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Laizure v. Washington County

United States District Court, D. Oregon

November 18, 2019

SETH EUGENE LAIZURE, Plaintiff,
v.
WASHINGTON COUNTY, by and through WASHINGTON COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE, PHONG TRAN, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          STACIE F. BECKERMAN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Seth Eugene Laizure (“Laizure”) filed this action against Defendants Phong Tran (“Deputy Tran”) and Washington County (together, “Defendants”), alleging violations of the First and Fourth Amendments pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (“Section 1983”), as well as state law claims for false arrest and malicious prosecution. Both Laizure and Defendants filed motions for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The Court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. For the reasons explained below, the Court grants Laizure's motion for summary judgment and denies Defendants' motion for summary judgment.

         BACKGROUND[1]

         Laizure and Kena Taylor (“Taylor”) share a daughter. (Dep. of Seth Laizure (“Laizure Dep.”) 12:8-18, Mar. 18, 2019, ECF No. 58-1.) Laizure and Taylor ended their relationship in June 2014. (Laizure Dep. 12:8-18.)

         On the morning of August 12, 2015, Deputy Tran was dispatched to respond to a harassment complaint. (Decl. John Burgess Supp. Pl.'s Mot. Summ. J. (“Burgess Decl.”) Ex. A, at 5, ECF No. 56-1.) At 6:58 p.m., Taylor reported to Deputy Tran that she had been receiving harassing phone calls and text messages from Laizure. (Burgess Decl. Ex. A, at 6.) Taylor requested that the Sheriff's Office notify Laizure that he is no longer allowed to call or text her. (Burgess Decl. Ex. A, at 6.)

         After his visit with Taylor, Deputy Tran called Laizure. (Burgess Decl. Ex. A, at 6.) Deputy Tran advised Laizure that he was calling to help Laizure and keep Laizure from getting into trouble. (Burgess Decl. Ex. A, at 7.) Deputy Tran advised Laizure not to call or text Taylor again. (Burgess Decl. Ex. A, at 7.) Laizure responded that his attorney had advised him he could speak with Taylor directly to exchange custody of their daughter, Laizure requested that Deputy Tran not call him again, and Laizure hung up the phone. (Burgess Decl. Ex. A, at 7; Decl. of Seth Laizure (“Laizure Decl.”) ¶ 4, ECF No. 55.) After the call ended, Deputy Tran immediately called Laizure a second time. (Burgess Decl. Ex. A, at 7.) Deputy Tran notified Laizure that if he called or texted Taylor after 7:35 p.m. on August 12, 2015, he would arrest Laizure for telephonic harassment. (Burgess Decl. Ex. A, at 7.)

         Once the second phone call ended between Deputy Tran and Laizure, Deputy Tran called Taylor's cell phone to notify her that he had contacted Laizure and advised him not to contact Taylor. (Burgess Decl. Ex. A, at 7.) While Deputy Tran and Taylor spoke on the phone, Taylor notified Deputy Tran that Laizure was calling her home phone. (Burgess Decl. Ex. A, at 7.) Deputy Tran drove to Taylor's residence to take a photo of the caller-identification screen on Taylor's home phone. (Burgess Decl. Ex. A, at 8.)

         When Deputy Tran arrived at Taylor's home, he saw Laizure parked nearby. (Burgess Decl. Ex. A, at 8.) Deputy Tran entered Taylor's home to speak with Taylor. (Burgess Decl. Ex. A, at 8.) Taylor showed Deputy Tran the caller-identification screen on her home phone, and Deputy Tran observed that a call came in at 7:36 p.m. from Laizure's phone number. (Burgess Decl. Ex. A, at 8.)

         Deputy Tran returned to the street outside Taylor's residence and spoke with Laizure. (Decl. Kimberly Stuart Supp. Defs.' Mot. Summ. J. (“Stuart Decl.”) Ex. 3, ECF No. 58-3.) Deputy Tran asked Laizure about his call to Taylor and asked why Laizure called Taylor's home phone right after Deputy Tran ordered Laizure not to call Taylor. (Stuart Decl. Ex. 3, at 5.) Laizure explained that he had driven his daughter to Taylor's home because he was scheduled to drop off his daughter, and he called ahead to let Taylor know he was close. (Stuart Decl. Ex. 3, at 2, 5; Laizure Decl. ¶ 5.)[2] He reported that he had permission from Taylor's lawyer to communicate with Taylor directly about dropping off their daughter. (Stuart Decl. Ex. 3, at 5.) Taylor had provided the same information to Deputy Tran. (Stuart Decl. Ex. 3, at 5.) When Laizure explained that he called Taylor about dropping off their daughter, Deputy Tran responded, “But when I call you and I tell you twice, ‘Do not call or text Kena or you will be arrested,' that is a direct order that is not to be violated, especially when I tell you, ‘I will arrest you if you do this,' but you still did it anyway.” (Stuart Decl. Ex. 3, at 5.)

         Moments later, Deputy Tran notified Laizure that he was under arrest for telephonic harassment. (Stuart Decl. Ex. 3, at 6.) In his police report, Deputy Tran stated that he “developed PC to arrest Laizure for the crime of Telephonic Harassment . . . based on the fact Laizure admitted to calling Taylor after I had told him not to do so.” (Stuart Decl., Ex. 5 at 4.)

         The Washington County District Attorney's Office charged Laizure with a single count of telephonic harassment under Or. Rev. Stat. 166.090(1)(b). (Stuart Decl. Ex. 8.) A Washington County Circuit Court judge granted Laizure's motion for judgment of acquittal immediately following the District Attorney's presentation of evidence, stating “I don't feel like the State has proved beyond a reasonable doubt, even in the light most favorable to the State, that the defendant intentionally harassed or annoyed Ms. Taylor.” (Stuart Decl. Ex. 4, at 14.)

         Laizure's counsel asked Deputy Tran during his deposition whether it was Deputy Tran's understanding that “if a person tells somebody not to call them and they do call them regardless of the purpose of the phone call, that constitutes telephonic harassment?” (Burgess Decl. Ex. A, at 13.) Deputy Tran responded, “[y]es.” (Burgess Decl. Ex. A, at 13.)

         ANALYSIS

         I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Summary judgment is appropriate if “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). On a motion for summary judgment, the court must view the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of that party. Porter v. Cal. Dep't of Corr., 419 F.3d 885, 891 (9th Cir. 2005). The court does not assess the credibility of witnesses, weigh evidence, or determine the truth of matters in dispute. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). “Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no genuine issue for trial.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).

         When parties file cross-motions for summary judgment, the court “evaluate[s] each motion separately, giving the non-moving party in each instance the benefit of all reasonable inferences.” A.C.L.U. of Nev. v. City of Las Vegas, 466 F.3d 784, 790-91 (9th Cir. 2006). (citation and quotation marks omitted). “[T]he court must consider each party's evidence, regardless under which motion the evidence is offered.” Las Vegas Sands, LLC v. Nehme, 632 F.3d 526, 532 (9th Cir. 2011).

         II. DISCUSSION

         Laizure brings five claims: (1) Section 1983 First Amendment retaliation, (2) Section 1983 false arrest, (3) Section 1983 malicious prosecution, (4) false arrest under Oregon state law, and (5) malicious prosecution under Oregon state law.

         In his motion, Laizure moves for summary judgment on his state and Section 1983 false arrest claims, on the ground that Deputy Tran arrested him without probable cause. Laizure also moves for partial summary judgment on his state and federal malicious prosecution claims with respect to three of the four required elements: (a) criminal proceedings were instituted against him, (b) those criminal proceedings terminated in his favor, and (c) ...


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