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Ericson v. Browder

United States District Court, D. Arizona

January 11, 2016

Matthew Ericson, Plaintiff,
v.
Rebekah Browder, et al., Defendants.

ORDER

Honorable G. Murray Snow United States District Judge

Pending before the Court is the Motion to Dismiss by Defendants. (Doc. 7.) For the following reasons, the Court grants the motion.

BACKGROUND

The facts, as described in the Complaint (Doc. 1-1 at 22-26), are as follows. On September 7, 2011, officers from the City of Sedona Police Department, the City of Phoenix Police Department, and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, working under the direct orders and supervision of Bill Montgomery of the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, raided temples in Sedona and Phoenix and seized certain personal belongings of Plaintiff Matthew Ericson, including a 1998 Lexus automobile, computers, camera equipment, and copyrighted artwork created by Ericson, a professional artist. Ericson was not arrested and has never been charged with any crimes.

On multiple occasions in 2011, Ericson requested the return of his property from various parties, including Maricopa County Attorney Rebekah Browder and Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Paul McMurdie. On December 20, 2011, Ericson filed a letter with Maricopa County Superior Court requesting the same. Ericson never received a forfeiture notice and was denied access to records regarding the seizure by every agency he contacted. On February 16, 2012, Erickson filed an objection to the forfeiture with the Clerk of the Superior Court. (Doc. 7-1 at 3.)[1]

In November of 2013, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Sherry Stephens issued an order to Ed Leiter, the prosecutor in a criminal case in which Ericson was involved as a non-party, to determine the status of Ericson’s seized property.

On February 26, 2014, Ericson learned that his property had been forfeited in a “civil matter” and that Detective Spaw, who was in charge of the Maricopa County Prosecutor’s forfeiture division, was unaware of the criminal case that would support the seizure of Ericson’s property. In March 2014, Leiter informed Ericson that his car had been forfeited and sold and the whereabouts of his other property were unknown. On March 7, 2014, Prosecutor Leiter informed Judge Stephens that the seizure occurred before he became involved in the case and stated that Ericson would need to pursue civil remedies. Judge Stephens agreed.

One year later, on March 6, 2015, Ericson filed his Complaint in state court, asserting two state claims, negligence (Count 1) and “theft” (Count 2), as well as one federal claim, “violation of civil rights” (Count 3). Defendants removed the case to federal court because the Complaint alleges civil rights violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

DISCUSSION

I. Legal Standard

“A Rule 12(b)(6) motion tests the legal sufficiency of a claim.” Navarro v. Block, 250 F.3d 729, 732 (9th Cir. 2001). “In deciding such a motion, all material allegations of the complaint are accepted as true, as well as all reasonable inferences to be drawn from them.” Id. However, “the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

To survive dismissal for failure to state a claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must contain more than “labels and conclusions” or a “formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action”; it must contain factual allegations sufficient to “raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). A plaintiff must allege sufficient facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. “The plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement, ’ but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id.

II. Analysis

A. State Law Claims (Counts 1 and ...


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