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Hawkins v. Douglas County

United States District Court, E.D. Washington

November 27, 2017



          THOMAS O. RICE Chief United States District Judge.

         BEFORE THE COURT are Defendants Chelan County and Douglas County's Motions for Summary Judgment. ECF Nos. 47; 51. This matter was submitted for consideration without oral argument. The Court has reviewed the record and files herein, and is fully informed. For the reasons discussed below, Defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment (ECF Nos. 47; 51) are GRANTED.


         This action arises out of the underlying criminal conviction of Plaintiff Edwin Troy Hawkins. Defendants previously moved to dismiss all federal and state law claims in Plaintiff's original Complaint, which the Court granted excluding the malicious prosecution claims. ECF No. 21. Plaintiff then filed a First Amended Complaint and Defendants moved to dismiss. ECF Nos. 22; 23; 24. The Court granted Defendants' motions and allowed Plaintiff's request for leave to amend. ECF No. 33.

         In his Second Amended Complaint, Plaintiff asserts, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the Chelan and Douglas County entities and officers maliciously pursued charges and a conviction against him in violation of his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. ECF No. 35 at 20. The Court granted the parties' Stipulated Motion to Dismiss Defendants Steven M. Clem and John Does 15-25 with the Douglas County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney's Office. ECF No. 41. Plaintiff never timely identified the John and Jane Doe Defendants, ECF No. 46 at 2, and therefore, they are dismissed. In the instant motions, the remaining Chelan County defendants and Douglas County defendants move for summary judgment with prejudice on all claims. ECF Nos. 47; 51.


         The following are the undisputed facts unless otherwise noted.[1] Hawkins is an orchardist in Eastern Washington. ECF No. 59 at ¶ 3. In early 2006, Bob Morrison, manager of Beebe River Orchard, offered to have Hawkins lease the orchard. ECF No. 35 at ¶ 2.3. Hawkins had several agents investigate the equipment on the orchard and ultimately declined the lease offer. Id. at ¶¶ 2.4-2.5. As a result, Hawkins contends that Morrison and Charlie Myers, the orchard's irrigator, lost their full-time employment. Id. at ¶ 2.5.

         Later in the spring of 2006, Morrison reported to the Douglas County Sheriff's Office that two sprayers, a Kubota tractor, and a Landini tractor were missing. ECF Nos. 35 at ¶ 2.6; 59 at ¶ 9. Hawkins asserts that Morrison testified at the criminal trial that he received a call from Len England, who said he knew where the missing sprayers were and had photographs. ECF Nos. 35 at ¶ 2.7; 59 at ¶ 11. Hawkins has a long-standing feud with his in-laws, including Len, Doug, and Dale England.[2] ECF No. 35 at ¶ 2.2. Morrison reported to the Douglas County Sherriff's Office that the missing orchard sprayers were located on property Hawkins leased from Sandcastle Orchard and provided the photographs taken by Len England. ECF Nos. 35 at ¶ 2.7; 52 at ¶¶ 7-8; 59 at ¶ 12. The parties dispute whether Bill Black, an officer with the Douglas County Sheriff's Office, knew that Len England was Hawkins' uncle. ECF Nos. 52 at ¶ 9; 59 at ¶¶ 12-13. Officer Black visited Sandcastle Orchard, along with Charlie Myers. ECF No. 35 at ¶ 2.8. The sprayers were eventually located on property Hawkins' leased. ECF Nos. 52 at ¶ 20; 59 at ¶ 20.

         After answering Deputy Black's questions, Hawkins visited the neighbors of Sandcastle Orchard, Don and Gloria Bailey. ECF No. 35 at ¶ 2.9. Hawkins states that Ms. Bailey testified at trial that several days before the sprayers were found, she witnessed a blue Ford pickup-Morrison drove a blue Ford Ranger-with a loaded trailer drive on to the Sandcastle Orchard property and then drive away with an empty trailer. Id.; 59 at ¶¶ 9, 17. At deposition, Ms. Bailey testified that two police officers questioned her about the equipment. ECF Nos. 59 at ¶ 18; 60-7 at 4 (Ex. G). Deputy Bo Allen of the Douglas County Sheriff's Office testified he did not follow up with Ms. Bailey's statement. ECF No. 60-6 at 4 (Ex. F).

         In late October 2006, Deputy Randy Lake of the Chelan County Sheriff's Office visited Hawkins' home and inspected his farm equipment. Deputy Lake did not find any signs of the missing Kubota and Landini tractors. ECF Nos. 35 at ¶ 2.11; 48 at ¶ 22; 59 at ¶ 21. The day after this search, Hawkins asserts that tools, equipment, and equipment records were stolen from one of Hawkins' shops. ECF No. 35 at ¶ 2.12; 59 at ¶ 22.

         Subsequently, Hawkins brought his Kubota tractor to East Wenatchee for repair. ECF No. 35 at ¶ 2.17. The mechanics noticed that the serial number on the tractor had been ground off and the identification plate was missing. Id. The mechanics determined that this Kubota tractor was one of the pieces of equipment previously reported missing and contacted the police. Id.; 52 at ¶ 15.

         On June 8, 2007, Hawkins was arrested for possession of stolen property when he went to pick up the tractor from the mechanics. ECF No. 35 at ¶ 2.18. After he was released on bail, Hawkins returned to the mechanic to pick up the tractor. Id. While driving home with the tractor, Hawkins was pulled over by a Chelan County Sheriff's deputy who had been in communication with the Douglas County Sheriff's Office. Id. There was confusion over whether this tractor was the missing tractor. Id. Ultimately, deputies from both Douglas and Chelan County, including Deputy Lake, took pictures of the tractor and then helped Hawkins lock the tractor in his shed. Id.; 48 at ¶ 22. On June 11, 2007, several Douglas and Chelan County deputies arrived at Hawkins' home and arrested him for possession of stolen property, the stolen property being the Kubota tractor Hawkins brought home three days earlier. ECF No. 35 at ¶ 2.19.

         In September 2007, Hawkins asserts that his employee was twice pulled over by a Douglas County Sheriff's deputy for transporting the allegedly stolen Landini tractor and that Deputy England was present for the second stop. Id. at ¶ 2.24. Hawkins contends that Deputy Dean Schlaman of the Douglas County Sheriff's Office stopped a truck and the Landini tractor on the highway based upon a call by Deputy England. ECF No. 53-1 at 65 (Ex. D); 52 at ¶ 38. Hawkins states that Deputy Schlaman then waited for an hour and fifteen minutes for the arrival of Deputy England to inspect the tractor, and they found no evidence that it was stolen. ECF No. 53-1 at 65-66 (Ex. D). Additionally, Hawkins claims that Deputy England, along with Deputy Allen, threatened one of Hawkins' employees with deportation if he did not tell them who stole the tractors. ECF No. 35 at ¶ 2.24. In October 2007, Deputy Schlaman drafted a search warrant for the Landini tractor, which was then located on Hawkins' property. ECF No. 52 at ¶¶ 21-22. Hawkins also alleges that Deputy Schlaman trespassed on his property and failed to disclose he was a police officer. ECF Nos. 35 at ¶ 2.25; 52 at ¶ 38; 53-1 at 65 (Ex. D).

         Hawkins was ultimately charged with four crimes related to the stolen farm equipment: one count of first degree possession of stolen property for the sprayers; one count of first degree possession of stolen property for the Landini tractor; one count of first degree attempted possession of stolen property based on Hawkins' attempt to pick up the Kubota tractor from the mechanic; and one count of first degree possession of stolen property based on when Hawkins obtained possession of the Kubota tractor from the mechanic. ECF No. 35 at ¶ 2.36.

         Hawkins was convicted on the two counts related to the Kubota tractor. Id. at ¶ 2.37; 52 at ¶ 26. Hawkins appealed the convictions, and while the appeal was pending, successfully moved the trial court for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence. ECF No. 35 at ¶ 2.38. The state appealed the trial court's grant of a new trial, and the Washington State Supreme Court ultimately ruled in Hawkins' favor. Id. On December 19, 2014, the Douglas County Superior Court entered a stipulated order of dismissal with prejudice as to the charges against Hawkins. Id. at ¶ 2.39.

         On September 16, 2015, Hawkins initiated this case. ECF No. 1 at ¶ 2.


         I. Standard of Review

         Summary judgment is appropriate when “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). For purposes of summary judgment, a fact is “material” if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A material fact is “genuine” where the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could find in favor of the non-moving party. Id. The moving party bears the initial burden of showing the absence of any genuine issues of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The burden then shifts to the non-moving party to identify specific facts showing there is a genuine issue of material fact. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256.

         In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court views the facts, as well as all rational inferences therefrom, in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007). The court must only consider admissible evidence. Orr v. Bank of America, NT & SA, 285 F.3d 764 (9th Cir. 2002). There must be evidence on which a jury could reasonably find for the plaintiff and a “mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiff's position will be insufficient.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252.

         II. Under Color of Law

         Under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a cause of action may be maintained “against any person acting under color of law who deprives another ‘of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, ' of the United States.” S. Cal. Gas Co. v. City of Santa Ana, 336 F.3d 885, 887 (9th Cir. 2003) (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 1983). “Under color of law” requires a showing of “personal participation in the alleged rights deprivation, ” not merely membership in a group without showing individual participation in the unlawful conduct. Jones v. Williams, 297 F.3d 930, 934-35 (9th Cir. 2002) (citing Chuman v. Wright, 76 F.3d 292, 294 (9th Cir. 1996)). “A person deprives another ‘of a constitutional right, within the meaning of section 1983, if he does an affirmative act, participates in another's affirmative acts, or omits to perform an act which he is legally required to do that causes the deprivation of which the plaintiff complains.'” Leer v. Murphy, 844 F.2d 628, 633 (9th Cir. 1988) (brackets and emphasis omitted) (quoting Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743 (9th Cir. 1978)).

         A. Randy Lake

         Chelan County Defendants assert that Randy Lake's involvement in the case was limited to a consensual search of Mr. Hawkins' property where Deputy Lake found no evidence of stolen equipment. ECF Nos. 47 at 7; 35 at ¶ 2.11; 48 at ¶ 22; 59 at ¶ 21. Almost a year later, Deputy Lake inspected a Kubota tractor that had been reported stolen by the mechanics and helped Hawkins take pictures of the tractor. ECF Nos. 35 at ¶ 2.18; 48 at ¶ 22. Therefore, Chelan County Defendants argue that Hawkins' malicious prosecution claim cannot be maintained against Deputy Lake. ECF No. 47 at 7. Plaintiff provides no further ...

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