The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable B. Lynn Winmill Chief U. S. District Judge
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
The defendants made motions for judgment as a matter of law under Rule 50(a) at the close of the Muellers' case. The Court heard argument earlier today and took the motions under advisement. For the reasons expressed below, the Court will grant the motion by the City (1) to dismiss the Muellers' claims for equitable relief, and (2) to dismiss the claim that the City is liable under Monell for failing to train its officers. The Court will deny the remainder of the City's motion and the motions filed by the Hospital and Dr. Macdonald.
The Court may grant the defendants' motions under Rule 50(a) if "a reasonable jury would not have a legally sufficient evidentiary basis to find for the party on that issue . . . ." The Court must view the evidence in a light most favorable to the non-moving party. See Telemasters v. The Vintage Club, 2010 WL 1041475 (9th Cir. March 19, 2010).
Equitable Relief Against the City
The Muellers seek both declaratory and injunctive relief against the City. The City argues that these claims are moot or not ripe for adjudication because the Muellers have moved to Hawaii.
The Declaratory Judgment Act only applies in "a case of actual controversy." See 28 U.S.C. § 2201. Declaratory judgment actions are justiciable if "there is a substantial controversy, between parties having adverse legal interests, of sufficient immediacy and reality to warrant the issuance of a declaratory judgment." Seattle Audubon Soc. v. Moseley, 80 F.3d 1401, 1405 (9th Cir. 1996). A declaratory relief claim is not ripe for adjudication if it rests upon contingent future events that may not occur as anticipated, or indeed may not occur at all. Hodgers-Duran v. Lopez, 199 F.3d 1037, 1044 (9th Cir. 1999). A similar standard applies to requests for injunctive relief. See Dilley v. Gunn, 64 F.3d 1365 (9th Cir. 1995). The presence of a controversy must be measured at the time the court acts. It is not enough that there may have been a controversy when the action was commenced if subsequent events have put an end to the controversy. See 10B Wright, Miller and Kane, Federal Practice & Procedure, § 2757 at p. 495 (1998),citing Golden v. Zwickler, 394 U.S. 103, 108 (1969).
Testimony in this case shows that the Muellers have moved to Hawaii and that both have Hawaiian driver's licenses. Eric Mueller testified that he felt "betrayed" by the actions of the City's police officers, and was concerned that if his wife got "pulled over" by a City police officer that they might lose their child again. See Transcript at p. 153-54. Because of that, the Muellers decided they could not live in Boise. Id. at 213. They have now lived outside Idaho for four years, and there is no evidence in the record that they plan to return. While the parents of Corissa Mueller live in Idaho, they do not live in Boise but rather in Nampa. See Transcript at p. 105.
On this record, construing the facts most favorably to the Muellers, it is highly unlikely that the Muellers will ever encounter a Boise City police officer again under circumstances similar to those at issue in this case. Accordingly, the claims for injunctive and declaratory relief against the City must be dismissed.
Policy/Ratification/Training Issues Against City
The testimony of Michael Majors in combination with that of Detective Rogers creates sufficient questions on the ratification and policy prongs of Monell liability to warrant denying the Rule 50 motions on those issues. But the Muellers' allegation that the City failed to train its officers requires a closer look.
To prevail on their failure to train claim, the Muellers must show that the City "was deliberately indifferent to the obvious consequences of its failure to train its police officers adequately." See Ninth Circuit Model Instruction 9.7. The Supreme Court has held that a violation of federal rights may be a highly predictable consequence of a failure to equip law enforcement officers with specific tools to handle recurring situations. The likelihood that the situation will recur and the predictability that an officer lacking specific tools to handle that situation will violate citizens' rights could justify a finding that policymakers' decision not to train the officer reflected "deliberate indifference" to the obvious consequence of the policymakers' choice -- namely, a violation of a specific ...