United States District Court, C.D. California, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION WITH FINDINGS OF FACT AND
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
ANDREW J. GUILFORD UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Government reaches its strong arm down to put someone in
jail, important issues are always raised. Especially when
it's done without a jury for a failure to pay money. For
nearly six years. In a case where a public defender would
have been helpful from the start, but was not originally
Zulmai Nazarzai seeks damages for his nearly six-year civil
contempt imprisonment ordered by a state court judge for the
failure to pay $360, 540. He also seeks damages for religious
five day bench trial, the Court considered providing its
Findings of Fact and Conclusions Law orally and immediately.
Instead, the Court concluded that the matter needed
additional briefing, followed by this written Memorandum of
Decision. The Court now provides its Findings of Fact, which
show the difficulties that have been imposed on Mr. Nazarzai.
The Conclusions of Law that follow, however, ultimately
establish that a defense judgment is required in this case.
2009, a civil complaint was filed by the State of California
against Mr. Nazarzai and others for unfair business
practices. (Dkt. No. 100 at 2; Dkt. No. 108 at 14.) The state
court issued a preliminary injunction that was served on Mr.
Nazarzai. (Dkt. No. 100 at 2.) Under the terms of the
preliminary injunction, Mr. Nazarzai disclosed cash assets
totaling $370, 540. (Id.) On July 1, 2010, the court
ordered Mr. Nazarzai to turn over $360, 540 within a day.
(Id.) Mr. Nazarzai didn't turn over the money,
and on July 19, 2010, the court issued an order to show cause
regarding contempt. (Id.)
several proceedings and a contempt trial, in December 2010,
the court ordered Mr. Nazarzai jailed until he paid $360, 540
or until the conclusion of the underlying proceedings.
(Id.) Mr. Nazarzai testified that the cash
disappeared while under the control of his ex-fiancé,
Sharon Fasela (See Dkt. No. 107 at 31.) For many
years, Mr. Nazarzai sought his release from jail through the
state and federal court system. (Dkt. No. 100 at 2-3.) By
December 2012, the trial court issued a second turnover order
for the same amount of money. (Id. at 4.)
March 2014, Mr. Nazarzai attempted suicide. (See
Dkt. No. 99 at 14.) In December 2014, the trial court
appointed a public defender for Mr. Nazarzai. (Id.
support this, Mr. Nazarzai stated under penalty of perjury
that he: had no assets in excess of $500; owned no real
property; owned no personal property in excess of $500; owed
no interest in any motor vehicle, boat, or aircraft; owned no
bank accounts in any financial institution; owned no stocks
or bonds; owned no security interests; owned no promissory
notes or other negotiable instruments; held no judgments
against others; owned no businesses; wasn't a beneficiary
or any estate or trust; owned no interest in any insurance
policy; owned no annuities; and had no other appreciable
assets. (See Dkt. No. 108 at 11.) Based on that
evidence, the trial court provided a public defender.
Nazarzai continued to seek his release in state and federal
courts. (Dkt. No. 100 at 8.) He repeatedly argued that his
incarceration violated California Penal Code Section 19.2.
(Dkt. No. 100 at 3-8.) In 2015, the California Court of
Appeal found that Plaintiff wasn't committed within the
meaning of Section 19.2 to a length of time in jail for civil
contempt, but instead was incarcerated for an indefinite
period until he followed the trial court's orders within
the meaning of California Code of Civil Procedure Section
1219(a). (See Dkt. No. 91 at 16-17.) Section 1219(a)
states, “When the contempt consists of the omission to
perform an act which is yet in the power of the person to
perform, he or she may be imprisoned until he or she has
performed it, and in that case the act shall be specified in
the warrant of the commitment.” (Id.)
his time in jail, Mr. Nazarzai also made multiple complaints
regarding religious discrimination against his Islamic faith.
(Dkt. No. 99 at 4-9.) Further, Mr. Nazarzai testified at
trial that his young daughter may have outgrown his lap in
the years he was imprisoned, but his love for his daughter
and the pain he felt being away from her never left him.
(Dkt. 108 at 13.)
September 2016, the California Court of Appeal ordered the
trial court to set aside and vacate a February 2016 order
denying Mr. Nazarzai's petition for writ of habeas corpus
and request for an evidentiary hearing. (Dkt. No. 100 at 8.)
The Court of Appeal ordered the trial court to hold an
evidentiary hearing with in 45 days and decide whether: (1)
Mr. Nazarzai had the present ability to comply with the
December 2012 turnover order, (2) a substantial likelihood
existed that continued confinement would accomplish the
purpose of the December 2012 turnover order, and (3) Mr.
Nazarzai's continued conferment had not become punitive
rather than coercive. (Id.) On October 28, 2016, the
trial court held an evidentiary hearing as ordered by the
California Court of Appeal. (Id.)
on November 4, 2016, the trial court released Mr. Nazarzai
from custody. (Id.) Less than a year later, Mr.
Nazarzai filed this lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 and
42 U.S.C. Section 2000cc-1, requesting monetary damages
against Defendants the County of Orange, the Orange County
Sherriff's Department (“OCSD”), former
Sheriff Sandra Hutchens, and Deputy Ben Garcia. (Dkt. No. 1
Court now turns to the applicable law. To bring a Section
1983 claim against a municipal entity for the actions of its
employees or agents, Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs.
of N.Y., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978) requires that a
plaintiff show: (1) the constitutional violation at issue was
the result of a governmental policy or a longstanding
practice or custom; (2) the individual defendant who
committed the constitutional violation was an official with
final policy-making authority; or (3) an official with final
policy-making authority ratified the unconstitutional act.
See Gillette v. Delmore, 979 F.2d 1342, 1346-47 (9th
Cir. 1992) (citing Monell, 436 U.S. 658 (1978) and
bring a Section 1983 claim against defendants in their
individual capacities, a plaintiff must allege that a
defendant, while acting under color of state law, caused a
deprivation of the plaintiff's federal rights. West
v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988) (citations omitted);
Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989)
(citation omitted). There is no vicarious liability in
Section 1983 lawsuits. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
662, 676 (2009). Thus, government officials, whether
subordinates or supervisors, may be held liable under ...