Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Sants v. Seipert

United States District Court, E.D. California

June 24, 2019

DEPUTY MICHAEL SEIPERT, individually; COUNTY OF PLACER a government entity and municipality, Defendants.


         Defendants Michael Seipert and County of Placer (collectively “defendants”) move to dismiss, ECF No. 50, plaintiff Nicholas Sants' Second Amended Complaint (“SAC”), ECF No. 49. Plaintiff has opposed, ECF No. 51; defendants have replied, ECF No. 52. On November 16, 2018, the court heard oral argument on the motion. After consideration of the parties' arguments, and for the reasons set forth below, defendants' motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.


         Plaintiff brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for an incident on February 12, 2013 at the Squaw Valley resort in Placer County. SAC ¶ 8. The alleged facts of the incident are as follows: Deputy Seipert, a Sheriff's Deputy for the Placer County Sheriff's Office, was on patrol at the resort the day of the incident. Id. Deputy Seipert approached plaintiff and announced he was under arrest for public intoxication. Id. When plaintiff inquired as to the cause of the arrest, Deputy Seipert became aggressive, pulled plaintiff's arm, then punched him in the face. Id. During the course of the arrest, plaintiff attempted to protect himself and repeatedly called for help. Id. Deputy Seipert then resorted to use of his billy club, but plaintiff trapped the club between his legs and eventually cast it aside beyond Deputy Seipert's reach. Id. Plaintiff never attempted to attack Deputy Seipert; he merely acted in self-defense in the face of an overly aggressive officer. Id. ¶ 9. These events exacerbated plaintiff's preexisting seizure disorder, of which he repeatedly informed both paramedics and police personnel. Id. ¶ 11. Based on these events, the Placer County District Attorney brought charges against plaintiff in the Superior Court of California, County of Placer, case number 72-008156B. Id. ¶ 13. On April 11, 2018, the case was tried before a jury and plaintiff was found guilty of section 148(a)(1) of the California Penal Code for resisting arrest, a misdemeanor; he was acquitted of all remaining charges. Id. ¶ 15; ECF No. 51 at 2.[1]

         Plaintiff initiated this action on February 11, 2015, bringing ten claims for various violations under § 1983. ECF No. 1. In ruling on defendants' motion to dismiss the original complaint, the court dismissed plaintiff's municipal liability and state-law claims with leave to amend and stayed the case pending resolution of the underlying criminal action. ECF No. 11. Plaintiff was granted leave to amend within twenty-one days of the stay being lifted. Id. The stay has since lifted and plaintiff has amended his complaint, [2] bringing the following six claims against Deputy Seipert and the County of Placer: (1) excessive force, (2) false arrest, (3) malicious prosecution, (4) fabrication of false evidence, (5) conspiracy, and (6) failure to implement appropriate policies, customs and practices. See generally SAC. As noted, defendants move to dismiss, ECF No. 50, and the court resolves the motion here.


         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a party may move to dismiss a complaint for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” A court may dismiss “based on the lack of cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory.” Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). Although a complaint need contain only “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), to survive a motion to dismiss this short and plain statement “must contain sufficient factual matter . . . to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A complaint must include something more than “an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation” or “‘labels and conclusions' or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action . . . .'” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Determining whether a complaint will survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim is a “context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id. at 679. Ultimately, the inquiry focuses on the interplay between the factual allegations of the complaint and the dispositive issues of law in the action. See Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984).

         In making this context-specific evaluation, this court “must presume all factual allegations of the complaint to be true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party.” Usher v. City of Los Angeles, 828 F.2d 556, 561 (9th Cir. 1987). This rule does not apply to “a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation, ” Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986), quoted in Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, to “allegations that contradict matters properly subject to judicial notice, ” or to material attached to or incorporated by reference into the complaint, Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors, 266 F.3d 979, 988 (9th Cir. 2001).


         Defendants argue that in light of plaintiff's conviction for resisting arrest under section 148(a)(1) of the California Penal Code, claims One through Five are barred by the rule set forth in Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 478 (1994). ECF No. 50-1 at 7-10. Plaintiff asserts that Heck is inapplicable under the Ninth Circuit's ruling in Smith v. City of Hemet, 394 F.3d 689 (9th Cir. 2005) (en banc). ECF No. 51 at 5-6. The court evaluates each individual claim in turn.

         A. Claim One: Excessive Force

         The court finds Heck does not bar plaintiff's first claim for excessive force, as explained below.

         In Heck, the Supreme Court explained:

[I]n order to recover damages for allegedly unconstitutional conviction or imprisonment, or for other harm caused by actions whose unlawfulness would render a conviction or sentence invalid, a § 1983 plaintiff must prove that the conviction or sentence has been reversed on direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid by a state tribunal authorized to make such determination, or called into question by a federal court's issuance of a writ of habeas corpus, 28 U.S.C. § 2254. A claim for damages bearing that relationship to a conviction or sentence that has not been so invalidated is not cognizable under § 1983. Thus, when a state prisoner seeks damages in a § 1983 suit, the district court must consider whether a judgment in favor of the plaintiff would necessarily imply the invalidity of his conviction or sentence; if it would, the complaint must be dismissed unless the plaintiff can demonstrate that the conviction or sentence has already been invalidated. But if the district court determines that the plaintiff's action, even if successful, will not demonstrate the invalidity of any outstanding criminal judgment against the plaintiff, the action should be allowed to proceed, in the absence of some other bar to the suit.

512 U.S. at 486-87 (emphasis in original). Indeed, the “relevant question is whether success in a subsequent § 1983 suit would ‘necessarily imply' or ‘demonstrate' the invalidity of the earlier conviction or sentence.” Smith, 394 F.3d at 695 (quoting Heck, 512 U.S. at 487).

         The Ninth Circuit, in Smith v. City of Hemet, considered the rule articulated in Heck as it related to a conviction under section 148(a)(1), the very provision on which plaintiff here was convicted. The court reasoned that “conviction for resisting arrest under section 148(a)(1) may be lawfully obtained only if the officers do not use excessive force in the course of making that arrest.” Smith, 394 F.3d at 696 (emphasis in original). It is possible an officer's conduct may be deemed excessive “before the officers commence the process of arresting the defendant, ” or “after a defendant has properly been arrested.” Id. (emphasis in original). In essence, the court determined that events surrounding and including an arrest can be delineated into stages. So long as one stage in a sequence can justify a conviction under section 148(a)(1), then finding another point along the sequence to be excessive would not “necessarily imply” or “demonstrate” the invalidity of the underlying conviction. Id. at 698 (“There were two different phases of the officers' conduct here . . . . California law immunizes [plaintiff] from prosecution for any conduct that occurred at the time of, or during the course of his unlawful arrest, but it does not immunize him from prosecution for unlawful conduct that occurred prior or subsequent to that time.”).

         Six years after deciding Smith, the Ninth Circuit clarified its position in Hooper v. Cty. of San Diego, based on a California Supreme Court decision interpreting section 148(a)(1). 629 F.3d 1127 (9th Cir. 2011) (citing Yount v. City of ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.