Brasley et al v. City of Stockton et al

Filing 17

ORDER signed by District Judge John A. Mendez on 2/12/2021 GRANTING 6 Motion to Dismiss with prejudice. (Mena-Sanchez, L)

Download PDF
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 KEVIN BRASLEY, et al., 12 13 14 15 No. 2:20-cv-01967-JAM-CKD Plaintiffs, v. ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS CITY OF STOCKTON, et al., Defendants. 16 17 This Court has previously stated that it “does not take 18 lightly that ‘[o]ur country is now in the midst of a serious 19 examination of the violations of due process and equal 20 protection rights of Black Americans’” and has recognized that 21 “the burden of aggressive and intrusive police action falls 22 disproportionately on African-American . . . males.” 23 City of Stockton, 2020 WL 5763763 at *6 (E.D. Cal. Sept. 28, 24 2020) (internal citations omitted). 25 acknowledged in Weaver that what may shock the Country’s 26 conscience – “to have Black Americans singularly threatened with 27 grave bodily injury . . . [by] police who are charged to protect 28 and serve all Americans” – does not always shock the conscience 1 Weaver v. Yet, the Court also 1 by substantive due process standards. 2 Id. This Court is bound by the demanding legal standard for 3 substantive due process claims. 4 with a motion to dismiss claims based on substantive due process 5 violations, as it was in Weaver, and is now in the present 6 action against the City of Stockton, the Court must apply this 7 demanding standard. 8 9 Accordingly, when presented Before the Court is the City of Stockton, Patrick Frondo, Abel Hinojos, and Daniel Burke’s(“Defendants”) Motion to Dismiss 10 Plaintiffs’ second claim for loss of familial association in 11 violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. 12 Brasley, Antonia Brasley, Preston Gregory, Tomia Gayles Sagote, 13 Herman Gayles, Kevin Brasley Jr., Antonio Brasley, Kenneth 14 Brasley, Isaac Brasley, Antevin Brasley, Mary Bryant, and 15 Kevousie Brasley (“Plaintiffs”) opposed. 16 Defendants replied. 17 forth below, the Court GRANTS Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss.1 Reply, ECF No. 12. Mot., ECF No. 6. Kevin Opp’n, ECF No. 11. For the reasons set 18 19 I. 20 BACKGROUND On September 20, 2019, the Stockton Police Department 21 received a 911 call about a domestic violence incident at the 22 apartment complex where Plaintiffs Kevin Brasley, his wife 23 Antonia, and several of their children lived. 24 ECF No. 1. 25 was: black male around 30 years old, about 5’4 and 135 pounds, Compl. ¶¶ 11, 12, The description of the suspect given to the officers 26 27 28 This motion was determined to be suitable for decision without oral argument. E.D. Cal. L.R. 230(g). The hearing was scheduled for February 9, 2021. 2 1 1 dark complexion, bald and clean-shaven, and wearing a blue shirt. 2 Id. ¶ 13. 3 investigate. 4 complex drew a crowd of twenty to thirty spectators. 5 speaking with the victim, the officers confirmed the suspect’s 6 physical description. 7 had fled the complex, the officers did not make an arrest and 8 left. 9 the officers were again dispatched. Officers Frondo and Hinojos were dispatched to Id. ¶ 14. Id. ¶ 16. The officers’ presence at the apartment Id. ¶ 15. Id. After However, because the suspect When the suspect returned shortly thereafter, Id. ¶¶ 16, 17. Among the 10 crowd still gathered outside were Plaintiffs Kevin Brasley, his 11 wife, and their sons, Isaac, Kenneth, Antevin, and Antonio. 12 ¶ 19. 13 Id. When Officer Frondo exited from his patrol vehicle, he 14 singled out Kevin Brasley and ordered him to walk over to the 15 vehicle. 16 Brasley did not match the description of the suspect; at the 17 time, Mr. Brasley was 49 years old, about 5’9 and 190 pounds, 18 with gray hair and gray facial hair, a light complexion, and 19 wearing a black shirt. 20 Id. ¶¶ 21, 23. Other than being a black male, Mr. Id. ¶ 22. Mr. Brasley complied with Frondo’s orders, putting his hands 21 on the hood of the patrol car and spreading his feet. Id. ¶¶ 23, 22 24. 23 and fell to the ground, pulling Brasley down to the ground with 24 him. 25 his body covering Brasley’s face and preventing him from 26 breathing. 27 Brasley raised his hands in the air to show he was not resisting 28 or posing any threat and turned his head to the side in order to As Frondo was searching Mr. Brasley’s body, Frondo tripped Id. ¶¶ 25, 26. Id. ¶ 27. Frondo rolled himself on top of Brasley, When Frondo did not stand up right away, 3 1 breathe. 2 where Brasley and Frondo remained entangled on the ground and hit 3 Mr. Brasley’s raised arm with a baton. 4 strike broke a bone in Mr. Brasley’s left arm. 5 Id. ¶¶ 28, 29. Officer Hinojos headed quickly over to Id. ¶ 29. The baton Id. Meanwhile, Officer Burke had arrived, as spectators were 6 yelling that the police had the wrong person. 7 The victim of the domestic violence incident specifically told 8 Burke that the officers had the “wrong man,” but Burke did 9 nothing. Id. ¶ 36. Id. ¶¶ 30, 34-36. Brasley was arrested, id. ¶ 37, taken first 10 to the San Joaquin General Hospital, id. ¶¶ 39-40, then to the 11 San Joaquin County Jail where he was held overnight, id. ¶¶ 41- 12 49. 13 Kevin Brasley now brings this Section 1983 action on behalf 14 of himself, his mother, his wife, and his nine children. See 15 Compl. 16 present Motion concerns only the second: a Fourteenth Amendment 17 Substantive Due Process Claim for Familial Association brought by 18 all Plaintiffs against Officers Burke, Frondo, and Hinojos. 19 Compl. ¶¶ 58-66. 20 action, and in turn dismiss Plaintiffs Mary Bryant, Preston 21 Gregory, Tomia Gayles Sagote, Herman Gayles, Kevin Brasley Jr., 22 and Kevousie Brasley, from this action. While the complaint contains nine causes of action, the Defendants move to dismiss the second cause of Mot. at 9. 23 24 II. OPINION 25 A. Legal Standard 26 Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires “a short 27 and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is 28 entitled to relief.” Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 8(a)(2). 4 Courts must 1 dismiss a suit if the plaintiff fails to “state a claim upon 2 which relief can be granted.” 3 defeat a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a plaintiff must 4 “plead enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible 5 on its face.” 6 (2007). 7 that allows the court to draw a reasonable inference that the 8 defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” 9 Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 12(b)(6). To Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 This plausibility standard requires “factual content Ashcroft v. “At this stage, the Court 10 “must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a 11 complaint.” 12 conclusion couched as a factual allegation.” Id. But it need not “accept as true a legal Id. 13 B. Analysis 14 As a threshold matter, Defendants characterize their leading 15 argument as one about standing. 16 However, upon review of the “standing” sections of Defendants’ 17 Motion and Reply, the Court finds that Defendants’ arguments 18 though couched as standing arguments, are more properly 19 considered as failure to state a claim arguments. For instance, 20 Defendants argue in the “standing” section of the Motion: “there 21 has been no deprivation of life, liberty or property necessary to 22 state a valid substantive due process claim.” Mot. at 5. 23 (emphasis added). 24 consider Defendants’ “standing” arguments as part of the 12(b)(6) 25 analysis below. 26 Mot. at 5; Reply at 2-3. Accordingly, the Court finds it appropriate to Defendants argue that Plaintiffs fail to state a Fourteenth 27 Amendment substantive due process claim for loss of familial 28 association and thus this claim must be dismissed. 5 Mot. at 5-8; 1 Reply at 2-3. Plaintiffs insist that as the wife, mother, and 2 children of Kevin Brasley, respectively, Antonia Brasley, Mary 3 Bryant, Preston Gregory, Tomia Gayles Sagote, Herman Gayles, 4 Kevin Brasley Jr., Antonio Brasley, Kenneth Brasley, Isaac 5 Brasley, Antevin Brasley, and Kevousie Brasley have a 6 constitutionally protected liberty interest in the companionship 7 and society of their husband, son, and father. 8 They allege that Defendants violated this interest, rendering 9 Kevin Brasley “physically and emotionally unable to provide the 10 same level or quality of companionship, comfort, and society to 11 his mother and wife and children than before he was injured.” 12 Compl. ¶ 64. 13 association Plaintiffs have pled are: (1) Kevin Brasley has been 14 “physically unable to assume his pre-injury role in executing and 15 leading the family cookouts like the family enjoyed 2-3 times per 16 month before he was injured”; and (2) Kevin Brasley has been 17 “unable to take his sons on their nearly annual fishing trip, or 18 help them work on their homes and cars, or get out of the house 19 for birthday parties and holiday get togethers.” Opp’n at 6-7. The two specific examples of loss of familial Id. 20 Under the Fourteenth Amendment, official conduct that 21 “shocks the conscience” in depriving close family members of a 22 liberty interest in the companionship and society of a family 23 member is cognizable as a violation of due process. 24 Torres, 610 F.3d 546, 554 (9th Cir. 2010) (internal quotations 25 and citations omitted). 26 determining whether [the officer’s conduct] shocks the 27 conscience, the court must first ask whether the circumstances 28 are such that actual deliberation [by the officer] is practical. Wilkinson v. The Ninth Circuit has instructed: “In 6 1 Where actual deliberation is practical, then an officer's 2 ‘deliberate indifference’ may suffice to shock the conscience. 3 On the other hand, where a law enforcement officer makes a snap 4 judgment because of an escalating situation, his conduct may only 5 be found to shock the conscience if he acts with a purpose to 6 harm unrelated to legitimate law enforcement objectives.” 7 see also Estate of Ozuna v. Cty. of Stanislaus, 392 F.Supp.3d 8 1162, 1176 (E.D. Cal. 2019). 9 Id.; The parties dispute which of these two standards, deliberate 10 indifference or purpose to harm, applies. Opp’n at 4-5; Reply at 11 3-4. 12 dispute because under either standard, Plaintiffs have not 13 alleged facts from which it could plausibly find that Defendants’ 14 actions against Kevin Brasley shocked the conscience. 15 Plaintiff’s allegations – even the most egregious ones (1) that 16 Officer Frondo singled Mr. Brasley out despite the fact he did 17 not match the description of the suspect other than generally 18 being a black male, Compl. ¶¶ 21-23; (2) that Officer Hinojos 19 swung a baton and broke Mr. Brasley’s arm despite the fact he was 20 not resisting and merely trying to breathe as Officer Frondo 21 remained on top of him, id. ¶¶ 27-29; and (3) that Defendants 22 arrested Mr. Brasley despite being informed by many onlookers, 23 including the victim, that they had the wrong guy, id. ¶¶ 30, 34- 24 36 – simply do not rise to the level of a substantive due process 25 violation under the settled caselaw. 26 allegations regarding the loss of familial association, id. ¶ 64, 27 come up short. 28 as much. However, the Court finds it unnecessary to resolve this Here, Likewise, Plaintiffs’ Indeed, the authority Plaintiffs cite to confirms Opp’n at 7 (citing to Lee v. City of Los Angeles, 250 7 1 F.3d 668 (9th Cir. 2001)). 2 arrested plaintiff-son, who was severely mentally disabled such 3 that his plaintiff-mother had been appointed as his conservator, 4 then proceeded to mistakenly identify him as a fugitive wanted by 5 the New York Police and extradite him to New York where he was 6 wrongfully incarcerated for two years. 7 mother spent those two years searching for him. 8 Circuit found these allegations sufficient to state a loss of 9 familial association claim. 10 In Lee, Los Angeles Police officers Id. at 677-678. Id. His The Ninth Id. at 686. The Court agrees with Defendants that the facts of Lee are 11 “oceans apart” from the allegations here. 12 unlike in Lee, there is no allegation that Mr. Brasley had a 13 mental incapacity that Defendants ignored, no allegation that Mr. 14 Brasley was wrongfully incarcerated for two years, and no 15 allegation that his family members did not know where he was for 16 two years and were deprived of his companionship for that period 17 of time. 18 Joaquin County Jail for one night. 19 Court takes as true the allegation Mr. Brasley is now “physically 20 and emotionally unable to provide the same level or quality of 21 companionship, comfort, and society to his mother, wife and 22 children than before he was injured,” id. ¶ 64, this is simply 23 not enough to state a claim, even under Plaintiffs’ own cited 24 caselaw. 25 standards are demanding and do not impose liability “whenever 26 someone cloaked with state authority causes harm.” 27 WL 5763763 at *6 (internal citations omitted). 28 Reply at 3. Here, Rather, Mr. Brasley was held in custody at the San Compl. ¶¶ 41-49. While the It bears repeating that substantive due process Weaver, 2020 Because the caselaw requires far more than what Plaintiff 8 1 has alleged here, the Court DISMISSES Plaintiffs’ Fourteenth 2 Amendment familial association claim. 3 C. Leave to Amend 4 The Court need not grant leave to amend where amendment 5 would be futile. Deveraturda v. Globe Aviation Sec. Servs., 454 6 F.3d 1043, 1049 (9th Cir. 2006). 7 been alleged by Plaintiffs here is far from what the caselaw 8 requires to state a claim. 9 did not proffer any facts that might lead the Court to believe As discussed above, what has Further, in opposition, Plaintiffs 10 Plaintiffs could add allegations to avoid dismissal on 12(b)(6) 11 grounds. 12 would be futile and DISMISSES Plaintiffs’ second claim with 13 prejudice. See Opp’n. Accordingly, the Court finds amendment 14 15 16 17 18 19 III. ORDER For the reasons set forth above, the Court GRANTS WITH PREJUDICE Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss. IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: February 12, 2021 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 9

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?