Hoch v. Mayberg et al

Filing 63

ORDER on 62 FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS and 43 Motion to Dismiss signed by District Judge Anthony W. Ishii on 05/12/2014. (Attachments: # 1 Amended Complaint Form)(Flores, E)

Download PDF
1 2 3 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 4 EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 5 6 CORY HOCH, 7 CASE NO. 1:10-CV-2258 AWI DLB (PC) Plaintiff ORDER ON FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION AND ORDER ON DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS 8 v. 9 STEPHEN MAYBERG, et al., 10 Defendants (Doc. Nos. 43, 62) 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 Plaintiff Cory Hoch is appearing pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff is civilly detained at Coalinga State Hospital (“CSH”) as a sexually violent predator (“SVP”), pursuant to California Welfare & Institutions Code § 6600 et. seq., the Sexually Violent Predators Act. On July 12, 2013, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiff‟s First Amended Complaint (“FAC”) pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). See Doc. No. 43. The matter was referred to a United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rule 302. On March 5, 2014, the Magistrate Judge filed a Findings and Recommendations (“F&R”) that recommended granting in part and denying in part Defendants‟ motion. Doc. No. 62. The F&R contained notice to all parties that Objections to the F&R were to be filed within fourteen days. Id. To date, no objections have been received. In accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) the Court has conducted a de novo review of this case. The Court‟s power to “accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate” exists whether objections have been filed or not. See Britt v. Simi Valley Unified School Dist., 708 F.2d 452, 454 (9th Cir. 1983). Having carefully reviewed the entire file, the Court will respectfully decline to adopt part of the F&R with respect to the claims against Officers Tarkenton and Christian. 1 RULE 12(b)(6) FRAMEWORK Rule 12(b)(6) requires a complaint to “contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 2 3 state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, (2009). 4 Iqbal did not alter the rule that where the plaintiff is filing a pro se complaint, particularly when 5 the plaintiff is an inmate in a civil rights case, courts should “construe the pleadings liberally and 6 afford the petitioner the benefit of any doubt.” Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010). 7 Leave to amend “shall be freely given when justice so requires,” and “should be granted with 8 extreme liberality.” Moss v. U.S. Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 972 (9th Cir. 2009); Fed. R. Civ. 9 P. 15(a)(2). Dismissal without leave to amend is proper when it is clear that the complaint could 10 not be saved by any amendment. Harris v. Amgen, Inc., 573 F.3d 728, 737 (9th Cir. 2009). 11 DEFENDANTS’ MOTION 12 13 Parties’ Positions 14 Only one claim remains from the FAC -- the search of Plaintiff‟s room and locker at CSH, 15 and subsequent seizure of his PlayStation portable gaming device and laptop computer, violated 16 his Fourth Amendment rights.1 See Doc. No. 39. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated the 17 Fourth Amendment when they searched his hospital room without a warrant, his consent, probable 18 cause, or reasonable suspicion. See FAC at § I p.5. However, Plaintiff also alleges that a 19 psychiatric technician at CSH, Defendant John Sanzberro, “gave the officers [Defendants 20 Tarkenton and Christian] opportunity to search when he declared that he believed the petitioner 21 [Plaintiff] had „other contraband‟ in his property.”2 FAC at § I p.6. Plaintiff alleges that “these 22 searches were and are for the furtherance of penal interests.” Id. 23 Defendants argue that Plaintiff has either a reduced expectation of privacy or no reasonable 24 expectation of privacy in his room at CSH and therefore cannot state a Fourth Amendment claim 25 for the search of his room. Doc. No. 43. 26 27 28 1 Plaintiff alleged other claims that were dismissed as part of the Magistrate Judge‟s March 12, 2013 screening order. See Doc. No. 39. 2 Defendants Tarkenton and Christian are alleged to work in CHS as officers with the Department of Police Services. Defendant John Sanzberro is alleged to work in CHS as a Senior Psychiatric Technician and a Unit Shift Lead. 2 1 Legal Standard 2 The Supreme Court has held that civilly detained persons “are entitled to more considerate 3 treatment and conditions of confinement than criminals whose conditions of confinement are 4 designed to punish.” Youngberg v. Romeo, 457 U.S. 307, 322 (1982). In reliance on Youngberg, 5 the Ninth Circuit has held that court decisions that define the constitutional rights of prisoners can 6 be relied upon to establish a floor for the constitutional rights of those who are civilly detained as 7 sexually violent predators (“SVP”). Padilla v. Yoo, 678 F.3d 748, 459 (9th Cir. 2012); Hydrick v. 8 Hunter, 500 F.3d 978, 989 n.7 (9th Cir. 2007).3 Accordingly, “the conditions of confinement for 9 SVPs cannot be more harsh than those under which prisoners are detained.” Hydrick, 500 F.3d at 10 989 n.7. Because the Fourth Amendment right to be secure against unreasonable searches and 11 seizures applies to incarcerated prisoners, the same Fourth Amendment right applies to civilly 12 detained SVPs. Hydrick, 500 F.3d at 993 (citing Thompson v. Souza, 111 F.3d 694, 699 (9th Cir. 13 1997)). However, the reasonableness of the search involving a civilly detained SVP is determined 14 by reference to the detention context. Hydrick, 500 F.3d at 993. “SVP‟s have been civilly 15 committed subsequent to criminal convictions and have been adjudged to pose a danger to the 16 health and safety of others.” Hydrick, 500 F.3d at 990. Civilly detained SVP‟s have a diminished 17 right to privacy. Cf. Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 557 (1979); Hydrick, 500 F.3d at 990. The 18 government‟s legitimate interests in conducting a search of a civilly detained SVP or his room 19 mirrors those that arise in the prison context, such as the safety and security of guards and others 20 in the facility, order within the facility, and the efficiency of the facility‟s operations. Hydrick, 21 500 F.3d at 993; see Jones v. Blanas, 393 F.3d 918, 932 (9th Cir. 2004). A search will violate a 22 civilly detained SVP‟s Fourth Amendment rights if its “arbitrary, retaliatory, or clearly exceeds 23 the legitimate purpose of detention.” Meyers v. Pope, 303 F. App‟x 513, 516 (9th Cir. 2008); 24 Hydrick, 500 F.3d at 993. 25 Discussion 26 With respect to Sanzberro, Plaintiff alleges that Sanzberro reported to the officers that 27 Plaintiff was in possession of contraband. It was this report that led to the search of Plaintiff‟s 28 3 Hydrick was vacated and remanded on other grounds, 556 U.S. 1256 (2009). 3 1 room. Plaintiff alleges that the search was without reasonable suspicion or probable cause. The 2 Court takes the FAC as alleging that Sanzberro had no reasonable basis to believe that Plaintiff 3 possessed contraband. Without a reasonable basis for believing that Plaintiff possessed 4 contraband, Sanzberro‟s actions would be arbitrary and would implicate Plaintiff‟s Fourth 5 Amendment rights. At this point, Plaintiff has adequately pled a Fourth Amendment claim against 6 Defendant Sanzberro. See Hydrick, 500 F.3d at 993; Crowe v. County of San Diego, 608 F.3d 7 406, 430 (9th Cir. 2010) (“. . . the requisite causal connection can be established not only by some 8 kind of direct personal participation in the deprivation, but also by setting in motion a series of 9 acts by others which the actor knows or reasonably should know would cause others to inflict the 10 constitutional injury.”); Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743-44 (9th Cir. 1978). Because the 11 F&R recommends denying the motion to dismiss as to Sanzberro, the Court will adopt this aspect 12 of the F&R. 13 With respect to Officers Tarkenton and Christian, Plaintiff alleges that these officers 14 improperly searched his room. However, Officers Tarkenton and Christian‟s search was the result 15 of Sanzberro‟s report that Plaintiff had contraband. See FAC at § I p.6. The fact that the search 16 was conducted in the wake of a contraband report from a CSH staff member shows that the 17 officers‟ search was not arbitrary, and there are no factual allegations that suggest Tarkenton and 18 Christian‟s search was retaliatory in nature. Cf. Meyers, 303 F. App‟x 513; Hydrick, 500 F.3d at 19 993. The search of a civilly detained SVP‟s room for contraband serves the legitimate 20 governmental interest in maintaining security and effective management of CSH. See Hyrdrick, 21 500 F.3d at 993; Rogers v. Grijalva, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 143349, *24-*25 (E.D. Cal. Oct. 1, 22 2013); Hazeltine v. Montoya, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 30194, *18-*19 (E.D. Cal. Mar. 7, 2012). 23 Although Plaintiff has alleged that the search was without even reasonable suspicion, that 24 allegation has significance as to Sanzberro. There are no allegations that Tarkenton and Christian 25 knew that Sanzberro had no basis for his report of contraband, and it is Sanzberro‟s report that 26 provides the legitimate basis for conducting a search of Plaintiff‟s room. Considering the context 27 of the environment in which the officers‟ search was performed, the basis for the officers‟ search, 28 and the legitimate governmental interest in the safety and management of CSH, the FAC‟s 4 1 allegations fail to show that the officers‟ search of Plaintiff‟s room was unreasonable. See Naylor 2 v. Allenby, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 169846, *7-*8 (E.D. Cal. Dec. 2, 2013) (finding claims that 3 officers searched the room of a civilly detained SVP after a report of contraband failed to state a 4 claim); Griego v. Allenby, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 143419, *6 (E.D. Cal. Oct. 3, 2012) (same); cf. 5 Hydrick, 500 F.3d at 993. Accordingly, Plaintiff‟s Fourth Amendment claim against the officers 6 fails. Because the F&R recommended denying the officers‟ motion to dismiss, the Court will 7 respectfully decline to adopt this aspect of the F&R. 8 9 CONCLUSION 10 Upon further review of the FAC, the F&R, and the motion to dismiss, the Court will adopt 11 the F&R with respect to official capacity claims, the statute of limitations defense, and the Fourth 12 Amendment Claim against Sanzberro. The Court declines to adopt the F&R as to the Fourth 13 Amendment claims against Officers Tarkenton and Christian. The FAC‟s allegations show a 14 legitimate basis for the officers to search, and that the search furthered the government‟s interests 15 in the safety and management of CSH. However, this order represents the first time that Plaintiff 16 has been informed of this deficiency. The Court will give Plaintiff the opportunity to file an 17 amended complaint that explains why the officers‟ “pursuing reported contraband was 18 unreasonable under the circumstances and in light of the fact that safety and security [and effective 19 management] are legitimate institutional concerns.” Naylor, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 169846 at *8. 20 21 ORDER 22 Accordingly, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that: 23 1. The F&R filed on March 5, 2014 (Doc. No. 62), is ADOPTED in PART as discussed 24 above; 25 2. Defendants‟ motion to dismiss based on the statute of limitations is DENIED; 26 3. Defendants‟ motion to dismiss Plaintiff‟s Fourth Amendment claim is GRANTED as to 27 28 Defendants Tarkenton and Christian, but DENIED as to Defendant Sanzberro; 4. Defendants‟ motion to dismiss the official capacity claims is GRANTED; 5 1 5. Within twenty-one (21) days of service of this order, Plaintiff shall file an amended 2 complaint that is consistent with this order and the March 13, 2013 Order Dismissing 3 Certain Claims (Doc. No. 34);4 and 4 6. This matter is referred to the Magistrate Judge for further proceedings. 5 6 7 IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: May 12, 2014 SENIOR DISTRICT JUDGE 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 4 Doc. No. 34 dismissed all claims in the FAC with prejudice except for the Fourth Amendment claims against Tarkenton, Christian, and Sanzberro. See Doc. No. 34. If Plaintiff does not file a timely amended complaint, this case shall proceed only on the Fourth Amendment unreasonable search claim against Defendant Sanzberro. 6

Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.

Why Is My Information Online?