San Francisco Partners Gregg Thornton and Danielle Lewis Secure Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Victory for City of Newark in Civil Rights Lawsuit
The plaintiff was involved in a physical altercation with a shop owner in the City of Fremont. After a police investigation was completed, a warrant issued for the arrest of the plaintiff. Because the plaintiff resided in the City of Newark, two Newark Police Officers were asked to effectuate the arrest. Consequently, the two Newark Police Officers contacted the plaintiff at this home, placed the plaintiff under arrest, transported the plaintiff to an Alameda County Jail facility and surrendered custody of the plaintiff to the jailers.
Following a period of incarceration, the Alameda County District Attorney's Office elected to cease the criminal prosecution of the plaintiff, prior to any conviction. At the conclusion of his criminal prosecution, the plaintiff sued many defendants, including Alameda County personnel, City of Fremont personnel, as well as the two arresting Newark Police Officers, the Newark Chief of Police, the Newark City Manager and the City of Newark, allegedly for violating the plaintiff's civil rights. Specifically, the plaintiff's complaint alleged that the two Newark Police Officers unlawfully arrested the plaintiff, that the two officers improperly arrested the plaintiff in a fashion that was consistent with an unconstitutional City of Newark policy or procedure, and that the Newark personnel conspired with the other defendants to violate the plaintiff's constitutional rights. The plaintiff's complaint contained twenty causes of action, including six claims for violations of federal civil rights and fourteen claims based in state law.
Gregg and Danielle responded to the plaintiff's complaint with a motion to dismiss, pursuant to FRCP 12(b)(6). In that motion, Gregg and Danielle addressed each of the plaintiff's twenty claims. The crux of the motion was that the two arresting Newark Police Officers' actions were reasonable under the totality of the circumstances, because the plaintiff's arrest was conducted pursuant to a facially valid arrest warrant, and that the transportation of the plaintiff to jail subsequent to arrest was appropriate. Because the officers did not engage in any excessive force during the arrest and transportation, and because the acts of the two Newark Officers, as alleged by the plaintiff, were reasonable at all times, the plaintiff had failed to articulate a claim for any violation of his federal civil rights. Additionally, with regard to the plaintiff's state law claims, Gregg and Danielle argument was twofold. First, they argued that, without a constitutional violation, the plaintiff's pendant state law claims failed as a matter of law. Second, they argued that, because the plaintiff had failed to serve the City of Newark with a government tort claim prior to bringing this suit, the plaintiff's state law claims were time barred under the California Government Tort Claims Act.
In response to Gregg and Danielle's motion, the District Court found that the acts by the two arresting Newark Police Officers, as alleged by the plaintiff, were reasonable and did not give rise to any violation of the plaintiff's federal civil rights. Additionally, the District Court concluded, with that being the case, that the plaintiff's state law claims also failed as a matter of law. Additionally, the District Court held that the plaintiff's state law claims were time barred under the California Government Tort Claims Act. Lastly, the District Court held that, because there was no constitutional violation, all claims against the Police Chief, the City Manager and the City fail as well.
The District Court granted the Newark defendants' motion to dismiss with prejudice, as to all claims against all defendants, and judgment was entered in favor of the defendants and against the plaintiff. The plaintiff appealed the District Court's ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the defendants' trial court victory in total.
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