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Michael S. Muth v. David anderson

June 29, 2012

MICHAEL S. MUTH,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
DAVID ANDERSON, ADA COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT; WAYNE ANDERSON, ADA COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT; WESTON BUNNELL, ADA COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT, AND OFFICERS JOHN AND/OR JANE DOES 1-10, AND THE ADA COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT, ADA COUNTY, IDAHO, AND ADA COUNTY, IDAHO, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Edward J. Lodge U. S. District Judge

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

INTRODUCTION

The Court has before it a motion to dismiss filed by Ada County, the Ada County Sheriff's Department, and deputies David Anderson, Wayne Anderson, and Weston Bunnell (Dkt. 13). Having reviewed the briefing submitted by the parties, the Court has determined oral argument is unnecessary. For the reasons explained below, the Court will deny the individual defendants' motion to dismiss, but will grant the municipal defendants' motion to dismiss the Monell claim.

BACKGROUND

On January 1, 2011, Michael Muth was in a bar in Kuna and saw a woman being arrested. He overheard the woman complain that the officer should arrest the woman who had hit her. Muth, who was standing about three to four feet away, asked the officer why both women were not being arrested. A second officer instructed Muth to "back off." Muth told this officer that he was "merely asking the other law enforcement officer a question." Compl., Dkt. 1, ¶ 22. Then, "without warning, one of the law enforcement officers physically overpowered Michael, spinning him around and throwing Michael to the ground so that Michael landed on his face." Id. ¶ 23. Muth sustained injuries, including a chipped tooth. The officers charged Muth with resisting and/or obstructing an officer under Idaho Code § 18-705, though the charges were later dismissed.

Muth sues under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of his First and Fourth Amendment rights. He also alleges supplemental state law claims. Muth seeks compensatory damages, as well as punitive damages against the individual defendants.

ANALYSIS

Defendants argue that Muth's § 1983 action should be dismissed because (1) they enjoy qualified immunity from suit; (2) they are not subject to punitive damages; and (3) supplemental jurisdiction of the state law claims would therefore "be improper." Mot. Memo., Dkt. 14, at 2.

1. The Legal Standard

A motion to dismiss based on Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) "tests the legal sufficiency of a claim." Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 731 (9th Cir. 2001). A complaint generally must satisfy "only the minimal notice pleading requirements" of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) to avoid a 12(b)(6) dismissal. Porter v. Jones, 319 F.3d 483, 494 (9th Cir. 2003). Rule 8(a)(2), "requires only 'a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,' in order to 'give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests . . . .'" Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)).

In considering a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), "all well-pleaded allegations of material fact are taken as true and construed in a light most favorable to the non-moving party." Wyler Summit Partnership v. Turner Broadcast Sys., Inc., 135 F.3d 658, 661 (9th Cir.1998) (citation omitted). The court does not necessarily assume the truth of legal conclusions merely because they are cast in the form of factual allegations in plaintiff's complaint. See Clegg v. Cult Awareness Network, 18 F.3d 752, 754-55 (9th Cir.1994). "However, conclusory allegations of law and unwarranted inferences are insufficient to defeat a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim." Epstein v. Wash. Energy Co., 83 F.3d 1136, 1140 (9th Cir. 1996); see also Twombly, 550 U.S. 544. Finally, the Court may not consider any material beyond the pleadings in ruling on a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). See Branch v. Tunnell, 14 F.3d 449, 453 (9th Cir. 1994).

1. The § 1983 Claims Against the Individual Defendants*fn1

The purpose of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 is to deter state actors from using the badge of their authority to deprive individuals of their federally guaranteed rights. See Wyatt v. Cole, 504 U.S. 158, 161 (1992). To state a claim under §1983, a plaintiff must allege facts which show a deprivation of a right, privilege or immunity secured by the Constitution or federal law by a person acting under color of state law. Id. Police officers carrying out their duties act under color of law.

Muth contends that the individual defendants -- Officers David Anderson, Wayne Anderson, and Weston Bunnell -- violated his First and Fourth Amendment rights. The ...


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