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Mendoza v. City of Vancouver

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

April 3, 2017

CARLOS MENDOZA, individual, and as guardian of L.M., his minor child, Plaintiffs,
v.
CITY OF VANCOUVER, a Municipality; VANCOUVER POLICE DEPARTMENT, an agent of the City of Vancouver; MONICA HERNANDEZ and “JOHN DOE” HERNANDEZ, husband and wife, individually and the marital community thereof; BARBARA KIPP and “JOHN DOE” KIPP, husband and wife and the martial community thereof, Defendants.

          ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT DISMISSAL OF PLAINTIFF CARLOS MENDOZA'S CLAIMS

          ROBERT J. BRYAN, United States District Judge

         This matter comes before the Court on the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment Dismissal of Plaintiff Carlos Mendoza's claims. Dkt. 19. The Court has considered the pleadings filed in support of and in opposition to the motion and the file herein.

         Plaintiffs filed this case asserting that their constitutional rights were violated when Plaintiff Mendoza was arrested and Plaintiff L.M. was taken into protective custody. Dkt. 4-4. Plaintiffs seek damages as well as attorneys' fees and costs. Id. Defendants seek summary dismissal of Plaintiff Mendoza's claims under the doctrine of judicial estoppel for failing to disclose the claims as an asset in his bankruptcy. Dkt. 19. For the reasons provided, the motion should be denied.

         I. RELEVANT FACTS

         For the sake of this motion alone, some of the following facts are taken from Plaintiffs' Complaint (Dkt. 2-1, at 8-19), some from Plaintiff Mendoza's bankruptcy proceeding, In re Mendoza, U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Washington case number 14-45154 PBS, and others from the record in this case.

         According to the Complaint, on April 23, 2014, the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (“DSHS”) filed a dependency petition in Clark County, Washington Juvenile Court alleging that Plaintiff Mendoza's son, L.M., was dependent because of abuse allegations against the child's mother, Tara Mendoza. Dkt. 2-1, at 9. Ms. Mendoza was arrested around a week later on charges of first degree assault of a child. Id.

         The Complaint asserts that Plaintiff Mendoza, an E2 in the United States Marines, was stationed at Meridian Naval Air Station in Meridian, Mississippi at the time. Dkt. 2-1, at 9-10. On May 1, 2014, Plaintiff arrived in Washington on two days emergency leave. Id., at 10. He was ordered to check in with check in with Swann Island Oregon Reserves Station in Portland, Oregon (“Swann Island”), which was to process Plaintiff's request for a humanitarian transfer, but Plaintiff failed to arrive with the proper paperwork. Id. An official at Swann Island informed Plaintiff Mendoza that he would attempt to verify Plaintiff's paperwork by telephone, but was unsure he could do so. Id. Plaintiff was concerned that he would have to leave Washington, if the transfer was not approved. Id.

         The Complaint alleges that on May 2, 2014, Plaintiff Mendoza went to the City of Vancouver jail, where Ms. Mendoza was being held, and inquired after her. Dkt. 2-1, at 10. He informed the front desk attendant that he may have to return to his duty station soon, and so, after conferring with the supervisor on duty, the attendant told him to return at 5:00 p.m., even though that was outside jail visiting hours. Id. Plaintiff did so. Id., at 11. Swann Island was able to confirm Plaintiff's need for a humanitarian transfer via telephone, and on May 3, 2014, he was formally, temporary attached to Swann Island. Dkt. 2-1, at 10-11.

         The Complaint asserts that on May 6, 2014, Plaintiff Mendoza attended a shelter care hearing for his son in full dress uniform. Dkt. 2-1, at 11. Right after the hearing, Defendant Vancouver Police Department Detective Monica Hernandez arrested Plaintiff at the courthouse, “in front of his attorney, the court commissioner, and a courthouse full of people-for making a false statement to a public servant when requesting to visit [Ms. Mendoza] on May 2.” Id. Det. Hernandez accused Plaintiff of “using his military uniform for a special visit to see Tara in jail” and then “marched” Plaintiff, “handcuffed in his full dress uniform from the courthouse approximately three blocks away to the police station. He was detained until 11:00 p.m. at which time he posted bail and was released.” Id. These charges were dismissed by the prosecutor. Id.

         According to the Complaint, after a physical conflict between Plaintiff Mendoza and Ms. Mendoza occurred, Ms. Mendoza was sentenced to jail time. Dkt. 2-1. Plaintiff Mendoza filed a Petition for Declaration Concerning Validity of Marriage (asserting the Mendozas' marriage was invalid because the divorce from her first marriage was not final when they married) and requested the court enter a parenting plan regarding L.M. on August 28, 2014. Dkt. 2-1, at 12. A parenting plan was entered a few weeks later, prohibiting contact between Ms. Mendoza and L.M. Id.

         On September 23, 2014, Plaintiff Mendoza filed a petition for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. In re Mendoza, U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Washington case number 14-45154 PBS, Dkt. 1; filed in this case at Dkt. 20, at 5-47. Plaintiff did not list any possible legal claims on his schedule of assets. Dkt. 20, at 15.

         The Complaint alleges that in late November 2014, Plaintiff Mendoza received transfer orders to Camp Lejeune, in Jacksonville, North Carolina, to report by December 12, 2014. Dkt. 2-1, at 12. On December 4, 2014, the dependency case was dismissed. Id. Plaintiff intended to move L.M. with him to North Carolina. Id. On December 8, 2014, Plaintiff moved the superior court to have the no contact order between Ms. Mendoza and L.M. lifted before they left for North Carolina. Dkt. 2-1, at 13.

         The Complaint maintains that on December 10, 2014, a friend in Newburg, Oregon (just over the Washington border) contacted Plaintiff and asked him to take her to the hospital. Dkt. 2-1, at 13. He put L.M. in the car seat, and drove over the Washington state border into Oregon. Id. Defendant Vancouver Police Department Sergeant Barbara Kipp followed Plaintiff from his home and over the Oregon border. Id. Officers of the Portland Police Department pulled Plaintiff over and asked him if he was authorized to have L.M. Id. Sgt. Kipp arrived and accused Plaintiff of attempting to take L.M. to see Ms. Mendoza. Id. The Portland officers asked whether Sgt. Kipp had paperwork indicating that she was authorized to take L.M. into protective custody, and she told them that she didn't need it in cases of life and death. Id., at 13-14. L.M. was taken. Id.

         On December 31, 2014, Plaintiff Mendoza's Chapter 7 case was discharged. In re Mendoza, U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Washington case number 14-45154 ...


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