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Crockett v. City of Gresham

United States District Court, D. Oregon

May 3, 2019


          Chuck Crockett Pro Se Plaintiff

          David C. Lewis Richard P. Freud KRAEMER & LEWIS Attorneys for Defendants

          OPINION & ORDER


         Pro Se Plaintiff Chuck Crockett brings this civil rights action alleging violations of his Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights against Defendants City of Gresham and Officer H. Carranza ID#53795. Defendants move for summary judgment on all of Plaintiff's claims. Def. Mot. Summ. J. (“Def. Mot.”), ECF 18. For the reasons that follow, the Court grants in part and denies in part Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment.


         Late in the evening on January 4, 2018, Plaintiff was stopped by Defendant Carranza, a Gresham Police Officer, while driving a Cadillac DeVille in southeast Portland. First Lewis Decl. Ex. 1 (Crockett Dep.) 15:12-15, ECF 19; Second Lewis Decl. Ex. 3 (Crockett Dep.) 13:9- 12, ECF 24; First Crockett Decl. Ex. 8 (“Police Rept.”) at 1, ECF 21. Defendant Carranza stopped Plaintiff because he believed Plaintiff was driving at night with non-functioning taillights. Police Rept. 1. In his report, Defendant Carranza also noted that the vehicle did not have license plates. Id. Photos of the vehicle taken by Defendant Carranza that evening show that the car had a trip permit in its rear window. First Lewis Decl. Ex. 8.

         After approaching the car to talk to Plaintiff, the parties began to dispute the reason for the stop. Police Rept. 1. Plaintiff asked Defendant Carranza why he was stopping Plaintiff. Id. Defendant Carranza informed Plaintiff that he was driving without taillights, to which Plaintiff responded that the Officer was lying. Id. Plaintiff insisted that it was “impossible” because the lights and taillights are “automatically on at night.” First Lewis Decl. Ex. 1 (Crockett Dep.) 30:10-16. According to Defendant Carranza, Plaintiff subsequently “reached toward his dashboard and manipulated a knob” causing “the head lights of the vehicle [to turn] on and off.” Police Rept. 1. Plaintiff asserts that he “flicked the lights to show him that . . . the lights worked” and Defendant Carranza “got upset[, ] . . . put his hand in the car[, ] and almost hit [him] in the eye[.]” First Lewis Decl. Ex.1 (Crockett Dep.) 37:3-14.

         Defendant Carranza asked Plaintiff for his driver license, registration, and proof of insurance. Police Rept. 1; First Lewis Decl. Ex. 1 (Crockett Dep.) 30:17-20. Plaintiff continued to insist Defendant Carranza had no basis to stop him and refused to provide the documents. Police Rept. 1; First Lewis Decl. Ex. 1 (Crockett Dep.) 30:21-31:13. Defendant Carranza responded that he had lawfully stopped him as his taillights were not turned on or non-functioning and that Plaintiff was required by law to provide his license. Police Rept. 1. Again, Plaintiff claimed that his lights were on and that he did not have to comply with Defendant Carranza's request. Id.

         Defendant Carranza requested Plaintiff's license a second time, and Plaintiff responded that he did not have one and quickly recited his license number. Id. Plaintiff testified that he accidentally left his license at home. First Lewis Decl. Ex. 1 (Crockett Dep.) 32:22-25. Defendant Carranza asked Plaintiff to repeat it so he could write it down, and Plaintiff said that he had already provided it to the officer and “was no longer required to repeat it.” Police Rept. 1.

         Defendant Carranza informed Plaintiff that it was a crime to fail to carry or present his license. Id. Plaintiff insisted that Defendant Carranza had no reason to stop him and, therefore, that he was not required to identify himself. Id. Defendant Carranza responded that he had lawfully stopped him, and Plaintiff once again quickly recited his license number. Id. Defendant Carranza repeated the number back to Plaintiff to confirm that it was correct. Id. Plaintiff laughed and claimed he did not have to provide his driver license number anymore. Id.

         Defendant Carranza then arrested Plaintiff for failing to carry or present his driver license. Id. In his deposition, Plaintiff testified that he was “pulled and yanked out of the car, ” put in handcuffs, and placed in the back of the patrol car. First Lewis Decl. Ex. 1 (Crockett Dep.) 92:6-16; id. at 20-24 (Dep. Ex. 8). Plaintiff was not read his Miranda rights. Id. at 95:16-17, 100:7-11. At some point after that, Plaintiff identified himself as Chuck Crockett. Police Rept. 1. After viewing a DMV photo of Plaintiff and confirming his identity, Defendant Carranza discovered that Plaintiff's license was suspended and issued Plaintiff a citation for driving while suspended. Id.; First Lewis Decl. Ex. 3.

         Defendant Carranza indicated that Plaintiff's vehicle was “parked at an angle about 24 inches from the sidewalk curb on the north side of the street . . . . partially blocking the unmarked westbound lane on SE Alder St.” Police Rept. 1. Accordingly, Defendant Carranza deemed the vehicle a hazard. Id.; First Crockett Decl. Ex. 11 (Tow Receipt) (indicating that the vehicle was “abandoned, parked illegally or hazardously”). Defendant Carranza inventoried and photographed the vehicle where it was parked. Police Rept. 2; First Lewis Decl. Ex. 8 (photograph of vehicle). The vehicle was subsequently towed. Police Rept. 2. One of the owners of the vehicle, Elyse Spencer, was on the Oregon coast at the time of the incident and unable to get back to Portland before Officer Carranza called for a tow truck. Second Lewis Decl. Ex. 6 (Spencer Dep.) 12:3-13:1; Second Crockett Decl. Ex. 5 (“Spencer Decl.”) ¶ 1, ECF 28. Dorothy Wickersham, the other owner of the vehicle, and Phillip Sanders both arrived at the scene, but neither had a valid driver license. Second Lewis Decl. Ex. 4 (Wickersham Dep.) 20:15-18; Spencer Decl. ¶ 4; Second Lewis Decl. Ex. 5 (Sanders Dep.) 8:1-8.

         Defendant Carranza then released Plaintiff. First Lewis Decl. Ex. 1 (Crockett Dep.) 78:13-80:4. He allegedly pressed Plaintiff against the patrol car and told him to spread his legs further and further. Id. at 78:13-25. Plaintiff objected to spreading his legs, and Defendant Carranza allegedly told him repeatedly to “stop resisting.” Id. at 78:25-80:4. Finally, Plaintiff “screamed out for help, ” and Defendant Carranza laughed and told him “nobody is going to fucking help you.” Id. at 79:8-15. Defendant Carranza then let Plaintiff out of his handcuffs. Id. at 79:17-24. Plaintiff thanked him for letting him out of the cuffs and walked away “cussing him out.” Id. at 80:1-4. As a result of the officer's use of handcuffs, Plaintiff was left with red marks on his wrists. Id. at 87:1-90:15.

         The citation issued to Plaintiff instructed Plaintiff to appear at the Multnomah County Circuit Court in East County at 5:00 PM on January 30, 2018. First Lewis Decl. Ex. 3 at 1. However, the courthouse was not open at that time. First Lewis Decl. Ex. (Crockett Dep.) 95:10- 23. Because the court was closed when Plaintiff was supposed to appear, the ticket “went against” him. Id. at 96:1-5. Plaintiff's court date was reset. Id. at 96:6-9; Second Crockett Decl. Ex. 4.

         Plaintiff subsequently filed this lawsuit in state court, alleging violations of his rights under the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments. Notice of Removal Ex. 1 (Compl.), ECF 1; First Am. Compl. (“FAC”), ECF 5. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Carranza violated his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights when they pulled him over without probable cause, removed him from his vehicle, detained him, used “unnecessary force” while detaining him, and searched his person and vehicle. Compl. 1. He alleges his Fifth Amendment rights were violated when he was detained and Defendant Carranza failed to read him his Miranda rights. Id. He contends that his due process rights were violated when “Officer Carranza . . . purposely falsified documents” and “intentionally put the wrong time to appear at court on the ticket.” Id.; FAC 2. Plaintiff also alleges that Defendant City of Gresham is liable because it “supports the officers' actions and denies any wrong doing” and its “invalidated support of officer practices creates a policy of violating people's rights.” FAC 3. He also asserts that Defendant City of Gresham “is known to defend officer practices knowing the officer is guilty of violating a citizens rights.” Id. Plaintiff seeks $105, 000 in damages. FAC 4.


         Summary judgment is appropriate if there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party bears the initial responsibility of informing the court of the basis of its motion and identifying those portions of “‘the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any,' which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (quoting former Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)).

         Once the moving party meets its initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, the burden then shifts to the nonmoving party to present “specific facts” showing a “genuine issue for trial.” Fed. Trade Comm'n v. Stefanchik, 559 F.3d 924, 927-28 (9th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks omitted). The nonmoving party must go beyond the pleadings and designate facts showing an issue for trial. Bias v. Moynihan, 508 F.3d 1212, 1218 (9th Cir. 2007) (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324).

         The substantive law governing a claim determines whether a fact is material. Suever v. Connell, 579 F.3d 1047, 1056 (9th Cir. 2009). The court draws inferences from the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Earl v. Nielsen Media Research, Inc., 658 F.3d 1108, 1112 (9th Cir. 2011). If the factual context makes the nonmoving party's claim as to the existence of a material issue of fact implausible, that party must come forward with more persuasive evidence to support his claim than would otherwise be necessary. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). “Summary judgment is improper where divergent ultimate inferences may reasonably be drawn from the undisputed facts.” Fresno Motors, LLC v. Mercedes Benz USA, LLC, 771 F.3d 1119, 1125 (9th Cir. 2014) (internal quotation marks omitted); see also Int'l Union of Bricklayers & Allied Craftsman Local Union No. 20, AFL-CIO v. Martin Jaska, Inc., 752 F.2d 1401, 1405 (9th Cir. 1985) (“Even where the basic facts are stipulated, if the parties dispute what inferences should be drawn from them, summary judgment is improper.”).


         Under 42 U.S.C. § 1983:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State . . . subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law[.]

         “To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must both (1) allege the deprivation of a right secured by the federal Constitution or statutory law, and (2) allege that the deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law.” Anderson v. Warner, 451 F.3d 1063, 1067 (9th Cir. 2006). Government officials may be entitled to qualified immunity for claims brought under § 1983. To determine whether a government official is entitled to qualified immunity, “[t]he court must first determine whether, examining the facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, the official violated the plaintiff's constitutional rights.” Barnes v. Gower, No. 2:12-CV-01880-HZ, 2015 WL 736348, at *8 (D. Or. Feb. 17, 2015) (citing Clement v. Gomez, 298 F.3d 898, 903 (9th Cir. 2002)). Then, if the court concludes the official violated the plaintiff's constitutional rights, it must determine “whether the right was clearly established.” Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 294, 201 (2001).

         Plaintiff appears to bring seven claims for relief under § 1983:[1] (1) a Fourth Amendment claim for lack of probable cause during the traffic stop; (2) a Fourth Amendment claim for wrongful arrest and for the unlawful search of Plaintiff's person and vehicle; (3) a Fifth Amendment claim for failure to read Plaintiff his Miranda rights; (4) a Fourteenth Amendment due process claim for providing a wrong appearance time on the citation; (5) a Fourteenth Amendment due process claim for the tow of the vehicle; (6) a Fourth Amendment excessive force claim; and (7) a Monell liability claim against Defendant City of Gresham. Defendants move for summary judgment on each of Plaintiff's claims. Defendants argue: (1) Defendant Carranza is entitled to qualified immunity, primarily because Plaintiff cannot establish a violation of any constitutional right; and (2) Plaintiff has failed to establish a claim for Monell liability against Defendant City of Gresham.

         Because a reasonable jury could find that Defendant Carranza violated Plaintiff's rights in making the initial traffic stop and in the amount of force Defendant Carranza used against Plaintiff, the Court denies Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment on these Fourth Amendment claims. As to the rest of Plaintiff's claims, however, the Court grants Defendants motion. As a matter of law, Plaintiff cannot demonstrate that Defendant violated Plaintiff's rights in searching his person and vehicle, arresting him, towing his vehicle, or failing to inform him of his Miranda ...

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