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Butler v. Nat'l Cmty. Renaissance of California

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

September 12, 2014

ZINA BUTLER, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
NATIONAL COMMUNITY RENAISSANCE OF CALIFORNIA, AKA National Community Renaissance Corp., Defendant, and HOUSING AUTHORITY OF THE COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES; CITY OF PALMDALE; OSCAR BARRAZA; AND LEE D'ERRICO, Defendants-Appellees

Argued and Submitted, Pasadena, California June 2, 2014

Page 1192

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California. D.C. No. 5:09-cv-00761-MMM-E. Margaret M. Morrow, District Judge.

Jeremy B. Rosen (argued), Horvitz & Levy, L.L.P., Encino, California; Andrew Wilhelm and Ashley Cook, certified law students, Ninth Circuit Appellate Advocacy Clinic, Pepperdine University School of Law, Malibu, California, for Plaintiff-Appellant Zina Butler.

Toussaint S. Bailey (argued), Steven R. Orr, and Aaron C. O'Dell, Richards, Watson & Gershon, P.C., Los Angeles, California, for Defendants-Appellees City of Palmdale and Oscar Barraza.

Nicole A. Davis Tinkham and Christian E. Foy Nagy, Collins Collins Muir Stewart, L.L.P., South Pasadena, California, for Defendants-Appellees Housing Authority of the County of Los Angeles and Lee D'Errico.

Before: Stephen S. Trott, Consuelo M. Callahan, Circuit Judges, and Mark W. Bennett, District Judge.[*] Opinion by Judge Bennett.

OPINION

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BENNETT, District Judge:

Plaintiff-appellant Zina Butler appeals from the district court's granting appellees' motions to dismiss her 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action challenging the constitutionally of a warrantless search of her apartment by various actors. The district court held that Butler's claims were untimely filed. We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291, and we affirm.

We review de novo the district court's determination of whether a claim is barred by the statute of limitations. See Pouncil v. Tilton, 704 F.3d 568, 574 (9th Cir. 2012), cert. denied, 134 S.Ct. 76, 187 L.Ed.2d 30 (2013). Likewise, we review the district court's application of the relation-back doctrine under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(c) de novo. See Williams v. Boeing Co., 517 F.3d 1120, 1132 (9th Cir. 2008).

I. BACKGROUND

A. The Pleadings

On April 17, 2009, Butler filed a one-page complaint, a request to proceed in forma pauperis, and a request for an attorney in federal district court. The caption of the complaint named only National Community Renaissance Corporation (" National CORE" ) as a defendant. The complaint alleged:

On April 18th 2007 apartment manager in absence of a search warrant gave Section 8 investigator and City employee and Sheriff deputies the keys to my apartment who then entered without search warrant or consent And began searching my apartment. Sheriff deputies removed me from My home and issued me a citation and then released me at that point. And in that situation they violated my 4th amendment right.

On April 22, 2009, Butler filed a first amended complaint. The caption again named National CORE as a defendant and added the Housing Authority of the County of Los Angeles (" HACoLA" ). The first amended complaint alleged:

On April 18th 2007 apartment manager in absence of a search warrant gave Section 8 investigator and city employee and Sheriff deputies the keys to my apartment who then entered without search warrant or consent And began searching my apartment. Sheriff deputies removed me from My home and issued me a citation and then released me at that point. And in that situation they violated my 4th AMENDMENT RIGHT.
I am adding Housing Authority To my compliant [sic].

On May 15, 2009, the court sua sponte dismissed the first amended complaint with leave to amend because " it [was] unclear whom Plaintiff intends to sue."

On June 17, 2009, Butler filed a second amended complaint, again identifying National CORE and HACoLA in the caption. In the " Statement of Facts," Butler alleged the following:

On April 18th 2007 Section 8 investigator Mr. Derrico came to my apartment and knocked on my door. I asked who is it and he said Housing Authority investigator and I ask him if he had a

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search warrant from my upstairs window he said no and I told him that I was not going to let him in then. So he came back with the manager of National Renaissance Corporation Elizabeth Freeman and Officers McCormick, and Murphy from Palmdale Sheriff Department and city employee Oscar Barrza and then the manager Elizabeth Freeman took the key and opened my door and let all of thee [sic] above into my apartment and they started searching my apartment AFTER THEY STARTED SEARCHING MY APARTMENT OFFICERS MCCORMICK, and MURPHY took me to the car and wrote me a ticket for a [sic] infraction and released me at that point THEREFORE I WOULD LIKE TO SUE PALMDALE SHERIFF DEPARTMENT, NATIONAL RENAISSANCE COMMUNITY CORP, HOUSING AUTHORITY OF THE COUNTY OF L.A. AND THE CITY OF PALMDALE

On July 17, 2009, the district court sua sponte dismissed the second amended complaint with leave to amend. The court observed, inter alia, that " [l]ike its predecessor, the Second Amended Complaint is unclear whom Plaintiff intends to sue."

On August 12, 2009, Butler filed a third amended complaint. National CORE, HACoLA, the City of Palmdale (" Palmdale" ), Oscar Barraza, in his individual capacity, and " Mr Derrico", in his individual capacity, are identified as defendants in the caption. In the " Statement of Facts," Butler alleged that:

9. On April 18th 2007 Section 8 investigator Mr Derrico came to my apartment and knock [sic] on my door. I asked who is it and he said Housing Authority investigator.
10. And I ask him if he had a search warrant from my upstairs window. He said no and I told him that I was not going to let him in.
11. So Mr Derrico went and got the manager of National Renaissance Community Corporation Elizabeth Freeman, City Employee Oscar Barraza, and Sheriff Deputies McCormick, and Murphy, and officers from Housing authority whose names I don't know (John Doe's). Mr Derrico then told Elizabeth Freeman to open the door and Ms Freeman took the key and opened the door. Elizabeth Freeman gave me no notice of entry and was acting in concert with Housing Authority officers.
12. After opening my front door I was sitting on the stair inside my apartment and an officer from housing authority came up the stairs towards me with his gun in his hand and told me to go down stairs. The officer from ...

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