Fairbanks v. Canyon County et al
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER: IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the Motion for PartialDismissal (Dkt. 11 ) is GRANTED as follows: The First and Second Claims are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE as to the Defendants Cody Frailey and Christopher Odenberg. The Sixth and Seventh Claims are DISMISSED, as stated herein, as toDefendants Steve Rule, Tom Dale, and Pam White in their individual and official capacities. Signed by Judge Edward J. Lodge. (caused to be mailed to non Registered Participants at the addresses listed on the Notice of Electronic Filing (NEF) by (km)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF IDAHO
DALE FAIRBANKS, an individual,
Case No. 1:17-cv-00339-EJL
CANYON COUNTY, a political
subdivision of the state of Idaho, STEVE
RULE, TOM DALE, and PAM WHITE,
in their individual and official capacities
as MEMBERS OF THE CANYON
COUNTY BOARD OF
DONAHUE, in his official capacity as
the SHERIFF OF CANYON COUNTY;
CODY FRAILEY, and CHRISTOPHER
ODENBERG, in their individual and
official capacities as Deputy Sheriffs
with Canyon County,
Before the Court in the above entitled matter is the Defendants’ Motion for Partial
Dismissal. (Dkt. 11.) The parties have filed responsive briefing and the Motion is ripe for
the Court’s consideration. Having fully reviewed the record herein, the Court finds that the
facts and legal arguments are adequately presented in the briefs and record. Accordingly,
in the interest of avoiding further delay, and because the Court conclusively finds that the
decisional process would not be significantly aided by oral argument, the Motion shall be
decided on the record before this Court without oral argument.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
The underlying facts giving rise to this § 1983 action occurred on August 21, 2015
at approximately 4:30 p.m. when two Canyon County Deputy Sheriffs, Cody Frailey and
Christopher Odenberg, arrived at the Plaintiff’s, Dale Fairbanks, home in Nampa, Idaho.
The Deputies were investigating a report of domestic violence made by Mr. Fairbanks’
then-girlfriend that had allegedly occurred several weeks prior. (Dkt. 1.)
When the Deputies arrived at the residence, Mr. Fairbanks met them in his yard.
The Deputies informed Mr. Fairbanks of the purpose for their visit and the nature of the
domestic violence report. Mr. Fairbanks states he was polite, cooperative, and responsive
to the Deputies inquiries. (Dkt. 1.) After a period of time, the Deputies stated that detectives
at the police station wanted Mr. Fairbanks to come in for further questioning. Mr. Fairbanks
then stated “this isn’t happening” and returned to the inside of his residence. The parties
offer differing accounts of what happened next.
In general, Mr. Fairbanks re-entered his home from the back door, then exited his
home from the garage door, moved/repositioned one of his vehicles, and then encountered
the Deputies again in his front yard. During that encounter, both Deputies deployed their
tasers into Mr. Fairbanks who pulled the taser wires out of his body. The officers also
directed Mr. Fairbanks to “get on the ground” to which Mr. Fairbanks responded he was
unable to because of his prior knee surgery. When Deputy Frailey grabbed Mr. Fairbank’s
left wrist and placed a handcuff on it, Mr. Fairbanks pulled his left arm forward and the
two struggled. Deputy Odenberg allegedly struck Mr. Fairbanks with his baton during this
time. Ultimately, Mr. Fairbanks was handcuffed and placed in a patrol car.
On December 8, 2015, Mr. Fairbanks plead guilty in state court to two misdemeanor
counts of resisting and obstructing officers and was sentenced to 365 days incarceration
with 361 days suspended, ordered to pay a fine and costs, $1,338.90 in restitution, and
serve two years of unsupervised probation. On November 6, 2017, the state court granted
Mr. Fairbanks’ Motion for Early Termination of Unsupervised Probation and dismissed
the matter pursuant to a grant of the withheld judgment. (Dkt. 24, Att. A.)
On August 16, 2017, Mr. Fairbanks, filed his Complaint in this matter. The first five
causes of action raise claims under § 1983 against Deputies Frailey and Odenberg in their
individual and official capacities for: 1) Wrongful Seizure without probable cause, 2) False
Arrest, 3) Excessive Force as to the use of Tasers and Batons, 4) Excessive Force as to
Handcuffing, and 5) Unlawful Search of Residence in violation of the Fourth Amendment.
(Dkt. 1.) The sixth and seventh causes of action allege claims against Canyon County and
the named Canyon County Commissioners in their individual and official capacities for: 1)
Unconstitutional County Policy or Custom and 2) Negligent Failure to Supervise or Train.
Defendants filed this Motion for Partial Dismissal seeking to dismiss the first and
second causes of action against the Deputies and dismissal of the sixth and seventh causes
of action against the County Commissioners in both their individual and official capacities.
(Dkt. 11.) For the reasons stated below, the Court grants the Motion.
STANDARD OF LAW
A motion to dismiss made pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests
the sufficiency of a party’s claim for relief. When considering such a motion, the Court’s
inquiry is whether the allegations in a pleading are sufficient under applicable pleading
standards. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) sets forth minimum pleading rules,
requiring only a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled
to relief.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2).
In general, a motion to dismiss will only be granted if the complaint fails to allege
“enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff
pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the
defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. The plausibility standard is not akin to a
‘probability requirement,’ but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has
acted unlawfully.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citations omitted).
Although “we must take all of the factual allegations in the complaint as true, we are not
bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.” Twombly, 550
U.S. at 555. Therefore, “conclusory allegations of law and unwarranted inferences are
insufficient to defeat a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim.” Caviness v. Horizon
Comm. Learning Cent., Inc., 590 F.3d 806, 811-12 (9th Cir. 2010) (citation omitted).
First and Second Causes of Action against the Deputies
Defendants argue that Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 487–488 (1994) bars
Plaintiff’s first and second § 1983 claims against the Deputies. (Dkt. 11.) In Heck, the
Supreme Court held that a plaintiff cannot succeed on a § 1983 claim that necessarily
implicates the constitutionality of the plaintiff’s state conviction or sentence. 512 U.S. at
484–87. In other words, § 1983 cannot be used to indirectly attack a criminal conviction
unless the conviction or sentence has been reversed on direct appeal, expunged by
executive order, declared invalid by a state tribunal authorized to make such a
determination, or called into question by a federal court’s issuance of a writ of habeas
In order to prove both his first and second § 1983 claims for wrongful seizure and
false arrest, Mr. Fairbanks must show that the Deputies lacked probable cause to seize
and/or arrest him. (Dkt. 1 at ¶¶ 92-107.) Mr. Fairbanks has, however, tacitly admitted that
the officers had probable cause when he entered his guilty plea to the charges of resisting
and obstructing which requires proof of three elements: “(1) the person who was resisted,
delayed or obstructed was a law enforcement officer; (2) the defendant knew that the person
was an officer; and (3) the defendant also knew at the time of the resistance that the officer
was attempting to perform some official act or duty.” State v. Bishop, 203 P.3d 1203, 1215
(Idaho 2009); State v. Orr, 157 P.3d 51, 53 (Idaho Ct. App. 2014); Idaho Code § 18-705.
The Court finds Mr. Fairbanks’ first and second § 1983 claims must be dismissed
because the lawfulness of his arrest/seizure - specifically that the officers had probable
cause to arrest and, therefore, were engaged in the performance of their official duties –
has been established by virtue of Mr. Fairbanks’ guilty plea to the resisting and obstructing
charges. Mr. Fairbanks therefore cannot now dispute that probable cause existed at the time
of the arrest in this case. Success here would necessarily imply that Mr. Fairbanks’ state
convictions for resisting and obstructing were improperly based on an unconstitutional
seizure and/or arrest. That outcome is precluded by the Supreme Court’s decision in Heck
v. Humphrey. See Heck, 512 U.S. at 486 n. 6 (A conviction for resisting arrest precludes a
later § 1983 claim of an unconstitutional seizure because prevailing on the § 1983 claim
requires the claimant negate an element of the offense of which he has been convicted.).
Accordingly, Plaintiff’s § 1983 claims for wrongful seizure and false arrest are dismissed.
Mr. Fairbanks counters arguing his § 1983 claims are not barred by Heck because
he has obtained a withheld judgment of his state convictions. (Dkt. 24.) Specifically, that
his convictions and sentence have been declared invalid by a state tribunal authorized to
make such determination. Heck, 512 U.S. at 486-87. Whether Heck precludes these claims
turns on whether Mr. Fairbanks’ § 1983 action, if successful, will “‘demonstrate the
invalidity of any outstanding criminal judgment.’” Beets v. Cnty. of Los Angeles, 669 F.3d
1038, 1043 (9th Cir. 2012) (quoting Heck, 512 U.S. at 486–87).
Here, Mr. Fairbanks plead guilty to two misdemeanor counts of resisting and
obstructing, was placed on two years of unsupervised probation, and ordered to pay costs
and restitution. (Dkt. 24, Att. A.) Just shy of two years later, the state court granted Mr.
Fairbanks’ motion for early termination of his probation and dismissal stating, in relevant
THEREFORE, based upon Defendant’s performance and compliance with
all conditions imposed by the Court and his Probation Officer, there would
appear to be no further need for the continuation of this matter, and justice
would be served by terminating Defendant’s unsupervised probation early,
and fully and fairly dismissing this matter pursuant to the grant of the
(Dkt. 24, Att. A.) Withheld judgments in Idaho are governed by Idaho Code § 19-2604. A
withheld judgment pursuant to Idaho Code § 19-2604 is not a conviction. State v. Client,
534 P.2d 476 (Idaho 1975). Where a judgment has been vacated under that statute, “it is a
nullity, and the effect is as if it had never been rendered at all.” Manners v. Bd. of Veterinary
Med., 694 P.2d 1298, 1300 (Idaho 1985) (citation omitted). The purpose of a withheld
judgment is to promote rehabilitation and prevent recidivism by providing an incentive for
defendants to avoid a record of conviction if they successfully complete the conditions
imposed by the court. State v. Reed, 243 P.3d 1089, 1091 (Idaho 2010); State v. Perkins,
13 P.3d 344, 347–48 (Idaho App. 2000).
Final dismissal under Idaho Code § 19–2604(1), however, is not akin to setting aside
a conviction or dismissing a charge based on a procedural error in the criminal proceedings,
nor is it a determination that the defendant is factually innocent. Perkins, 13 P.3d at 347–
48. Moreover, the state court’s dismissal of Mr. Fairbanks’ misdemeanor matter is not an
expungement; i.e. removal of a conviction from a person’s criminal record. See State v.
Parkinson, 172 P.3d 1100, 1103 (Idaho 2007) (holding that Idaho Code § 19–2604 does
not require or authorize the complete expungement of all records and references to a
charge) abrogated on other grounds by Verska v. St. Alphonsus Reg. Med. Ctr., 265 P.3d
502 (Idaho 2011). Instead, dismissal of a criminal charge under Idaho Code § 19–2604(1)
is an act of leniency by the court, “notwithstanding the defendant’s actual guilt of the
charged offense.” Perkins, 13 P.3d at 347. Idaho Code § 19-2604 allows the court to
dismiss a case against a defendant and restore the defendant’s civil rights. It does not allow
the defendant to “escape from every possible consequence of the adjudication of guilt.” Id.
at 348. In fact, for some types of offenses the Idaho Legislature has prescribed that a
withheld judgment is treated as a prior conviction. See State v. Robinson, 142 P.3d 729,
731 (Idaho 2006) (sex offender registration requirements); State v. Reed, 243 P.3d 1089
(Idaho 2010) (DUI enhancement provision for prior offenses).
Mr. Fairbanks’ withheld judgment does not equate to his state charges having been
reversed, expunged, or declared invalid which is necessary for Mr. Fairbanks to avoid
preclusion under Heck. The state court’s order granting early termination of his sentence
and dismissal of the state matter afforded Mr. Fairbanks the leniency provided for under
Idaho Code § 19-2604 and restoration of his civil rights. It does not, however, entirely erase
the charges or his guilty plea. Therefore, Mr. Fairbanks’ first and second § 1983 claims are
barred by Heck and dismissed with prejudice.
Causes of Action against the Individual County Commissioners
Defendants also seek to dismiss the sixth and seventh § 1983 claims against the
County Commissioners, Steve Rule, Tom Dale, and Pam White. (Dkt. 11.) Specifically,
Defendants argue these claims should be dismissed because the Complaint fails to allege
that any of the named Commissioners individually took any action or participated in the
alleged denial of Mr. Fairbanks’ rights. Plaintiff responds arguing it would be premature
to dismiss the claims against the Commissioners until the identity of the final policymaker
is identified or the County concedes Eleventh Amendment immunity. (Dkt. 24.)
“To state a claim under § 1983 against state officials in their individual capacities,
a plaintiff must plead that the officials, ‘acting under color of state law, caused the
deprivation of a federal right.’” OSU Student Alliance v. Ray, 699 F.3d 1053, 1061 (9th
Cir. 2012) (citations omitted). That is to say, an individual capacity suit under § 1983
requires that the plaintiff allege personal participation in the constitutional violation on the
part of the individual to subject that person to individual liability. Jones v. Williams, 297
F.3d 930, 934 (9th Cir. 2002).
In this case, the sixth cause of action alleges the Deputies actions that allegedly
violated Mr. Fairbanks’ constitutional rights were done pursuant to an official policy or
custom of Canyon County. (Dkt. 1 at ¶¶ 136-149.) The seventh cause of action alleges
Canyon County negligently failed to supervise or train the Deputies resulting in their
actions against Mr. Fairbanks which he alleges violated his constitutional rights. (Dkt 1 at
¶¶ 150-155.) There are no allegations in the Complaint that any of the County
Commissioners personally participated or took any action that could potentially subject
them to individual liability for the alleged constitutional violations claimed in the sixth or
seventh causes of action. (Dkt. 1.) Therefore, the Court finds the sixth and seventh causes
of action fail to state plausible claims as to the County Commissioners in their individual
capacities. The Motion to Dismiss is granted in this regard.
The claims against the Commissioners in their official capacities are claims against
the entity that employed them—in this case, Canyon County. See Hafer v. Melo, 502 U.S.
21, 25 (1991) (“Suits against state officials in their official capacity…should be treated as
suits against the State.”); Chew v. Gates, 27 F.3d 1432, 1446 n. 15 (9th Cir. 1994) (“Official
capacity suits generally represent only another way of pleading an action against the entity
of which the officer is an agent.”). Such claims are municipal liability suits which require
the plaintiff to show that the municipality and its agent caused the constitutional violation
through a policy or custom. Monell v. N.Y.C. Dept. of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978).
Plaintiff’s argument here concerning the final policymaker is only relevant as one
way to establish a municipal liability claim. See Gravelet-Blondin v. Shelton, 728 F.3d
1086, 1097 (9th Cir. 2013); Gillette v. Delmore, 979 F.2d 1342, 1346-47 (9th Cir. 1992);
Pembaur v. City of Cincinnati, 475 U.S. 469, 481 (1986) (“Municipal liability attaches
only where the decisionmaker possesses final authority to establish municipal policy with
respect to the action ordered.”). The claims against the Commissioners in their official
capacity, whether as policymakers or otherwise, are claims against Canyon County.
Likewise, any potential Eleventh Amendment immunity does not preclude dismissal of the
Commissioners in their official capacities because such claims are treated as a suit against
the County itself. Hafer, 502 U.S. at 25. Accordingly, the Court also dismisses with
prejudice the claims against the County Commissioners in their official capacities. See
Hyun Ju Park v. City and Cnty. of Honolulu, 292 F.Supp.3d 1080, 1090 (D. Hawai’i 2018).
Based on the foregoing, the sixth and seventh causes of action are dismissed as to
the County Commissioners, Steve Rule, Tom Dale, and Pam White, in their individual and
official capacities. The claims against Canyon County are not at issue on this Motion.
NOW THEREFORE IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the Motion for Partial
Dismissal (Dkt. 11) is GRANTED as follows:
The First and Second Claims are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE as to
the Defendants Cody Frailey and Christopher Odenberg.
The Sixth and Seventh Claims are DISMISSED, as stated herein, as to
Defendants Steve Rule, Tom Dale, and Pam White in their individual and official
DATED: July 10, 2018
Honorable Edward J. Lodge
U.S. District Judge
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