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Henson v. City of Scottsdale

United States District Court, D. Arizona

August 2, 2017

Tanya Henson, et al., Plaintiffs,
City of Scottsdale, et al., Defendants.


          Honorable G. Murray Snow United States District Judge.

         Pending before the Court are Defendants Judge Statia Hendrix and Officer Michael Glass's Amended Motion to Dismiss, (Doc. 15), Defendants Karen Close, Natalie La Porte, and Cyndi Negron's Motion to Dismiss, (Doc. 16), and Defendants Jim Thompson, Judge James Blake, and Seth Peterson's Motion to Dismiss, (Doc. 33). Also pending are Plaintiffs Tom Henson and Tanya Henson's Motion to Strike, (Doc. 17), Motion for Time to Add Exhibits to the Motion to Strike, (Doc. 18), and Motion for Entry of Default, (Doc. 40). For the following reasons, Defendants Judge Statia Hendrix and Officer Michael Glass's Motion to Dismiss is granted. (Doc. 15.) Defendants Karen Close, Natalie La Porte, and Cyndi Negron's Motion to Dismiss, (Doc. 16), and Defendants Jim Thompson, Judge James Blake, and Seth Peterson's Motion to Dismiss, (Doc. 33) are granted. The Hensons' Motion to Strike, (Doc. 17), and Motion for Entry of Default, (Doc. 40), are both denied, and the Motion for Additional Time is denied as moot. (Doc. 18.)


         Thomas and Tanya Henson brought this suit under §§ 1983, 1985, 1986, and 1988 of Title 42 against various state actors and one private citizen, Mr. Salvatore Marsala, as well as a local company, All City Towing.[1] (Doc. 1.) Both Plaintiffs describe themselves as “sovereign individuals” “living in the geographical location known as Arizona.” (Id. at 2.)

         Pursuant to Mrs. Henson's account, she was driving her husband's car when Officer Glass turned on his lights and pulled her vehicle over. (Id. at 6.) Mrs. Henson proceeded to try to call her husband. (Id.) Officer Glass came to her window, took her phone away from her, and asked her to leave her vehicle. (Id. at 6-7.) Officer Glass proceeded to take pictures of the text messages on Mrs. Henson's phone that related to the charges for which she was subsequently arrested. (Id. at 7.) He then informed her that she was under arrest “for not obeying him.” (Id.)

         Mrs. Henson was removed to Officer Glass's police car, where she informed him that she needed to obtain her medicine. (Id. at 8.) At that time her vehicle was being towed, and she was unable to recover her medication prior to going to jail. (Id.) Mr. Henson eventually brought Mrs. Henson's medication to the jail later that evening, and Mrs. Henson was released shortly thereafter. (Id. at 8-9.)

         Upon release from jail, Mr. and Mrs. Henson were required to pay sixty-five dollars to have their vehicle released. (Id. at 10.) According to Mrs. Henson, Officer Glass obstructed her ability to obtain her phone from the police, eventually leading her husband to file an insurance claim to replace the phone before it was returned a week after it was taken. (Id. at 10-11.)

         Mrs. Henson appeared before Judge James Blake for her initial appearance. (Id. at 11.) At that time, she requested that Judge Blake establish that the Arizona Constitution and laws applied to her before proceeding. (Id. at 11.) Judge Blake entered a plea of not guilty on her behalf. (Id.) At a subsequent hearing, Judge Statia Hendrix presided. (Id.) Again, Mrs. Henson asserts that the Judge never explained whether jurisdiction was present. (Id.) Furthermore, at this hearing, Judge Hendrix refused to allow Mr. Henson, a non-attorney, to speak. (Id.) Judge pro tem Jennifer Dalton presided over Mrs. Henson's next hearing, where Mrs. Henson again attempted to argue that the charges against her could not stand due to the Court's lack of jurisdiction over her. (Id. at 12-13.) Judge Hendrix presided over Mrs. Henson's final hearing, where Mrs. Henson again unsuccessfully raised the issue of jurisdiction. (Id. at 13.) Mrs. Henson also alleges that Judge Hendrix failed to accommodate Mrs. Henson's schedule when she set the trial date. (Id.)

         Public records reflect that Mrs. Henson was arrested on charges of disorderly conduct, harassment by communication, harassment by following in public, and failure to obey a police officer.[2] (Doc. 15-1 at 2.) Mrs. Henson failed to appear at her bench trial, and she was found guilty of both of the harassment charges and the failure to obey a police officer charge. (Id. at 38.)

         Mr. and Mrs. Henson filed a total of thirteen charges against the Defendants, alleging causes of action that center on violations of the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments through §§ 1983, 1985, 1986, and 1988 of Title 42. (Doc. 1 at 15-18.) They seek $2, 000, 000 in compensatory damages and $500, 000 in punitive damages, as well as attorney's fees. (Id. at 18.) In response, the majority of the Defendants filed motions to dismiss. (Docs. 15, 16, 33.)


         I. Legal Standard

         To survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 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). While “a complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations . . . it must plead ‘enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Clemens v. DaimlerChrysler Corp., 534 F.3d 1017, 1022 (9th Cir. 2008) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). “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.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). The plausibility standard “asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. When a complaint does not “permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not shown-that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Id. at 679 (internal quotation omitted).

         When analyzing a complaint for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6), “[a]ll allegations of material fact are taken as true and construed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.”[3] Smith v. Jackson, 84 F.3d 1213, 1217 (9th Cir. 1996). However, legal conclusions couched as factual allegations are not given a presumption of truthfulness, and “conclusory allegations of law and unwarranted inferences are not sufficient to defeat a motion to dismiss.” Pareto v. FDIC, 139 F.3d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1998).

         II. Analysis

         A. Mr. Henson Fails to State a Claim Against the Defendants

         Mr. Henson alleges that he incurred costs from Officer Glass's impounding of his vehicle and seizure of his cell phone following his wife's arrest. (Doc. 1 at 16.) To establish a cause of action under § 1983, however, the Plaintiff must establish that Officer Glass's conduct deprived him of his rights under federal law. The Hensons' Complaint does not sufficiently allege that Officer Glass's impoundment of Mr. Henson's vehicle, or the seizure of Mr. Henson's cell phone, deprived him of his rights under federal law.[4]

         Arizona law authorizes a police officer to contact a company to tow a vehicle following the arrest of the driver. See A.R.S. § 28-872. Section 28-872(H) further provides that the owner of the vehicle that was properly removed by a tow truck company is responsible for paying the costs incurred by towing and impounding the vehicle. Id. The allegations of the complaint do not plausibly allege either that the law did not authorize Officer Glass to have the car towed, or that such authorization violates his rights under federal law. Therefore, Mr. Henson did not state a claim for which relief can be granted based on the towing of his vehicle.

         Likewise, Mr. Henson fails to sufficiently state a claim for unreasonable seizure of his cell phone. The Hensons allege that Mrs. Henson gave Officer Glass permission to “look at her phone for text messages.” (Doc. 1 at 7.) Thereafter, the cell phone was accordingly, we continue to construe pro se filings liberally when evaluating them under Iqbal.”). seized, and Mrs. Henson was arrested for harassment by communication and taken to the police station. Federal law permits the seizure of property if it constitutes evidence of a crime-“if evidence of crime is discovered, it may be seized and admitted in evidence.” United States v. Edwards, 415 U.S. 800, 803 (1974). A search of a cell phone's data without consent is impermissible until a warrant has been obtained, but Mr. Henson's claim arises out of being deprived of the phone due to its seizure, not due to any improper search. See generally Riley v. California, 134 S.Ct. 2473, 2493 (2014) (finding that searching an arrestee's cell phone data without consent or a warrant is impermissible under the Fourth Amendment). Therefore, because there is no plausible allegation in the complaint that the cell phone was improperly seized, Claim Five of the Complaint is dismissed without prejudice.

         B. Mrs. Henson's Monell Claims Fail to Meet the ...

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