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Schaffer v. Hooten

United States District Court, D. Arizona

March 5, 2018

George W. Schaffer, Plaintiff,
v.
Larry Hooten and Daniel Morales, Defendants.

          ORDER

          David G. Campbell, United States District Judge

         Pro se Plaintiff George Schaffer filed a complaint against Defendants Larry Hooten and Daniel Morelez, [1] alleging federal and state law violations arising from their encounter with and detention of Plaintiff on July 29, 2016. Doc. 17. Defendants now move for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c). Doc. 24. The motion is fully briefed, and no party requests oral argument. For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant Defendants' motion in part and deny it in part.

         I. Background.

         For purposes of this motion, Plaintiff's factual allegations are accepted as true. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Plaintiff is a resident of Yavapai County, Arizona, and a first responder for the Skull Valley Fire Department. Doc. 17 ¶¶ 4, 7. Defendants are Yavapai County Deputy Sheriffs. Id. ¶ 5. At all times relevant to this complaint, Defendants were in uniform, armed, and acting in their official capacities as law enforcement officers. Id. ¶¶ 5, 17, 33.

         Plaintiff and Defendants participated in an emergency response call with the fire and sheriff's departments on July 29, 2016. Id. ¶ 7; Doc. 22 ¶ 7. After concluding the call, Defendant Hooten asked Plaintiff to participate in a debriefing. Doc. 17 ¶ 8. “Plaintiff reacted with an involuntary, non-threatening mild expression.” Id. ¶ 9. Defendant Hooten then asked Plaintiff to state his full name and date of birth. Id. ¶ 12. Plaintiff responded: “You don't need that.” Id. ¶ 13. Defendant Hooten continued to request his name and date of birth, and Plaintiff continued to refuse. Id. ¶¶ 14-15. When Plaintiff departed to end the encounter, Defendants pursued Plaintiff and demanded that he place his hands on a vehicle. Id. ¶¶ 16-18. Plaintiff complied, and Defendant Hooten gave him “two seconds” to provide his name and date of birth. Id. ¶¶ 19-20. Defendant Morelez then handcuffed Plaintiff, and Defendant Hooten threatened to arrest him. Id. ¶¶ 21-23. Defendants removed the handcuffs after approximately ten minutes, and Plaintiff was free to leave. Id. ¶¶ 24-25.

         Plaintiff alleges that this detention caused injuries “including but not limited to loss of liberty, loss of sleep, stress and anxiety, and emotional distress experienced during the interrogation, assault and arrest, and after, potential damage to his professional reputation, and defamation of character.” Id. ¶ 40. Plaintiff seeks $197, 600 in damages, an injunction barring further restraints on his liberty without suspicion, and an order that Defendants abide by their oaths as law enforcement officers. Id. ¶¶ 49-52.

         II. Legal Standard.

         Rule 12(c) is functionally identical to Rule 12(b)(6) and the same standard applies to motions brought under either rule. Gregg v. Haw. Dep't of Pub. Safety, 870 F.3d 883, 887 (9th Cir. 2017). Thus, a successful Rule 12(c) motion must show either that the complaint lacks a cognizable legal theory or fails to allege facts sufficient to support its theory. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1988). A complaint that sets forth a cognizable legal theory will survive a motion for judgment on the pleadings as long as it contains “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “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. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

         A pro se plaintiff's factual allegations are held “to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). The rule of liberal construction of pleadings is “‘particularly important in civil rights cases.'” Garmon v. Cty. of L.A., 828 F.3d 837, 846 (9th Cir. 2016) (quoting Ferdik v. Bonzelet, 963 F.2d 1258, 1261 (9th Cir. 1992)).

         III. Discussion.

         Plaintiff sues Defendants for (1) criminal deprivation of rights under color of state law in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 242, (2) criminal violations of A.R.S. §§ 13-1204 and 13-2412, and (3) deprivation of rights under the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Doc. 17 ¶¶ 41-47.

         A. Criminal Deprivation of Rights.

         Plaintiff alleges a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 242, a federal criminal statute that prohibits the deprivation of rights under the color of state law. Doc. 17 at 5, ¶ 35. Defendants argue that the Court must dismiss Plaintiff's claim because § 242 does not provide a private right of action. Doc. 24 at 12. Plaintiff acknowledges that he made a mistake by citing § 242, but does not move to dismiss this claim. Doc. 25 at 4. Section 242 is a criminal statute that does not create a private right of action. Allen v. Gold Country Casino, 464 F.3d 1044, 1048 (9th Cir. 2006) (18 U.S.C. § 242 does “not give rise to civil liability”). The Court accordingly will dismiss this claim.

         B. ...


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