Rafael Mateos Sandoval; Simeon Avendano Ruiz, individually and as class representatives, Plaintiffs-Appellees,
County of Sonoma; Sonoma County Sheriff's Office; Steve Freitas, Defendants, and City of Santa Rosa; Santa Rosa Police Department; Tom Schwedhelm, Defendants-Appellants. Rafael Mateos Sandoval; Simeon Avendano Ruiz, individually and as class representatives, Plaintiffs-Appellees,
County of Sonoma; Sonoma County Sheriff's Office; Steve Freitas, Defendants-Appellants, and City of Santa Rosa; Santa Rosa Police Department; Tom Schwedhelm, Defendants. Rafael Mateos Sandoval; Simeon Avendano Ruiz, individually and as class representatives, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
County of Sonoma; Sonoma County Sheriff's Office; Steve Freitas; City of Santa Rosa; Santa Rosa Police Department; Tom Schwedhelm, Defendants-Appellees.
and Submitted September 11, 2018 San Francisco, California
from the United States District Court Nos. 3:11-cv-05817-TEH,
3:11-cv-05817-TEH, 3:11-cv-05817-TEH for the Northern
District of California Thelton E. Henderson, Senior District
Timothy T. Coates (argued) and Alison M. Turner, Greines
Martin Stein & Richland LLP, Los Angeles, California;
Robert L. Jackson, Assistant City Attorney, City
Attorney's Office, Santa Rosa, California; for
Defendants-Appellants/Cross-Appellees City of Santa Rosa,
Santa Rosa Polic Department, and Tom Schwedhelm.
L. Keck (argued), Keck Law Offices, Santa Rosa, California;
Richard W. Osman, Bertrand Fox Elliott Osman & Wenzel,
San Francisco, California; for
Defendants-Appellants/Cross-Appellees County of Sonoma,
Sonoma County Sheriff's Office, and Steve Freitas.
W. Cook (argued), Los Angeles, California; Alicia Roman, Law
Office of Alicia Roman, Santa Rosa, California; for
G. Hill, Senior Deputy; Thomas E. Montgomery, County Counsel;
Office of County Counsel, San Diego, California; for Amicus
Curiae California State Association of Counties.
Before: J. Clifford Wallace, Johnnie B. Rawlinson, and Paul
J. Watford, Circuit Judges.
panel affirmed the district court's summary judgment and
its denial of class certification in an action brought
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law by two
plaintiffs whose vehicles were impounded for 30 days because
they had not been issued California driver's licenses.
Vehicle Code § 14602.6(a)(1) provides that a peace
officer may impound a vehicle for 30 days if the
vehicle's driver has never been issued a driver's
license. California authorities interpreted section 14602.6
as applying to individuals who had never been issued a
California driver's license. Applying this
interpretation, law enforcement officials impounded
plaintiffs' vehicles for 30-days even though plaintiffs
attempted to have friends with valid California licenses take
possession of the vehicles.
Brewster v. Beck, 859 F.3d 1194, 1196-97 (9th Cir.
2017), the panel first noted that 30-day impounds under
section 14602.6 are seizures for Fourth Amendment purposes
and that the only issue in this case was whether the impounds
were reasonable under the Fourth Amendment. The panel held
that although the state's interest in keeping unlicensed
drivers off the road provided a "community
caretaking" exception to the Fourth Amendment, the
application of the exception turned on the facts and
circumstances of each case. The panel determined that
defendants had failed to provide any justifications for the
impounds other than general arguments that such impounds were
justified as a deterrence or penalty. The panel rejected
these arguments, at least on the facts of this case, and held
that the district court did not err by granting summary
judgment for plaintiffs on their Fourth Amendment claims.
panel affirmed the district court's summary judgment for
plaintiffs on their claim that the County of Sonoma and the
City of Santa Rosa were liable for money damages as final
policymakers who caused the constitutional violations. The
panel held that the impoundment of plaintiffs' vehicles
was not caused by state law, but by the defendants'
policies of impounding vehicles when the driver had never
been issued a California driver's license.
panel affirmed the district court's denial of class
certification for lack of commonality and typicality. The
panel held that because a 30-day impoundment is only
unconstitutional when it continues in the absence of a
warrant or any exception to the warrant requirement, the
district court correctly concluded that members of the
proposed classes would not be able to establish a Fourth
Amendment violation based solely on the 30-day impounds. The
district court further did not abuse its discretion by
finding the plaintiffs atypical.
panel affirmed the district court's summary judgment in
favor of defendants on the California Bane Act claim. The
panel held that under the circumstances of this case, it was
legally unclear whether the 30-day impounds were
"seizures" at all within the meaning of the Fourth
Amendment until this Court issued a decision in
Brewster in 2017. The plaintiffs' vehicles were
impounded in 2011, well before this date, and at that point
the County and City could not have had the requisite specific
intent to violate the plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment
Judge Watford stated that California Vehicle Code §
14602.6 is constitutionally deficient not because it runs
afoul of the Fourth Amendment, as the Court held in
Brewster, but because the post-seizure hearing it
affords does not comply with the Due Process Clause of the
WALLACE, CIRCUIT JUDGE
state law provides that a peace officer may impound a vehicle
for 30 days if the vehicle's driver has never been issued
a driver's license. Relying on this statute, local
authorities in California impounded two vehicles because
their drivers had not been issued California driver's
licenses. The drivers then sued the municipalities under 42
U.S.C. § 1983 and state civil rights law, contending
that the impounds violated the Fourth Amendment. The district
court granted summary judgment to the defendants on
plaintiffs' state law claims, denied class certification,
and granted summary judgment to the plaintiffs on their
section 1983 claims. The defendants now appeal from the
district court's summary judgment on the section 1983
claims; the plaintiffs cross-appeal from the denial of class
certification and summary judgment on the state law claims.
We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291, and we
California Vehicle Code § 14602.6(a)(1) provides:
Whenever a peace officer determines that a person was . . .
driving a vehicle without ever having been issued a
driver's license, the peace officer may either
immediately arrest that person and cause the removal and
seizure of that vehicle or, if the vehicle is involved in a
traffic collision, cause the removal and seizure of the
vehicle without the necessity of arresting the person in
accordance with [other law]. A vehicle so impounded shall be
impounded for 30 days.
whose vehicles are impounded under this section are entitled
to notice and a storage hearing, at which they may challenge
the impoundment. Id. § 14602.6(a)(2). The
storage agency must release the vehicle to the driver ...