United States District Court, S.D. California
ORDER: (1) GRANTING SUMMARY JUDGMENT FOR DEFENDANT
LOPEZ AND (2) GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART SUMMARY
JUDGMENT FOR DEFENDANT MALENA HUERTA [ECF No. 23]
Cynthia Bashant United States District Judge
Alma Godinez brings this §1983 action against Deputies
Maleno Huerta (“Maleno”) and Lopez alleging: (1)
unlawful entry without a warrant, (2) illegal search, (3)
excessive force, (4) wrongful arrest, (5) wrongful detention,
(6) violations of California Civil Code §52.1 and (7)
malicious prosecution. (ECF No. 1.) Defendants move for
summary judgment arguing: (1) plaintiff is collaterally
estopped by findings at her preliminary hearing and probation
revocation hearing; (2) insufficient evidence supports any
cause of action for excessive force; (3) Defendants are
entitled to qualified immunity; and (4) insufficient evidence
supports any causes of action against Deputy Lopez. (ECF No.
23 (Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment
(“MSJ”)).) Ms. Godinez has opposed
Defendants' motion. (ECF No. 25 (Response in Opposition
to the MSJ (“Opp'n”)).)
reasons stated below, the Court agrees that there is
insufficient evidence to support Ms. Godinez's claims
against Deputy Lopez, and that both officers are entitled to
qualified immunity for the initial entry. The Court, however,
denies Defendants' motion in all other respects as to
STATEMENT OF FACTS
February 2, 2015, Deputy Maleno responded to a call at Ms.
Godinez's home. (ECF No. 29 ¶2 (Joint Statement of
Undisputed Facts (“JSUF”)).) Kevin Thornton was
outside the home and told Deputy Maleno that he lived at the
home with his girlfriend Ms. Godinez. (MSJ, Ex. A at
75:18-21, 75:23-76:12 (Excerpts of Dep. Tr. of Deputy Maleno
(“Maleno Dep.”)).) Mr. Thornton told Deputy
Maleno he had gotten into an argument with his girlfriend,
Ms. Godinez, and that he needed to retrieve his belongings
from the residence. (MSJ, Ex. B at 45:6-8 (Excerpts of Dep.
Tr. of Angela Lopez (“Lopez Dep.”)).) Mr.
Thornton said the keys to his truck, which was parked outside
the residence, were inside Ms. Godinez's apartment and he
could not leave because Ms. Godinez had his truck keys. (MSJ,
Ex. C ¶8 (Decl. of Michael David Blaylock
Maleno did nothing else to confirm that Mr. Thornton lived at
the house. (Maleno Dep. at 77:17-20.) And, in fact, during an
earlier dispatch call, Mr. Thornton had denied living with
Ms. Godinez at this residence. (Opp'n, Ex.
Thornton and Dep. Maleno knocked at the front door, yelling
that deputies were present and that Thornton only wanted to
retrieve some belongings he had left at the home, but no one
responded. (Lopez Dep. at 50:4-9, 50:24-25.) Deputy Maleno
asked Mr. Thornton what he wanted to do next. Mr. Thornton
asked if he could force his way in, and Deputy Maleno said he
could if that was in fact his residence. (MSJ, Ex. D at
14:13-19 (Preliminary Hearing Transcript
(“PH”)).) Mr. Thornton went around back, and
Deputy Maleno accompanied him to make sure there were no
arguments or physical violence. (Maleno Dep. at 76:16-18.)
Thornton forced his way into the residence with his shoulder.
(Id. at 85:2- 3.) When Mr. Thornton forced in the
door, Ms. Godinez, who was right behind the door, was knocked
to the ground. (Opp'n, Ex. 1 ¶9 (Decl. of Alma
Godinez (“Godinez Decl.”)).) Deputy Maleno
followed Mr. Thornton into the residence. What transpired
next varies drastically depending upon whose testimony is
found to be credible.
Maleno testified that he initially saw Ms. Godinez on the
floor with a bat near her. He asked if she was okay,
approached her and offered to help her up. (Maleno Dep. at
85:11-15.) In response, she jumped to her feet, raised the
bat up and yelled “get out.” (Id. at
86:11-13.) She then got into a “fighting stance”
with the bat. (Id. at 90:16-18.) Deputy Maleno drew
his Taser and demanded that she drop the bat several times.
(Id. at 19:13, 19:19-20.) Ms. Godinez started a
swinging motion with the bat and, in response, he fired his
Taser. (Id. at 93:16-19.) The shock of the Taser
shocked her enough so that she dropped the bat, but was not
effective at penetrating her thick bathrobe so she did not
drop to the ground the way he commanded. (PH at 19:5-9.)
Because she refused his command to get down on the ground, he
used his Taser again in “drive-stun mode” to get
her to the ground so he could handcuff her. (Maleno Dep. at
Godinez, on the other hand, states that after she was knocked
to the floor by the forced entry, she remained on the floor.
She denies standing up or grabbing the bat. (Godinez Decl.
¶10.) She states that she was “crab-walking”
backwards with her bottom on the floor when Deputy Maleno
fired the Taser at her. (Id.)
Godinez was subsequently arrested and charged with (1)
resisting or obstruction a police officer under California
Penal Code §148(a)(1), and (2) assault on a peace
officer with a deadly weapon, other than a firearm, by means
likely to produce great bodily injury, pursuant to California
Penal Code §245(c). According to Ms. Godinez, after her
arrest, and while she sat in a patrol car outside her home,
she saw Deputy Maleno go in and out of her house several
times without her consent. (Godinez Decl. ¶18.)
Lopez arrived on the scene after Deputy Maleno. (Lopez Dep.
at 43:2- 3.) She overheard Mr. Thornton tell Deputy Maleno
that he had gotten into an argument with his girlfriend, and
that he needed to get his stuff out of the residence he
shared with her. (Id. at 45:6-8.) Deputy Lopez stood
with Deputy Maleno and Mr. Thornton as they knocked at the
front door and shouted out that they merely wanted to
Deputy Maleno and Mr. Thornton went around back, Deputy Lopez
waited by the front door until she heard Deputy Maleno yell,
“Put the bat down” several times. (Id.
at 52:16-18.) Deputy Lopez then ran around to the back of the
house, but by the time she saw Ms. Godinez for the first
time, Deputy Maleno had already fired his Taser.
(Id. at 57:7-8.) She did not witness any of the
Tasing or the events immediately leading up to the Tasing.
(Id. at 59:23-24.)
Lopez assisted Deputy Maleno in handcuffing Ms. Godinez.
(Id. at 60:8-12.) Deputy Lopez testified that Ms.
Godinez was not cooperating. (Id.) Ms. Godinez
states that she did nothing to resist or fight the deputies.
(Godinez Decl. ¶10.) Ms. Godinez states that, in
applying the handcuffs, “Deputy Lopez dug her nails
into my arms and roughly forced my arms behind my back,
causing me a great deal of pain.” (Id.)