Chen et al v. The City of Redmond, et al

Filing 181

ORDER denying Plaintiff Susan Chen's 171 Motion for Reconsideration; denying Plaintiff Naixiang Lian's 172 Motion for Reconsideration. Signed by Judge James L. Robart. (SWT)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT WESTERN DISTRICT OF WASHINGTON AT SEATTLE 8 9 SUSAN CHEN, et al., 10 CASE NO. C16-1877JLR Plaintiffs, 11 v. ORDER DENYING MOTIONS FOR RECONSIDERATION 12 NATALIE D’AMICO, et al., 13 Defendants. 14 15 I. 16 INTRODUCTION Before the court are: (1) Plaintiff Susan (Shiying) Chen’s motion for 17 reconsideration of the court’s order on the parties’ motions for summary judgment (Chen 18 MFR (Dkt. # 171); see also 5/24/19 Order (Dkt. # 170)); and (2) Plaintiffs Naixing 19 (Nash) Lian, J.L., and L.L.’s (collectively, “Mr. Lian,” unless otherwise specified) 20 motion for reconsideration of the court’s order on the parties’ motions for summary 21 // 22 // ORDER - 1 1 judgment (Lian MFR (Dkt. # 172)). 1 In this order, the court refers to Ms. Chen, Mr. 2 Lian, J.L., and L.L. collectively as “Plaintiffs.” Defendants City of Redmond (“the 3 City”) and Natalie D’Amico (collectively, “City Defendants”) filed responses to the 4 motions (see Chen Resp. (Dkt. # 175); Lian Resp. (Dkt. # 174)), and Plaintiffs filed 5 replies (see Chen Reply (Dkt. # 176); Lian Reply (Dkt. # 177)). The court has considered 6 the motions, the parties’ submissions concerning the motions, the relevant portions of the 7 record, and the applicable law. Being fully advised, 2 the court DENIES Ms. Chen’s 8 motion for reconsideration and DENIES Mr. Lian’s motion for reconsideration. 9 10 II. BACKGROUND The court detailed this case’s factual and procedural history in its May 24, 2019, 11 order. (See 5/24/19 Order at 2-16.) The parties do not dispute the court’s recitation of 12 the facts. (See generally Chen MFR; Chen Resp.; Lian MFR; Lian Resp.) The court 13 therefore incorporates that discussion into this order. 14 Plaintiffs allege various constitutional violations against City Defendants, as well 15 as a claim for malicious prosecution under Washington State law. (See FAC (Dkt. # 96) 16 17 18 19 20 1 Mr. Lian’s motion for reconsideration states that he is the legal guardian ad litem “in this litigation only for L[.]L.” (Lian MFR at 6.) At other points of the motion, however, Mr. Lian maintains that he brings the motion on behalf of himself, J.L., and L.L. (See id. at 1 (titling motion: “PLAINTIFFS NAIXING LIAN, J.L., AND L.L.’S MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION”).) Further, Ms. Chen brings her motion only on behalf of herself. (See Chen MFR.) The court therefore groups Mr. Lian with J.L. and L.L. for purposes of the motions for reconsideration. 2 21 22 Ms. Chen requests oral argument on her motion (see Chen MFR at 1), but the court determines that oral argument would not be helpful to its disposition of the motion, see Local Rules W.D. Wash. LCR 7(b)(4). No party requests oral argument on Mr. Lian’s motion. (See Lian MFR; Lian Resp.) Accordingly, the court decides the motions without oral argument. ORDER - 2 1 ¶¶ 132-208; 221-40.) City Defendants brought two motions for summary judgment 2 concerning these claims, as well as a malicious prosecution counterclaim. (See 1st MSJ 3 (Dkt. # 106); 2d MSJ (Dkt. # 108); Countercl. (Dkt. # 97) at 23-28.) Plaintiffs filed a 4 motion for summary judgment on City Defendants’ malicious prosecution counterclaim. 5 (See 3d MSJ (Dkt. # 141).) 6 On May 24, 2019, the court issued an order on the summary judgment motions. 7 (See 5/24/19 Order.) Pursuant to that order—and as relevant to the motions for 8 reconsideration—the court denied Plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment on City 9 Defendants’ malicious prosecution counterclaim (see id. at 58-60) and determined that 10 there was probable cause that Ms. Chen committed criminal mistreatment in the second 11 degree pursuant to RCW 9A.42.030 (see, e.g., id. at 22-25). Plaintiffs now move the 12 court to reconsider these findings. The court will address Plaintiffs’ arguments in turn. 13 14 III. A. ANALYSIS Legal Standard 15 “Motions for reconsideration are disfavored.” See Local Rules W.D. Wash. LCR 16 7(h)(1). Ordinarily, the court will deny such motions in the absence of a showing of (1) 17 “manifest error in the prior ruling,” or (2) “new facts or legal authority which could not 18 have been brought to [the court’s] attention earlier with reasonable diligence.” Id. 19 B. 20 Malicious Prosecution The court granted Plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment on City Defendants’ 21 malicious prosecution counterclaim as it relates to Ms. Chen’s judicial deception, 22 deliberate fabrication, selective enforcement, and malicious prosecution claims. (See ORDER - 3 1 5/24/19 Order at 59.) However, the court denied Plaintiffs’ motion for summary 2 judgment on City Defendants’ malicious prosecution counterclaim as it relates to 3 Plaintiffs’ substantive and procedural due process claims. (Id.) The court concluded that 4 genuine issues of material fact exist regarding whether Plaintiffs had probable cause to 5 assert these claims. (Id. at 59-60.) The court did not address the other elements of a 6 malicious prosecution claim, including malice. (See id. at 58-60.) 7 To maintain an action for malicious prosecution, a part must allege and prove, 8 inter alia, (1) “that there was want of probable cause for the institution or continuation of 9 the prosecution,” and (2) “that the proceedings were instituted or continued through 10 malice.” Peasley v. Puget Sound Tug & Barge Co., 125 P.2d 681, 687-88 (Wash. 1942). 11 Probable cause and malice are separate elements, and the proponent of the malicious 12 prosecution claim bears the burden of proving each. Id. at 688. 13 Plaintiffs argue that the court committed manifest error by not addressing “City 14 Defendants’ failure to establish any evidence on the element of malice.” (Chen MFR at 15 2-4; Lian MFR at 5.) Plaintiffs argue that, because City Defendants “presented no 16 evidence on the element of malice” and the court could not reasonably infer malice, the 17 court should have dismissed City Defendants’ counterclaim in its entirety. (Chen MFR at 18 2-4; Lian MFR at 5.) 19 In response, City Defendants assert that Plaintiffs did not raise the issue of malice 20 in their summary judgment motion. (See Chen Resp. at 2.) In fact, City Defendant point 21 out that the “the word ‘malice’ does not appear anywhere in Plaintiffs’ Motion for 22 Summary Judgment on City Defendants’ Counterclaim.” (See Chen Resp. at 2.) ORDER - 4 1 Plaintiffs respond that they challenged the malice element in their motion for 2 summary judgment in three ways (Chen MFR at Reply at 2): (1) their motion states they 3 had “sincere and reasonable bases to believe” City Defendants’ actions were unlawful (3d 4 MSJ at 17); (2) Ms. Chen’s and Mr. Lian’s declarations say they “did not institute this 5 litigation out of malice” (Lian Decl. (Dkt. # 122) ¶ 22; see also Chen Decl. (Dkt. # 131) 6 ¶ 49); and (3) Ms. Chen discussed malice in her reply brief (see 3d Reply (Dkt. # 143) at 7 4 (“Plaintiffs both testified to their reasonable belief in their claims (and lack of 8 malice)”). 9 The court did not address malice in its May 24, 2019, order because Plaintiffs did 10 not challenge malice in their summary judgment motion. (5/24/19 Order at 58-60; see 11 also 3d MSJ.) As City Defendants point out, Plaintiffs did not mention the word 12 “malice” in their motion. Further, it is not reasonable to expect the court to interpret the 13 summarizing phrase “Plaintiffs have demonstrated that they had sincere and reasonable 14 bases to believe,” which appears at the end of a long discussion on probable cause and 15 lacks a legal citation (see 3d MSJ at 17), as even a passing challenge to the malice 16 element, 3 see Indep. Towers of Wash. v. Washington, 350 F.3d 925, 929 (9th Cir. 2003) 17 (“[J]udges are not like pigs, hunting for truffles buried in briefs.”) (quoting United States 18 v. Dunkel, 927 F.2d 955, 956 (7th Cir. 1991)). Plaintiffs’ argument is even less 19 reasonable considering that their selected phrase mimics the probable cause standard: 20 21 22 3 Further, Plaintiffs’ Introduction and Conclusion ask the court to find in their favor because “Plaintiffs had ample evidence” and “probable cause” to assert their claims, but these sections fail to mention malice. (See 3d MSJ at 2, 17.) ORDER - 5 1 “The substance of all the definitions of probable cause is a reasonable ground for belief 2 of guilt.” Maryland v. Pringle, 540 U.S. 366, 371 (2003) (citation omitted). Likewise, 3 the buried, conclusory references in Plaintiffs’ declarations that they “did not institute 4 this litigation out of malice” (Lian Decl. ¶ 22; see also Chen Decl. ¶ 49), do not bring to 5 life a malice challenge that appears nowhere in the motion. Finally, even if Plaintiffs’ 6 mention of “malice” in parenthesis, in their reply, in a section that relates to probable 7 cause, is sufficient to alert the court that they were challenging malice, “[i]t is not 8 acceptable legal practice to present new evidence or new argument in a reply brief.” Roth 9 v. BASF Corp., C07-0106MJP, 2008 WL 2148803, at *3 (W.D. Wash. May 21, 2008); 10 see also United States v. Puerta, 982 F.2d 1297, 1300 n.1 (9th Cir. 1992) (“New 11 arguments may not be introduced in a reply brief.”); Bridgham-Morrison v. Nat’l Gen. 12 Assembly Co., C15-0927RAJ, 2015 WL 12712762, at *2 (W.D. Wash. Nov. 16, 2015) 13 (“For obvious reasons, new arguments and evidence presented for the first time on Reply 14 . . . are generally waived or ignored.”). 15 A motion for reconsideration “may not be used to raise arguments or present 16 evidence for the first time when they could reasonably have been raised earlier in the 17 litigation.” Kona Enters., Inc. v. Estate of Bishop, 229 F.3d 877, 890 (9th Cir. 2000). 18 Plaintiffs could have challenged malice in their underlying motion. They did not. 19 Although City Defendants bear the ultimate burden on each malicious prosecution 20 element at trial, Plaintiffs bear the burden on summary judgment of either producing 21 evidence that negates malice or showing that City Defendants lacked evidence of malice. 22 See Nissan Fire & Marine Ins. Co. v. Fritz Cos., 210 F.3d 1099, 1106 (9th Cir. 2000). ORDER - 6 1 Plaintiffs did not attempt to carry this burden, and, at least on summary judgment, the 2 court was not obligated to carry this burden for them. The court therefore DENIES 3 Plaintiffs’ motion for reconsideration on this ground. 4 4 C. 5 6 7 Claim-by-Claim Analysis In granting in part and denying in part Plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment on City Defendants’ malicious prosecution counterclaim, the court explained: 11 When a malicious prosecution counterclaim is based on more than one charge, “the court must ‘separately analyze the charges claimed to have been maliciously prosecuted.’” Garvais v. United States, No. CV-03-0290-JLQ, 2010 WL 610282, at *14 (E.D. Wash. Feb. 17, 2010) (quoting Johnson v. Knorr, 477 F.3d 75, 85 (3d Cir. 2007)), aff’d, 421 F. App’x 769 (9th Cir. 2011). In other words, a finding of probable cause on one of a plaintiff’s charges—which is as [sic] a complete defense to malicious prosecution— does not foreclose a malicious prosecution action on a different charge. See Garvais, 2010 WL 610282, at *14-15. 12 (5/24/19 Order at 58.) The court further noted that “no Washington State court ‘squarely 13 addresses whether the . . . charge-by-charge analysis on probable cause is employed in 14 Washington.” (Id. at 58 n.10 (quoting Garvais, 2010 WL 610282, at *15).) But, the 15 court explained that Garvais followed the holdings from “multiple federal Circuit 16 Courts” and determined that the Washington Supreme Court “would follow this 17 charge-by-charge approach to the probable cause element.” (Id. at 58-59 n.10 (quoting 18 Garvais, 2010 WL 610282, at *14-15).) 8 9 10 19 20 21 22 4 Mr. Lian also moves the court to reconsider its finding that Plaintiffs lacked probable cause to allege due process claims against City Defendants. (See Lian MFR at 4-5.) Mr. Lian’s arguments do not present new facts or legal argument; nor do they show that the court committed manifest error. (See id.); Local Rules W.D. Wash. LCR 7(h)(1). The court therefore DENIES his motion for reconsideration on this ground. ORDER - 7 1 Plaintiffs argue that the Garvais court intended only for this claim-by-claim 2 analysis to apply to malicious prosecution claims “against law enforcement,” and that the 3 court impermissibly “expanded” Garvais to counterclaims “by law enforcement.” (Chen 4 MFR at 4; Lian MFR at 4.) Plaintiffs distinguish these situations on the basis that there 5 are “serious implications” when law enforcement brings criminal charges against a 6 private individual. (Chen MFR at 4-5.) Thus, according to Plaintiffs, “there is a 7 compelling public policy and ‘logical’ rationale’” for courts to ensure, on a 8 claim-by-claim basis, that each criminal charge is appropriate. (Id.) Plaintiffs argue, 9 however, that this rationale does not apply to civil causes of action that arise from a 10 singular course of conduct. (Id. at 5.) Plaintiffs assert that the court’s ruling “expands 11 the malicious prosecution counterclaim as a weapon against those seeking to vindicate 12 their rights.” (Id.) Finally, because Plaintiffs had probable cause to assert some claims 13 against Detective D’Amico, Plaintiffs argue that the counterclaim should have been 14 dismissed in its entirety. (Id.) 15 The court appreciates and understands Plaintiffs’ argument but disagrees. The 16 rationale for applying the claim-by-claim analysis applies in both the criminal and civil 17 contexts. As stated in Garvais: 18 19 20 21 22 [W]hen it comes to prosecution, the number and nature of the charges matters: the accused must investigate and prepare a defense to each charge, and as the list of charges lengthens (along with the sentence to which the accuse[d] is exposed), the cost and psychic toll of the prosecution on the accused increase. At the same time, when an officer prepares and signs a criminal complaint, he typically will have more of an opportunity to reflect on the nature and ramifications of the accused’s conduct than he did in making the arrest. It is reasonable to demand that each charge that a police officer elects to lodge against the accused be supported by probable cause. ORDER - 8 1 Otherwise, police officers would be free to tack a variety of baseless charges on to one valid charge with no risk of being held accountable for their excess. 2 Garvais, 2010 WL 610282, at *15 (quoting Holmes v. Village of Hoffman Estate, 511 3 F.3d 673, 682-83 (7th Cir. 2007)) (internal citations omitted). Although the 4 consequences for civil liability are obviously different than those for criminal liability, 5 “the number and nature of the charges matters” in the civil context. Id. City Defendants 6 had to investigate and prepare defenses for each of Plaintiffs’ claims, including the claims 7 of procedural and substantive due process, and faced potential liability on each cause of 8 action. In addition, three years passed between the October 28-30, 2013, dependency 9 hearing that Plaintiffs cite as the basis for their due process claims and Plaintiffs’ first 10 complaint in December 2016 (see Compl. (Dkt. # 1)); nearly five years passed before 11 Plaintiffs’ July 2018 fourth amended complaint (see FAC), which is now the operative 12 complaint. This was more than enough time for Plaintiffs to “reflect on the nature and 13 ramifications” of City Defendants’ conduct and consider whether there was probable 14 cause for their due process claims. See Garvais, 2010 WL 610282, at *15. Finally, 15 Washington courts have discussed the claim-by-claim issue in the civil context. See Brin 16 v. Stutzman, 951 P.2d 291, 298-99 (Wash. Ct. App. 1998). Although Brin did not need to 17 decide the present issue, Brin “expressly le[ft] open the possibility that a defendant could 18 assert a malicious prosecution counterclaim based on an invalid severable cause of action 19 included within a complaint asserting other severable causes of action.” 5 Id. 20 21 22 5 Plaintiffs attempt to distinguish their case from Brin, stating that their due process claims are not severable from the claims for which the court determined probable cause existed. (Chen MFR at 4 n.2.) Plaintiffs are incorrect. Plaintiffs’ due process claims are the only claims ORDER - 9 1 “In applying Washington law, the Court must apply the law as it believes the 2 Washington Supreme Court would apply it.” Hay v. Am. Safety Indem. Co., 270 F. Supp. 3 3d 1252, 1257 (W.D. Wash. 2017) (citing Gravquick A/S v. Trimble Navigation Int’l Ltd., 4 323 F.3d 1219, 1222 (9th Cir. 2003)). “[W]here there is no convincing evidence that the 5 state supreme court would decide differently, a federal court is obligated to follow the 6 decisions of the state’s intermediate appellate courts.” Vestar Dev. II, LLC v. Gen. 7 Dynamics Corp., 249 F.3d 958, 960 (9th Cir. 2001) (quoting Lewis v. Tel. Emps. Credit 8 Union, 87 F.3d 1537, 1545 (9th Cir. 1996)). In the absence of a decision from the 9 Washington Supreme Court, this court “must predict how the highest state court would 10 decide the issue using intermediate appellate court decisions, decisions from other 11 jurisdictions, statutes, treatises, and restatements as guidance.” Id. 12 Based on Garvais and Brin, as well as other Washington case law discussing 13 Washington’s view on malicious prosecution claims (see, e.g., 5/24/19 Order at 19, 25, 14 56 (citing Hanson v. City of Snohomish, 852 P.2d 295, 298 (Wash. 1993)), the court 15 predicted that the Washington Supreme Court would apply the claim-by-claim analysis to 16 malicious prosecution causes of action (see id. at 58-60.) Plaintiffs’ arguments are not 17 based on new facts or new legal authority, and Plaintiffs have not shown that the court 18 committed manifest error in its prior ruling. See Local Rules W.D. Wash. LCR 7(h)(1). 19 The court therefore DENIES Plaintiffs’ motion for reconsideration on this ground. 20 // 21 22 against City Defendants that concern alleged conduct at, and consequences from, the 72-hour dependency hearing. (See generally FAC.) ORDER - 10 1 2 D. Probable Cause The court viewed all the evidence under the appropriate summary judgment 3 standard and determined that, based on the undisputed facts, there was probable cause 4 that Ms. Chen committed criminal mistreatment in the second degree. (See, e.g., 5/24/19 5 Order at 22-25 (“Even drawing all reasonable inferences in Ms. Chen’s favor, the 6 undisputed evidence shows that there was probable cause that Ms. Chen committed 7 criminal mistreatment in the second degree pursuant to RCW 9A.42.030.”).) Plaintiffs 8 argue that the court committed manifest error in its analysis because the court “failed to 9 consider, in a light most favorable to Plaintiffs, the totality of the circumstances which 10 tended to dissipate probable cause, or at least left material issues of fact that would lead a 11 reasonable person to believe that no crime was committed.” (Chen MFR at 6-7.) 12 The court’s May 24, 2019, order contains a lengthy discussion of the probable 13 cause standard and the relevant evidence in this case. (See 5/24/19 Order at 19-25.) The 14 court explained that “probable cause ‘is a question of law to be determined by the court,’ 15 but that “the court should not determine probable cause at the summary judgment stage if 16 a genuine issue of material fact exists.” (Id. at 20 (quoting Act Up!/Portland v. Bagley, 17 988 F.2d 868, 873 (9th Cir. 1993)).) As Ms. Chen states in her motion for 18 reconsideration, “the Court acknowledged the facts” that Plaintiffs seek to highlight. 19 (Chen MFR at 7.) Based on the undisputed record—including over one thousand pages 20 of medical documents—and viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to 21 Plaintiffs, the court determined there was “‘objective evidence which would allow a 22 reasonable officer to deduce that’ Ms. Chen committed criminal mistreatment in the ORDER - 11 1 second degree.” (5/24/19 Order at 23 (quoting McKenzie v. Lamb, 738 F.2d 1005, 1008 2 (9th Cir. 1984).) 3 Ms. Chen has failed to prove that the court committed manifest in its prior ruling; 4 nor has she pointed to new facts or legal argument. See Local Rules W.D. Wash. LCR 5 7(h)(1). The court therefore DENIES Plaintiffs’ motion for reconsideration on this 6 ground. 7 E. 8 Law of the Case Mr. Lian argues that the “law of the case doctrine” requires the court to dismiss 9 City Defendants’ malicious prosecution counterclaim. (Lian MFR at 2-4; see also Chen 10 MFR at 6 n.3.) Specifically, Mr. Lian argues that, because the court allowed Plaintiffs to 11 amend their due process claims after granting City Defendant’s earlier motion to dismiss, 12 the law of the case holds that Plaintiffs’ due process claims are viable and therefore 13 cannot form the basis for City Defendants’ malicious prosecution counterclaim. (Lian 14 MFR at 2-4; see also 3/27/18 Order (Dkt. # 90).) 15 Mr. Lian’s argument is without merit. First, he did not raise this argument in the 16 underlying briefing (see generally 2d Resp.; 3d MSJ; 3d Reply; see also Joinder (Dkt. 17 # 144)) and therefore cannot raise it for the first time in his motion for reconsideration, 18 see Kona Enters., 229 F.3d at 890. Second, the court’s order dismissing Plaintiffs’ 19 complaint expressly noted that it “do[es] not address [Plaintiffs’] Fourteenth Amendment 20 due process” claims. (See 3/27/18 Order at 13 n.8.) Therefore, the court’s prior order— 21 which dismissed Plaintiffs’ claims under the lenient Rule 12(b)(6) standard—does not 22 provide any “law of the case” that supports Plaintiffs’ due process claims. ORDER - 12 1 2 The court therefore DENIES Mr. Lian’s motion for reconsideration on this ground. 3 4 IV. CONCLUSION For the foregoing reasons, the court DENIES Ms. Chen’s motion for 5 reconsideration (Dkt. # 171) and DENIES Mr. Lian’s motion for reconsideration (Dkt. 6 # 172). 7 Dated this 6th day of August, 2019. 8 9 A 10 JAMES L. ROBART United States District Judge 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 ORDER - 13

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