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Caraffa v. Tempe (AZ) Police Department

United States District Court, D. Arizona

December 16, 2019

Alfred E. Caraffa, Plaintiff,
Tempe (AZ) Police Department, et al., Defendants.


          Michael T. Liburdi United States District Judge

         On October 24, 2019, Plaintiff Alfred E. Caraffa filed a pro se civil rights Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Doc. 1) and an Application to Proceed In District Court Without Prepaying Fees or Costs (Doc. 2). The Court will grant the Application to Proceed and will dismiss the Complaint with leave to amend.

         I. Application to Proceed and Filing Fee

         The Court, in its discretion, will grant the Application to Proceed. Plaintiff will be allowed to proceed without paying the filing fee. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1).

         II. Statutory Screening of In Forma Pauperis Complaints

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), in a case in which a plaintiff has been granted in forma pauperis status, the Court shall dismiss the case “if the court determines that . . . (B) the action . . . (i) is frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.”

         A pleading must contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2) (emphasis added). While Rule 8 does not demand detailed factual allegations, “it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id.

         “[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Id. (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is plausible “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. “Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief [is] . . . a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id. at 679. Thus, although a plaintiff's specific factual allegations may be consistent with a constitutional claim, a court must assess whether there are other “more likely explanations” for a defendant's conduct. Id. at 681.

         But as the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has instructed, courts must “continue to construe pro se filings liberally.” Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010). A “complaint [filed by a pro se individual] ‘must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'” Id. (quoting Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam)).

         If the Court determines that a pleading could be cured by the allegation of other facts, a pro se litigant is entitled to an opportunity to amend a complaint before dismissal of the action. See Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1127-29 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc). Plaintiff's Complaint will be dismissed for failure to state a claim, but because it may possibly be amended to state a claim, the Court will dismiss it with leave to amend.

         III. Complaint

         In his Complaint, Plaintiff seeks monetary damages from Defendants Tempe Police Department and Tempe Police Officer Guajardo. Plaintiff alleges a violation of “Due Process, False Arrest, False I[m]prisonment, Unlawful Confinement, Cruel and Unusual Punishment.” He claims that while he was looking in the window of a restaurant “and playing with an I.D. in the refle[c]tion, ” Defendant Guajardo came up behind Plaintiff, grabbed his wrist, restrained his arm, and, without stating that he was a police officer, told Plaintiff he was being detained for disorderly conduct. Plaintiff alleges he was arrested for “disorderly conduct-fighting, ” in violation of Arizona Revised Statutes section 13-2904(A)(1), and was jailed for two-and-a-half days. He claims the charge of “disorderly conduct-fighting” is a “total falsehood of the truth and a miscarriage of justice.”

         IV. Failure to State a Claim

         A. Defendant Tempe Police Department

         Defendant Tempe Police Department is a subpart of the City of Tempe, not a separate entity for purposes of suit. Gotbaum v. City of Phoenix, 617 F.Supp.2d 878, 886 (D. Ariz. 2008); see Braillard, 232 P.3d at 1269 (county sheriff's office is a nonjural entity); see also Vincente v. City of Prescott, 2012 WL 1438695 (D. Ariz. 2012) (city fire department is a nonjural entity); Wilson v. Yavapai Cnty., 2012 WL 1067959 (D. Ariz. 2012) (county sheriff's office and county attorney's office are nonjural entities). Because Defendant Tempe Police Department is not a separate entity, it is not capable of being separately sued. Thus, the Court will dismiss Defendant Tempe Police Department.

         B. Defendant Guajardo

         Although pro se pleadings are liberally construed, Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972), conclusory and vague allegations will not support a cause of action. Ivey v. Bd. of Regents of the Univ. of Alaska, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982). Further, a liberal interpretation of a civil rights complaint may not supply essential elements of the claim that were not initially pled. Id.

         To state a valid claim under § 1983, plaintiffs must allege that they suffered a specific injury as a result of specific conduct of a defendant and show an affirmative link between the injury and the conduct of that defendant. See Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362, 371-72, 377 (1976). “[A] plaintiff must plead that each Government-official defendant, through the official's own individual actions, has violated the Constitution.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676. “A plaintiff must allege facts, not simply conclusions, that show that an individual was personally involved in the deprivation of his civil rights.” Barren v. Harrington, 152 F.3d 1193, 1194 (9th Cir. 1998).

         “False arrest, a species of false imprisonment, is the detention of a person without his consent and without lawful authority.” Donahoe v. Arpaio, 869 F.Supp.2d 1020, 1064 (D. Ariz. 2012) (quoting Reams v. City of Tucson, 701 P.2d 598, 601 (Ariz.Ct.App. 1985)), aff'd sub nom. Stapley v. Pestalozzi, 733 F.3d 804 (9th Cir. 2013). Under Arizona law, false imprisonment and false arrest consist of non-consensual detention of a person “without lawful authority.” Slade v. City of Phoenix, 541 P.2d 550, 552 (Ariz. 1975). “Reflective of the fact that false imprisonment consists of detention without legal process, a false imprisonment ends once the victim becomes held pursuant to such process- when, for example, he is bound over by a magistrate or arraigned on charges.” Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 389 (2007) (emphasis in original).

         “[A] claim for false arrest turns only on whether probable cause existed to arrest a defendant, and . . . it is not relevant whether probable cause existed with respect to each individual charge, or, indeed, any charge actually invoked by the arresting officer at the time of arrest.” Jaegly v. Couch, 439 F.3d 149, 154 (2d Cir. 2006); see also Price v. Roark, 256 F.3d 364, 369 (5th Cir. 2001) (“Claims for false arrest focus on the validity of the arrest, not on the validity of each individual charge made during the course of the arrest.”). “Thus . . . ‘[i]f there was probable cause for any of the charges made . . . then the arrest was supported by probable cause, and the claim for false arrest fails.'” Price, 256 F.3d at 369 (quoting Wells v. Bonner, 45 F.3d 90, 95 (5th Cir. 1995)); see also Barry v. Fowler, 902 F.2d 770, 773 n.5 (9th Cir. 1990) (no unconstitutional seizure where police had probable cause to arrest plaintiff for one offense, even if police lacked probable cause to arrest for a second offense). Although Plaintiff alleges that disorderly conduct-fighting is a “total falsehood, ” he does not allege that Defendant Guajardo lacked probable cause to arrest Plaintiff for engaging in conduct constituting disorderly conduct under Arizona Revised Statutes section 13-2904, or any other offense. Thus, Plaintiff has failed to state a false arrest, false imprisonment, or unlawful confinement claim. The Court will dismiss without prejudice these claims.

         Plaintiff has failed to explain how Defendant Guajardo denied him due process[1] or subjected him to cruel and unusual punishment. Thus, the Court will dismiss without prejudice these claims.

         V. Leave to Amend

         For the foregoing reasons, Plaintiff's Complaint will be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Within 30 days, Plaintiff may submit a first amended complaint to cure the deficiencies outlined above. The Clerk of Court will mail ...

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