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Patterson v. Van Arsdel

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

February 23, 2018

Sarah Jean Patterson, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
James Van Arsdel, Personally, Defendant-Appellee.

          Argued and Submitted November 6, 2017 Portland, Oregon

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Oregon D.C. No. 3:14-cv-00501-BR Anna J. Brown, District Judge, Presiding

          Leonard Randolph Berman (argued), Law Office of Leonard R. Berman, Portland, Oregon, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

          Cecil Renich-Smith (argued), Senior Assistant Attorney General; Benjamin Gutman, Solicitor General; Ellen F. Rosenblum, Attorney General; Oregon Department of Justice, Salem, Oregon; for Defendant-Appellee.

          Before: Ferdinand F. Fernandez and William A. Fletcher, Circuit Judges, and Jon S. Tigar, [*] District Judge.

         SUMMARY[**]

         Civil Rights

         The panel reversed the district court's dismissal of a complaint in an action brought under 42 U.S.C § 1983 alleging that a pretrial release officer improperly procured a warrant for plaintiff's arrest in violation of her Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable seizures, and remanded.

         The district court held that the defendant was entitled to absolute prosecutorial immunity for the defective arrest warrant. In reversing the district court, the panel stated that the determinative question for absolute immunity was whether defendant was engaged in prosecutorial advocacy. The panel noted that pursuant to Oregon law and the relevant procedures followed in the Yamhill County Circuit Court, defendant had not been delegated authority to make release decisions. Rather, he was authorized only to make recommendations to a judge. The panel held that given the similarities between defendant's role and those of a parole officer and a law enforcement officer, defendant's action in submitting a bare unsigned warrant to the judge should be seen as making a recommendation that the warrant be signed, just like a parole officer recommending revocation, as in Swift v. California, 384 F.3d 1184, 1193 (9th Cir. 2004), or like a police officer submitting documentation for an arrest warrant to a judge, as in Malley v. Briggs, 475 U.S. 335 (1986). The panel concluded that defendant was not entitled to absolute prosecutorial immunity and remanded the case for further proceedings.

         Dissenting, Judge Fernandez stated that the majority's determination that absolute prosecutorial immunity did not apply at all was waived by plaintiff. On the merits, Judge Fernandez stated that the panel should have adhered to the long established rule that once the court grants that the function in question is a prosecutorial function, it does not matter if the person performing that function lacks the title of "prosecutor." Accordingly, Judge Fernandez believed that the defendant in this case should have been accorded absolute immunity for procuring the warrant.

          OPINION

          W. FLETCHER, Circuit Judge

         Sarah Patterson brought an action for damages under 42 U.S.C § 1983 against James Van Arsdel, the Release Assistance Officer for the Circuit Court of Yamhill County, Oregon. Patterson alleges that Van Arsdel improperly procured a warrant for her arrest in violation of her Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable seizures. The district court held that Van Arsdel was entitled to absolute prosecutorial immunity and dismissed with prejudice Patterson's second amended complaint. We reverse and remand for further proceedings.

         I. Background

         This case is before us on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). The following facts are taken from Patterson's complaint, which we accept as true at this stage of the ...


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