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Morrison v. City of Los Angeles

United States District Court, C.D. California

July 10, 2019

CITY OF LOS ANGELES et al., Defendants.



         On March 15, 2019, Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, filed a civil-rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the City of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Police Department, the deputy district attorney who unsuccessfully prosecuted him, and four LAPD officers. He sued all the individual Defendants in their official and individual capacities. (Compl. at 1, 3-4.) His claims stemmed from a November 2016 arrest and subsequent prosecution for assault and battery, of which a jury apparently acquitted him. (Id. at 5-24.)

         After screening the Complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), the Court identified numerous deficiencies, including failure to state official-capacity claims against the individual Defendants or municipal-liability claims against the City of Los Angeles and the LAPD, and Plaintiff's attempt to sue an individual - the deputy district attorney - who appeared to have absolute immunity. The Court dismissed the Complaint with leave to amend so that Plaintiff could attempt to cure the deficiencies.

         Plaintiff filed the First Amended Complaint on June 11, 2019, and the Court again reviewed it under § 1915(e)(2). He no longer sues the deputy district attorney and names the other individual Defendants only in their individual capacity. But he does still sue the City of Los Angeles and the LAPD and again has failed to state municipal-liability claims against them because he doesn't identify an LAPD custom, policy, or practice that was the proximate cause of his injuries. Accordingly, the FAC is dismissed with leave to amend.[1] See Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1130-31 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc) (holding that pro se litigant must be given leave to amend complaint unless it is absolutely clear that deficiency cannot be cured). If Plaintiff desires to pursue any of his claims, he is ORDERED to file a second amended complaint within 28 days of this order, remedying the deficiencies discussed below.


         In the afternoon of November 27, 2016, uniformed police officers Defendants Alvaro Ramos and David Mirzoyan entered Plaintiff's bedroom, inside the apartment he shared with his mother, without a warrant or his consent. (FAC ¶¶ 22-23, 35.) The officers refused to tell him why they were there, and when he attempted to leave they kicked his legs out, twisted his arm, slammed his face into a chair, and handcuffed him. (Id. ¶ 24.) The officers brought him to a police station, where one of them questioned him about an alleged incident involving his mother that occurred the night before. (Id. ¶¶ 27-28, 34.) He told the officer that he had spent the previous evening at a coffee shop and after coming home to a “trashed” apartment - not an uncommon occurrence given his mother's “violent outbursts” - had gone straight to sleep. (Id. ¶¶ 28-29, 34.) He explained that his mother was suffering from “physical and mental health issues, ” was angry about his decision to move out of their apartment, and “had a history” of “threat[ning] . . . to call the police” on him if he didn't give her money. (Id. ¶¶ 31-35.)

         Subsequently, Ramos and Mirzoyan, with Defendant Sergeant Ricardo Acosta's approval, arrested and charged Plaintiff with “Assault with a Deadly Weapon” and “Battery with Serious Bodily Injury” for hitting his mother with a walker. (Id. ¶¶ 39-41, 60.) According to the FAC, Plaintiff was arrested without probable cause that he had committed the charged crimes. (Id. ¶¶ 64, 68, 73, 75-76, 81, 87, 89, 91, 97.) As he later learned, Ramos and Mirzoyan, with Acosta's approval, allegedly (1) failed to collect evidence, take photographs, interview eyewitnesses, or obtain relevant security footage (id. ¶¶ 62, 68); (2) ignored both “bizarre, ” “inconsisten[t], ” and demonstrably false statements by his mother that impugned her credibility (id. ¶¶ 63-64, 71, 76, 87-88, 90-91) and a medical report that revealed that any injuries she suffered weren't caused by an assault (id. ¶¶ 58, 60-61, 88); (3) omitted exculpatory information from their police report (id. ¶¶ 66, 75); (4) “fabricated, ” “altered[, ] and manipulated” information in the report (id. ¶¶ 67-68); and (5) targeted Plaintiff based on “bias” and “discrimination” because he was a man (id. ¶¶ 65, 126).

         Defendant Detective Michael Boylls didn't conduct a follow-up investigation after speaking with Plaintiff's mother and wasn't even “able to articulate the knowledge of the elements” of each crime with which Plaintiff was charged. (Id. ¶¶ 69, 211.) He also “fabricated” information and “lied” in order to pursue a “false prosecution” and to “cover[] up the misconduct and false report made by [Ramos and Mirzoyan].” (Id. ¶¶ 70, 79.)

         In early February 2017, a judge denied a civil restraining order against Plaintiff, finding that his mother's testimony wasn't credible and that she had falsified allegations against him. (Id. ¶ 49.) Subsequently, the state court held a preliminary hearing to determine whether probable cause supported the charges against Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 51.) Plaintiff's mother testified, but she gave a “different account” from at the hearing on the restraining order. (Id. ¶ 54.) Also, the prosecutor presented “fabricated” evidence, including claiming that a medical report indicated that Plaintiff's mother's injuries were caused by an assault. (Id. ¶ 53.) The judge, “deceived” into finding that probable cause supported the charges against Plaintiff, permitted the case to proceed. (Id. ¶ 57.) In March 2018, Plaintiff was acquitted of all charges. (Id. ¶ 82.)


         A complaint may be dismissed as a matter of law for failure to state a claim “where there is no cognizable legal theory or an absence of sufficient facts alleged to support a cognizable legal theory.” Shroyer v. New Cingular Wireless Servs., Inc., 622 F.3d 1035, 1041 (9th Cir. 2010) (as amended) (citation omitted); accord O'Neal v. Price, 531 F.3d 1146, 1151 (9th Cir. 2008). In considering whether a complaint states a claim, a court must generally accept as true all the factual allegations in it. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); Hamilton v. Brown, 630 F.3d 889, 892-93 (9th Cir. 2011). The court need not accept as true, however, “allegations that are merely conclusory, unwarranted deductions of fact, or unreasonable inferences.” In re Gilead Scis. Sec. Litig., 536 F.3d 1049, 1055 (9th Cir. 2008) (citation omitted); see also Shelton v. Chorley, 487 Fed.Appx. 388, 389 (9th Cir. 2012) (finding that district court properly dismissed civil-rights claim when plaintiff's “conclusory allegations” did not support it).

         Although a complaint need not include detailed factual allegations, it “must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)); Yagman v. Garcetti, 852 F.3d 859, 863 (9th Cir. 2017). A claim is facially plausible when it “allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. “A document filed pro se is ‘to be liberally construed,' and ‘a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam) (citations omitted); Byrd v. Phx. Police Dep't, 885 F.3d 639, 642 (9th Cir. 2018) (per curiam).


         I. Plaintiff's ...

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