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Lyall v. City of Los Angeles

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

December 4, 2015

JAMES DUFF LYALL, individually and as class representatives; JAVIER CORTEZ, individually and as class representatives; MAGNOLIA BECERRA, individually and as class representatives; SASHA COSTANZACHOCK, individually and as class representatives; JOSEPH HOLLIDAY, individually and as class representatives; BENJAMIN WOOD, individually and as class representatives; ELIZABETH LOPEZ, individually and as class representatives; JESSICA RODRIGUEZ, individually and as class representatives, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
CITY OF LOS ANGELES, a public entity; DAVID ROSS, (#33632), individually and in his official capacity; JOHNNY CERVANTES, (#27374), individually and in his official capacity; NICHOLAS CHO, (#39259), individually and in his official capacity, Defendants-Appellees

Argued and Submitted, Pasadena, California June 5, 2015

Page 1179

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 1180

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California. D.C. No. 2:09-cv-07353-MAN. Margaret A. Nagle, Magistrate Judge, Presiding.

SUMMARY[**]

Civil Rights

The panel affirmed the district's judgment entered following a jury verdict, affirmed the district court's summary judgment in favor of defendants on the basis of Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 114 S.Ct. 2364, 129 L.Ed.2d 383 (1994), and reversed the district court's summary judgment in favor of defendants with respect to a warrantless-entry claim, in an action brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

Plaintiffs alleged that police officers violated their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights when they entered, without a warrant, a warehouse where plaintiffs were attending a musical event and subsequently searched and detained them. Affirming the district court, the panel held that the majority of the plaintiffs, who were merely attending the event, lacked standing to challenge the warrantless entry because they had no grounds upon which to claim a reasonable expectation of privacy in the warehouse. The panel further held that event organizer Javiar Cortez was subject to the Heck bar regarding his unreasonable seizure claim because he had not challenged the validity of his California Penal Code § 415 disturbing the peace conviction, arising from the encounter with the officers. The panel rejected all of the plaintiffs' claims of error regarding the jury instructions given at trial.

The panel reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment with respect to Cortez's and plaintiff Elizabeth Lopez's warrantless-entry claims. The panel held that Cortez and Lopez, who were organizers of the event and thus were in possession of the warehouse on the night of the event, had standing to challenge the officers' entry into the warehouse. The panel accordingly remanded their warrantless-entry claims for trial.

Donald W. Cook (argued), Los Angeles, California, for Plaintiffs-Appellants.

Lisa S. Berger (argued), Deputy City Attorney, Michael N. Feuer, City Attorney, Amy Jo Field, Supervising City Attorney, Los Angeles, California, for Defendants-Appellees.

Before: Jay S. Bybee and Carlos T. Bea, Circuit Judges, and Elizabeth E. Foote,[*] District Judge. Opinion by Judge Bybee.

OPINION

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BYBEE, Circuit Judge:

The eight plaintiffs in this case were all present at a musical event and fundraiser held in a downtown Los Angeles warehouse on November 16, 2008. During the event, several officers of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), who were looking for suspects who had stolen beer from a nearby convenience store, entered the warehouse without a warrant, rounded up the attendees, searched them for weapons, and required them to participate in a field show-up with a witness to the beer theft. A number of attendees--including two of the plaintiffs here--were arrested for resisting the officers.

The plaintiffs brought suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that the officers' warrantless entry into the warehouse and their subsequent searching and detention of everyone inside violated the attendees' First and Fourth Amendment rights. The district court granted summary judgment to the defendants with respect to the warrantless-entry claims, holding that no plaintiff had standing to challenge the warrantless entry. It also granted summary judgment to the defendants with respect to the unreasonable-seizure claim of plaintiff Javier Cortez, which the district court held was barred by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 114 S.Ct. 2364, 129 L.Ed.2d 383 (1994). The remainder of the claims went to a jury, which found for the defendants on all counts.

We affirm the judgment below in most respects: We agree that the majority of the plaintiffs lack standing to challenge the warrantless entry, we conclude that the district court's holding that Cortez is subject to the Heck bar was correct, and we reject all of the plaintiffs' claims of error regarding the jury instructions given at trial. But we reverse the district court's grant of summary judgment with respect to Cortez's and plaintiff Elizabeth Lopez's warrantless-entry claims. Cortez and Lopez, who were organizers of the event and thus were in possession of the warehouse on the night of November 16, have standing to challenge the officers' entry into the warehouse. We accordingly remand their warrantless-entry claims for trial.

I

A. The Events of November 16, 2008

In November 2008, a group of activists, including plaintiffs Javier Cortez and Elizabeth Lopez, organized a " musical and artistic

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event" designed to raise money for the upcoming Los Angeles Anarchist Book Fair. Ulises Ramirez, another of the organizers, received permission from his friend Josh Haglund to hold the event in a warehouse in downtown Los Angeles that Haglund was subletting and using as an artistic work space.[1] The event was scheduled for the night of November 16 and was to feature several musical performers, along with artists working on screen prints and drawings. The organizers publicized the event broadly through MySpace and various email lists, and approximately 100 people attended.

On the night of the event, a group of unknown persons allegedly stole bottles of beer from a convenience store about a mile from the warehouse. Police dispatch put out a call describing the suspects as " six male Hispanic juveniles" wearing " 'rocker type' clothing" and giving the license plate number of the pickup truck the suspects were driving. Two LAPD officers, Johnny Cervantes and Nicholas Cho, responded to the dispatch call and, after searching the area, located the suspects' truck parked around the corner from the warehouse. The two officers determined that there appeared to be some kind of party going on at the warehouse, which was unusual given the time of day (Sunday night), and they observed people wearing what they deemed to be " rocker type" clothing going inside. On this basis, Officers Cho and Cervantes decided to investigate the warehouse.

Cortez was standing near the half-open door of the warehouse as the officers approached. The officers told Cortez that they were conducting a theft investigation and needed to speak to whomever was in charge of the event. Cortez told the officers that the event was a " private party" and that they could not come in unless they had a search warrant. He then began backing toward the warehouse.

The officers observed that Cortez--who is Hispanic and who was wearing dark clothing--matched the general description of the theft suspects and ordered him to stop. Cortez did not comply with this order; instead, he turned and ran into the warehouse. He then attempted to close the door, but Officer Cervantes struggled with him and was able to push the door open. The two officers entered the warehouse, seeking to subdue Cortez.

Once inside the warehouse, the officers observed Cortez " walking towards a large group." They ordered Cortez several more times to stop, but he did not do so. The officers then grabbed Cortez and began struggling with him. The crowd around Cortez shouted at the officers to let him go and moved toward the officers in what the officers described as an " aggressive manner." The officers dragged Cortez toward the door, with the crowd continuing to protest. As the officers reached the door, they were struck in the back of the head by a thin, light wooden partition that had been erected near the front door. (It is not known whether someone intentionally pushed over the partition or whether it simply fell by accident.) The impact startled the officers, but they were not injured. The two made it out of the warehouse, at which point Officer Cho handcuffed Cortez and took him into custody while Officer Cervantes called for backup.

Several officers responded to the call for backup, including Sergeant David Ross,

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who took charge at the scene. When the backup officers arrived, the crowd went back inside the warehouse, and James Lyall, one of the attendees, closed the door with the help of another man. The police began speaking to the attendees through the door, telling them to open it and come out. Lyall, an attorney, responded that the officers needed a warrant to come in. After a few minutes of back-and-forth between Lyall and the officers, Lyall broke off the conversation and moved away from the door. At that point, a group of attendees decided they wanted to obey the officers' orders and come out of the warehouse. After this group went out the door, Sasha Costanza-Chock, another attendee at the event, tried to close the door behind them, but the police pushed it open and ordered everyone out.

As the police began to clear out the warehouse, plaintiff Joseph Holliday, who was not participating in the event but was present at the warehouse that evening to work on sets for a student film, decided to go up on the roof of the warehouse with his assistant " rather than get pulled out the front and get arrested." Once the two reached the roof, they jumped across to the roof of a neighboring warehouse. A police helicopter located Holliday and his companion and ordered them off the roof. Holliday stayed briefly on the roof to place a cell-phone call to his mother but eventually complied with the order and came down. Holliday and his assistant were arrested for resisting a peace officer; they were later released without being formally charged with any offense.

Meanwhile, Sergeant Ross lined the rest of the event attendees against a chain-link fence. The police then conducted pat-down searches of all of the attendees for weapons. They also conducted a " field 'show-up'" with a witness from the convenience store in an attempt to identify suspects in the theft. The witness identified one person in the lineup, Eduardo Ramirez, and the police put Ramirez under arrest. Several other attendees, including Cortez, were arrested for resisting a peace officer in violation of California Penal Code § 148. After about 45 minutes, the police permitted the attendees in the line-up to leave the area. Sergeant Ross then padlocked the warehouse door shut in order to secure the building.

Two days after the event, on November 18, 2008, Cortez pleaded guilty to an infraction[2] violation of California Penal Code § 415 (disturbing the peace) based on his encounter with the officers. Cortez was entitled to appeal the judgment of conviction under California law, Cal. Penal Code § 1466(b)(1), but did not do so. He later attempted to expunge the conviction but was unable to do so because expungement is not available for infractions. See id. § 1203.4(b).

B. Procedural Background

Two groups of plaintiffs represented by the same attorney ultimately filed materially identical lawsuits against the City of Los Angeles, the LAPD, Chief of Police William Bratton, and six officers present at the scene, including Officers Ross, Cho, and Cervantes. The plaintiffs in the first lawsuit, which commenced in October 2009, were Lyall, Cortez, Costanza- Chock, Holliday, and three additional attendees at the event: D'Angelo Jones, Magnolia Becerra, and Benjamin Wood. The plaintiffs in the second lawsuit, which commenced in September 2010, were Lopez and Jessica Rodriguez,

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an attendee.[3] The complaint in each case stated three claims: (1) a § 1983 claim for violation of the plaintiffs' First Amendment rights of free speech and association; (2) a § 1983 claim for violation of the Fourth Amendment, based on the officers' warrantless entry into the warehouse, their arrest of several of the plaintiffs, the pat-down searches of the plaintiffs, and the plaintiffs' detention in the field show-up; and (3) a claim under the Bane Act, a California statute that provides a cause of action for persons deprived of federal or state constitutional rights by " threat, intimidation, or coercion." Cal. Civ. Code § 52.1(b).

After discovery, the defendants moved for partial summary judgment in the Lyall case, arguing (among other things) that Cortez's unreasonable-seizure claim was barred by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 114 S.Ct. 2364, 129 L.Ed.2d 383 (1994), because it challenged the validity of his ยง 415 conviction, which had not been vacated or overturned, and that the plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment claims relating to the warrantless entry into the warehouse failed as a matter of law because none of the plaintiffs had a ...


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