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Saetrum v. Raney

United States District Court, D. Idaho

May 22, 2014

ADA COUNTY SHERIFF GARY RANEY, in his official capacity, DEPUTY SHERIFF JAKE VOGT, individually and in his official capacity, and JOHN AND JANE DOES 1-10, deputies and employees of the ADA COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE, Defendants.


WILLIAM B. SHUBB, District Judge.

Plaintiff Adam Todd Saetrum filed this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 based on alleged excessive force and inadequate medical care during his arrest and detention on February 26, 2013 in Ada County, Idaho. Plaintiff alleges that defendant Deputy Vogt used excessive force against him during his arrest when he struck plaintiff with his police vehicle and "knocked, pushed or threw" plaintiff to the ground. After his arrest, plaintiff alleges that unnamed officers ignored his complaints of physical injuries and failed to provide him with medical care. In his First Amended Complaint ("FAC"), plaintiff alleges a § 1983 claim against defendant Sheriff Raney and Deputy Vogt based on the use of excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment and a § 1983 claim against Sheriff Raney based on the denial of adequate medical care in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Presently before the court are defendants' motion to dismiss the FAC pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted; defendants' motion to stay discovery; and Deputy Vogt's motion to disqualify plaintiff's counsel. The court will address each motion in turn.

1. Motion to Dismiss

On a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must accept the allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Scheuer v. Rhodes , 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974), overruled on other grounds by Davis v. Scherer , 468 U.S. 183 (1984); Cruz v. Beto , 405 U.S. 319, 322 (1972). To survive a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff must plead "only enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). This "plausibility standard, " however, "asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully, " and where a complaint pleads facts that are "merely consistent with a defendant's liability, " it "stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility." Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly , 550 U.S. at 557).

"While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds' of his entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions...." Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555 (alteration in original) (citations omitted). "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Iqbal , 556 U.S. 678.

A. Official Capacity Claims

As the court previously explained when denying defendants' motion for a more definite statement, if a plaintiff seeks damages from an officer, the suit is generally against the officer in his individual capacity; if the plaintiff seeks an injunction, the suit is generally against the officer in his official capacity. (See Docket No. 9.) Despite this clarification, plaintiff's FAC seeks only damages but names Sheriff Raney only in his official capacity and Deputy Vogt in his individual and official capacities. The Supreme Court has explained that a claim for damages against an officer in his official capacity is treated as a claim against the municipality:

Official-capacity suits, in contrast, "generally represent only another way of pleading an action against an entity of which an officer is an agent." As long as the government entity receives notice and an opportunity to respond, an official-capacity suit is, in all respects other than name, to be treated as a suit against the entity. It is not a suit against the official personally, for the real party in interest is the entity. Thus, while an award of damages against an official in his personal capacity can be executed only against the official's personal assets, a plaintiff seeking to recover on a damages judgment in an official-capacity suit must look to the government entity itself.

Kentucky v. Graham , 473 U.S. 159, 165-66 (1985) (quoting Monell v. New York City Dep't of Social Servs. , 436 U.S. 658, 690, n.55 (1978) (internal citations omitted); see also Cmty. House, Inc. v. City of Boise , 623 F.3d 945, 966-67 (9th Cir. 2010).

Here, because plaintiff names Sheriff Raney and Deputy Vogt in their official capacities and seeks only damages, those claims must be treated as claims against the municipality.[1] A municipality, however, can be liable under § 1983 only "when execution of a government's policy or custom, whether made by its lawmakers or by those whose edicts or acts may fairly be said to represent official policy, inflicts the injury." Monell , 436 U.S. at 693. Since Iqbal, courts have repeatedly rejected conclusory Monell allegations that lack factual content from which one could plausibly infer Monell liability. See, e.g., Rodriguez v. City of Modesto , 535 Fed.App'x 643, 646 (9th Cir. 2013) (affirming the district court's dismissal of Monell claim based only on conclusory allegations and lacking factual allegations); Via v. City of Fairfield , 833 F.Supp.2d 1189, 1196 (E.D. Cal. 2011) (citing cases).

Plaintiff's FAC contains only conclusory Monell allegations and lacks any factual content giving rise to a plausible Monell claim. (See, e.g., FAC ¶ 18 ("Defendant Raney failed to properly train the individual Defendants regarding the constitutional limits on the use of force during seizure and arrests and to establish proper policies, procedures, practices, and customs regarding the use of force that resulted in the excessive force during Plaintiff's arrest.").) Accordingly, because plaintiff's claims for damages against Sheriff Raney and Deputy Vogt in their official capacities must be treated as claims against the municipality and plaintiff fails to adequately allege a cognizable theory of Monell liability, the court must grant defendants' motion to dismiss both claims against Sheriff Raney and the claim against Deputy Vogt in his official capacity.[2]

B. Individual Capacity Claim

Plaintiff first alleges that Deputy Vogt used excessive force when he struck plaintiff with his police vehicle "during Plaintiff's seizure and arrest." (FAC ¶ 16.) Deputy Vogt argues that, in light of County of Sacramento v. Lewis , 523 U.S. 833 (1998), plaintiff's cursory allegations regarding Deputy Vogt striking him with his ...

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