Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
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.

Suzuki v. County of Contra Costa

United States District Court, N.D. California

September 25, 2019

EISHO SUZUKI, Plaintiff,
v.
COUNTY OF CONTRA COSTA, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO STAY PENDING APPEAL AND DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO CERTIFY DEFENDANTS' INTERLOCUTORY APPEAL AS FRIVOLOUS RE: DKT. NOS. 46, 48

          SUSAN ILLSTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Defendants in the present action have filed a motion to stay the proceedings, pending resolution of their interlocutory appeal. Plaintiff has filed a motion to certify defendants’ interlocutory appeal as frivolous. A hearing on both motions is currently scheduled for October 4, 2019. Pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7-1(b), the Court determines that this matter is appropriate for resolution without oral argument and VACATES the hearing. For the following reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS defendants’ motion to stay proceedings pending appeal and DENIES plaintiff’s motion to certify defendants’ interlocutory appeal as frivolous.

         BACKGROUND

         On November 16, 2018, plaintiff Eisho Suzuki filed a complaint against defendants, the County of Contra Costa (“County”), Suzanne Porter (“Porter”), and Does 1–10, alleging defendants violated his civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Dkt. No. 1. Plaintiff alleges Porter violated his civil rights by knowingly fabricating evidence of child abuse, which plaintiff’s wife later used in a child custody dispute, resulting in plaintiff losing custody of his children. Dkt. No. 16 (FAC ¶ 20). Plaintiff also alleges the County violated his civil rights by hiring Porter as a social worker when the County knew or should have known Porter was unfit to be a social worker. FAC ¶ 32.

         After this Court granted in part and denied in part defendants’ motion to dismiss the first amended complaint, see Dkt. No. 31, defendants filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings. Dkt. No. 38 (Mot. J. Pleadings). In the motion, defendants argued that Porter is entitled to qualified immunity because it is not clearly established that she violated plaintiff’s Fourteenth Amendment rights by fabricating evidence that another used in private litigation. Id. at 7:1–6. On August 8, 2019, this Court issued an order denying the motion for judgment on the pleadings. Dkt. No. 42 (Order Den. Defs.’s Mot. J. Pleadings). This Court found that Porter is not entitled to qualified immunity, after rejecting defendants’ argument that qualified immunity is lost only when a government official both fabricates and personally uses the fabricated evidence. Id. at 11:10–14. On August 19, 2019, defendants appealed the order to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Dkt. No. 43.

         Now, defendants move to stay the proceedings, pending resolution of their interlocutory appeal of this Court’s order denying their motion for judgment on the pleadings. Dkt. No. 46 (Defs.’s Mot. Stay Pending Appeal). Plaintiff moves to certify defendants’ interlocutory appeal as frivolous. Dkt. No. 48 (Pl. Mot. Certify Defs.’s Appeal Frivolous). Each party has opposed the other’s motion and both sides have filed reply briefs. Dkt. Nos. 55, 56, 58.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         “In general, a district court’s denial of qualified immunity is immediately appealable.” Martinez v. City of Pittsburg, No. 17-cv-04246-RS, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 58568, at *3 (N.D. Cal. Apr. 4, 2019) (citing Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 528 (1985)). An appeal of a denial of qualified immunity “‘divests the district court of jurisdiction to proceed with trial’ on the issues involved in the appeal.” Id. (citing Chuman v. Wright, 960 F.2d 104, 105 (9th Cir. 1992)). Thus, the court is compelled to stay the proceedings in regard to the issues on appeal, unless the appeal is frivolous. Chuman, 960 F.2d at 105. However, a district court “still has jurisdiction over aspects of the case that are not the subject of the appeal.” Castro v. Melchor, 760 F.Supp.2d 970, 1003 (D. Haw. 2010); see also Martinez, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 58568, at *5.

         In deciding whether to stay an action, a district court must weigh all relevant “competing interests.” Lockyer v. Mirant Corp., 398 F.3d 1098, 1110 (9th Cir. 2005). A district court must consider the following four factors in making its determination, including: “(1) whether the stay applicant has made a strong showing that [one] is likely to succeed on the merits; (2) whether the applicant will be irreparably injured absent a stay; (3) whether issuance of a stay will substantially injure the other parties interested in the proceeding; and (4) where the public interest lies.” Nken v. Holder, 556 U.S. 418, 434 (2009).

         When a party appeals the denial of qualified immunity, a district court may nevertheless certify the appeal as frivolous, then proceed with trial. Padgett v. Wright, 587 F.3d 983, 985 (9th Cir. 2009). An appeal is frivolous only when it is wholly without merit or the results are obvious. Amwest Mortgage Corp. v. Grady, 925 F.2d 1162, 1165 (9th Cir. 1991). “This means that the appeal must be so baseless that it does not invoke appellate jurisdiction such as when the disposition is so plainly correct that nothing can be said on the other side.” Schering Corp. v. First DataBank, Inc., No. C 07-01142 WHA, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 45813, at *3 (N.D. Cal. June 18, 2007) (quoting Apostol v. Gallion, 870 F.2d 1335, 1338-39 (7th Cir. 1989)).

         DISCUSSION

         I. Motion to Certify Defendants’ Interlocutory Appeal as Frivolous

         Plaintiff argues that “for [d]efendants’ appeal not to be frivolous, then a reasonable social worker would not have to know it is illegal to deliberately fabricate evidence [or] . . . that it is illegal to use the fabricated evidence . . . .” Id. at 8:4–8. Defendants argue that their appeal is not frivolous because they use case law to support their arguments. Dkt. No. 56 at 4:23–25, 5:21–6:1.

         An appeal from the denial of qualified immunity is not frivolous solely because the district court based its order on what it perceived to be clearly established law. See Lum v. County of San Joaquin, No. CIV. S-10-1807 LKK/DAD, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 79949, at *8 (E.D. Cal. June 8, 2012) (denying certification because “any district court order denying qualified immunity would rest on a conclusion about ‘clearly established’ law, and such a basis rendering the decision unappealable would be contrary to the Supreme Court’s holding . . . that rulings on qualified immunity are eligible for interlocutory appeal.”). To certify the ...


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.