Moulton v. Burger, et al, No. 3:2009cv00016 - Document 31 (D. Nev. 2009)

Court Description: ORDER granting 15 Motion to Dismiss.; Washoe County Sheriff's Department; Washoe, County of; Susan DeRiso and Kevin Higgins terminated. Clerk shall enter jdgmt. Signed by Judge Brian E. Sandoval on 07/28/09. (Copies have been distributed pursuant to the NEF - LG)
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RtED ENTEIIED RK EIVEO SERVED 0N 1 OOX EWAVIESCFRi20RB 2 l(lI- 2 2 20% k 3 4 CLERK US DISTRICT COURT njsyajcy ()FNgvAl): BY: . .- 5 6 UNITED STATES DISTRICT CO URT 7 DISTRICT O F NEVADA 8 SHERYL MOULTON, 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 Moulton v. Burger, et al ) ) Plaintiff, ) ) v. ) ) CITY OF SPARKS,JUDGE KEVIN ) HIGGINS,bothas individualand Sparks ) Justice Coud Judge;JUDGE SUSAN ) DERISOs both aslndividualand Sparks ) Justice CourtJudge' ,SPARKS POLICE ) DEPARTM ENT' ,W ASHOE COUNTK ) W ASHOE COUNTY SHERIFF'S ) DEPARTM ENX EUGENE BURGER ) MANAGEMENT CORPORATIO Nqa ) California Corporation' ,EUGENE J. ) BURGER' ,KEVIN BERG' ,JOHN COLEMAN;) GAYLE A.KERN,LTD;GAYLE A.KERN; ) ULLA CHRISTENSEN,bothps individual ) and Lakeside Plaz? Boprd Dlrector' ,DANIEL ) JOSEPH,both as Indivldualand Lakeside ) Plaza Bpard Director;FM NK A.PEIRAU, ) bgth asIndividualand Lakeside Pla<: Board ) Dlrector;RICH SVIHl-A,both asindlvldual ) and Lakeside Plaza Board Dirqctqr' , ) MICHAEL S.GRADYIbgth as Indlvidualand) Lakeside Plaza Bgard Dlrector;MARY L. ) HARRIS,bothas Individualand Lakeside ) Plaza Board Directora ' LAKESIDE PLAM ) CONDOMINIUM ASSOCIATION;and DOES) 1-500, ) ) Defendants. ) ) DEptl' ry 3:O9-cv-O0O16-BES-VPC ORDER Doc. 31 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 Currently before the Courtis Defendants W ashoe County,W ashoe County Sherif's Departm ent,and Sparks Justice CourtJudges Kevin Higgins and Susan Deriso's M otion to 27 Dismiss FRCP 12(b)(6)(#15)filed on February2,2009. Piaintif'fShel'ylMoulton (' splaintiff') 28 did notfile an opposition to the m otion. Dockets.Justia.com 1 2 BACKGROUND Plaintifffiled a Complaint(#1)inthis action on January 13,2009,againstvarious 3 individuals and entities including W ashoe County,the W ashoe County Sherifrs 4 Depadment(' isheril's Depadment')and two Judges ofthe SparksJustice Court,Judge 5 Kevin Higgins (Uudge Higgins'' )and Judge Susan Deriso ('iludge Derison). Plaintiff's 6 Com plaintallegesthirtydhree causes ofaction and seeksboth injunctive reliefand 7 $10,000,000 in dam ages. 8 Judge Higgins and Judge Deriso filed a m otion to dism iss the claim s asserted 9 againstthem onthe basisofjudicialimmunity.(Motionto Dismiss (#15)at5).According 10 to thejudicialdefendants,the actions bythem ''ofwhichthe Plaintiffcomplainsfallsquarely 11 intotraditionalnotions ofjudicialfunctionstowhich absolutejudicialimmunity applies.''Ld=. 12 W ashoe County and the Sheriff's Department(collectively referred to herein asthe 13 i lW ashoe Defendants'')move to dismissthe claims asseded againstthem on the basis of 14 qualified immunity.Ld=.at8.Accordingto the W ashoe Defendants,theirconductS' was 15 consistentwith theirIegalobligations and cannotbe construed as violating any 16 Constitutionalrights.''LG. .at14. Inthisregard,the W ashoe Defendantsstatethatllaln 17 officerwith probable cause to arresta suspect,and who takes thatsuspectinto custody .. 18 .coupled withallegationsthatSheriffOffice Deputies questionled)the Plaintifrsneighbors 19 do notshow thatany Consti tutionalrightswere violated.''Ld-.at15. Rather,d' these are 20 preciselythe functionsa reasonable personwould expectfrom these Defendants.''Ld-. As 21 noted,Plaintil did notfile an opposition to the m otion to dism iss filed by these defendants. 22 23 ANALYSIS Local Rule 7-2 provides that the llfailure of an opposing party to file points and 24 authorities in response to any m otion shallconstitute a consentto the granting ofthe m otion.' 25 LR 7-2.The d'lfjailureto follow a districtcoud'sIocalrules isa propergroundsfordismissal.' 26 Ghazaliv.Moran,46 F.3d 52,53 (9th Cir.1995). Al though Piaintifrs failure to file an 27 opposition constitutes a consentto the granting ofthe m otion,before dism issing a case for 28 failingto foliow Iocalruies,the districtcoud mustweigh five factors:$1(1)the pubiic's interest 2 1 in expeditiousresolution ofIitigation' ,(2)the court's needto manage itsdocket' ,(3)the riskof 2 prejudice tothedefendants' ,(4)the publicpolicyfavoring disposition ofcasesontheirmeri ts, 3 and (5)the availabilityofIessdrasticsanctions.''Hendersonv.Duncan,779 F.2d 1421,1423 4 (9th Cir.1986). Inthismatter,the balance offactorsweighinfavorofdismissalbecausethe 5 W ashoe Defendants,Judge Higgins and Judge Deriso have filed a meritorious m otion to 6 dism iss on the claim s asserted againstthem . 7 1. LegalStandard 8 The purpose ofa motionto dism iss underRule 12(b)(6)istotestthe Iegalsuficiency 9 ofthe complaint.Navarro v.Block,250 F.3d 729,732 (9th Cir.2001).DismissalunderRule 10 12(b)(6)isproperonlywhena complaintexhibitseithera''Iackofa cognizableIegaltheow or l1 the absence ofsufficientfacts alleged undera cognizable Iegaltheow .''Balistreriv.Pacifica 12 Police Deo't,9O1 F.2d 696,699 (9th Cir.1990).The Courtmustacceptastrue aIlmaterial 13 allegations in the com plaintaswellas alIreasonable inferencesthatm ay be drawn from such 14 allegations. LSO.Ltd.v.Stroh,205 F.3d 1146,1150 (9th Cir.2000).The Coud mustalso 15 construe the allegations ofthe com plaint in the iightm ostfavorable to the nonm oving pady. 16 Shwarz v.Uni ted States,234 F.3d 428,435 (9th Cir.2000). The Courtmay only granta 17 motiontodismissunderRule 12(b)(6)ifitiscertainthatthe plaintilwillnotbeentitledtorelief 18 underany setoffacts thatcould be proven underthe allegations ofthe com plaint. Cahillv. 19 Libedv Mut.Ins.Co.,80 F.3d 336,338 (9th Cir.1996). 20 ll. JudicialIm m unity 21 Judges acting in theirjudicialcapacities enjoy absolute im munity from actions for 22 damagesunder42 U.S.C.j1983.SeeBrownv.CaliforniaDeDt.ofCorr.,554 F,3d747,75O 23 (9th Cir.2009). This immunity reflects the Iong-standing ''generalprinciple ofthe highest 24 im podance to the properadministration ofjustice thata judicialofficer,in exercising the 25 authority vested in him ,shallbe free to actupon his own convictions,w i thoutapprehension 26 ofpersonalconsequences to him self.''O lsen v.Idaho State Bd.ofM ed.,363 F.3d 916,922 27 (9th Cir. zoo4ltquoting Bradlev v. Fisher, 80 U.S. 335,347, 20 L.Ed. 646 (1871)). 28 ''Disagreem entwiththe actiontaken bythejudge ...does notjustify depriving (the!judge of 3 1 his immunity.'' StumD v.Soarkman,435 U.S.349,363 (1978). Moreover,uEdlespite the 2 unfairnesstoIitigantsthatsometimesresults,the doctrineofjudicialimmunityisthoughttobe 3 inthe bestinterestsof'the properadm inistrationofjustice.'''Ld-.(quoting Bradlev,13W all.at 4 347).Assuch,ld(a)judge willnotbedeprived ofimmuni ty because the action he tookwasin 5 error,was done m aliciously,orwas in excessofhis authority.''M ullis v.U.S.Bankr.Coud for 6 Dist.ofNevada,828 F.2d 1385,1388 (9th Cir.1987)(citing Stumo,435 U.S.at356-57). 7 In this m atter,Plaintif'fargues thatherconstitutionalrights were violated by Judge 8 Higgins when he issued a tem porary restraining order againstheriibanning Plainti fffrom 9 speaking aboutPerau'scriminalactivity.''(Complaint(#1)at12).According to Plaintiff,this 10 restraining orderviolated herfirstam endm entrighttofree speech.Inaddition,Plaintiffasserts 11 that Judge Higgins violated her rights to due process during ''an im prom ptu hearing for 12 restraining orders' 'whenshe S'was refused discoverybySparks Police Department,''andwhen 13 d'Judge Higgins rejected United StatesSupreme Coud decision and precedentlaw.' . (#.. As 14 to Judge Deriso,Plaintiffclaim sthatJudge Deriso violated herconstitutionalrights by issuing 15 atemporaryorderddforprotectionagainststalking,aggravatedstalking orharassment.''Ld=.at 16 13. 17 Based on the allegations asseded in Plaintifrs Com plaint,the Courtfinds thatJudge 18 Higgins and Judge Deriso are entitled to judicialimm unity forthe claims asserted against 19 them. Itis clearfrom Plaintiff's factualallegationsthatshe is suing both judges based on 20 actions taken while they were exercising theirauthority as a judicialoficer. Even though 21 Plaintiffmaydisagreewiththerulingsofthejusticecourt,bothjudgesareentitledtoimmunity 22 from civilsuitundersection 1983 because theywereengaged injudicialfunctionsatthetime 23 the actions occurred. As such,they are entitled to an orderdism issing the claims asseded 24 againstthem in this action. 25 111. Qualified Im m unity 26 A plaintiffmaybringsui tunder42 U.S.C.j1983againstagovernmentofhcialwhol'acts 27 undercolorofstate Iaw to deprive thatperson ofconsti tutionalrights.''See Morlev v.W alker, 28 175 F.3d 756,759 (9thCir.1999).W hen a constitutionalviolationoccurs,''Iaw enforcement 4 1 officers nonetheless are entitled to qualified im m unity if they act reasonably under the 2 circumstances.'' See KRL v.Estate ofMoore,512 F.3d 1184,1189 (9th Cir.2008). l'The 3 doctrine of qualified im m unity protects governm entogicials 'from Iiability forcivildam ages 4 insofaras theirconductdoes notviolate clearly established statutory orconstitutionalrights 5 ofwhich a reasonable person would have know n.'''Pearson v.Callahan,555 U.S.- ,129 6 S.Ct.808,815(2009).Assuch,''lqlualified immunityprotectsgovernmentofficialsperforming 7 discretionaryfunctionswhere theirconductis objectively reasonable.'' Morlev,175 F.3d at 8 760. 9 In Saucierv.Katz,533 U.S.194,200,121 S.Ct.1251 (2001),the Supreme Coud 10 m andated a two-step sequence forresolving qualified im m unity claim s. First,a coud m ust 11 decidewhetherthe allegedfactsmake outa violationofa constitutionalright.Ld-.at201,121 12 S.Ct.2151. Ifthe plaintiffsatisfiesthe firststep,the courlm ustthen decide w hetherthe right 13 atissue was i 'clearly established''atthe time ofthe alleged misconduct.Ld=.More recently, 14 however,the Suprem e Courtrevisi ted Saucierand concluded that''while the sequence set 15 fodh there isoften appropriate,itshould no Iongerbe regarded as m andatory.''Pearson,129 16 S.Ct.at818.'Thejudges ofthe districtcourts..,shouid be permitted to exercise theirsound 17 discretion in deciding which ofthe two prongs ofthe quali fied im m unity analysis should be 18 addressedfirstin lightofthe circumstancesinthe particularcase athand.''Ld= Accordingly, 19 districtcouds m ay now choose to avoid the constitutionalquestion altogetherand dism iss a 20 case based on qualified im m unitywhere the rightwasnotclearly established atthe tim e ofthe 21 alleged m isconduct. However,in this case,the Courtfinds thatthe analysis ofSaucier is 22 appropriate. 23 According to Plaintiff's Com plaint,it appears her allegations against the W ashoe 24 Defendantsstem from anallegedunlawfularrestthatoccurredonAugust9,2007.(Compiaint 25 (#1)at10). Plaintiffassertsthaton thatdate,she lt wasfalselyarrestedjustoutofherReno 26 home byW ashoe CountySheriff'sDepartment.''Ld=.Plaintiffstatesthat'ithisfalsearrestwas 27 in response to investigative internet videos placed on YouTube and for an investigative 28 website ...thatinvestigated som e ofthe crim es ofsome ofthe defendants.'' Ld=.at10-11. . According to Piaintiff,i 'she was wrongfully rem oved from private propedy ...and taken into 5 1 custodybyW ashoe CountySheriff'sDepadm entand uniaM ully detainedfornearly l3hours.' 2 Ld. =.at 11. At this time,according to Plaintiff,she was subject to ''crueland unusual 3 punishm ent''inthe form of''stripsearch,whip Iash,hairpulled,contusions,Iacerations,assault 4 and battery.'' Ld=.at2O. Finally,Plaintif argues thatthe W ashoe Defendants violated her 5 constitutionalrightsbyfailingto iiread Plaintiffherrights(IMirandize')pursuantto Miranda v. 6 Arizona.''Ld=. 7 '' TheFourthAmendmentprotects'Itlhe rightofthe peopletobesecure intheirpersons, 8 houses,papers,and effects,againstunreasonable searches and seizures.'''DevenDeck v. 9 Alford,543 U.S.146,125 S.Ct,588,594. ''In conform ity with the rule atcom m on law ,a 10 warrantless arrestby a Iaw ofhceris reasonable underthe Foudh Am endm entw here there is 11 probable cause to believe that a crim inaloffense has been or is being com m itted.'' Ld=. 12 ''W hetherprobable cause exists depends upon the reasonable conclusion to be draw n from 13 the facts knownto the arresting ofhceratthe time ofthe arrest.''Ld=. 14 In this case,although Plainti ff's Com plaintasseds that herarrestw as ''unlaw fulj''she 15 does notprovide anyfactualbackground as to the nature ofherarrestorwhetherthe ofhcers 16 conducting the arresthad a warrantoracted withoutprobable cause. Because Plaintiffdoes 17 notaddress the nature ofthe ofhcer's conductorw hetherthe ofhcers lacked eithera valid 18 warrantorprobable cause,Plaintiffhas notstated sufficientfacts to state a claim underthe 19 Fourth Am endment. ln addition, Plaintiff's tort causes of action failto address the Iegal 20 elem ents necessary foreach claim orto provide factualsuppod for hercauses ofaction. 21 Rather,they assertidenticalgeneric allegations despi te the unique nature and elem entof 22 each tod. 23 In addition,Plaintiff's claim thatthe W ashoe Defendants violated her constitutional 24 rights by faiiing ' ito M irandize''her is dism issed. Despite Plaintiff's assedions,failure to 25 adm inisterM iranda warnings isnotin itselfa violation ofthe FifthAm endment.See New York 26 v.Quarles,467 U.S.649,654,104 S.Ct.2626,2630 (1983). ln fact,the Miranda Court 27 recognized this pointwhen itdisclaimed any intentto create a ''consti tutionalstraightjacket'' 28 and invited C ongress and the States to suggest ''potential alternatives for protecting the privilege.''Miranda v.Arizona,384 U.S.436,467,86 S.Ct.1602,1624 (1966). Because it 6 1 was nota constitutionalviolation underthe FifthorSixthAm endm entsto failto advise Plaintiff 2 ofherM iranda rights,a rem edy undersection 1983 is notavailable to Plaintiff.l Accordingly, 3 this claim is dism issed. 4 Based onthe foregoing,theW ashoe Defendants areentitledto an orderdism issing the 5 claim s asserted againstthem in Plaintiff's Com plaint. Notonly did Plaintiffconsentto the 6 granting ofthe m otion by failing to file an opposi tion,buta review ofthe allegations in her 7 Com plaintshow thatshe failed to state a claim uponwhich reliefcan be granted againstthese 8 defendants. 9 10 CO NCLUSIO N Fortheforegoing reasons,IT IS HEREBY O RDERED thatDefendantsW ashoe County, 11 W ashoe County Sheril's Department,and Sparks Justice CourtJudges Kevin Higgins and 12 Susan Deriso's Motion to Dismiss FRCP 12(B)(6)(#15)is GRANTED. 13 The Clerkofthe Coud shallenterjudgmentaccordingly. 14 DatedthisC dayofJuly,2009. 15 16 United States DistrictJudge 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 1 nfact.withrespecttotheSixthAmendments:therightto qounselonl). attaches..atoraju rtjw initiationIof adversap'judicialcriminalproceedings such asaformalcharge.preliminaryhearing. indictm ent-inform atlon.orarraiynm ent.United Statesv.Gorveia-467U.S.180.188.104 S.Ctr2292- 2297 (1984).ltdoesnotappeartrom theallegationsinPlaintltfsCom plaintthatchargeswerefiledin thism atter. Therefore.she had no Sixth A m endm entrightto counselatthe tim e ofherarrest. 7