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Bellinger v. State

United States District Court, W.D. Washington

February 16, 2017

THE STATE OF WASHINGTON, et al., Defendants.


          Hon. Richard A. Jones, United States District Judge


         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant City of Seattle's Partial Motion to Dismiss Count III of Plaintiff's Complaint. Dkt. # 13. For the reasons that follow, the Court DENIES the City's motion.


         The Court describes the facts as Plaintiff Jimi M. Bellinger alleges them in his complaint, Dkt. # 1-2, suggesting no opinion on whether these allegations will prove true. The Court cites the numbered paragraphs of the complaint using “¶” symbols.

         On February 3, 2016, Yashimoto Saki was using a computer at the Seattle Central Community College (“Seattle Central”) library when a man sat down nearby, exposed himself to her, and began masturbating. ¶¶ 14, 16. Without seeing the man's face, Saki immediately got up and reported his conduct to a librarian. ¶¶ 16-17. By then, however, the man had left. ¶ 17.

         Bellinger, an African-American man, was reading magazines nearby. ¶¶ 3, 14-15. A Seattle Central security guard detained him on suspicion that he was the man whom Saki had described. ¶ 18. Officers from the Seattle Police Department (“SPD”) arrived, arrested Bellinger for indecent exposure, and removed him from the library. ¶¶ 19-20.

         After Bellinger had been taken away, an SPD officer interviewed Saki who explained that she could not identify the man who exposed himself, but described him as wearing brown clothes and a hat. ¶ 20. Bellinger was wearing black clothing. Id. Surveillance video, which was available to the officers prior to Bellinger's arrest, unequivocally shows that Bellinger was not the man who had exposed himself to Saki. Id. The officers, however, ignored this video and all other evidence demonstrating that they lacked probable cause to arrest him. Id.

         Bellinger was transported to King County Jail, where he was held for more than twenty-four hours. ¶ 21. Bellinger's unlawful detention caused him to suffer significant emotional harm. ¶ 23. Based on the surveillance video, all charges against him were dismissed with prejudice. ¶ 22.

         On July 19, 2016, Bellinger filed a civil rights action against the officers, the security guard, the City of Seattle, the State of Washington, and Seattle Central. Dkt. # 1-2. Bellinger alleges that his arrest was unsupported by probable cause and that he was targeted as a suspect based on his race. ¶¶ 19, 34. Among Bellinger's causes of action is a Monell claim against the City of Seattle for failing to properly train its officers and thereby causing his unlawful and discriminatory arrest. ¶¶ 36-47. The City of Seattle timely removed the action to this Court and moved to dismiss the Monell claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Dkt. ## 1, 13. Bellinger opposes the motion. Dkt. # 17.


         Rule 12(b)(6) permits a court to dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim. The rule requires the court to assume the truth of the complaint's factual allegations and credit all reasonable inferences arising from those allegations. Sanders v. Brown, 504 F.3d 903, 910 (9th Cir. 2007). A court “need not accept as true conclusory allegations that are contradicted by documents referred to in the complaint.” Manzarek v. St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co., 519 F.3d 1025, 1031 (9th Cir. 2008). The plaintiff must point to factual allegations that “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 568 (2007). If the plaintiff succeeds, the complaint avoids dismissal if there is “any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the complaint” that would entitle the plaintiff to relief. Id. at 563; Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009).

         When resolving a motion to dismiss, a court typically cannot consider evidence beyond the four corners of the complaint. It may, however, consider certain materials, including those subject to judicial notice, without converting the motion into a motion for summary judgment. United States v. Ritchie, 342 F.3d 903, 908 (9th Cir. 2003). Under Rule 201, a court may take judicial notice of “a fact that is not subject to reasonable dispute because it: (1) is generally known within the trial court's territorial jurisdiction; or (2) can be accurately and readily determined from sources whose accuracy cannot reasonably be questioned.” Fed.R.Evid. 201. Certain public records qualify under the second category, including the “records and reports of administrative bodies.” Ritchie, 342 F.3d at 909 (quoting Interstate Nat. Gas Co. v. S. Cal. Gas Co., 209 F.2d 380, 385 (9th Cir. 1953)).

         IV. ...

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