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West v. United States

United States District Court, D. Arizona

February 28, 2018

Carl West, Plaintiff,
United States of America, et al., Defendants.


          Honorable G. Murray Snow United States District Judge.

         Pending before the Court is Defendant United States of America's Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. 28). For the reasons below, the Court grants the motion.


         In 2002, a joint investigation between Mesa police and the FBI led to the arrest of plaintiff Carl West. An FBI Agent, Joe Gordwin, had obtained wiretaps involving conversations between Mr. West and his criminal co-defendants about burglarizing a warehouse in downtown Phoenix, Arizona. In 2003, a jury in Arizona Superior Court convicted Mr. West for conspiracy to commit armed robbery and the court sentenced him to a twenty year prison term based on the wiretap evidence and the testimony of his co-conspirators.

         In 2008, Agent Gordwin pled guilty to various criminal charges for misconduct resulting from a concealed intimate relationship with the wife of one of Mr. West's co-conspirators. On June 18, 2008, Mr. West heard about Agent Gordwin's indictment, and Mr. West immediately sought counsel to help obtain post-trial relief. At a subsequent hearing on West's petition in December 2010, several witnesses recanted their trial testimony and revealed that Gordwin had coerced the testimony of some of West's co-conspirators, including Gordwin's mistress. On February 11, 2011, West was preliminary released on ankle monitoring, and the criminal charges against him were eventually dismissed on August 19, 2013.

         Mr. West filed the present claim on February 11, 2013. The lawsuit alleged fourteen counts: (1) abuse of process; (2) malicious prosecution; (3) negligence; (4) intentional infliction of emotional distress; (5) negligent supervision; (6) violation of civil rights (malicious prosecution, false arrest and/or wrongful conviction) under 12 U.S.C. § 1983; (7) false arrest; (8) deliberate fabrication of evidence under § 1983; (9) wrongful conviction; (10) false imprisonment; (11) negligent misrepresentation; (12) fraud; (13) conspiracy; and (14) punitive damages. (Doc. 1 at 12-24). The United States filed a motion to dismiss, requesting the Court to dismiss all counts on the basis of either a lack of subject matter jurisdiction or failure to exhaust administrative remedies. (Doc. 10).

         The Court dismissed counts One, Two, and Three without prejudice by stipulation. (Doc. 15). The Court dismissed counts Five, Eleven, Twelve, and Thirteen without prejudice because the claims had not yet accrued. (Doc. 15). The Court dismissed counts Six and Eight with prejudice because a Section 1983 suit may not be brought against the United States. (Doc. 15). The Court dismissed count Nine with prejudice because “wrongful conviction” is not a recognized claim under Arizona law. (Doc. 15). The Court dismissed Counts Four, Seven, and Ten because the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”) requires claimants to exhaust administrative remedies and to seek administrative relief within two years after the claim accrues. (Doc. 15). The Court dismissed these claims with prejudice because, even if West subsequently attempted to request administrative remedies, such claims would be barred by the two year statute of limitations. (Doc. 15).

         Mr. West appealed the decision to dismiss certain counts with prejudice. During the appeal, the United States Supreme Court confirmed that plaintiffs may seek equitable tolling of claims against the United States under the FTCA. United States v. Wong, 135 S.Ct. 1625, 1638 (2015). The Ninth Circuit “reverse[d] the dismissal with prejudice of Counts 4, 7, 9 and 10 so that West may refile and seek equitable tolling of those claims.” West v. United States, No. 13-16909, Ninth Cir., Doc. 49.

         Mr. West filed a second amended complaint on July 23, 2018. The complaint charged three counts against the United States: a state claim for false arrest (Count Two), a state claim for wrongful conviction (Count Three), and a state claim for false or wrongful imprisonment (Count Four). The United States subsequently filed this motion to dismiss, claiming that Mr. West's complaint is untimely and fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. (Doc. 28).


         I. Legal Standard

         The United States requests the Court to dismiss all claims for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). 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). 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). Plausibility requires “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. 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.” 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

         The FTCA operates as a limited waiver of sovereign immunity, “making the Federal Government liable to the same extent as a private party for certain torts of federal employees acting within the scope of their employment.” U.S. v. Orleans, 425 U.S. 807, 813 (1976). “A tort claim against the United States shall be forever barred unless it is presented in writing to the ...

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