certain necessary details. In October 2016, Plaintiff Ronald Mazzaferro filed this action under Section 1983 for violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. Certain claims and parties have since been dismissed.

         In April 2017, two of the remaining parties, Deputy Ken Johnson and Sergeant Spencer Crum, moved for a more definite statement. A May 11 order granted their motion. That order provided that Mazzaferro shall:

provide a more definite statement with respect to the claims against Deputy Sheriff Johnson and Sergeant Crum. More specifically, Mazzaferro shall present each claim separately and in a manner clear enough that Sergeant Crum and Deputy Sheriff Johnson can understand exactly what claims are being brought against them. To make a clear record, Mazzaferro shall provide the more definite statement in the form of an amended complaint.

         It further explained that “[t]he proposed amended complaint must be appended to a separate redlined copy identifying all changes” (Dkt. No. 80).

         In response to this order, Mazzaferro filed a document entitled “Plaintiff Ronald Mazzaferro's Court Ordered Amended Complaint in the Form of a More Definite Statement as to Defendant Ken Johnson and Defendant Spencer Crum” to which he appended his second amended complaint (Dkt. No. 84). The first document (hereinafter “third amended complaint”) contains factual allegations and legal claims directed at Deputy Johnson and Sergeant Crum. The factual allegations are carried over verbatim from the earlier second amended complaint. The two legal claims, however, are refashioned and presented in a more easily understood form. Both allege that Deputy Johnson and Sergeant Crum violated Section 1983. The first claim is predicated on violations of Mazzaferro's Fourth Amendment rights, while the second is predicated on violations of Mazzaferro's First Amendment rights (id. ¶¶ 15-22).

         Notably, the third amended complaint omits claims against all defendants other than Deputy Johnson and Sergeant Crum. It also omits a statement of jurisdiction and venue.

         ANALYSIS

         Deputy Johnson and Sergeant Crum now move to dismiss under FRCP 41(b). In the alternative, they move for a more definite statement. They allege that the third amended complaint fails to comply with the May 11 order, and is so vague and ambiguous that they do not know how to respond to it. In support of these arguments, they contend that they do not know whether the third amended complaint, or the attached second amended complaint controls. When read together, they argue, the documents are confusing.

         1. FRCP 41(b).

         FRCP 41(b) provides that a defendant may move to dismiss an action against it “if the plaintiff fails . . . to comply . . . with a court order.” FRCP 41(b) dismissal, however, “is so harsh a remedy that it should be imposed as a sanction only in extreme circumstances.” Dahl v. ...


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