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Patrick v. Rivera

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

June 13, 2013

JESSICA M. PATRICK and MIKEL G. PATRICK, Plaintiff,
v.
BONNER COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT KATIE RIVERA; BONNER COUNTY SHERIFF DEPUTY TIMOTHY HEMPHILL, and DOES 1-10 Defendants.

MEMORANDUM ORDER AND DECISION

EDWARD J. LODGE, District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Pending before the Court in the above-entitled matter is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. The Motion was filed on November 15, 2012. As of the date of this Order, the Plaintiffs have not filed a response. Having fully reviewed the record, the Court finds that the facts and legal arguments are adequately presented in the briefs and record. Accordingly, in the interest of avoiding further delay, and because the Court conclusively finds that the decisional process would not be significantly aided by oral argument, this matter shall be decided on the record before this Court without oral argument.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

This case arises out of the seizure of a number of animals from the Plaintiffs' property on January 7, 2009. The Plaintiffs, Jessica M. Patrick and Mikel G. Patrick (collectively "the Patricks"), resided in Bonner County, Idaho. On January 7, 2009 Bonner County Sheriff's Deputy Timothy Hemphill responded to a call for a child welfare check at the Patrick's residence. Deputy Hemphill did not locate any individuals at the residence but did observe several animals in pens at the property: five horses and one llama. Based on his observations, Deputy Hemphill believed the animals to be malnourished with no apparent source for food or water. Deputy Hemphill requested that Bonner County Sheriff's Detective Katie Rivera respond to the property to evaluate the animals. Detective Rivera then contacted Idaho Department of Agriculture Investigator Amity Larsen and both Detective Rivera and Investigator Larsen responded to the residence. Based upon her observations of the animals, Investigator Larsen recommended that the Bonner County Sheriff's Office take custody of the animals, which they did. The Patricks were each charged with seven counts of animal cruelty pursuant to Idaho Code § 25-3504.[1]

The Patricks plead not guilty to the charges in state court and filed a motion to suppress challenging the seizure of the animals. Ultimately, on July 21, 2009, Bonner County Magistrate Judge Debra Heise entered an order granting the Patricks' motion to suppress finding the officers did not have probable cause to believe the crime of animal cruelty had been committed and, therefore, the warrantless search and seizure was unconstitutional. The charges in the state case were dismissed. The Patricks then filed this civil action against the Defendants pursuant to § 1983. Defendants have filed the instant Motion for Summary Judgment which the Court now takes up.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Motions for summary judgment are governed by Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 56 provides, in pertinent part, that judgment "shall be rendered forthwith if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c).

The Supreme Court has made it clear that under Rule 56 summary judgment is mandated if the non-moving party fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element which is essential to the non-moving party's case and upon which the non-moving party will bear the burden of proof at trial. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). If the non-moving party fails to make such a showing on any essential element, "there can be no genuine issue of material fact, ' since a completely failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Id. at 323.[2]

Moreover, under Rule 56, it is clear that an issue, in order to preclude entry of summary judgment, must be both "material" and "genuine." An issue is "material" if it affects the outcome of the litigation. An issue, before it may be considered "genuine, " must be established by "sufficient evidence supporting the claimed factual dispute... to require a jury or judge to resolve the parties' differing versions of the truth at trial." Hahn v. Sargent, 523 F.3d 461, 464 (1st Cir. 1975) (quoting First Nat'l Bank v. Cities Serv. Co. Inc., 391 U.S. 253, 289 (1968)). The Ninth Circuit cases are in accord. See, e.g., British Motor Car Distrib. V. San Francisco Automotive Indus. Welfare Fund, 883 F.2d 371 (9th Cir. 1989).

According to the Ninth Circuit, in order to withstand a motion for summary judgment, a party

(1) must make a showing sufficient to establish a genuine issue of fact with respect to any element for which it bears the burden of proof; (2) must show that there is an issue that may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party; and (3) must come forward with more persuasive evidence than would otherwise be necessary when the factual context makes the non-moving party's claim implausible.

Id. at 374 (citation omitted).

Of course, when applying the above standard, the court must view all of the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986); Hughes v. United States, 953 F.2d 531, 541 (9th Cir. 1992).

ANALYSIS

1. Failure to Respond to the Motion for Summary Judgment

District Courts may establish local rules of procedure that have the force of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 83(a)(1). In this District, Local Civil Rule 7.1 controls when a response must be filed to a motion and states that the responding party must file its response within twenty-one days after service upon the party of the motion and memorandum by the moving party. D. Idaho L. Civ. R. 7.1(c).[3] The Rule further provides that failure to respond to a motion may be deemed consent to the granting of the motion. See D. Idaho L. Civ. R. 7.1(e). Here, the Patricks are represented by counsel and have not filed a response to the Motion for Summary Judgment and the time for doing so has passed. Attorneys practicing in a federal district court are charged with knowledge of the local rules the same as they are charged with knowledge of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

A motion for summary judgment, however, cannot be granted solely because the opposing party has failed to file an opposition. Cristobal v. Siegel, 26 F.3d 1488, 1494-95 & n. 4 (9th Cir. 1994) (unopposed motion may be granted only after court determines that there are no material issues of fact). The court may grant an unopposed motion for summary judgment if the movant's papers are themselves sufficient to support the motion and do not on their face reveal a genuine issue of material fact. See United States v. Real Property at Incline Village, 47 F.3d 1511, 1520 (9th Cir. 1995) (local rule cannot mandate automatic entry of judgment for moving party without consideration of whether motion and supporting papers satisfy Fed.R.Civ.P. 56), overruled on other grounds by Degen v. United States, 517 U.S. 820 (1996); see also Marshall v. Gates, 44 F.3d 722, 725 (9th Cir. 1995) (summary judgment may not be granted simply because opposing party violated a local rule, if movant did not meet burden of demonstrating absence of genuine issue for trial). Accordingly, this Court will evaluate whether the Defendants' Motion and supporting materials are sufficient and do not facially reveal the existence of a genuine issue of material fact in this case.

2. Impact of the Underlying State Court Ruling

As an initial matter, the Court has considered what preclusive effect, if any, arises from the state court's ruling in the underlying criminal matter granting the Patricks' motion to suppress. In their Complaint, the Patricks represent that the state court found no probable cause existed to support a reasonable belief that a crime had been committed so as to justify the warrantless seizure of the animals. (Dkt. 1 at 8-9.) The Defendants agree that the state court granted the Patricks' motion to suppress and found that the law enforcement officers illegally seized the Patricks' animals. (Dkt. 22 at 3.)

Section 1983 actions must afford full faith and credit to state judicial proceedings such that res judicata and other preclusion doctrines may operate to limit or exclude causes of action in federal court. See Allen v. McCurry, 449 U.S. 90, 103-104 (1980); Strong v. Dep't of Corr., 2006 WL 47358, at *2 (D. Idaho 2006) (citations omitted). "To determine whether a state judgment should have preclusive effect in a federal action, federal courts apply the state's rules governing preclusion." Strong, 2006 WL 47358, at *2 (citation omitted). The Idaho Supreme Court has stated that " Res judicata is comprised of claim preclusion (true res judicata ) and issue preclusion (collateral estoppel). Under principles of claim preclusion, a valid final judgment rendered on the merits by a court of competent jurisdiction is an absolute bar to a subsequent action between the same parties upon the same claim." Lohman v. Flynn, 78 P.3d 379, 386 (Idaho 2003) (citations omitted); see also Coeur d'Alene Tribe v. Asarco Inc., 280 F.Supp.2d 1094, 1117-19 (D. Idaho 2003) ("Although the literal definition of the term res judicata is expansive enough to cover both preclusion of relitigation of the same cause of action and relitigation of the same issue, the modern tendency is to refer to the aspect of the doctrine that precludes relitigation of the same issue in a separate cause of action as collateral estoppel, and to refer to that aspect preventing relitigation of the same cause of action as res judicata. ") (quotations and citations omitted)).

" Res judicata thus applies to protect litigants from the burden of litigating the same cause of action with the same party or its privity." Coeur d'Alene Tribe, 280 F.Supp.2d 1094, 1117-19 (D. Idaho 2003) (citing Hindmarsh v. Mock, 57 P.3d 803 (Idaho 2002)). Res judicata" bars not only subsequent relitigation of a claim previously asserted, but also subsequent relitigation of any claims relating to the same cause of action which were actually made or which might have been made." Lohman, 78 P.3d at 386 (citing Hindmarsh, 57 P.3d at 805 (citations omitted)). For Res judicata to preclude litigation the following requirements must be met: (1) the same claim or cause of action arising out of the same facts must be involved in both suits; (2) there must be a final judgment on the merits in the prior action; and (3) the parties in the instant action must be the same as or in privity with the parties in the prior action in question. Coeur ...


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