Garcia v. Leroux et al

Filing 67

ORDER granting 52 and 55 Defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment. Low's request for judicial notice, (Doc. 54 ), is DENIED. The trial scheduled for May 31, 2016 is hereby vacated. The Clerk is directed to enter judgment and terminate this action. Signed by Judge Douglas L Rayes on 3/23/16.(LSP)

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1 WO 2 3 4 5 6 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 7 FOR THE DISTRICT OF ARIZONA 8 9 Joel R. Garcia, No. CV-15-00798-PHX-DLR Plaintiff, 10 11 v. 12 ORDER Dennis Leroux, et al., 13 Defendants. 14 15 16 Defendants have filed separate motions for summary judgment. (Docs. 52, 55.) 17 Defendant Stephanie Low has also filed a request for judicial notice. (Doc. 54.) The 18 motions are fully briefed, and no party requested oral argument. For the reasons stated 19 below, Defendant’s motions for summary judgment are granted and Low’s request for 20 judicial notice is denied. 21 BACKGROUND 22 The following facts are undisputed. On May 26, 2011, Dennis Leroux, a City of 23 Phoenix police officer, responded to a call at 921 South 35th Avenue regarding a fight. 24 (Doc. 56, ¶ 2.) When he arrived on scene with his partner, he noticed Jose Garcia sitting 25 in a chair outside of an apartment complex. (Id., ¶ 3.) Leroux approached Jose and 26 noticed that he was clenching his chest and having trouble breathing. (Id., ¶ 4.) He also 27 had a small cut on his forehead and cuts on his left forearm. (Id., ¶ 5.) Jose told Leroux 28 that his brother, Joel Garcia, became enraged at him for “no apparent reason” after 1 speaking with someone on the phone. (Id., ¶ 6.) At the end of the call, Joel attacked 2 Jose, pushing him to the ground and kicking him in the chest and ribs. (Id., ¶ 7.) Joel 3 also punched Jose in his chest and torso. (Id., ¶ 8.) Jose was transported to the hospital 4 by the Phoenix Fire Department. (Id., ¶ 10.) 5 Leroux’s partner interviewed another resident of the apartment complex who 6 overheard the fight. (Id., ¶ 11.) The witness stated that when he stepped out of his 7 apartment to see what was going on, he saw Jose lying on the ground. (Id.) Another 8 witness, the manager of the apartment complex, also witnessed Jose lying on the ground. 9 (Id.) Both Jose and Joel appeared to be intoxicated, as the officers could smell the odor 10 of alcohol on their breath, and both men had watery, blood shot eyes and were slurring 11 their speech. (Id., ¶¶ 13-15.) Joel was especially intoxicated, and Leroux was unable to 12 interview Joel because he was “extremely uncooperative and verbally combative” with 13 them. (Id., ¶ 16.) Leroux arrested Joel for assaulting his brother. (Id., ¶ 17.) 14 On June 22, 2011, Joel was indicted by a Maricopa County grand jury for 15 aggravated assault (the “Original Indictment”). (Doc. 53, ¶ 2.) At some point, Maricopa 16 County Deputy County Attorney Stephanie Low was assigned the case. On March 12, 17 2012, she filed a Supervening Indictment against Joel charging him with aggravated 18 assault and manslaughter. 19 Indictment. (Id., ¶ 18.) On April 25, 2012, the Original Indictment was dismissed 20 without prejudice. (Id., ¶ 4.) Ultimately, the Supervening Indictment was dismissed 21 without prejudice on January 11, 2013, and Joel was released from custody on January 22 16, 2013. (Id., ¶¶ 5, 6.) (Id., ¶ 3.) Low later moved to dismiss the Original 23 On May 1, 2015, Joel brought suit against Leroux and Low. (Doc. 1.) The 24 amended complaint alleges violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and § 1985 for false arrest, 25 false imprisonment, and malicious prosecution. (Doc. 29 at 4-6.) Defendants move for 26 summary judgment on all counts. 27 28 LEGAL STANDARD Summary judgment is appropriate when, viewing the facts in a light most -2- 1 favorable to the nonmoving party, “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and 2 the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). Summary 3 judgment may also be entered “against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to 4 establish the existence of an element essential to that party’s case, and on which that 5 party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 6 (1986). 7 informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of 8 [the record] which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material 9 fact.” Id. at 323. The burden then shifts to the non-movant to establish the existence of a 10 material fact. Id. at 324. The non-movant “must do more than simply show that there is 11 some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts,” and instead must “come forward with 12 ‘specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.’” Matsushita Elec. Indus. 13 Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e) 14 (1963)). A dispute about a fact is “genuine” if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury 15 could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 16 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The party seeking summary judgment “bears the initial responsibility of 17 ANALYSIS 18 Although Defendants filed separate motions, they raise similar arguments, and 19 thus the Court will analyze the motions together. Both Defendants argue that Joel’s 20 claims are barred by the statute of limitations, and to the extent that he raises state law 21 claims, they are barred by Arizona’s statute of limitations and notice of claim statute. In 22 addition, Low argues that she is entitled to absolute immunity for her conduct as a 23 prosecutor, and Leroux argues that he had probable cause to arrest Joel.1 24 I. Statute of Limitations 25 All of Joel’s claims are brought pursuant to § 1983. “Section 1983 does not 26 contain its own statute of limitations.” TwoRivers v. Lewis, 174 F.3d 987, 991 (9th Cir. 27 1 28 Plaintiff filed a single response to both motions for summary judgment. (Doc. 59.) The three-page response cites no evidence or legal authority, nor does it address any of the arguments raised in Defendants’ motions. -3- 1 1999). Instead, federal courts borrow the forum state’s statute of limitations applicable to 2 personal injury claims. See id. (citing Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 279-80 (1985)). 3 Arizona provides a two-year limitations period for such claims. See A.R.S. § 12-542. 4 At the very latest, Joel’s claims accrued on January 16, 2013, when he was 5 released from custody after dismissal of the Supervening Indictment. See TwoRivers, 174 6 F.3d at 991 (“Under federal law, a claim accrues when the plaintiff knows or has reason 7 to know of the injury which is the basis of the action.”). At this point, Joel knew or 8 should have known of any injuries or constitutional deprivations that he allegedly 9 suffered. However, Joel did not file suit until May 1, 2015, more than two years after he 10 was released, and more than four years after he was arrested. As such, all of Joel’s § 11 1983 and § 1985 claims are barred by the statute of limitations. 12 Furthermore, to the extent that Joel’s claims may be construed as arising under 13 state law, the Court finds those claims are barred by A.R.S. § 12-821, which provides: 14 “All actions against any public entity or public employee shall be brought within one year 15 after the cause of action accrues and not afterward.” As previously noted, Joel waited 16 more than two years after he was released from custody to file suit. Any state law claims 17 raised in the amended complaint are barred by the statute of limitations.2 18 II. Merits of Plaintiff’s Claims 19 Notwithstanding the statute of limitations, Joel’s claims fail. The crux of Joel’s 20 complaint is that he was kept in custody for several months without ever having been 21 convicted of a crime. (Doc. 29 at 2.) He claims Low and Leroux “arbitrarily kept [him] 22 in custody even after they realized they did not have sufficient evidence to bring [him] to 23 trial[.]” 24 imprisonment, and malicious prosecution. 25 (Id.) It is this basis on which he brings claims for false arrest, false The claims fail for three reasons. First, Joel provides no evidence in support of his 26 2 27 28 Likewise, any state law claims contained in the amended complaint are barred by Arizona’s notice of claim statute, A.R.S. § 12-821.01(A), which requires a plaintiff to serve the public employee against whom he is bringing suit with a notice of claim within 180 days after the cause of action accrues. It is undisputed that Joel did not serve a notice of claim on either Low or Leroux. (Doc. 53, ¶ 19; Doc. 56, ¶ 19.) -4- 1 claims and cites no legal authority in opposition to Defendants’ motions. As such, 2 Defendants’ motions are essentially unopposed, and Joel has failed to create a triable 3 issue of fact. 4 Second, Low is entitled to absolute immunity for her conduct as a prosecutor. “It 5 is well-established that certain prosecutorial functions, such as the decision to initiate a 6 prosecution or appear in court to present evidence in support of search warrant 7 application, are intimately associated with the judicial phase of the criminal process and 8 thus entitled to absolute immunity.” Manriquez v. City of Phx., No. CV-11-1981-PHX- 9 SMM, 2014 WL 1319297, at *5 (D. Ariz. March 31, 2014) (citing Van de Kamp v. 10 Goldstein, 555 U.S. 335, 343-44 (2009)). 11 Original Indictment, preparing the charging papers that resulted in the Supervening 12 Indictment, attending hearings, and offering pleas are intimately associated with the 13 judicial phase of the criminal process. As such, Low is entitled to absolute immunity. Here, Low’s conduct in dismissing the 14 Third, the undisputed fact that Joel’s seriously injured brother informed Leroux 15 that his assailant was Joel, who had attacked him for no apparent reason, establishes that 16 Leroux had probable cause to arrest Joel. Leroux did not participate in any subsequent 17 investigation and did not have any influence over whether charges were filed against Joel. 18 (Doc. 56, ¶ 18.) Thus, the only conduct that could subject Leroux to liability is his 19 decision to arrest Joel. Probable cause is a complete defense to claims of false arrest, 20 false imprisonment, and malicious prosecution, see e.g., Peebles v. Yamhill County, 26 F. 21 App’x 643, 644 (9th Cir. 2001); Hockett v. City of Tucson, 678 P.2d 502, 505 (Ariz. Ct. 22 App. 1983), and these claims fail against Leroux. 23 III. Conclusion 24 The Court finds that Joel’s claims are barred by the statute of limitations. 25 Notwithstanding the statute of limitations, the Court finds no genuine dispute of fact 26 exists with respect to any of Joel’s claims. Defendants are entitled to summary judgment 27 on all counts. 28 REQUEST FOR JUDICIAL NOTICE -5- 1 Low requests that the Court take judicial notice of several records relating to the 2 underlying prosecution. (Doc. 54.) But the court records are submitted as evidence in 3 support of Low’s motion for summary judgment, which is unopposed, and thus the 4 authenticity and accuracy of the records are undisputed. The Court need not take judicial 5 notice of them, and the request is denied as moot. 6 IT IS ORDERED that Defendants’ motions for summary judgment, (Docs. 52, 7 55), are GRANTED. 8 DENIED. The trial scheduled for May 31, 2016 is hereby vacated. The Clerk is directed 9 to enter judgment accordingly and terminate this action. 10 In addition, Low’s request for judicial notice, (Doc. 54), is Dated this 23rd day of March, 2016. 11 12 13 14 15 Douglas L. Rayes United States District Judge 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 -6-

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