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Ross v. Snohomish County

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

August 14, 2014

SNOHOMISH COUNTY, et al., Defendants.


JAMES L. ROBART, District Judge.


Before the court is Defendant Snohomish County's motion for summary judgment. (7/10/14 Mot. (Dkt. # 38).) The court has considered the motion, the parties' submissions filed in support thereof and opposition thereto, the record, and the applicable law. Being fully advised, the court GRANTS Snohomish County's motion.[1]


A. Factual History

This is a civil rights case. Mr. Ross alleges that Snohomish County, unnamed Snohomish County police officers, and Does 6-10 (collectively "Snohomish County") discriminated against him on the basis of his race, assaulted him, and falsely imprisoned, arrested, and maliciously prosecuted him. ( See Am. Compl. (Dkt. # 2).) Mr. Ross' allegations stem from two incidents in which Snohomish County police officers detained him. ( See id. ) Both incidents involved Mr. Ross' ex-wife, S.L.H. The court previously dismissed all of Mr. Ross' claims arising from the first incident based on the applicable statute of limitations. ( See 3/28/14 Ord. (Dkt. # 34).)

The second incident occurred on August 19, 2011, when a Snohomish County Sheriff's Deputy, James Chelin, detained Mr. Ross. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 22, 25.) On that day, Snohomish County Superior Court dismissed S.L.H.'s civil protection order against Mr. Ross and ordered that Mr. Ross could pick up his children from daycare. ( Id. ) Per the state court's order, Mr. Ross went to pick up his children from daycare that afternoon. ( Id. ¶ 22.) When he arrived at the daycare, Mr. Ross called 911 to inform them that he was picking up his children pursuant to the state court's order and asked that the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office send an officer to the daycare to ensure there was no trouble with S.L.H. ( Id. ) Before the deputy could arrive, however, S.L.H. appeared at the daycare. ( Id. ¶ 23.) Mr. Ross again called 911 to request a deputy's assistance and to ask when a deputy would arrive. ( Id. ¶ 24.) After Mr. Ross' second 911 call, his children returned to the daycare from a field trip and got into Mr. Ross' car. ( Id. ) Mr. Ross then called 911 a third time to let them know that "he had both of his children and he wanted to leave." ( Id. ) The 911 operator instructed Mr. Ross to stay at the daycare until the deputy arrived and resolved any issues; the daycare staff also requested that Mr. Ross speak to a supervisor before leaving with his children. ( Id. )

The Snohomish County Sheriff's Office dispatched Deputy Chelin to the daycare for what was originally coded as a court order violation. (Chelin Decl. (Dkt. # 41) ¶ 11.) While Deputy Chelin was en route, dispatch told him that there was a valid protective order prohibiting contact between Mr. Ross and his two children, M.R. and T.R., as well as a protective order prohibiting contact between Mr. Ross and S.L.H. ( Id. ) The record remains unclear as to which protective order between Mr. Ross and S.L.H. police dispatch was referring. ( See id. ) Dispatch also informed Deputy Chelin that a daycare employee had called 911 and reported that Mr. Ross was at the location and attempting to pick up his two children and leave. ( Id. ) In addition, dispatch also stated that daycare staff members were blocking Mr. Ross' car and preventing him from leaving with the children. ( Id. )

Upon driving into the daycare parking lot, Deputy Chelin "saw two staff members standing behind a vehicle, preventing the car from leaving." ( Id. ¶ 12.) Deputy Chelin also observed that "[t]wo children were inside the car and a man was standing beside the car." ( Id. ) At the time of Deputy Chelin's arrival at the daycare, S.L.H. stood across the street from the daycare parking lot. ( Id. ¶ 12.) Deputy Monson (presumably another Snohomish County Sheriff's Deputy) later measured the distance between where Mr. Ross' vehicle had been located and where S.L.H.'s vehicle had been located. ( Id. ¶ 26.) The vehicles were approximately 254 feet apart. ( Id. )

Deputy Chelin asked Mr. Ross to identify himself, and when Mr. Ross did so Deputy Chelin allegedly "immediately grabbed him by the arm [and] twist[ed] it behind his back and push[ed] him over the rear of his vehicle" and escorted Mr. Ross to the back of his squad car. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 26-27.) Mr. Ross alleges that during his confinement in Deputy Chelin's patrol car, Deputy Chelin "refused to release [him] while yelling at him and berating him as [his] children looked on, as well as [daycare] staff, other parents picking up their children, and S.L.H." ( Id. )

While Mr. Ross was confined in Deputy Chelin's patrol car, Deputy Chelin walked across the street to speak with S.L.H. (Chelin Decl. ¶ 16.) S.L.H. acknowledged that the Snohomish County protective order, the only order involving the children, had been dismissed earlier that day. ( Id. ) S.L.H. also stated that there were two other protective orders in place that prohibited contact between her and Mr. Ross: one from King County and one from Pierce County. ( Id. ) S.L.H. stated to Deputy Chelin that the terms of the protective orders required Mr. Ross to stay 500 feet away from her. ( Id. ) When questioned about the 500-foot requirement by Deputy Chelin, Mr. Ross argued that he was not within 500 feet of S.L.H. but apparently did not deny the existence of the provision. ( See 7/10/14 Bosch Decl. (Dkt. # 39) Ex. A at 20.)

Deputy Chelin requested through the Sheriff's Office dispatch that the Records Department of the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office fax a copy of the dismissed Snohomish County order to the South Precinct so that his supervisor, Sergeant Blodgett, could verify that it was no longer valid. (Chelin Decl. ¶ 17.) In addition, Deputy Chelin requested that copies of the King County and Pierce County orders be sent to him for examination. ( Id. ) Mr. Ross allegedly continued sitting in the back of Deputy Chelin's patrol car for 35 minutes in handcuffs before Deputy Chelin released him. (Am. Compl. ¶ 29.) The handcuffs allegedly "dug into [Mr. Ross'] wrist causing him great pain. ( Id. ¶ 28.)

Eventually, Sergeant Blodgett contacted Deputy Chelin and confirmed that the Snohomish County order had been dismissed earlier that day. (Chelin Decl. ¶ 21.) Sergeant Blodgett and Deputy Chelin continued to investigate whether Mr. Ross had violated the terms of the King County or Pierce County orders. ( Id. ¶ 22.) The Pierce County order prohibited Mr. Ross from contacting S.L.H. either directly or indirectly. ( See Chelin Decl. Ex. B at 19.) Deputy Chelin apparently concluded that Mr. Ross had not violated the Pierce County order. ( See Chelin Decl. ¶¶ 22, 24.) The Sheriff's Dispatch Office reported that it was unable to locate the King County order.[2] ( Id. ¶ 22.) Deputy Chelin then allowed Mr. Ross to exit his patrol car and removed Mr. Ross' handcuffs. ( Id. ¶ 24.)

Upon Mr. Ross' release, Deputy Chelin allegedly said, "[y]ou are lucky you are not going to jail!" ( Id. ¶ 29.) Deputy Chelin also allegedly asked Mr. Ross if S.L.H. could come within three feet of him to speak with the children and allegedly screamed at Mr. Ross about the meaning of protective orders when Mr. Ross refused. ( Id. ¶ 30.) Mr. Ross contends that Deputy Chelin, "acting with deliberate malice and motivated by race, sought to humiliate and torment [him] under the color of law." ( Id. ¶ 31.) He also contends that Deputy Chelin ...

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