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Gifford v. Siskiyou County Sheriff

United States District Court, E.D. California

September 6, 2017

ROGER GIFFORD, Plaintiff,
v.
SISKIYOU COUNTY SHERIFF, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

         In this action, plaintiff Roger Gifford asserts several federal and state claims against Siskiyou County Deputy Sheriffs and California State Highway Patrol Officers for unlawfully seizing his medical marijuana from his vehicle, arresting him after seizing his marijuana, and searching his house subject to an allegedly unlawful arrest warrant. On June 23, 2016, the magistrate judge issued findings and recommendations, recommending this court grant defendants' motion to dismiss plaintiff's complaint and close the case. ECF No. 69. Although the magistrate judge gave the parties an opportunity to file objections, no party has filed objections.

         After a careful review of the file, as explained in this order, the court declines to adopt the magistrate judge's findings and recommendations in full, but rather adopts them only as consistent with this order.

         I. BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         The operative amended complaint names Deputies Lemos, Grossman and Richardson from Siskiyou County as defendants (County defendants), as well as Officers Swain, Shadwell, Leighliter, Yates, Baty and McPeek of the California State Highway Patrol (State defendants). First Amended Complaint (FAC) 1:21-25, ECF No. 7.

         Plaintiff alleges that on September 19, 2009, he lawfully parked his vehicle on the side of the on-ramp to I-5. FAC at 2:24-25. He then left his vehicle and proceeded in another vehicle traveling to Oregon. Id. Upon return, plaintiff saw several of the State defendants standing around his vehicle. Id. After Officer Swain seized marijuana found in his vehicle, plaintiff was immediately handcuffed by an unnamed officer and taken to the Highway Patrol headquarters located in Yreka, CA. Id. at 3:1-3.

         While at headquarters, plaintiff alleges Deputy Lemos found plaintiff's “medical recommendation, ” identifying plaintiff as a medical marijuana patient under the protection of the California Compassionate Use Act. Id. at 3:6-8. Deputy Lemos ignored this recommendation and proceeded to interrogate plaintiff for three hours. Id.

         While plaintiff was in custody, Deputy Grossman obtained a search warrant from the Honorable Karen L. Dixon with the Siskiyou County Superior Court, based on alleged “false statements.” Id. at 3:19-25; 4:1-2. With this warrant, state defendants Swain, Shadwell, Leighliter, Yates, Baty and McPeek then proceeded to search plaintiff's house. Id. at 3:19-25. In the search, plaintiff's gun safe was destroyed and a World War II knife, a family relic, was damaged. Id.

         II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff originally filed this action on September 19, 2011. ECF No. 1. The complaint was dismissed with leave to amend on October 31, 2011, ECF No. 4, and plaintiff filed the first amended complaint on January 30, 2012. FAC.

         Plaintiff's first claim is against the State defendants in their individual capacities for an unlawful search and seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment. FAC at 4:8-13. Although state defendants searched the house under Judge Dixon's warrant, plaintiff's second claim is against all defendants in their individual capacities for executing an invalid home search warrant in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Id. 4:14-23.

         Plaintiff also makes the following six state law claims against all defendants: (1) false arrest, id. 5:3-7, (2) “conversion” for property destruction when executing the allegedly invalid search warrant, id. 5:10-16; (3) ignoring “class of plaintiff as qualified patient, ” allegedly for failing to recognize plaintiff as an authorized medical marijuana user before seizing his marijuana, id. 5:19-25; (4) unlawful search and seizure, id. 6:3-12, (5) freedom of speech deprivation, id. 6:16-25, and (6) “torture, ” allegedly for “coercing interrogation, the intimidation and harassment . . . [in] an ongoing arbitrary and capricious illegal application of the marijuana [laws], ” id. 8:3-13. Although not pleaded with specificity, all claims allege violations of the California Constitution. Id. 5-8.

         County and State defendants moved to dismiss plaintiff's first amended complaint. ECF No. 14 (County defendants' motion to dismiss); ECF No. 50 (State defendants' motion to dismiss). County defendants have also moved for sanctions, contending plaintiff's claims are frivolous. ECF No. 65. In the findings and recommendations, the magistrate judge recommends granting County and State defendants' motions to dismiss, but declining to grant County defendants' motion for sanctions. ECF No. 69 at 11.

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The court presumes that any findings of fact are correct. See Orand v. United States, 602 F.2d 207, 208 (9th Cir. 1979). The magistrate judge's conclusions of law are reviewed de novo. See Britt v. Simi Valley Unified School Dist., 708 F.2d 452, 454 (9th Cir. 1983). The court “may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in ...


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