Advanced Building & Fabrication, Inc., a California corporation; Robert Honan, Plaintiffs-Appellees,
California Highway Patrol; John Wilson, Defendants, and Curtis Ayers, Defendant-Appellant.
and Submitted December 19, 2018 San Francisco, California
from the United States District Court for the Eastern
District of California D.C. No. 2:13-cv-02380-MCE-CKD
Morrison C. England, Jr., District Judge, Presiding
Michael von Loewenfeldt (argued) and Daniel J. Veroff, Kerr
& Wagstaffe LLP, San Francisco, California, for
J. Estes (argued), Estes Law Group, San Rafael, California,
Before: Milan D. Smith, Jr. and Jacqueline H. Nguyen, Circuit
Judges, and Jane A. Restani, [*] Judge.
panel affirmed the district court's denial, on summary
judgment, of qualified immunity to Curtis Ayers, a former
employee of the California State Board of Equalization, in an
action brought against him by plaintiff Robert Honan and his
business alleging Ayers violated clearly established law by
participating in a search of plaintiff's business
following an altercation between Ayers and plaintiff.
who had mistaken plaintiff's business for another
business, arrived at plaintiff's premises without an
appointment, and identified himself as a Board of
Equalization employee, but did not present his ID badge. A
verbal altercation ensued and Ayers alleged that as he was
leaving, plaintiff tackled him and pushed him through the
door, resulting in Ayers dropping and damaging his laptop.
Ayers reported the incident and the California Highway Patrol
subsequently obtained a search warrant to search the premises
of plaintiff's business on the grounds that plaintiff
committed felony threats and vandalism against Ayers.
California Highway Patrol executed the warrant and Ayers
participated in the search, during which he allegedly
searched through plaintiff's personal property.
sued Ayers and other defendants, including California Highway
Patrol officers, alleging claims for state-law conversion and
other tort claims, as well as a federal claim under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983. The panel affirmed the denial of qualified
immunity to Ayers and resolved the remaining claims against
the other defendants in concurrently filed memorandum
panel rejected Ayers' contention that there was no Fourth
Amendment violation because California law permits State
Board of Equalization employees to request inspection of
sales records from any business, and that therefore his
participation in the search would qualify under the
"administrative search" exception to the warrant
requirement. The panel held that none of the state provisions
cited by Ayers authorized forcible entry or searches.
Moreover, even assuming that state law permitted warrantless
inspections of business records, the intrusive search here
would not withstand scrutiny under the Fourth Amendment. The
panel further held that Ayers's presence was not
necessary to aid in the officers' execution of the
warrant, which had the purpose of seizing evidence relating
to allegations of criminal threats and vandalism. Because
Ayers's presence was not related to the objective of the
search warrant, his conduct violated plaintiff's Fourth
Amendment rights. The panel remanded for further proceedings
consistent with the panel's opinion.
NGUYEN, CIRCUIT JUDGE:
Ayers, a former employee of the California State Board of
Equalization ("BOE"), appeals the district
court's denial of qualified immunity in a suit brought
against him by Plaintiffs Robert Honan and his business,
Advanced Building & Fabrication, Inc. ("Advanced
Building"). The allegations in the complaint stem from
an altercation between Ayers and Honan, which led to the
execution of a search warrant at Advanced Building by
officers of the California Highway Patrol ("CHP").
Honan contends that Ayers violated clearly established law by
participating in the search. We agree. Because the
administrative search exception does not apply and