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Greenfield v. City of Post Falls Municipality

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

December 6, 2013

CHRISTINA J. GREENFIELD, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF POST FALLS MUNICIPALITY, including employees and/or agents; MAYOR CLAYTON R. LARKIN, in his capacity; PRECEDING ADMINISTRATOR JIM HAMMOND, in his individual and official capacity; PRECEDING ADMINISTRATOR ERIC KECK, in his individual and official capacity; PROSECUTOR JOEL K. RYAN, in his individual and official capacity; PRECEDING CITY PLANNER COLLIN COLES, in his individual and official capacity; POST FALLS POLICE DEPARTMENT; CHIEF OF POLICE R. SCOT HAUG, in his individual and official capacity; DETECTIVE RODNEY L. GUNDERSON, in his individual and official capacity; DETECTIVE MARK GOODWIN, in his individual and official capacity; CAPTAIN GREG McLEAN, in his individual and official capacity; BERNARD (BARRY) WILLIAM McHUGH (KOOTENAI COUNTY PROSECUTOR) working for the City of Post Falls, in his individual and official capacity, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

CANDY W. DALE, District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Christina Greenfield filed a motion to disqualify Defendants' counsel on October 24, 2013. (Dkt. 22.) Defendants filed a response on November 18, 2013. (Dkt. 30.) Rather than filing a reply, Greenfield filed a Motion to Strike the exhibits attached to the Affidavit of Peter Erbland, Defendants' attorney, filed in support of Defendants' response brief. (Dkt. 31.) The Court considers the motion to disqualify to be fully briefed, and ripe for the Court's consideration.

Having reviewed the record herein, the Court finds that the facts and legal arguments are adequately presented in the briefs and record. Accordingly, in the interest of avoiding delay, and because the Court conclusively finds that the decisional process would not be significantly aided by oral argument, the motion will be decided on the record before this Court. Dist. Idaho L. Rule 7.1(d).

BACKGROUND

On October 4, 2013, Pro Se Plaintiff Christina Greenfield filed a complaint against the City of Post Falls, its mayor, and various administrators and employees, (past and present), as well as members of the Post Falls Police Department, seeking damages for the Defendants' alleged failure to enforce its zoning laws to her detriment. The facts giving rise to Plaintiff's complaint arise out of a zoning and boundary dispute. She claims that she submitted complaints to the city regarding an arborvitae hedge that delineated her property from her neighbor's property, and that the hedge's overgrowth violated the "CC&R's". Plaintiff claims that, soon after the City received her complaints, the City changed its ordinance to exclude "landscaping and hedges" from its fence ordinance.

Additionally, Plaintiff submitted complaints to the City about her neighbors, who allegedly operated a bed and breakfast in their home. Plaintiff claims the City did not pursue action against the ongoing illegal business activities of her neighbors. Plaintiff eventually trimmed the shrubs bordering her property, and she was charged with Malicious Injury to Property.

In addition to this lawsuit, Greenfield sued her neighbors, the Wurmlingers, in the District Court of the First Judicial District of the State of Idaho, in and for the County of Kootenai, Case No. CV 2010-8209. Erbland Aff. ¶1, Ex. 1, (Dkt. 30-1.) Greenfield asserted claims against the Wurmlingers for nuisance and negligent infliction of emotional distress, as well as equitable claims praying for injunctive relief and abatement relief with regard to the bed and breakfast business operated by the Wurmlingers out of their home. Id. The Wurmlingers filed an answer and counterclaim, asserting their own claims for negligent infliction of emotional distress, trespass, and timber trespass for the cutting of their hedge. Erbland Aff. ¶3, Ex. 2, (Dkt. 30-1.) Initially, the Wurmlingers were represented by counsel of the firm Amendola & Doty, PLLC, but on September 1, 2011, John Riseborough, a partner associated with Paine Hamblen, filed a substitution of counsel on behalf of the Wurmlingers, becoming their attorney of record in the Kootenai County case. Id. ¶¶3-4.

After a jury trial in which the jury returned a verdict in favor of the Wurmlingers, Erbland Aff. ¶5, Ex. 3, Special Verdict Form (Dkt. 30-1), judgment was entered against Greenfield on January 7, 2013. Erbland Aff. ¶5, Ex. 4, (Dkt. 30-1.) The presiding judge, the Honorable Lansing L. Haynes, issued a Memorandum Decision and Order on March 25, 2013, finding against Greenfield on her equitable claims. Erbland Aff. ¶5, Ex. 5, (Dkt. 30-1.) Greenfield appealed the judgment, and it is currently pending before the Idaho Supreme Court. ( See Dkt. 29.) Then, on October 4, 2013, Greenfield filed her complaint in this matter. On October 25, 2013, attorney Peter Erbland, also of the firm Pain Hamblen, filed a notice of appearance on behalf of all Defendants in this matter.

Greenfield's motion to disqualify the firm of Paine Hamblen asserts a conflict of interest based upon Paine Hamblen's prior representation of the Wurmlingers in the Kootenai County case. (Dkt. 22.) Greenfield asserts that a conflict exists because of the following:

(1) the existence of a prior attorney-client relationship between the Defendants and opposing counsel, (2) that the matters involved in both representations are substantially related and (3) that the interests of the present client and former client are materially adverse.

Greenfield avers that the conflict arises because, as counsel for the Wurmlingers, Paine Hamblen attorneys have communicated with several of the named Defendants in this matter, and may have information from the Kootenai County case that is "prejudicial and biased against Plaintiff Greenfield and may negatively affect the outcome of this case."

In her Motion to Strike filed in reply or response to Defendants' brief, Plaintiff contends that Exhibits 2, 3, 4, and 5 to the Affidavit of Peter Erbland should be stricken. Those Exhibits, cited above, are pleadings filed in Kootenai County Case No. CV 2010-8209. All of the pleadings attached to Mr. Erbland's Affidavit are represented as true and correct copies of the pleadings on file in Kootenai County Case No. CV ...


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