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Vang v. Lopey

United States District Court, E.D. California

September 1, 2017

JESSE VANG, Plaintiffs,
v.
SHERIFF JON LOPEY, 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' Third Amended Complaint (“TAC”). Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 72. Plaintiffs oppose the motion. Opp'n, ECF No. 74.[1]For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS the County's motion to dismiss.[2]

         I. FACTS

         Plaintiffs-several Hmong individuals who own property in the County-allege that after the Hmong population increased, the County “launched an unlawful and discriminatory campaign” against Plaintiffs. TAC ¶ 5. The Board of Supervisors passed two ordinances restricting medical marijuana growth. TAC ¶ 6. The County allegedly disproportionately enforced these ordinances against Asian American individuals. TAC ¶ 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.” TAC ¶ 18. The County Clerk flagged these voter registration forms for possible voter fraud. TAC ¶ 19.

         On two days in June 2016, County officers visited Plaintiffs' properties, and allegedly some officers carried assault rifles. TAC ¶ 32. These visits scared some plaintiffs out of voting in the June or November 2016 elections. TAC ¶¶ 54, 70, 82, 88, 108.

         The restrictions on cultivating medical marijuana passed as Measures T and U in the June election. TAC ¶ 36. Since then, Plaintiffs allege the County has “deliberately policed subdivisions where high concentrations of Asian American property owners are known to reside.” TAC ¶ 36. Additionally, “notices of nuisance violations have been issued overwhelmingly to Asian property owners as opposed to white property owners, which comprise the majority racial population in Siskiyou County.” TAC ¶ 36.

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

         Plaintiffs brought two claims in their TAC: (1) racial discrimination in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and (2) retaliation in violation of the First Amendment. TAC at 33, 38. The Court has already dismissed Plaintiffs' second claim because “Plaintiffs did not raise a First Amendment claim in any of their previous complaints, and the Court gave Plaintiffs leave to amend only their second cause of action for alleged violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.” Minute Order, ECF No. 71.

         II. OPINION

         A. Legal Standard

         Government actors violate the Fourteenth Amendment's equal protection clause when they “enforce a valid statute in a discriminatory fashion.” United States v. Steele, 461 F.2d 1148, 1151 (9th Cir. 1972). But, mere selectivity in enforcing laws does not violate the Constitution. Id. To establish an equal protection claim based on selective enforcement a plaintiff must show the enforcement “(1) has a discriminatory effect; and (2) is motivated by a discriminatory purpose.” Cuviello v. City & Cty. of S.F., 940 F.Supp.2d 1071, 1097 (N.D. Cal. 2013).

         In addition to showing discriminatory purpose and effect, plaintiffs alleging selective enforcement against a municipality must demonstrate the misconduct comes from a “policy, plan, or a pervasive pattern.” Rosenbaum v. City & Cty. of S.F., 484 F.3d 1142, 1153 (9th Cir. 2007).

         B. Analysis

         The County argues the Court should dismiss Plaintiffs' equal protection claim because they have not alleged intentional discrimination or that the County had a policy or custom of such discrimination. ...


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