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Brown v. City of Clovis

United States District Court, E.D. California

July 17, 2019

RAYQUAN RAY BROWN, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
THE CITY OF CLOVIS, et al., Defendants.

          SCREENING ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFFS LEAVE TO EITHER FILE AN AMENDED COMPLAINT OR NOTICE OF INTENT TO PROCEED ON CLAIM FOUND TO BE COGNIZABLE (ECF NO. 1)

         Rayquan Ray Brown and Lafrance Ray Brown (collectively “Plaintiffs”) filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Currently before the Court is Plaintiffs' complaint, filed April 10, 2019. (ECF No. 1.)

         I.

         SCREENING REQUIREMENT

         Notwithstanding any filing fee, the court shall dismiss a case if at any time the Court determines that the complaint “(i) is frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2); see Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1129 (9th Cir. 2000) (section 1915(e) applies to all in forma pauperis complaints, not just those filed by prisoners); Calhoun v. Stahl, 254 F.3d 845 (9th Cir. 2001) (dismissal required of in forma pauperis proceedings which seek monetary relief from immune defendants); Cato v. United States, 70 F.3d 1103, 1106 (9th Cir. 1995) (district court has discretion to dismiss in forma pauperis complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)); Barren v. Harrington, 152 F.3d 1193 (9th Cir. 1998) (affirming sua sponte dismissal for failure to state a claim). The Court exercises its discretion to screen Plaintiffs' complaint in this action to determine if it “(i) is frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).

         In determining whether a complaint fails to state a claim, the Court uses the same pleading standard used under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a). A complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief. . . .” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Detailed factual allegations are not required, but “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).

         In reviewing the pro se complaint, the Court is to liberally construe the pleadings and accept as true all factual allegations contained in the complaint. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). Although a court must accept as true all factual allegations contained in a complaint, a court need not accept a plaintiff's legal conclusions as true. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. “[A] complaint [that] pleads facts that are ‘merely consistent with' a defendant's liability . . . ‘stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.'” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). Therefore, the complaint must contain sufficient factual content for the court to draw the reasonable conclusion that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         II.

         COMPLAINT ALLEGATIONS

         The Court accepts Plaintiffs' allegations in the complaint as true only for the purpose of the sua sponte screening requirement under 28 U.S.C. § 1915.

         Plaintiffs are brothers and are African-American. They went to Martin's Bar or the Saddleback Club[1] on January 12, 2018. Lafrance parked the car in the back parking lot and then went to the back of the line to enter the bar. A security guard at the bar created a line in which individuals could pay $20.00 and not have to wait to enter the bar. Lafrance went to the front of that line. Rayquan came from the rear of the building and walked up to the front of the line. A security guard asked Rayquan if he was trying to enter the bar from the back door. The security guard told Rayquan that he would not be allowed to enter the building and to leave and come back the following weekend.

         Rayquan and the security guard began arguing and at that time the other security guard noticed a Clovis police officer driving down Clovis Avenue. The security officer ran into the street to flag down the officer to help with Rayquan. Lafrance was still waiting in line and Rayquan began to walk away from the bar. Sgt. Weibert got out of his car and rushed toward the parties. Lafrance put his hands up in the air and yelled repeatedly “it's not me, it's not me.” Sgt. Weibert rushed toward Lafrance and attacked him, twisting his left arm. Officer Dronek also rushed up and attacked Lafrance, grabbing his right arm. Lafrance was slammed against a wall and the officers yelled for him to stop resisting and twisted his arms even harder, even though Lafrance was not resisting.

         Rayquan was walking away because he figured the security guards would inform the officers that it was not Lafrance who had been involved in the incident. Lafrance was placed in handcuffs and put in the back of the patrol car. The officers left Lafrance in the patrol car for at least twenty minutes. Lafrance asked Officer Droneck why he was being arrested and Officer Dronek stated he did not know. Lafrance saw the security guards talking to the officers pointing to Rayquan who had been involved in the incident. As he was in the patrol car, Lafrance saw the officers arrest Rayquan and a man named Green who had been in line with Lafrance waiting to enter the bar.

         As Lafrance waited in the patrol car, the officers and security guard went into the bar and removed all the other people that Rayquan came with and made them leave the bar. The security guard followed Rayquan off the property and when the officers caught up with him Rayquan was grabbed by the back of the neck and thrown to the ground. The security guard started choking Rayquan and told the officer to “get him before I hurt him.” Rayquan was charged. At his preliminary hearing, the Clovis Police Department admitted that there was body cam footage that had been deleted and they did not know how it had been deleted. The District Attorney dismissed the charges against Lafrance stating that he did nothing wrong and Rayquan pled guilty to a misdemeanor.

         Plaintiffs bring this action against Sgt. Weibert, Officer N. Mason, Officer C. Taliaferro, Corporal S. Borsch, Officer M. Bradford, Officer E. Roehlk, Officer E. Taifane, Officer A. French who are employed by the Clovis Police Department and Officer Droneck who was the arresting officer. Plaintiffs allege that they were subjected to an unreasonable search and seizure in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments and that they were falsely arrested and other defendants failed to intervene and did not arrest the security guard for the threat he made in the officer's presence.

         Plaintiffs' allege that the City of Clovis is aware that a disturbing number of their police officers use excessive force, unlawfully search and seize citizens, bring charges against citizens for with no basis, perjure themselves in charging instruments and testimony, and fail to intervene in and report obviously illegal activity by their fellow officers through lawsuits, notices of complaints, complaints filed with the Civil Complaint Review Board, and judicial rulings suppressing evidence and finding officers incredible as a matter of law.

         Plaintiffs allege that the defendants had an agreement to attempt to coverup the assault committed against other officers and conspired to cover up threats that were made by the security guard toward Rayquan. In the recording which was played in court it could be heard that the security guard stated, “you better get him before I hurt him, ” but part of the video got mysteriously deleted. Plaintiffs allege that the officers tried to cover up what really happened by deleting the body cam footage.

         Plaintiffs alleged that the City of Clovis was negligent in the hiring and retention of officers. The City knew or should have known that the officers were potentially dangerous and had previously falsely arrested civilians without probable cause. Plaintiffs seek monetary damages.

         III.

         DISCUSSION

         A. Section 1983

         Section 1983 provides a cause of action for the violation of a plaintiff's constitutional or other federal rights by persons acting under color of state law. Nurre v. Whitehead, 580 F.3d 1087, 1092 (9th Cir 2009); Long v. County of Los Angeles, 442 F.3d 1178, 1185 (9th Cir. 2006); Jones v. Williams, 297 F.3d 930, 934 (9th Cir. 2002). To state a claim under section 1983, a plaintiff is required to show that (1) each defendant acted under color of state law and (2) each defendant deprived him of rights secured by the Constitution or federal law. Long, 442 F.3d at 1185. There is no respondeat superior liability under section 1983, and therefore, each defendant is only liable for his or her own misconduct. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 677. To state a claim against a defendant, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant personally participated in the deprivation of his rights. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 677; Simmons v. Navajo County, Ariz., 609 F.3d 1011, 1020-21 (9th Cir. 2010); Ewing v. City of Stockton, 588 F.3d 1218, 1235 (9th Cir. 2009); Jones, 297 F.3d at 934. In other words, the plaintiff must link named defendant to the conduct that is alleged to violate the plaintiff's federal rights.

         Further, a local government unit may not be held responsible for the acts of its employees under a respondeat superior theory of liability. Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 691 (1978). Rather, a local government unit may only be held liable if it inflicts the injury complained of through a policy or custom. Waggy v. Spokane County Washington, 594 F.3d 707, 713 (9th Cir. 2010).

         Plaintiffs bring this action against Officers N. Mason, C. Taliaferro, M. Bradford, E. Roehlk, E. Taifane, and A. French, and Corporal S. Borsch; however, the complaint is devoid of factual allegations that any of these officers were involved in the incident alleged. Plaintiffs allegations that these individuals worked for the City of Clovis as police officers is insufficient to state a claim. Plaintiffs have failed to state a cognizable claim against Officers Mason, Taliaferro, Bradford, Roehlk, Taifane, French or Corporal Borsch.

         B. First Cause of Action

         Plaintiffs first cause of action alleges an unreasonable search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment and violations of ...


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