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Cameron v. Owyhee County

June 22, 2010

BRUCE CAMERON, TIFFANY WALKER, CHRISTOPHER EVEN, JAMES BISH, AND SHERRY OLSON, INDIVIDUALLY, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
OWYHEE COUNTY, OWYHEE COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE, AND SHERIFF DARYL CRANDALL, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Ronald E. Bush U. S. Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER RE: (1) MOTION TO DETERMINE THE NON-APPLICABILITY OF I.C. § 6-610 AND, IN THE ALTERNATIVE, TO SET AMOUNT OF SURETIES (Docket No. 15) (2) DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO BIFURCATE PROCEEDINGS; ALTERNATIVE MOTION TO SEVER (Docket No. 17)

Currently pending before the Court is (1) Plaintiffs' Motion to Determine the Non-Applicability of I.C. § 6-610 and, in the Alternative, to Set Amount of Sureties (the "Motion to Determine Bond Amount") (Docket No. 15); and (2) Defendants' Motion to Bifurcate Proceedings; Alternative Motion to Sever (the "Motion to Bifurcate") (Docket No. 17). Having carefully reviewed the record, participated in oral argument, and otherwise being fully advised, the Court enters the following Memorandum Decision and Order:

I. BACKGROUND

This case involves five individual Plaintiffs, each of whom worked as employees of Defendant Owyhee County, within the Defendant Owyhee County Sheriff's Office, at the beginning of 2009. According to Plaintiffs, they were terminated and/or reassigned for supporting former Owyhee County Sheriff Gary Aman in the 2008 Owyhee County Sheriff election, following Defendant Sheriff Daryl Crandall's eventual assumption of that same office in January 2009. The particular claims need not be parsed to resolve the two motions now before the Court; suffice it say, Plaintiffs' Complaint centers on Defendants' alleged improper employment actions.

Through their Motion to Determine Bond Amount, Plaintiffs move this Court for a determination of the non-applicability of Idaho Code section 6-610 or, alternatively, to have this Court set the amount of the written undertakings pursuant to that same section. See Mot. to Determine Bond Amt., p. 1 (Docket No. 15).

Through their Motion to Bifurcate, Defendants seek to retain the action on a more-or-less consolidated basis, but to "administratively bifurcate" the claims into five sub-cases (one case for each Plaintiff) against Defendants for the purposes of dispositive motions and, ultimately, trial. See Mot. to Bifurcate, p. 2 (Docket No. 17). Alternatively, Defendants request that Plaintiffs Tiffany Walker, Christopher Even, James Bish, and Sherry Olson be severed from this lawsuit, leaving only Bruce Cameron as a named Plaintiff - consenting that any subsequently-filed actions be referred to the undersigned and that the actions' discovery be consolidated. See id. at pp. 2-3.

II. ANALYSIS

A. Motion to Determine Bond Amount

1. Idaho Code Section 6-610 Applies to Plaintiffs' State Law Claims Against Defendant Crandall

Before any civil action is instituted against a law enforcement officer, Idaho Code section 6-610(2) contemplates the filing of a "written undertaking" with the court. See I.C. § 6-610(2) ("Before any civil action may be filed against any law enforcement officer . . . when such action arises out of, or in the course of the performance of his duty, . . ., the proposed plaintiff . . ., as a condition precedent thereto, shall prepare and file with, and at the time of filing the complaint or petition in any such action, a written undertaking with at least two (2) sufficient sureties in an amount to be fixed by the court."). With Idaho Code section 6-610(2) in mind, the sole issue now is whether Plaintiffs' state law claims against Defendant Crandall*fn1 can survive, given Plaintiffs' undisputed failure to file the requisite sureties prior to bringing this action.

Taking a literal reading of the statute, Plaintiffs argue that their claims "do not arise out of Defendants' duties as law enforcement officers." See Mot. to Determine Bond Amt., p. 2 (Docket No. 15. Att. 1); see also Reply in Supp. of Mot. to Determine Bond Amt., p. 2 (Docket No. 20) ("In other words, [Defendant Crandall's] actions in terminating the Plaintiffs did not relate to his 'duty of enforcement of the criminal, traffic or penal laws of this state.'" (citing I.C. § 6-610(1))). Defendants naturally disagree, stating in no uncertain terms that Defendant Crandall's alleged actions took place while he was employed as a law enforcement officer and that Plaintiffs cannot "provide any rationale to explain how an employment decision by a sheriff relating to his or her department employees within the sheriff's office does not qualify as an act that 'arises out of, or in the course of the performance of his duty' as a law enforcement officer." See Opp. to Mot. to Determine Bond Amt., pp. 3-4 (Docket No. 18). The Court agrees with Defendants.

While Idaho Code section 6-610(2) does not speak to the issue highlighted within the parties' briefing - namely, the meaning of "in the course of the performance of his duty," as that term is used in the statute - the Court is guided by case law within the District relevant to this inquiry. For example, in Wisdom v. Centerville Fire District, Inc., U.S. District Judge Edward J. Lodge applied Idaho Code section 6-610 to a defendant deputy's conduct and, in doing so, shed light on the analysis that must take place, commenting:

"Acts that are within the scope of employment are 'those acts which are so closely connected with what the servant is supposed to do, and so fairly and reasonably incidental to it, that they may be regarded as methods, even though quite improper ones, of carrying out the objectives of employment.'" "An employee's conduct is within the scope of employment if 'it is of the kind which he is employed to perform, occurs substantially within the authorized limits of time and space, and is actuated, at least in part, by a purpose to serve the master.'"

See Wisdom, 2008 WL 4372009, *14 (D. Idaho 2008) (internal citations omitted) (italics in original). Likewise, in Chaffin v. Shoshone Co., Idaho, U.S. Magistrate Judge Mikel Williams found that a defendant sheriff's decision to reassign plaintiff to duties as a detention deputy (versus a patrol deputy) implicated Idaho Code section ...


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