Saturday, October 16, 2010

Northern District of California Judges rule in 1983 cases

Benjamin Franklin Butler drafted the
Enforcement Act of 1871.  Photo
courtesy of wikisource.
Two Northern District of California judges recently ruled on civil rights cases.

Hernandez v. City of Napa, the plaintiff was at home one night where she was involved in some kind of tussle with her ex-boyfriend Donald Green who happened to be a Napa State Hospital security officer.  Ms. Hernandez called 911 and both the City of Napa Police and the Napa County Sheriff responded.  When asked by officers, Ms. Hernandez stated that she was fine and had not been injured even though she had visible marks on her arms and spat something red into a sink.  However, Mr. Green's chest was covered in scratches which he stated were caused by Ms. Hernandez.  Deputy Sheriff Hallman turned the investigation over to Officer Bender who arrested Ms. Hernandez.  Ms. Hernandez is now suing the officers for false arrest in violation of her Fourth Amendment rights under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983.  Magistrate Elizabeth D. Laporte, noted the circumstances of the arrest were suspicious, for instance, when Ms. Hernandez tried to explain her physical state, Deputy Hallman whistled into his microphone prohibiting the recording device from hearing her.  However, the case could be resolved on qualified immunity grounds because Ms. Hernandez could not show that she had a clearly established right:
In sum, the cases cited by Plaintiff are unhelpful in clearly establishing the unreasonableness of Deputy Hallman’s actions, because they do not involve an officer uninvolved in an arrest who was simply providing “cover” for another law enforcement agency in a domestic violence situation where he did not make any probable cause determination or actively participate in the arrest, and/or where an alleged victim had accused the plaintiff of attacking him and had physical marks on him while the plaintiff stated that she was not injured and nothing had happened.Therefore, Plaintiff has not shown that the right in question was “clearly established” or that Deputy Bender could not have reasonably believed that his particular conduct was lawful.
She granted summary judgement for Deputy Hallman on the 1983 claim and declined to rule on a civil conspiracy complaint.

Hickenbottom v. City of San Rafael concerns a pro se plaintiff who claims he was falsely arrested on October 13, 2009.  He submitted a request to the city for money damages due to the false arrest on February 27, 2010 which the city received on March 10, 2010.  The city denied the claim for failing to be filed within six months of the injury.  He sought further review by the city, which it denied.  He then filed the present law suit. The city moved to dismiss the suit for lack of subject matter jurisdiction stating that California Superior Courts have jurisdiction to hear cases involving denial of claims.  Judge Susan Illston agreed with the City and dismissed the case.

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