Cain v. City of Sacramento et al

Filing 18

ORDER signed by District Judge John A. Mendez on 10/3/2017 ORDERING 10 the Court GRANTS County's Motion to Dismiss the Monell claim asserted against it. The Court GRANTS Plaintiff leave to amend only the claim against the County which was the subject of the Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff's amended complaint must be filed within 20 days from the date of this Order. The County's responsive pleading is due within 20 days thereafter. (Reader, L)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 NANDI CAIN JR., 12 2:17-cv-00848-JAM-DB Plaintiff, 13 14 No. v. ORDER GRANTING COUNTY OF SACRAMENTO’S MOTION TO DISMISS CITY OF SACRAMENTO, et al., 15 Defendants. 16 17 Nandi Cain Jr. (“Plaintiff”) filed this action against 18 Officer Anthony Figueroa, the City of Sacramento, the County of 19 Sacramento, and a number of Doe defendants for constitutional 20 violations stemming from a disturbing confrontation, arrest, and 21 detention. 22 of the Monell claim asserted against it. 23 forth below, the Court grants the County’s Motion to Dismiss, 24 with leave to amend. 1 The County of Sacramento (“County”) seeks dismissal For the reasons set 25 26 27 28 1 This motion was determined to be suitable for decision without oral argument. E.D. Cal. L.R. 230(g). The hearing was scheduled for August 29, 2017. 1 1 I. 2 FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND Nandi Cain (“Plaintiff”) alleges (and for purposes of this 3 motion the Court takes as true) that the following events 4 transpired: 5 On April 10, 2017, Officer Anthony Figueroa stopped 6 Plaintiff as he was walking down Cypress Street in Del Paso 7 Heights. 8 questioned the officer’s motives, Officer Figueroa rushed at 9 Plaintiff, grabbed him by the throat, threw him to the ground, Compl., ECF No. 1, ¶¶ 11–13. After Plaintiff 10 and began punching him in the face. 11 and the other officers that arrived on scene handcuffed Plaintiff 12 and put him in the back of a patrol car. 13 Plaintiff was transported to the Sacramento County Jail, 2 without 14 being offered or provided medical care for his injuries. 15 Id. ¶ 16. Officer Figueroa Id. ¶¶ 16, 17. Id. At the jail, staff again failed to offer or provide care for 16 Plaintiff’s injuries. Id. ¶ 19. Officers placed Plaintiff in an 17 isolation cell, where he was subsequently attacked by multiple 18 officers who forcibly stripped him of his clothes. 19 21. 20 sexually assault him. 21 around 2:00 a.m. and no charges were filed against him. 22 ¶¶ 25, 26. Id. ¶¶ 20, Plaintiff was humiliated and feared that the officers would Id. ¶¶ 23, 24. Plaintiff was released Id. 23 Plaintiff filed this lawsuit against Officer Figueroa, 24 unnamed officers and jail employees, the City of Sacramento, and 25 the County of Sacramento. He asserts a Fourth Amendment 26 27 28 2 This paragraph refers to Sacramento City Jail, but the Complaint otherwise indicates Plaintiff was transported to the County Jail. 2 1 excessive force claim against Officer Figueroa and unnamed 2 officers, and a Monell claim against the City, the County, and 3 other unnamed officers. 4 alleges the following: 5 • With respect to the County, Plaintiff “CITY/COUNTY . . . breached their duty of care to the 6 public in that they have failed to discipline 7 Defendants . . . for their respective misconduct and 8 involvement in the incident described herein. 9 failure . . . demonstrates the existence of an Their 10 entrenched culture, policy or practice of promoting, 11 tolerating, and/or ratifying with deliberate 12 indifference, the use of racial profiling, excessive 13 force and the fabrication of official reports to cover 14 up Defendants” misconduct. 15 • Compl. ¶ 27. “[A]s a matter of official policy—rooted in an 16 entrenched posture of deliberate indifference to the 17 constitutional rights of persons [in the] CITY/COUNTY 18 of SACRAMENTO, SPD/SSD has allowed persons to be abused 19 and racially profiled by its employees including 20 Defendants[.]” 21 • Id. ¶ 29. “SPD/SSD employees exhibit a pattern and practice of 22 using racial profiling and excessive force against 23 citizens and despite these incidents, none of the 24 employees are ever found in violation of department 25 policy, even under the most questionable of 26 circumstances. 27 retrain any of the involved employees is evidence of an 28 official policy, entrenched culture and posture of SPD/SSD’s failure to discipline or 3 1 deliberate indifference toward protecting citizen’s 2 rights and the resulting deaths and injuries is a 3 proximate result of SPD/SSD’s failure to properly 4 supervise its employees and ratify their 5 unconstitutional conduct.” • 6 Id. ¶ 31. “[H]igh ranking CITY/COUNTY officials . . . knew and/or 7 reasonably should have known about the repeated acts of 8 unconstitutional excessive force by SPD/SSD Officers 9 . . . [and] approved, ratified, condoned, encouraged, 10 sought to cover up, and/or tacitly authorized the 11 continuing pattern and practice of misconduct and/or 12 civil rights violations by SPD/SSD” that resulted in 13 Plaintiff’s beating. 14 deliberate indifference, reckless, and/or conscious 15 disregard of the misconduct by Defendants . . . 16 [CITY/COUNTY] ratified and encouraged these officers to 17 continue their course of misconduct.” “As a result of because of th[is] Id. ¶¶ 40–42. 18 The County seeks dismissal of the Monell claim asserted against 19 it. ECF No. 10. 20 II. OPINION 21 A. Motion to Dismiss 22 A government entity, like the County, cannot be held liable 23 under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 unless a plaintiff can show that the 24 entity’s policy, practice, or custom was the moving force behind 25 the constitutional violation. 26 of the City of N.Y., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978). 27 Monell claim, “a plaintiff must prove (1) that [she] possessed a 28 constitutional right of which she was deprived; (2) that the Monell v. Dep’t of Soc. Services 4 To establish a 1 government entity had a policy; (3) that this policy amounts to 2 deliberate indifference to the plaintiff’s constitutional right; 3 and, (4) that the policy is the moving force behind the 4 constitutional violation.” 5 892, 900 (9th Cir. 2011) (citation omitted). 6 circumstances, a failure to train, a failure to supervise, or a 7 failure to respond to repeated constitutional violations of which 8 an entity had notice may amount to a policy of deliberate 9 indifference. Dougherty v. City of Covina, 654 F.3d In certain Id. (failure to train; failure to supervise); 10 Velazquez v. City of Long Beach, 793 F.3d 1010, 1027 (9th Cir. 11 2015) (failure to discharge or reprimand). 12 To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain 13 more than just labels and conclusions or a formulaic recitation 14 of the elements of a cause of action. 15 Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). 16 plead a Monell claim in the Ninth Circuit, a plaintiff need only 17 plead a “bare allegation that government officials’ 18 [unconstitutional] conduct conformed to some unidentified” policy 19 or custom. 20 631, 637 (9th Cir. 2012). 21 Ninth Circuit held that Monell claims must also contain 22 sufficient allegations to give fair notice to the opposing party 23 and “must plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief, such that 24 it is not unfair to require the opposing party to be subjected to 25 the expense of discovery and continued litigation.” 26 Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1216 (9th Cir. 2011)). Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Historically, in order to AE ex rel. Hernandez v. Cnty. of Tulare, 666 F.3d Following Iqbal/Twombly, however, the Id. (quoting 27 The County argues that Plaintiff’s Monell claim against it 28 should be dismissed because the Complaint “recites only ‘labels 5 1 and conclusions’ that are not entitled to the presumption of 2 truth, and therefore are insufficient to state a claim.” 3 Dismiss at 4. 4 single incident of unconstitutional activity, which cannot, by 5 itself, support a Monell claim. 6 Mot. to It further argues that Plaintiff only alleges a To survive a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff must do more 7 than allege that a Monell defendant “maintained or permitted an 8 official policy, custom or practice of knowingly permitting the 9 occurrence of the type of wrongs” alleged elsewhere in the 10 complaint. 11 regarding the specific nature of the alleged policy, custom, or 12 practice are required; merely stating the subject to which the 13 policy relates (i.e. excessive force) is insufficient. 14 Following this rule, district courts have dismissed complaints 15 where a plaintiff alleged a single incident of unconstitutional 16 conduct as the basis for their Monell claim. 17 of Santa Rosa, No. C 12-6451 MMC, 2013 WL 4675354 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 18 30, 2013) (dismissing a Monell claim rooted in allegations of an 19 officer’s use of excessive force during plaintiff’s arrest, 20 finding that a single incident is insufficient to support a 21 Monell claim based on inadequate training or failure to 22 discipline). 23 content of the policies, customs, or practices giving rise to the 24 alleged constitutional injuries, courts have allowed the claim to 25 go forward. 26 890, 899–900 (N.D. Cal. 2013). 27 28 AE ex rel. Hernandez, 666 F.3d at 637. Facts See id. See Wallace v. City In contrast, where a complaint specifies the See Mateos-Sandoval v. Cnty. of Sonoma, 942 F. Supp. The Complaint in this case alleges a traumatic encounter between Plaintiff and staff at the Sacramento County Jail. 6 1 Nevertheless, the allegations are insufficient to state a claim 2 against the County. 3 County is that it allowed or promoted the type of excessive force 4 alleged elsewhere in the Complaint. 5 These allegations lack the specificity required to state a 6 plausible—not merely possible—claim for relief. 7 Hernandez, 666 F.3d at 637. 8 his allegations against the City and the County into single 9 paragraphs further demonstrates the conclusory nature of the 10 11 The thrust of the allegations against the See Compl. ¶¶ 27, 29, 31. See AE ex rel. The fact that Plaintiff collapses pleadings. Insofar as Plaintiff premises the Monell claim on the 12 County’s failure to discipline the officers involved in the 13 alleged incident, the pleadings, again, lack sufficient facts. 14 Plaintiff is correct that—in certain circumstances and with 15 additional facts—the failure to discipline or reprimand officers 16 for unconstitutional conduct may support Monell liability. 17 Velazquez, 793 F.3d at 1027 (“A custom or practice can be 18 inferred from evidence of repeated constitutional violations for 19 which the errant municipal officers were not discharged or 20 reprimanded.”); Henry v. Cnty. of Shasta, 132 F.3d 512 (9th Cir. 21 1997) (post-event evidence of identical incidents may show that a 22 municipality had notice of its agents’ unconstitutional actions). 23 However, Plaintiff merely recites the elements that would support 24 such a claim without alleging any facts to cross the plausibility 25 threshold. 26 No. 16-CV-02250-LHK, 2017 WL 344998, at *16 (N.D Cal. Jan. 24, 27 2017) (finding plaintiff’s allegation that Sunnyvale has a policy 28 to cover up unconstitutional actions by failing to investigate See Compl. ¶¶ 31, 40–44; see Bagley v. City of Sunnyvale, 7 1 and discipline unconstitutional enforcement activity too vague to 2 support Monell liability under 3 allegations, too, are insufficient. 4 AE ex rel. Hernandez). These Furthermore, the Complaint does not plausibly allege a 5 Monell claim against the County based on inadequate training. 6 Plaintiff has not provided any facts or explanation as to how the 7 County’s officer training is inadequate. 8 Sunnyvale, No. C 08-5771 JF (PSG), 2011 WL 1743910, at *6 (N.D. 9 Cal. Jan. 19, 2011) (“[Plaintiffs’] Monell allegations still are See Canas v. City of 10 conclusory in nature. 11 training was inadequate [to] enable them to assist the Decedent 12 after he was shot, Plaintiffs do not explain in detail how the 13 City’s alleged policies or customs are deficient.”). 14 stating that Defendants “were on notice of the Constitutional 15 defects in their training of SPD/SSD police officers, including, 16 but not limited to unlawfully using excessive force to make 17 detentions and/or arrests” is plainly insufficient. 18 Other than alleging that the officers’ EMT Summarily Compl. ¶ 43. Although Plaintiff incorporates some elements of various 19 Monell theories in his allegations, Plaintiff has failed to 20 allege facts supporting a plausible claim for relief. 21 Accordingly, the claim must be dismissed. 22 B. Motion to Compel 23 In the final section of its Opposition, Plaintiff inserts a 24 request for the Court to compel the County to provide names of 25 jail employees. 26 and is thus denied. 27 /// 28 This request is not properly before the Court /// 8 1 2 III. ORDER For the reasons set forth above, the Court GRANTS County’s 3 Motion to Dismiss the Monell claim asserted against it. 4 Court grants Plaintiff leave to amend only the claim against the 5 County which was the subject of the Motion to Dismiss. 6 Plaintiff’s amended complaint must be filed within twenty days 7 from the date of this Order. 8 due within twenty days thereafter. 9 amend the Complaint, the case will proceed on the remaining 10 The The County’s responsive pleading is If Plaintiff chooses not to claims and the County will be dismissed from this action. 11 IT IS SO ORDERED. 12 Dated: October 3, 2017 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 9

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