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Cardenas v. County of Alameda

United States District Court, N.D. California

July 17, 2017

RITA CARDENAS, an individual, L.V., by and through her guardian ad litem Ruby Cardenas, L.M., by and through her guardian ad litem Ruby Cardenas, and DAVID ORTIZ, an individual, Plaintiffs,
v.
COUNTY OF ALAMEDA, a municipal corporation; COLBY STAYSA, MATTHEW FARRUGGIA, MICHAEL BUCKHOUT, VICTOR FOX, RAMSEY JACKSON, JAMES MCGRAIL, VICTOR RAMIREZ, and DOES 1-25, individually and in their official capacities, Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART MOTION TO AMEND

          WILLIAM ALSUP UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         INTRODUCTION

         In this motion to amend and accompanying amended complaint, plaintiffs claim constitutional violations arising out of a police search of their home. Defendants oppose the motion arguing that plaintiffs fail to state a claim for relief. For the reasons below, the motion is Granted in part and Denied in part.

         STATEMENT

         This civil action arises from a search of plaintiffs' residence in February 2015. The facts are set forth more fully in a prior order (Dkt. No. 45). In brief, plaintiffs allege that police officers from the Alameda County Sheriff's Department summoned them from their home in the middle of the night, pointed weapons at them, handcuffed and interrogated them, and caused damage to parts of their home in the search that ensued.

         1. Procedural History.

         In September 2016, plaintiffs commenced this Section 1983 action. Defendants moved to dismiss. At a January 2017 hearing, a ruling denied the motion as moot and ordered defendants to produce preliminary discovery, including the warrant affidavit and the incident report from the search (Dkt. No. 25). Defendants did so (see Dkt. No. 43). Plaintiffs amended their complaint in February 2017, and defendants again moved to dismiss. On May 2, 2017, an order dismissed plaintiffs' claims against the County of Alameda, and allowed plaintiffs to seek leave to amend their complaint as to the constitutional violation claims against individual defendant officers.

         That order stated that plaintiffs' claims against individual officers were deficient in two respects. First, plaintiffs failed to allege with sufficient specificity who was responsible for what alleged violation. Second, a police report indicated that police acted reasonably under the circumstances. Plaintiffs were ordered to follow up and to refer to the police report and replead with more specificity what unconstitutional acts occurred, and clearly explain how their amended complaint cured the deficiencies of their prior complaint (Dkt. No. 45).

         Plaintiffs have now submitted a proposed second amended complaint, which purports to address the deficiencies in their earlier pleadings. Plaintiffs' motion for leave to amend does not, however, explain how their amended complaint cured earlier deficiencies. Accordingly, the Court has sorted through the proposed amended complaint for counsel.

         2. New Allegations.

         Among the new allegations, plaintiffs state that “Defendant Ramirez wrongfully and negligently asserted that he spotted [a known suspect] inside of Plaintiff Cardenas' residence, ” leading to the issuance of a search warrant. In the search that followed, “Defendant Ramirez aimed his firearm at Plaintiffs Cardenas and Ortiz for a duration of time that exceeded three minutes, ” and “[s]ubsequently, Plaintiff Cardenas [and] Plaintiff Ortiz . . . were handcuffed and separated” (Dkt. No. 47 ¶¶ 17, 20).

         Plaintiffs further allege that Officer Ramirez aimed weapons at the two minor plaintiffs - who were eight and fourteen years old - for more than five minutes, and then “aggressively interrogated” them (id. ¶¶ 21-22). The proposed second amended complaint adds that “the search lasted for more than three hours” and yet “each of the Defendants” ignored plaintiffs pleas that their children were barefoot and cold, and continued to demand information from them. Finally, the proposed complaint states that Officers Buckhout and Fox shot tear gas canisters through the windows of plaintiffs' home (id. ¶ 23).

         Based on these allegations, the proposed second amended complaint recites three claims for relief, each arising under Section 1983: (1) unreasonable search and seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment, (2) unlawful use of excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment, and (3) violations arising under the Fourteenth Amendment. Because the same conduct and legal analysis apply to the Fourth Amendment claims, this order analyzes them together, and treats them as a single claim. The order then analyzes the Fourteenth Amendment claim separately.

         Before reaching the underlying constitutional claims, however, this order first considers the threshold question of whether plaintiffs have cured deficiencies in their earlier pleadings by ...


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