Hanley v. Opinski et al, No. 1:2016cv00391 - Document 11 (E.D. Cal. 2018)

Court Description: FINDINGS and RECOMMENDATIONS signed by Magistrate Judge Michael J. Seng on 3/25/2018 for action to proceed on cognizable Fourteenth Amendment Claims and to dismiss non-cognizable claims 9 . Referred to Judge Dale A. Drozd; Objections to F&R's due within 14-Days. (Lundstrom, T)
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Hanley v. Opinski et al Doc. 11 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 ROLLAND HANLEY, 12 Plaintiff, 13 14 v. OPINSKI, et. al., CASE NO. 1:16-cv-00391-DAD-MJS FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ACTION TO PROCEED ON COGNIZABLE FOURTEENTH AMENDMENT CLAIMS AND TO DISMISS NON-COGNIZABLE CLAIMS 15 16 Defendants. (ECF NO. 9) FOURTEEN DAY OBJECTION DEADLINE 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 Plaintiff is a county jail inmate proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis in this civil rights action brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. On October 19, 2016, the undersigned screened Plaintiff’s complaint and concluded that some, but not all of Plaintiff’s claims were cognizable. (ECF No. 5.) Plaintiff was ordered to file an amended complaint or notify the Court of his willingness to proceed only on the cognizable claims. Plaintiff did not respond and, on February 17, 2017, the action was closed by the District Judge. (ECF No. 6.) On March 22, 2018, the District Judge reopened the matter. (ECF No. 10.) Plaintiff’s first amended complaint is now before the Court for screening. (ECF No. 9.) 28 Dockets.Justia.com 1 I. Screening Requirement 2 The in forma pauperis statute provides, “Notwithstanding any filing fee, or any 3 portion thereof, that may have been paid, the court shall dismiss the case at any time if 4 the court determines that . . . the action or appeal . . . fails to state a claim upon which 5 relief may be granted.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). 6 II. Pleading Standard 7 A complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that 8 the pleader is entitled to relief. . . .” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). Detailed factual allegations 9 are not required, but “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported 10 by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice,” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 11 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)), and courts “are 12 not required to indulge unwarranted inferences,” Doe I v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 572 F.3d 13 677, 681 (9th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). While factual 14 allegations are accepted as true, legal conclusions are not. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. 15 Under section 1983, Plaintiff must demonstrate that each defendant personally 16 participated in the deprivation of his rights. Jones v. Williams, 297 F.3d 930, 934 (9th Cir. 17 2002). This requires the presentation of factual allegations sufficient to state a plausible 18 claim for relief. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79; Moss v. U.S. Secret Service, 572 F.3d 962, 19 969 (9th Cir. 2009). The mere possibility of misconduct falls short of meeting the 20 plausibility standard. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Moss, 572 F.3d at 969. 21 III. Plaintiff’s Allegations 22 Plaintiff initiated this action while detained at the Napa State Hospital; he now is 23 confined at the Merced County Jail. The circumstances of his current detention are 24 unknown to the Court. The caption of the first amended complaint names Merced County 25 Police Sergeant Gorman (identified in the original complaint as Doe 1) as the only 26 defendant. However, it appears Plaintiff also intends to proceed against Merced County 27 Police Officer Opinski. 28 Plaintiff’s allegations may be summarized essentially as follows: 2 1 On November 8, 2014, Plaintiff was stopped by PO Opinski while he was walking 2 with his dog and girlfriend, Kathy. PO Opinski took Kathy aside and asked her if she 3 knew Plaintiff’s whereabouts in the early morning of November 5, 2014, when a 79 year 4 old woman named Carol Ann Watts was attacked and “left for dead.” Kathy told PO 5 Opinski that Plaintiff was at home with her and their roommates at that time. PO Opinski 6 said he was on orders from his sergeant to take Plaintiff in for questioning, whereupon 7 PO Opinski took Plaintiff to the Merced County police station. 8 At the station, Sergeant Gorman had Plaintiff arrested for elder abuse and assault 9 with great bodily injury. At the time, Gorman knew Plaintiff was innocent. 10 On November 21, 2014, Plaintiff was released on bond, with Gorman’s approval. 11 However, Gorman told the family of Carol Ann Watts that Plaintiff was out of jail, that he 12 was guilty, and that he would face no consequences for his action. As a result, the family 13 of Watts organized a vigilante mob to kill Plaintiff. Another homeless man stopped the 14 mob from killing Plaintiff. 15 On July 8, 2015, Plaintiff was taken to his preliminary hearing. The Department of 16 Justice confirmed there was no DNA on Plaintiff’s shoes, “proving Sergeant Gorman 17 fabricated evidence claiming he conducted a pap-smear test on the tennis shoe that 18 came back positive for blood believing to be of Carole Ann Watts.” A witness, Johnny 19 Mackey, came to court and testified that Gorman forced him to pick Plaintiff out of a six20 pack line up, even though Mackey told Gorman that Plaintiff did not look like the suspect 21 who had assaulted Watts. Opinski confirmed at the hearing that Gorman had forced 22 Opinski to arrest Plaintiff, knowing Plaintiff was innocent. 23 Although not stated in the first amended complaint, Plaintiff has previously alleged 24 that the charges against him were dismissed. 25 Plaintiff alleges violations of his Eighth Amendment rights. He seeks money 26 damages. 27 /// 28 /// 3 1 IV. Analysis 2 A. 3 Plaintiff brings his claims under the Eighth Amendment. However, as an arrestee Eighth Amendment 4 and pretrial detainee, his rights are protected under the Fourth and Fourteenth 5 Amendments. Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535 (1979); Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 6 386, 395 n.10 (1989); Gibson v. County of Washoe, Nev., 290 F.3d 1175, 1197 (9th Cir. 7 2002); Lolli v. County of Orange, 351 F.3d 410, 415 (9th Cir. 2003). Accordingly, his 8 Eighth Amendment claims should be dismissed without further leave to amend. 9 10 B. Fourteenth Amendment Due Process The Due Process Clause protects individuals from being deprived of liberty without 11 due process of law. Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 556 (1974). In order to state a 12 cause of action for deprivation of procedural due process, a plaintiff must first establish 13 the existence of a liberty interest for which the protection is sought. Liberty interests may 14 arise from the Due Process Clause itself or from state law. Hewitt v. Helms, 459 U.S. 15 460, 466 (1983). Liberty interests created by state law are limited to freedom from 16 restraint which “imposes atypical and significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the 17 ordinary incidents of prison life.” Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 484 (1995). 18 19 1. Wrongful Prosecution The Ninth Circuit has recognized “a clearly established constitutional due process 20 right not to be subjected to criminal charges on the basis of false evidence that was 21 deliberately fabricated by the government.” Devereaux v. Abbey, 263 F.3d 1070, 1074-75 22 (9th Cir. 2001); see also Costanich v. Dep't of Soc. & Health Servs., 627 F.3d 1101, 23 1111-12 (9th Cir. 2010) (relying on Devereaux to hold that a state investigator “who 24 deliberately mischaracterizes witness statements in her investigative report also commits 25 a constitutional violation”). To state such a claim, Plaintiff must point to the evidence he 26 contends was deliberately fabricated. Bradford v. Scherschligt, 803 F.3d 382, 386 (9th 27 Cir. 2015). He can then point to evidence of one of the following to prove the fabrication 28 was deliberate: “(1) Defendants continued their investigation of [Plaintiff] despite the fact 4 1 that they knew or should have known that he was innocent; or (2) Defendants used 2 investigative techniques that were so coercive and abusive that they knew or should have 3 known that those techniques would yield false information.” Devereaux, 263 F.3d at 4 1076. 5 Here, Plaintiff states that Sergeant Gorman forced an eyewitness named Johnny 6 Mackie to choose Plaintiff’s picture from a photo array and lied about possessing 7 biological evidence linking Plaintiff to the crime. All charges against Plaintiff were 8 dismissed once these facts came to light. At this stage, Plaintiff has alleged sufficient 9 facts to show Sergeant Gorman deliberately fabricated evidence against Plaintiff. 10 11 2. Wrongful Incarceration The Fourteenth Amendment does not protect against all deprivations of liberty, 12 and false imprisonment or deprivation of liberty is not per se unconstitutional merely 13 because the defendant is a state official. Haygood v. Younger, 769 F.2d 1350, 1355 (9th 14 Cir. 1985) (citing Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 146 (1979)). Rather, the Fourteenth 15 Amendment “protects only against deprivations of liberty accomplished without due 16 process of law.” Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 146 (1979). Thus, where a plaintiff 17 claims he was wrongfully arrested and incarcerated, courts look to whether the 18 circumstances surrounding plaintiff’s arrest and incarceration afforded plaintiff necessary 19 procedural protections, such as probable cause for the arrest and the right to a speedy 20 trial. Id. at 144. 21 A plaintiff’s ultimate innocence of the charges is “largely irrelevant,” as the 22 Constitution does not guarantee that “only the guilty will be arrested.” Baker, 443 U.S. at 23 145. Law enforcement officials are not expected to investigate independently every claim 24 of innocence. Id. at 145-46. “The ultimate determination of such claims of innocence is 25 placed in the hands of the judge and the jury.” Id. However, in cases where a plaintiff 26 alleges the defendants should have known the plaintiff was innocent of the charges, his 27 incarceration may violate Due Process where either “(1) the circumstances indicated to 28 the defendants that further investigation was warranted, or (2) the defendants denied the 5 1 plaintiff access to the courts for an extended period of time.” Garcia v. Cty. of Riverside, 2 817 F.3d 635, 640 (9th Cir. 2016) (quoting Rivera v. Cty. of Los Angeles, 745 F.3d 384, 3 391 (9th Cir. 2014). 4 Here, Plaintiff contends that Opinski acknowledged that he knew Plaintiff was 5 innocent at the time of the arrest, but nonetheless conducted the arrest on Gorman’s 6 orders. The allegation that Opinski and Gorman knew that Plaintiff was innocent at the 7 time of the arrest is sufficient at the pleading stage to suggest a cognizable claim for 8 wrongful incarceration. 9 V. 10 Conclusion Based on the foregoing, it is HEREBY RECOMMENDED that: 11 1. Plaintiff proceed on cognizable Fourteenth Amendment claims against 12 Defendants Gorman and Opinski; 2. Plaintiff’s Eighth Amendment claim be dismissed with prejudice for failure to 13 14 15 state a claim. These findings and recommendations will be submitted to the United States 16 District Judge assigned to the case, pursuant to the provisions of Title 28 U.S.C. 17 § 636(b)(1). Within fourteen (14) days after being served with the findings and 18 recommendations, Plaintiff may file written objections with the Court. The document 19 should be captioned “Objections to Magistrate Judge’s Findings and Recommendation.” 20 A party may respond to another party’s objections by filing a response within fourteen 21 (14) days after being served with a copy of that party’s objections. The parties are 22 advised that failure to file objections within the specified time may result in the waiver of 23 rights on appeal. Wilkerson v. Wheeler, 772 F.3d 834, 839 (9th Cir. 2014) (citing Baxter 24 v. Sullivan, 923 F.2d 1391, 1394 (9th Cir. 1991)). 25 26 27 28 IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: March 25, 2018 /s/ Michael J. Seng UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 6