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Hamberlin v. State

United States District Court, D. Arizona

July 23, 2019

James D Hamberlin, et al., Plaintiffs,
State of Arizona, et al., Defendants.


          Douglas L. Rayes United States District Judge.

         Plaintiffs James and Christine Hamberlin allege that Defendants State of Arizona and Officer Kriselle Colvin of the Arizona Fish and Game Department unlawfully searched Plaintiffs' home in violation of their Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Before the Court is Plaintiffs' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment Regarding the Binding Effect of Superior Court Ruling on Lack of Probable Cause. (Doc. 22.) The motion is fully briefed and neither party requested oral argument. For the following reasons, Plaintiffs' motion is granted in part and denied in part.

         I. Background

         Officer Colvin obtained four search warrants related to James Hamberlin (“Dr. Hamberlin”). A warrant issued for Dr. Hamberlin's person, home, vehicle, and powered parachute (“Home Warrant”). (Doc. 22-9.) Warrants also issued for Dr. Hamberlin's cell phone records and social media accounts (collectively the “Other Warrants”). (Docs. 22-6; 22-10; 22-11.) On April 10, 2018, Dr. Hamberlin filed a motion to controvert the Home Warrant, arguing among other things that it lacked probable cause and was overbroad. (Doc. 22-13.) Dr. Hamberlin's motion did not seek to convert the Other Warrants. The Superior Court held a hearing on the motion to controvert. (Doc. 22-3 at 8-70; Doc. 23.) Following the hearing, the Superior Court issued an advisory ruling, granting the motion to controvert the Home Warrant based on the lack of probable cause. (Doc. 22-1.) Subsequently, the Superior Court incorporated its advisory ruling in a final order. (Doc. 22-16.) The State appealed and that appeal remains pending.[1] (Doc. 22-17 at 54.)

         II. Legal Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate if the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, demonstrates “that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A fact is material if it might affect the outcome of the case, and a dispute is genuine if a reasonable jury could find for the nonmoving party based on the competing evidence. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Villiarimo v. Aloha Island Air, Inc., 281 F.3d 1054, 1061 (9th Cir. 2002). Summary judgment may also be entered “against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

         The party seeking summary judgment “bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of [the record] which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Id. at 323. The burden then shifts to the non-movant to establish the existence of a genuine and material factual dispute. Id. at 324. Thus, the nonmoving party must show that the genuine factual issues “‘can be resolved only by a finder of fact because they may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party.'” Cal. Architectural Bldg. Prods., Inc. v. Franciscan Ceramics, Inc., 818 F.2d 1466, 1468 (9th Cir. 1987) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250).

         III. Discussion

         Plaintiffs' argument is two-fold. First, Plaintiffs contend that collateral estoppel should apply to the Superior Court's finding that the Home Warrant lacked probable cause. Second, Plaintiffs assert that the Superior Court's ruling on the Home Warrant should be extended to the Other Warrants, precluding litigation on whether probable cause exists as to the Other Warrants as well.

         Collateral estoppel “precludes relitigation of an issue already litigated in a previous proceeding between the same parties.” Pike v. Hester, 891 F.3d 1131, 1138 (9th Cir. 2018). State court judgments must be given the “preclusive effect that those judgments would enjoy under the law of the state in which the judgment was rendered.” Far Out Prods., Inc. v. Oskar, 247 F.3d 986, 993 (9th Cir. 2001). Because an Arizona Superior Court decision is at issue, Arizona issue preclusion law applies.

         Under Arizona law, issue preclusion applies when (1) “the issue is actually litigated in the previous proceeding;” (2) “there is a full and fair opportunity to litigate the issue;” (3) “resolution of such issue is essential to the decision;” (4) there is a valid and final decision on the merits;” and (5) “there is a common identity of the parties.” Hawkins v. State Dep't of Econ. Sec., 900 P.2d 1236, 1239 (Ariz.Ct.App. 1995); see also Clusiau v. Clusiau Enterprises, Inc., 236 P.3d 1194, 1196 (Ariz.Ct.App. 2010) (adopting Restatement (Second) of Judgments (1982)). As the party asserting issue preclusion, Plaintiffs have the burden of establishing these elements. Bayless v. Indus. Comm'n of Ariz., 880 P.2d 654, 659 (Ariz.Ct.App. 1993).

         A. Home Warrant

         With respect to the Home Warrant, there is no dispute that the probable cause issue was actually litigated, that the issue was essential to the Superior Court's order controverting the Home Warrant, that the order was a valid and final decision on the merits, and that a common identity exists. Defendants challenge only whether they had a full and fair opportunity to litigate the issue of probable cause in the prior proceeding.

         The Restatement (Second) of Judgments § 28 sets out factors that guide the determination whether there has been a full and fair ...

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