Patten v. County of Lake et al

Filing 116

ORDER by Judge William Alsup granting 39 Motion for Summary Judgment; denying 90 Motion for Summary Judgment; granting 98 Motion for Summary Judgment; denying 110 Motion to Amend/Correct ; (Attachments: # 1 Certificate of Service) (dt, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 7/22/2011)

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1 2 3 4 5 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 6 7 FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 8 9 12 13 14 15 No. C 09 3750 WHA (PR) JASON McCORD PATTEN, Plaintiff, 11 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 v. SHERIFF RODNEY MITCHELL; DEPUTY CARLA HOCKETT; DEPUTY JOE DUTRA; DETECTIVE COREY PAULICH; DEPUTY BARRY CLARK; DEPUTY MORSHED; JONES AUTOMOTIVE, ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS’ MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT; DENYING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT; DENYING MOTION TO CLARIFY AND SUPPLEMENT 16 (Docket Nos. 39, 90, 98, 110) Defendants. 17 / 18 INTRODUCTION 19 Plaintiff, a California prisoner proceeding pro se, has filed a civil rights complaint under 20 42 U.S.C. 1983 against Sheriff Rodney Mitchell, Detective Corey Paulich, Deputy Carla 21 Hockett, Deputy Joe Dutra, Deputy Barry Clark, and Deputy Mike Morshed (the “Lake County 22 defendants”), all employees of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office (“LCSO”). Plaintiff also sues 23 Jones Automotive (“Jones Auto”), a private business. The Lake County defendants and Jones 24 Auto filed separate motions for summary judgment. Plaintiff filed separate oppositions to both 25 motions, defendants filed replies to those oppositions, and plaintiff filed a response to the Lake 26 County defendants’ reply. In addition, plaintiff filed a cross-motion for summary judgment. 27 Defendants filed separate oppositions to that motion, and plaintiff filed separate replies to those 28 oppositions. After consideration of all of these papers, and for the reasons set out below, 1 defendants’ motions for summary judgment are GRANTED. Plaintiff’s cross-motion for 2 summary judgment is DENIED. 3 4 STATEMENT The following factual background is based on allegations in the first amended 5 complaint, the parties’ declarations, the documentary evidence submitted in connection with the 6 motions for summary judgment, and the California Court of Appeal’s opinion affirming 7 plaintiff’s burglary conviction. 8 On July 31, 2006, Douglas Patten reported that his house had been burglarized of nephew, plaintiff, was responsible (id. at ¶ 7). On August 21, 2006, Parole Officer Eckenrod, 11 For the Northern District of California several items (Hockett Decl. ¶ 4). He told Deputy Hockett of the LCSO that he suspected his 10 United States District Court 9 and Deputies Hockett, Thomas, and Dutra of the LCSO, located and arrested plaintiff while he 12 was standing outside of a house (Lake County Defs.’ Request for Judicial Notice (“RJN”), Exh. 13 B at 3–4). Hockett was the arresting officer, and while searching plaintiff she uncovered keys 14 for a 1987 Volvo sedan parked on the neighboring property (id. at 4). Plaintiff was a parolee 15 with a search condition as a term of his parole, so Eckenrod requested that one of the deputies 16 open the Volvo’s trunk in order to perform a parole search (id. at 4–5). Inside the trunk, 17 Eckenrod identified several items that were similar to items that Douglas Patten had reported 18 stolen (id. at 5). He decided to impound the Volvo because it was getting dark and he believed 19 that the officers on the scene would not be able to search all of the contents of the car 20 thoroughly at that time (ibid.). 21 Dutra contacted Frank Jones, one of the owners of a private company named Jones Auto 22 that occasionally worked with law enforcement agencies (Jones Decl. ¶ 1). Dutra told him to 23 tow and store the Volvo (id. at ¶ 2). The deputies informed Jones that plaintiff was in 24 possession of the vehicle but was not the registered owner, and they also told him that they had 25 placed an “agency hold” on the vehicle, meaning that only law enforcement personnel were to 26 have access to the car and its contents (ibid.; Claudia Jones Decl. ¶¶ 2–3). 27 28 Nine days later, on August 30, 2006, Detective Paulich and Deputy Clark of the LCSO met with Douglas Patten at Jones Auto (Paulich Decl. ¶ 4; Clark Decl. ¶ 4). After looking 2 1 through the Volvo’s windows, Patten told the investigators that he could see a camera case and 2 a black pool cue case similar to ones taken in the burglary (Clark Decl. ¶ 5). Later that day, 3 Paulich and Clark searched the Volvo pursuant to a warrant and uncovered several items that 4 Patten identified as having been stolen during the burglary (id. at ¶ 6–8; Paulich Decl. ¶ 4). 5 Also, Paulich took several photographs of the Volvo’s interior and its contents to supplement 6 the inventory that Dutra had made at the scene (Paulich Decl. ¶ 4). 7 According to Claudia Jones, a co-owner of Jones Auto, after the search the LCSO 8 investigators removed some items from the Volvo and informed her that the car was “released” 9 (Claudia Jones Decl. ¶ 5). She understood this to mean that, like any other towed car, if the Volvo car were not claimed and the towing and storage fees were not paid, then a lien could be 11 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 placed on the car and it could be sold at auction after proper notice to the interested parties 12 (ibid.). Plaintiff denies that the car was ever “released” by the LCSO to Jones Auto. A lien 13 accrued on the Volvo, and on or about October 7, 2006, Jones Auto conducted an auction and 14 sold the car for $500 (Claudia Jones Decl. ¶ 10). Claudia Jones believed that the police had 15 removed any personal property that had plaintiff’s name on it, and Jones Auto, believing that 16 plaintiff had chosen to abandon the rest, either donated or disposed of the remaining property 17 (id. at ¶ 11). 18 Approximately one and a half years later, in the spring of 2008, plaintiff went to Jones 19 Auto to claim the Volvo and its contents (Patten Decl. 2:15–17). He was informed by Jones 20 Auto employees that all the property was “gone” (id. at 2:23–24). 21 Plaintiff was charged in the Lake County Superior Court with residential burglary and 22 receiving stolen property. He filed a motion to suppress the evidence obtained from the search 23 of the Volvo, but the motion was denied. On April 28, 2008, plaintiff pleaded guilty to burglary 24 and admitted a prior strike, and he was sentenced to state prison for a term of eight years. ON 25 October 30, 2009, the California Court of Appeal affirmed both plaintiff’s conviction and the 26 denial of his motion to suppress. He filed the instant case on August 17, 2009. 27 28 3 ANALYSIS 1 2 A. MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT 3 1. Summary Judgment Standard 4 Summary judgment is proper where the pleadings, discovery, and affidavits demonstrate 5 that there is “no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment 6 as a matter of law.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). Material facts are those which may affect the 7 outcome of the case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute as 8 to a material fact is genuine if there is sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to return a 9 verdict for the nonmoving party. Ibid. The party moving for summary judgment bears the initial burden of identifying those 11 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 portions of the pleadings, discovery, and affidavits which demonstrate the absence of a genuine 12 dispute of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Cattrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Where the 13 moving party will have the burden of proof on an issue at trial, it must affirmatively 14 demonstrate that no reasonable trier of fact could find other than for the moving party. On an 15 issue for which the nonmoving party will have the burden of proof at trial, the moving party 16 need only point out “that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party’s 17 case.” Ibid. 18 Once the moving party meets its initial burden, the nonmoving party must go beyond the 19 pleadings to demonstrate the existence of a genuine dispute of material fact by “citing to 20 specific parts of materials in the record” or “showing that the materials cited do not establish 21 the absence or presence of a genuine dispute.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). If the nonmoving party 22 fails to make this showing, “the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” 23 Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. 24 When the parties file cross-motions for summary judgment, the district court must 25 consider all of the evidence submitted in support of both motions to evaluate whether a genuine 26 issue of material fact exists precluding summary judgment for either party. The Fair Housing 27 Council of Riverside County, Inc. v. Riverside Two, 249 F.3d 1132, 1135 (9th Cir. 28 2001). 4 1 2. 2 Plaintiff claims that: (1) the Lake County defendants violated his Fourth Amendment 3 rights by subjecting him to an unreasonably prolonged search; (2) all defendants violated his 4 Fourteenth Amendment right to due process by disposing of his Volvo and its contents without 5 providing proper notice; and (3) all defendants are liable for under state law for general 6 negligence, professional negligence, and breach of contract. 7 8 9 Plaintiff’s Claims a. Fourth Amendment Plaintiff claims that Deputies Hockett, Dutra, Clark, and Morshed, Detective Paulich, and Sheriff Mitchell violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure when they “seized, towed, stored, and ultimately lost Plaintiff’s vehicle” (First 11 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 Amd. Compl. 7). Specifically, he argues that the Lake County defendants subjected him to an 12 “unreasonably prolonged” search when they impounded the Volvo on the day of his arrest and 13 searched it nine days later, rather than completing the search on the scene (Opp. to Lake County 14 Defs.’ MSJ 3–9). 15 Plaintiff’s claim is barred by the doctrine of collateral estoppel because it was already 16 litigated in state court. Under the Federal Full Faith and Credit Statute, 28 U.S.C. 1738, “a 17 federal court must give to a state-court judgment the same preclusive effect as would be given 18 that judgment under the law of the State in which the judgment was rendered.” Migra v. 19 Warren City School Dist. Bd. of Educ., 465 U.S. 75, 80–81 (1984). There is no exception to the 20 rule of issue preclusion for federal civil rights actions under 42 U.S.C. 1983 — the Supreme 21 Court has made it clear that a Section 1983 claim brought in federal court is subject to principle 22 of issue preclusion by a prior state court judgment. See id. at 83–84; Allen v. McCurry, 449 23 U.S. 90, 97–98 (1980). 24 Under California law, collateral estoppel, commonly known as issue preclusion, 25 prohibits the re-litigation of issues decided in a prior proceeding if: (1) the issue is identical to 26 the one decided in a prior proceeding; (2) the issue was actually litigated in the prior 27 proceeding; (3) the issue was necessarily decided in the prior proceeding; (4) the decision in the 28 prior proceeding was final and on the merits; and (5) the party against whom preclusion is 5 1 sought is the same or is in privy with the party from the prior proceeding. Lucido v. Superior 2 Court, 795 P.2d 1223, 1225 (Cal. 1990). 3 The California Court of Appeal affirmed plaintiff’s conviction and denied his claim that In the state appellate court, plaintiff claimed, as he does here, that the LCSO employees’ 6 decision to impound the Volvo and search it on a later date constituted an “unreasonably 7 prolonged” search in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. The issue was actually 8 litigated, as it was raised and briefed by the parties in the state courts. See Barker v. Hull, 191 9 Cal. App. 3d 221, 226 (1987). The Court of Appeal explicitly decided the claim, finding that 10 the search and seizure were reasonable, not unnecessarily “prolonged,” and did not violate the 11 For the Northern District of California the search and seizure of the Volvo and its contents violated the Fourth Amendment. 5 United States District Court 4 Fourth Amendment (RJN, Exh. B at 10). The opinion of the state appellate court affirming the 12 trial court’s decision was also a final judgment on the merits. Finally, plaintiff was a party in 13 the prior case as well as in the party against whom preclusion applies here. In short, all of the 14 elements of collateral estoppel are fulfilled, and plaintiff is precluded from relitigating the issue 15 of whether the Lake County defendants’ conduct in impounding and later searching the Volvo 16 violated the Fourth Amendment. 17 Plaintiff also claims that his Fourth Amendment rights were violated when the Lake 18 County defendants “ultimately lost” the Volvo. This claim is not subject to collateral estoppel 19 because it was not litigated in the state court. Nevertheless, it fails as a matter of law because it 20 is not cognizable under the Fourth Amendment. The loss or destruction of property in carrying 21 out a search implicates the Fourth Amendment. See United States v. Jacobsen, 466 U.S. 109, 22 124–25 (1984). Here, however, the property was not lost or destroyed by the Lake County 23 defendants in carrying out the search. Rather, Jones Auto sold the car and disposed of its 24 contents approximately a month and a half after the search had been completed. Plaintiff 25 concedes as much when he states that the disposal of his alleged property is “an issue that is 26 solely the concern of Defendant Jones Automotive” (Opp. to Lake County Defs.’ MSJ 25–26). 27 Whether the loss or destruction of plaintiff’s property violates his right to due process is 28 addressed below, but plaintiff it does not violate the Fourth Amendment. 6 1 Given the undisputed evidence, no reasonable jury could find in plaintiff's favor on his 2 Fourth Amendment claims. Accordingly, defendants are entitled to summary judgment on 3 these claims. 4 5 b. Due Process Plaintiff claims that both Jones Auto and the Lake County defendants violated his due the Constitution itself does not confer specific property interests, Board of Regents v. Roth, 408 8 U.S. 564, 577 (1972), a property interest that has been initially recognized and protected by 9 state law may be protected by the Due Process Clause, Paul v. Davis, 424 U.S. 693, 710 (1976). 10 Ordinarily, due process of law requires notice and an opportunity for some kind of hearing prior 11 For the Northern District of California process rights by depriving him of his car and personal property without proper notice. Though 7 United States District Court 6 to the deprivation of a significant property interest. Memphis Light, Gas & Water Div. v. Craft, 12 436 U.S. 1, 19 (1978). Due process only guarantees prior notice, however, if the deprivation of 13 property was the result of “established state procedure.” Logan v. Zimmerman Brush Co., 455 14 U.S. 422, 435–37 (1982). Neither the negligent nor intentional deprivation of property states a 15 due process claim under Section 1983 if the deprivation was random and unauthorized. Hudson 16 v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 533 (1984); Zimmerman v. City of Oakland, 255 F.3d 734, 737–40 17 (9th Cir. 2001) (applying Hudson outside prison context). The availability of an adequate state 18 post-deprivation remedy, e.g., a state tort action, precludes relief because it provides sufficient 19 procedural due process. See Zinermon v. Burch, 494 U.S. 113, 128 (1990). California law 20 provides such an adequate post-deprivation remedy. See Barnett v. Centoni, 31 F.3d 813, 21 816–17 (9th Cir. 1994) (citing Cal. Gov't Code §§ 810-895). 22 Plaintiff’s due process claim fails because he asserts that the disposal of his car and 23 property was not authorized by state law. He claims that Jones Auto sold the Volvo and 24 disposed of its contents without notifying him, even though Frank and Claudia Jones knew that 25 he was the rightful owner of that property, in violation of California Civil Code § 3072, and 26 California Vehicle Code §§ 22650, 22851, and 22852 (First Amd. Compl. 10; Opp. to Lake 27 County Defs.’ MSJ 27; Opp. to Def. Jones Auto’s MSJ 4). Plaintiff’s due process claim fails 28 under Hudson because plaintiff asserts that Jones Auto’s disposal of his property was not 7 1 authorized by state law. See Hudson, 468 U.S. at 533 (1984). Plaintiff also claims that the 2 Lake County defendants violated his due process rights by failing to inventory the contents of 3 the Volvo, notify plaintiff that the car and its contents were being seized and disposed of, and 4 provide plaintiff with receipts (First Amd. Compl. 8). These due process claims also fail 5 because the deprivation of property here was assertedly the result of Jones Auto acting in a 6 manner unauthorized by state law. As a result, due process does not guarantee plaintiff any 7 right to prior notice of the disposition of his property, either by Jones Auto or by the Lake 8 County defendants. Accordingly, defendants are entitled to summary judgment on plaintiff’s 9 due process claims. c. State Law Claims Plaintiff raises several state law causes of action and requests that the court exercise 11 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 12 supplemental jurisdiction over them pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1367. A federal court may decline to 13 exercise supplemental jurisdiction if “(1) the claim raises a novel or complex issue of State law, 14 (2) the claim substantially predominates over the claim or claims over which the district court 15 has original jurisdiction, (3) the district court has dismissed all claims over which it has original 16 jurisdiction, or (4) in exceptional circumstances, there are other compelling reasons for 17 declining jurisdiction.” 28 U.S.C. 1367(c). Supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims 18 is declined under 28 U.S.C. 1367(c)(3) because all federal claims are being denied. The state 19 law claims are dismissed without prejudice to pursuing them in state court. 20 B. MOTION TO “CLARIFY AND SUPPLEMENT” 21 Plaintiff’s motion to “clarify and supplement” requests clarification of the status of his 22 state law claims, and reconsideration of the dismissal of Lake County as a defendant. First, as 23 discussed above, supplemental jurisdiction is not being exercised over plaintiff’s state law 24 claims, and he may pursue them in state court. Second, the claims against Lake County were 25 properly dismissed in the order of service because plaintiff did not allege any county policy or 26 custom that caused a constitutional violation. See Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 27 694 (1978). Consequently, this motion will be denied. 28 8 1 2 CONCLUSION For the foregoing reasons, defendants’ motions for summary judgment (docket numbers 3 39 and 98) are GRANTED, and plaintiff’s cross-motion for summary judgment (docket number 4 90) is DENIED. Plaintiff’s motion to clarify and supplement (docket number 110) is also 5 DENIED. 6 The clerk shall enter judgment, close the file, and terminate all pending motions. 7 IT IS SO ORDERED. 8 9 Dated: July 22 , 2011. WILLIAM ALSUP UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 11 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 G:\PRO-SE\WHA\CR.09\PATTEN3750.MSJ.wpd 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 9

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