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West v. City of Caldwell

United States District Court, D. Idaho

January 22, 2019

SHANIZ WEST, an individual, Plaintiff,
CITY OF CALDWELL; CITY OF CALDWELL POLICE DEPARTMENT; FORMER CHIEF CHRIS ALLGOOD in his official and individual capacity; SERGEANT DOUG WINFIELD in his official and individual capacity; LIEUTENANT ALAN SEEVERS in his official and individual capacity; OFFICER MATTHEW RICHARDSON in his official and individual capacity in his official and individual capacity; and DOES I-X, Defendants.


          Ronald E. Bush Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge

         Now pending before the Court are (1) Defendants' Motion to Stay (Docket No. 55), and (2) Plaintiff's Motion to Retain Jurisdiction and Certify Defendants' Appeal as Frivolous (Docket No. 57). Having carefully considered the record and otherwise being fully advised, the Court enters the following Memorandum Decision and Order:

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         Plaintiff Shaniz West alleges that Defendants violated her Fourth Amendment rights to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. Plaintiff's claims arise from the August 11, 2014 search of the house she was living in (the “Residence”) for wanted felon Fabian Salinas. That day, police officers responded to a 911 call from Plaintiff's grandmother, requesting assistance at the Residence because Mr. Salinas was inside, on drugs, and threatening Plaintiff with a BB gun. After arriving at the Residence, police officers knocked on the door and called out for Mr. Salinas or Plaintiff but received no response.

         Plaintiff had left the Residence earlier to register her son for elementary school. When she returned, a short time after the police officers had arrived, Plaintiff approached the police officers from the sidewalk. Plaintiff told the officers that Mr. Salinas had been there earlier to retrieve his belongings, that she told him to leave, and that she was unsure whether he was still inside. The officers believing that Plaintiff may not have been telling the truth about Mr. Salinas's location. Detective Matthew Richardson told her that if Mr. Salinas was inside the Residence and she did not tell officers that fact, then she could be in trouble for harboring a felon. Plaintiff then said that Mr. Salinas was in the Residence and gave the police a key and permission to enter the Residence.

         After Plaintiff left the scene, a police SWAT Team (consisting of 18 officers) arrived, which include an armored vehicle that was then parked in front of the Residence. The SWAT Team made loudspeaker announcements telling Mr. Salinas to come out of the Residence, but he did not come out. The SWAT Team then used a shotgun to shoot tear gas canisters through windows and the garage door. The SWAT Team waited approximately 1 ½ hours for the tear gas to spread throughout the Residence, continuing to call on Mr. Salinas to exit the Residence. Mr. Salinas did not come out. The SWAT Team then attempted to enter the Residence, using the key obtained from Plaintiff to unlock the front door and the deadbolt; however, the front door was chained shut. The entry team then moved to the back door where the glass was already removed from the tear gas cannister that had been shot through the door. A SWAT team member made entry by reaching an arm through the broken glass and unlocking the back door.

         After entering the Residence, the entry team “held” and again called out for Mr. Salinas. There was no response. The entry team moved further into the Residence, held again, and called out for Mr. Salinas again. Eventually, the entry team searched the entire house, but Mr. Salinas was never located. Apparently, he had left the Residence earlier that day.

         When Plaintiff was permitted to re-enter her Residence, she claims that she found it destroyed. According to Plaintiff, her and her children's personal belongings were saturated with tear gas, debris from the walls and ceilings littered the Residence, and broken glass was everywhere. Plaintiff and her children were not able to re-occupy the Residence until two months later. The City of Caldwell paid for Plaintiff and her children to live in a hotel for three weeks and paid Plaintiff $900.00 for damage to her personal property.

         In this lawsuit, Plaintiff brings three claims against Defendants City of Caldwell and the Caldwell Police Department (collectively the “Caldwell City Defendants”), Chris Allgood (the Chief of the Caldwell Police Department), Doug Winfield (the Caldwell Police SWAT Team Leader), Alan Seevers (the SWAT Team Commander), Detective Richardson, and unnamed officers from the Caldwell Police Department involved in the August 11, 2014 raid at the Residence: (1) Unreasonable Search (against all Defendants); (2) Unreasonable Seizure (against all Defendants); and (3) Conversion (against only the non-Caldwell City Defendants).

         B. Procedural Background

         On April 10, 2017, Plaintiff moved for summary judgment. Defendants opposed Plaintiff's summary judgment efforts on May 1, 2017 and moved separately for summary judgment against Plaintiff. Following oral argument, the Court (1) denied Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment and (2) granted, in part, and denied, in part, Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. See generally 3/28/18 MDO (Docket No. 48). Relevant here, as to the latter disposition, the Court concluded that qualified immunity neither applied to Detective Richardson (on the issue of whether Plaintiff's consent was voluntary or coerced) nor to SWAT Team Commander Seevers and SWAT Team Leader Winfield (at least to the extent their conduct was premised upon the development and execution of the tactical plan used to extract Mr. Salinas from the Residence). See id. at pp. 23-25, 30-31 (citing Davis v. United States, 854 F.3d 594, 601 (9th Cir. 2017) (holding officers are not entitled to qualified immunity as matter of law where genuine issues of material fact exist regarding whether seizure was reasonable); McCloskey v. Courtnier, 2012 WL 646219, *3 (N.D. Cal. 2012) (“[B]ecause the facts relevant to the issue of qualified immunity are inextricably intertwined with the disputed facts relevant to the issue of excessive force, defendants are not entitled to summary adjudication on the issue of qualified immunity.”)).[1]

         On April 17, 2018, Defendants (Detective Richardson, SWAT Team Commander Seevers and SWAT Team Leader Winfield only) filed a Notice of Appeal, appealing “the Court's Memorandum Decision and Order denying [their] Motion for Summary Judgment for Qualified Immunity . . . .” Not. of Appeal (Docket No. 50). Thereafter, Defendants' counsel asked the court whether a stay would be entered given Defendants' appeal.

         A status conference was held on April 24, 2018, during which Defendants' counsel argued that a stay should be entered under applicable law. Plaintiff's counsel disagreed, arguing that the Court's denial of these individual Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment on qualified immunity grounds was based on questions of ...

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