United States District Court, D. Arizona
HONORABLE ROSEMARY MARQUEZ, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. (Doc.
25.) Defendants Bratt and Fortner argue that Plaintiff's
First Amended Complaint (“FAC”) (Doc. 24) fails
to state a cognizable claim, that relief is barred by the
doctrine of qualified immunity, and that the allegations
against Defendant Fortner lack the factual specificity
required to state a claim.
FAC alleges the following:
are Maricopa County Sheriff Deputies Bratt and Fortner. (Doc.
24 ¶¶ 29, 38.) At about 10:50 p.m. on August 30,
2016, Defendants were on patrol and initiated a stop of a
Ford Mustang. (Id. ¶¶ 9, 12.) Defendants
ordered two female passengers to exit the vehicle and asked
for their names and identification. (Id. ¶ 15.)
Neither woman had identification and both giggled while
providing Defendants their names. (Id. ¶¶
the women falsely identified herself to Defendants as
“Emily Cota.” (Id. at ¶ 19.) Deputy
Bratt ran that name through the Motor Vehicle Department
database but found that the photograph of Emily Cota on
record did not match the individual who had provided that
name. (Id. at ¶ 20.) The other female
passenger, now known to be Tania Hernandez, then falsely
stated that in fact she was “Emily Cota,
” and that she had “switched names” with
the other woman. (Id. ¶¶ 18, 21.) Ms.
Hernandez stands at least five feet and six inches tall and
weighs at least 160 pounds, while Emily Cota is five feet and
three inches tall and weighs 110 pounds. (Id. ¶
56.) Deputy Bratt asked Ms. Hernandez, who continued to
maintain that she was in fact “Emily Cota, ” for
her address. (Id. ¶ 22.) Ms. Hernandez provided
the address 580 W. Galveston Road, Chandler, Arizona, which
did not match Emily Cota's address on file. (Id.
¶¶ 22-23.) Ms. Hernandez told Deputy Bratt that the
address didn't match because she had just moved in with
the other occupants of the Mustang, but none of the
occupants' addresses matched the one given by Ms.
Hernandez. (Id. ¶¶ 24-25.) Deputy Bratt
then searched Ms. Hernandez's purse, finding state
identification and Social Security cards bearing the name
“Tania Hernandez.” (Id. ¶¶ 26,
the above-described indicia of unreliability as to Ms.
Hernandez's claim to be “Emily Cota, ”
Defendants conducted no further investigation into Ms.
Hernandez's identity. (Id. ¶ 59.) Neither
Defendant searched a police computer for the name Tania
Hernandez, which was found on her identification and Social
Security card. (Id. ¶ 67.) Neither Defendant
asked Ms. Hernandez why, if she was in fact “Emily
Cota, ” she was carrying identification for a Tania
Hernandez. (Id. ¶ 68.) Instead, they took Ms.
Hernandez's insistence that she was “Emily
Cota” at face value and conducted no further
investigation. (Id. ¶ 59.)
found marijuana in Ms. Hernandez's possession, and
subsequently completed an incident report swearing that the
marijuana was found in the possession of “Emily
Cota.” (Id. ¶ 47.) The incident report,
which was authored by Deputy Bratt, falsely stated that
Defendants had verified Emily Cota's identity
(Id. ¶ 72.) That incident report triggered a
felony criminal complaint against the real Emily Cota.
(Id. ¶ 73.) The report included the name, date
of birth, and driver's license number of the real Emily
Cota, information which Deputy Bratt retrieved from his
police computer. (Id. ¶ ¶ 50-55.) He did
not say in the report that he got this information from his
computer, nor that “Emily Cota” did not provide
any identification. (Id. ¶ 51.) Deputy
Bratt's incident report also did not state that he found
identification and a Social Security card with the name
“Tania Hernandez” on the person purporting to be
Emily Cota. (Id. ¶¶ 69-70.)
on the misstatements and omissions in the incident report, a
Maricopa County Judicial Officer found probable cause to
issue a summons for the real “Emily Cota.”
(Id. ¶¶ 73-75.) The summons was directed
to the address provided by Tania Hernandez, 580 W. Galveston
Road, Chandler Arizona. (Id. ¶ 30.) The summons
was returned to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office as
non-deliverable, and a warrant was subsequently issued for
Emily Cota's arrest. (Id. ¶¶ 31-32.)
Ms. Cota was forced to employ counsel to respond to the
warrant and the pending criminal charges. (Id.
¶ 33.) The charges were eventually dismissed without
prejudice on February 7, 2018. (Id. ¶ 37.)
filed her Complaint on August 10, 2018. (Doc. 1.) Defendants
filed a Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim (Doc.
18) as well as an Answer (Doc. 17). On February 01, 2019, the
Court granted Defendants' Motion to Dismiss and granted
Plaintiff leave to file an amended complaint. (Doc. 23.)
Plaintiff filed the operative FAC on February 12, 2019. (Doc.
24.) Plaintiff's FAC alleges two causes of action under
42 U.S.C. § 1983. First, she alleges that Defendants,
acting under color of law, violated her due process rights.
(Id. ¶¶ 41-84.) Second, she alleges a
substantive due process violation. (Id. ¶¶
85-93.) Defendants filed the pending Motion to Dismiss on
February 26, 2019. (Doc. 25.) Plaintiff filed a Response to
Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 26) and Defendants
filed a Reply. (Doc. 27.).
Defendants' Motion to Dismiss
move to dismiss the FAC pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. (Doc. 25.)
Defendants make several arguments. First, they argue that
Plaintiff's claims are properly analyzed under the Fourth
Amendment and that Plaintiff fails to state a claim for a
violation of her Fourth Amendment rights. Second, they argue
that Plaintiff fails to state a valid claim for a substantive
due process violation. Third, they argue that the allegations
in the FAC mostly relate to Defendant Deputy Bratt, and that
the allegations against Defendant Fortner lack the requisite
specificity to support a claim of a constitutional violation.
Finally, Defendants argue in the alternative that, even if
the Court finds that Plaintiff has stated a constitutional
claim, that the complaint should nonetheless be dismissed
because Defendants are protected by qualified immunity.
Legal Standard for 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) allows a defendant to file a
motion to dismiss for failure “to state a claim upon
which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). A
complaint may be dismissed as a matter of law either for lack
of a cognizable legal theory or for insufficient facts under
a cognizable theory. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police
Dep't,901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1988). To survive
a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the complaint's “[f]actual