Gibbs v. California Department of Fish and Game et al

Filing 102

ORDER signed by District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller on 2/27/2019 ADOPTING 86 Amended Findings and Recommendations to the extent they are consistent with this order, and GRANTING 43 the Motion for Summary Judgment by defendants Boyd and Little. CASE CLOSED (Reader, L)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 ROBERT ALAN GIBBS, 12 Plaintiff, 13 14 No. 2:13-CV-2631 KJM DMC v. ORDER BOYD, et al., 15 Defendants. 16 17 Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, brings this § 1983 action for violations of his Fourth 18 19 Amendment rights. The matter was referred to a United States Magistrate Judge as provided by 20 Eastern District of California local rules, and is now back before this court on amended findings 21 and recommendations as discussed below. See Findings & Recommendations (“Findings”), ECF 22 No. 86. 23 24 I. BACKGROUND On December 18, 2015, Brian Boyd and DeWayne Little (“defendants”), officers 25 with the Department of Fish and Wildlife (“DFW”), filed a motion for summary judgement. ECF 26 No. 43 at 7. Plaintiff filed no opposition. On September 9, 2016, the magistrate judge filed 27 findings and recommendations, recommending that defendants’ motion for summary judgment be 28 granted. ECF No. 67 at 9. On September 30, 2016, this court declined to adopt the findings and 1 1 recommendations and referred the matter back to the magistrate judge. ECF No. 73. On 2 December 4, 2017, the magistrate judge filed the amended findings and recommendations 3 recommending that defendants’ motion for summary judgment be granted in full. ECF No. 86. 4 Plaintiff filed timely objections, and defendants responded. ECF Nos. 88, 92. After reviewing 5 the objections, the court ordered supplemental briefing on the application of Heck v. Humphrey, 6 512 U.S. 477 (1994), to plaintiff’s § 1983 claims, given the state criminal case pending at the time 7 against plaintiff. Order, ECF No. 96. The parties submitted additional briefing on the subject. 8 ECF Nos. 97, 99. On December 14, 2018, defendants submitted additional supplemental briefing 9 notifying the court that the state criminal case had been resolved, and the Fish and Game 10 violations that raised potential Heck v. Humphrey concerns in this case had been dismissed by the 11 District Attorney. Second Supp’l Briefing, ECF No. 101 at 1. Plaintiff has not filed anything in 12 response to this most recent supplemental briefing. 13 In accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. §636(b)(1)(C) and Local Rule 14 304(f), this court has conducted a de novo review of this case. After reviewing the record and the 15 supplemental briefing, the court adopts the magistrate judge’s recommended grant of summary 16 judgment on plaintiff’s unreasonable arrest claim based on qualified immunity and also on 17 plaintiff’s unreasonable search claims related to his home, Findings, ECF No. 86 at 10, 15–16, 18 but clarifies the reasoning for these rulings below. Further, in light of the criminal case’s 19 resolution, the court finds the Heck bar no longer precludes consideration of plaintiff’s claim 20 regarding the search of his land; the court now adopts the magistrate judge’s recommendation to 21 grant summary judgment on this claim. The court otherwise declines to adopt the magistrate 22 judge’s findings and recommendations, although the order below reaches the same result as he 23 recommended. 24 25 26 27 28 II. DISCUSSION A. Plaintiff’s Claim for Unreasonable Arrest 1. Heck v. Humphrey Application The parties appear to agree that plaintiff’s claim challenging his arrest was never barred by Heck v. Humphrey because the arrest at issue was based on an arrest warrant, not for 2 1 the misdemeanors that were at issue in the state case. Defs.’ Supp’l Briefing (“Defs.’ Brief”), 2 ECF No. 99 at 3 (“Mr. Gibbs has a point that the Heck bar does not apply where he is limiting his 3 § 1983 claim to his arrest based [sic] what he deems to be an invalid arrest warrant.”). With this 4 clarification, and in light of dismissal of the state case, the court will not dismiss the unreasonable 5 arrest claim on Heck grounds. 6 7 2. Qualified Immunity As the magistrate judge finds, defendants are entitled to qualified immunity 8 because the record supports the conclusion that they reasonably believed the arrest warrant was 9 valid, and executed the arrest of plaintiff in reliance on the warrant. “An apparently valid warrant 10 does not render an officer immune from suit if his reliance on it is unreasonable in light of the 11 relevant circumstances. Such circumstances include, but are not limited to, other information that 12 the officer possesses or to which he has reasonable access, and whether failing to make an 13 immediate arrest creates a public threat or danger of flight.” Littlefield v. Viveros, No. 14 1:06cv1530 OWW DLB, 2007 WL 4284864, at *3 (E.D. Cal. Dec. 5, 2007) (quoting Berg v. Cty. 15 of Allegheny, 219 F.3d 261, 273 (3d Cir. 2000)), adopted by No. 1:06cv1530 OWW DLB, 2008 16 WL 598246 (E.D. Cal. Mar. 4, 2008). Here, the magistrate judge correctly finds that, because the 17 arrest warrant was facially valid, the officers acted reasonably in relying on it. Findings at 13–15. 18 Plaintiff has not presented any evidence to create a genuine dispute regarding whether defendants 19 knew or should have known the warrant was invalid prior to its execution; therefore, defendants 20 are entitled to summary judgment on plaintiff’s unreasonable arrest claim. 21 B. 22 The magistrate judge also correctly finds that defendants’ entrance into plaintiff’s Plaintiff’s Claim for Unreasonable Search of Home 23 home was not in violation of the Fourth Amendment because plaintiff gave his consent. Katz v. 24 United States, 389 U.S. 347, 358 n.22 (1967) (“A search to which an individual consents meets 25 Fourth Amendment requirements.”) (citation omitted). Plaintiff has not provided any evidence to 26 the contrary, and impliedly admits he gave the officers permission to enter his home to secure his 27 animals. Pl.’s Objs. to Findings & Recommendations (“Objections”), ECF No. 90 at 4 (written in 28 3 1 margin). 1 Plaintiff argues the officers proceeded to search his house once inside, id., but provides 2 no evidence of this; he also does not dispute that “nothing was seized from the cabin except the 3 personal items Plaintiff requested.” Defs.’ Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No. 43 at 23–24. As such, 4 there is no genuine dispute of material fact requiring trial of plaintiff’s claim that defendants 5 violated the Fourth Amendment by searching his home. Summary judgment on this question is 6 GRANTED. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). 7 C. Plaintiff’s Claim for Unreasonable Search of Land 8 1. 9 As to the search of plaintiff’s land, plaintiff’s Fourth Amendment claim is not Heck v. Humphrey Application 10 precluded by Heck v. Humphrey in light of the dismissal of the previously pending misdemeanor 11 charges, noted above. Because plaintiff has not suffered a criminal conviction, and is not facing 12 pending criminal charges, plaintiff’s § 1983 claim is not barred by Heck. 13 2. 14 Reaching the merits of the pending motion with respect to the Fourth Amendment 15 claim, then, the court adopts the magistrate judge’s finding that the search of plaintiff’s land was 16 not a violation of the Fourth Amendment, because plaintiff does not have a constitutionally 17 protected reasonable expectation of privacy in the open fields he claims defendants searched. 18 Findings at 10 (citing Hester v. United States, 265 U.S. 57 (1924)); see also Oliver v. United 19 States, 466 U.S. 170, 178 (1984) (“[A]n individual may not legitimately demand privacy for 20 activities conducted out of doors in fields, except in the area immediately surrounding the 21 home.”). 22 Fourth Amendment Claim Summary judgment on this claim is GRANTED. 23 ///// 24 ///// 25 26 27 28 1 “Plaintiff objects to magistrates [sic] contention that by giving warden permission to secure my animals that my claim is foreclosed on any claim of unreasonable search of my cabin. Giving permission to secure animals is not permission to search. Wardens did not just take notice of what could clearly be seen in my cabin, but actually continued their search inside by picking up objects . . . .” Objs., ECF No. 90 at 4. 4 1 III. CONCLUSION 2 Accordingly, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that: 3 1. The amended findings and recommendations, filed 4 December 4, 2017, are ADOPTED to the extent they are consistent with 5 this order; and 6 2. The motion for summary judgment by defendants Boyd and Little (ECF 7 No. 43) is GRANTED. 8 DATED: February 27, 2019. 9 10 UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 5

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