United States District Court, D. Idaho
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER RE: DEFENDANTS'
MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DOCKET NO. 16) PLAINTIFF'S
MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DOCKET NO. 18) JOINT
STIPULATED MOTION TO CONTINUE TRIAL (DOCKET NO. 30)
E. Bush Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge
pending before the Court are Defendants' Motion for
Summary Judgment (Docket No. 16), Plaintiff's Motion for
Partial Summary Judgment (Docket No. 18), and the
parties' Joint Stipulated Motion to Continue Trial
(Docket No. 30). Having carefully considered the record,
participated in oral argument, and otherwise being fully
advised, the Court enters the following Memorandum Decision
case arises out of a traffic stop that occurred in Boundary
County, Idaho, on March 18, 2015. At 7:30 p.m. that evening,
Defendant William Cowell, an officer with the Bonners Ferry
Police Department, pulled over Plaintiff Brother Timothy
Marie Pida, a Catholic Hermit, for speeding (traveling 53 mph
in a 35 mph traffic zone). Greeting Officer Cowell with a
“Peace be with you officer, ” Plaintiff
apologized and indicated that he likely did not see the
multiple speed limit signs because he was talking on his cell
phone and was not paying attention.
of the traffic stop, Officer Cowell asked Plaintiff for his
driver's license, registration, and proof of insurance.
According to Officer Cowell, Plaintiff “appeared to be
extremely nervous” as he variously explained that he
was returning (to Eureka, Montana) from Spokane, Washington;
had been working with Mother Theresa's Sisters, providing
aid to people who were dying; had an elderly mother with
health problems; and had a brother who was a state policeman.
After securing the requested information, Officer Cowell
returned to his patrol vehicle and ran Plaintiff's
vehicle through dispatch.
here, Officer Cowell also made a call to Agent
Clancy Harris with the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, asking
Agent Harris if he was nearby and could respond with his
police dog to perform a “canine drug sniff.”
Officer Cowell was suspicious of Plaintiff's behavior
after being pulled over and overall appearance (Plaintiff was
wearing the raiment of a Catholic Hermit); he also smelled
what he believed to be the odor of marijuana and cayenne
pepper (a potential masking agent) coming from
Plaintiff's vehicle. Agent Harris indicated that,
“if [you] can hang out, I can make it in about ten
minutes.” Officer Cowell agreed and began filling out
an Idaho Uniform Citation for speeding.
Agent Harris arrived on the scene approximately 12 minutes
later, Officer Cowell was still in the process of completing
the citation. When he finished, he exited his patrol vehicle
and had the following exchange with Agent Harris:
Harris: How many people in there?
Cowell: There's one.
Cowell: Yeah. Ok, he's Spokane to Eureka. Ummm, I'm
getting an odor that, gotta faint, faint odor of green and
then an odor like cayenne.
Harris: Oh, ok.
Cowell: The guy is a, hmm, in full Catholic priest, uh, yeah,
Harris: Uh huh.
Cowell: He's on the phone with my dying Mother. I've
been down with mother Theresa's Sisters in Spokane
helping people that, that, you know, they're dying.
He's nervous, he, ah, couldn't find his driver's
license, ahh, my brother's a State Trooper.
Cowell: Yeah, things aren't adding up.
Harris: Alright, I'll talk to him real quick and take the
dog around and see if he detects?
Cowell then returned to Plaintiff's vehicle to give him
back his information and issue the citation. Simultaneously,
Agent Harris walked his dog around Plaintiff's vehicle to
have the dog sniff for drugs. Officer Cowell explained to
Plaintiff that he was issuing him a simple violation for
speeding and went over the general protocol for either paying
the fine or contesting the ticket. Officer Cowell then
returned to his patrol vehicle to retrieve additional
information on contacting the Boundary County Courthouse
(that Officer Cowell claimed to have forgotten to originally
give to Plaintiff) and, on his way back to Plaintiff's
vehicle, was informed by Agent Harris that his dog did not
alert to the presence of any drugs. Officer Cowell gave
Plaintiff the additional information, discussing what needed
to be done regarding the citation and possible court dates.
When finished, Plaintiff shook Officer Cowell's hand and
was free to leave.
entire traffic stop lasted approximately 23 minutes.
Plaintiff later contested the citation and was found guilty
of speeding after a trial on the merits on April 2, 2015.
has since filed a Complaint (and, later, a First Amended
Complaint) against the City of Bonners Ferry and Officer
Cowell under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, claiming that the traffic
stop was unduly prolonged for a canine drug sniff in
violation of the Fourth Amendment. See Pl.'s
First Am. Compl., ¶ 51 (Docket No. 1-3). Plaintiff also
alleges that Officer Cowell's negligence in extending a
routine traffic stop for the purpose of conducting a canine
drug sniff resulted in “severe scratches and
gouges” in the paint of Plaintiff's vehicle
(allegedly caused by Agent Harris's dog). See
id. at ¶¶ 26, 45, 47, & 49. Defendants now
move for summary judgment on each claim. See
generally Defs.' MSJ (Docket No. 16). Plaintiff
opposes these efforts, while also moving for partial summary
judgment on his § 1983 claim. See generally
Pl.'s MPSJ (Docket No. 18).
SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD
Rule of Civil Procedure 56 provides, in pertinent part, that
the “court shall grant summary judgment if the movant
shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material
fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “Only disputes over
facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the
governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary
judgment.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). For summary judgment purposes, an
issue must be both “material” and
“genuine.” An issue is “material” if
it affects the outcome of the litigation; an issue is
“genuine” if it 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); see also British Motor. Car Distrib. v. San
Francisco Auto. Indus. Welfare Fund, 883 F.2d 371, 374
(9th Cir. 1989). “Where the record taken as
a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for
the non-moving party, there is no genuine issue for
trial.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio
Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).
parties submit cross motions for summary judgment, courts
independently search the record for factual disputes. See
Fair Hous. Council of Riverside Cnty., Inc. v. Riverside
Two, 249 F.3d 1132, 1136 (9th Cir. 2001). The
filing of cross motions for summary judgment “where
both parties essentially assert that there are no material
factual disputes” does not vitiate a court's
responsibility to determine whether disputes as to material
facts are present. See id.
considering a motion for summary judgment, courts do not make
findings of fact or determine the credibility of witnesses.
See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. Rather, it must draw
all inferences and view all evidence in the light most
favorable to the nonmoving party. See Matsushita,
475 U.S. at 587-88; Whitman v. Mineta, 541 F.3d 929,
931 (9th Cir. 2008).
Officer Cowell is Entitled to Qualified Immunity on
Plaintiff's § 1983 Action
determining whether an officer is entitled to qualified
immunity, courts must determine (1) whether there has been a
violation of a constitutional right; and (2) whether that
right was clearly established at the time of the
officer's alleged misconduct. See Lal v.
California, 746 F.3d 1112, 1116 (9th Cir.
2014). Consequently, at summary judgment, an officer may be
denied qualified immunity in a § 1983 action “only
if (1) the facts alleged, taken in the light most favorable
to the party asserting injury, show that the officer's
conduct violated a constitutional right, and (2) the right at
issue was clearly established at the time of the incident
such that a reasonable officer would have understood his or
her conduct to be unlawful in that situation.”
Torres v. City of Madera, 648 F.3d 1119, 1123
(9th Cir. 2011).
there is no dispute that Officer Cowell's initial seizure
of Plaintiff (pulling him over for speeding) was based on
probable cause and was concededly lawful. However, a seizure
that is lawful at its inception can nonetheless violate the
Fourth Amendment if its manner of execution unreasonably
infringes interests protected by the Constitution. See
Illinois v. Caballes, 543 U.S. 405, 407 (2005). Using a
trained narcotics-detection dog (even without probable cause)
during a lawful traffic stop, does not, in and of itself,
automatically implicate privacy interests. See id.
at 409 (“Any intrusion on respondent's privacy
expectations [via canine drug sniff] does not rise to the
level of a constitutionally cognizable infringement.”).
But where a canine drug sniff adds any time to an otherwise
lawful traffic stop, its use must be supported by an
independent, reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.
See Rodriguez v. U.S., 135 S.Ct. 1609, 1614-16
(2015) (police may not extend otherwise-completed traffic
stop, absent reasonable suspicion to conduct canine drug
the merits of each party's motion for summary judgment
(at least with respect to Plaintiff's § 1983 claim
and alleged Fourth Amendment violation) depend on (1) whether
Officer Cowell prolonged Plaintiff's traffic stop to
conduct a canine drug sniff and, if so, (2) whether Officer
Cowell had reasonable suspicion of criminal activity so as to
justify extending the traffic stop by using a canine drug
sniff. If there is no unreasonable delay or Officer
Cowell had the requisite reasonable suspicion to use a canine
drug sniff and, thus, delay Plaintiff's traffic stop,
Defendants prevail; conversely, if there is an unreasonable
delay and no corresponding reasonable suspicion,
outset, the Court cannot conclude as a matter of law that
Officer Cowell had reasonable suspicion to add time to
Plaintiff's traffic stop for the purpose of conducting a
canine drug sniff. Officer Cowell admitted as much during his