Unpublished Disposition, 930 F.2d 28 (9th Cir. 1991)Annotate this Case
Martin Karl MAURER, Plaintiff-Appellant,v.LOS ANGELES COUNTY SHERIFFS DEPARTMENT, et al., Defendants-Appellees.
United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.
Submitted March 20, 1991.* Decided April 1, 1991.
Before K.K. HALL, DAVID R. THOMPSON and RYMER, Circuit Judges.
Martin Karl Maurer appeals pro se the district court's judgment, following a jury trial, in his 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action. We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291, and we affirm.
Maurer brought this civil rights action seeking damages and injunctive relief against various law enforcement officials. Maurer claimed that (1) he was arrested without probable cause for carrying a concealed weapon, and (2) the search of his motorcycle and the seizure of his handcuffs, revolver, and motorcycle violated his fourth amendment rights. Maurer also sought expunction of all records related to the arrest. The jury awarded Maurer $1,500 in damages for the removal of his motorcycle, and found in favor of the defendants on all other claims. On appeal, Maurer contends that the district court erred in (1) failing to give several of his proposed jury instructions, (2) refusing to use his proposed special verdict form, (3) denying his request to amend his pleadings at the close of the evidence, and (4) entering judgment in favor of the defendants on his claim for an injunction ordering expunction of the arrest records.
* Maurer's contention that the district court did not properly instruct the jury is meritless.
We review jury instructions to "determine whether, viewing the instructions as a whole, the court gave adequate instructions on each element of the case to ensure that the jury fully understood the issues," and to determine "whether the instruction is misleading or states the law incorrectly to the prejudice of the objecting party."
Martinelli v. City of Beaumont, 820 F.2d 1491, 1493 (9th Cir. 1987) (quoting Kisor v. Johns-Manville Corp., 783 F.2d 1337, 1340 (9th Cir. 1986)). The district court is not required to use the exact words proposed by a party, nor incorporate every proposition of law suggested by a party, if the instructions given properly describe the applicable law and allow the jury to determine intelligently the issues presented. Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Comm'n v. National Football League, 726 F.2d 1381, 1398 (9th Cir.), cert. denied sub nom. National Football League v. Oakland Raiders, Ltd., 469 U.S. 990 (1984).
Maurer argues that the district court did not adequately instruct the jury regarding the permissible scope of either a search incident to an arrest or a motor vehicle search. These arguments are contradicted by the record. Viewed as a whole, the district court's instructions properly stated the law regarding a search incident to an investigatory stop or an arrest. The district court was not required to incorporate every proposition of law suggested by Maurer. See Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, 726 F.2d at 1398. Moreover, the district court could not have given Maurer's proposed instruction on motor vehicle searches because it included legal theories that were not supported by the evidence presented to the jury. See id.
Maurer's challenge to the court's definition of probable cause also fails because it is based on certain words taken out of context from the instruction as a whole. The district court instructed the jury that probable cause requires "such a state of facts as would lead a man of ordinary care and prudence to believe and conscientiously entertain an honest and strong suspicion that the person is guilty of a crime." The district court was not required to use the exact words proposed by Maurer because its instruction adequately states the applicable law. See Martinelli, 820 F.2d at 1493; Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, 726 F.2d at 1398. Maurer's argument regarding the court's instruction on the qualified immunity defense is also meritless. Although the court did not to use the words "objectively reasonable," the instruction given was adequate because this concept was clearly and repeatedly explained to the jury. See id.
The district court did not err in rejecting Maurer's proposed special verdict form.
According to Fed. R. Civ. P. 49(a), the trial court's complete discretion as to whether a special or general verdict is to be returned extends to determining the form of the verdict and interrogatories, provided that the questions asked are adequate to obtain a jury determination on all factual issues essential to the judgment.
In Re Hawaii Federal Asbestos Cases, 871 F.2d 891, 894 (9th Cir. 1989). Here, Maurer's proposed special verdict form contained 45 questions, many of which were redundant and confusing. Accordingly, the district court did not abuse its discretion in rejecting Maurer's form and using a general verdict form that adequately addressed all of the issues essential to the judgment. See id.1
At the close of the evidence, Maurer sought to amend his complaint to include a claim that his initial stop by the police was unconstitutional because there was no probable cause to believe that he had committed a traffic violation. Whether to allow an amendment to a complaint "to conform to the issues actually tried lies within the sound discretion of the trial judge." Save Lake Washington v. Frank, 641 F.2d 1330, 1340 (9th Cir. 1981). Here, the requested amendment was unnecessary because in order to determine whether Maurer's arrest on the concealed weapon charge was lawful, the jury had to determine whether the initial traffic stop was lawful. Therefore, the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Maurer's request to amend his complaint. See id.
Finally, the district court did not err in entering judgment in favor of the defendants on Maurer's claim for injunctive relief. The expunction of local arrest records is an appropriate remedy only if the arrest was made in violation of constitutional rights. Maurer v. Individually and As Members of Los Angeles County Sheriff's Dep't, 691 F.2d 434, 437 (9th Cir. 1982). Here, the jury found in favor of the defendant on Maurer's allegation that he had been illegally arrested.2 Accordingly, the district court correctly determined that there was no basis for ordering expunction of the arrest records. See id.
The panel unanimously finds this case suitable for disposition without oral argument. Fed. R. App. P. 34(a); 9th Cir.R. 34-4
This disposition is not appropriate for publication and may not be cited to or by the courts of this circuit except as provided by 9th Cir.R. 36-3
On appeal, Maurer contends that the general verdict form was inadequate because it did not contain a separate question regarding the qualified immunity defense. Because Maurer did not raise this objection in the district court, nor did his proposed verdict form contain such a question, he has waived this objection. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 49(a)
On appeal, Maurer argues that it is not clear whether the jury found in favor of the defendant because there was probable cause for the arrest, or because the defendant was entitled to qualified immunity. Because Maurer did not raise this objection in the district court, he has waived it. Moreover, in light of the contradictory testimony presented to the jury regarding the events leading up to Maurer's arrest, the verdict in favor of the defendant required a finding that the arrest was legal because it was based on probable cause
The appellees' request for an award of fees and costs is denied