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A.J. v. City of Bellingham

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

July 12, 2018

A.J., et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
CITY OF BELLINGHAM, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          JOHN C. COUGHENOUR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendants' second motion for summary judgment (Dkt. No. 88). Having thoroughly considered the parties' briefing and the relevant record, the Court finds oral argument unnecessary and hereby DENIES the motion for the reasons explained herein.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The facts of this case have been thoroughly set out in the Court's order on Defendants' first motion for summary judgment. (Dkt. No. 54 at 1-5.) The Court will not repeat them here. In its December 7, 2016 order, the Court dismissed a majority of Plaintiffs' claims. (Id. at 13-14.) The only remaining claims in this matter are Plaintiff Alfredo Juarez's (“Plaintiff”) claims against the City of Bellingham and Officer Zachary Serad for violation of the Washington Law against Discrimination (“WLAD”), Washington Revised Code chapter 49.60. (Id.) The parties have completed discovery, and Defendants renew their motion for summary judgment on these claims. (Dkt. No. 88.)

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Summary Judgment

         Summary judgment is appropriate only where the “pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In making this determination, the Court must view the facts and justifiable inferences to be drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). Once a motion for summary judgment is properly made and supported, the opposing party must present specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). A dispute about a material fact is genuine if there is sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248-49. Summary judgment is appropriate against a party who “fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986).

         B. Analysis of Plaintiff's WLAD Claim

         In order for Plaintiff to make out a prima facie case of racial/national origin discrimination in place of public accommodation under WLAD, he must establish that: (1) he is a member of a protected class, (2) the City's “establishment” (the traffic stop) is a place of public accommodation, (3) Defendants discriminated against him by not treating him in a manner comparable to those outside the protected class, and (4) the protected status was a substantial factor causing the discrimination. Demelesh v. Ross Stores, 20 P.3d 447, 456 (Wash.Ct.App. 2001).[1]

         Washington Courts apply the burden shifting regime used by federal courts to discrimination claims under WLAD. Id. A plaintiff must first establish a prima facie case of discrimination, which requires only a minimal showing. Id.; Ramirez v. Olympic Health Management Systems, Inc., 610 F.Supp.2d 1266, 1280 (E.D. Wash. 2009). The burden then shifts to the defense to present a legitimate, nondiscriminatory explanation for the action. Demelesh, 20 P.3d at 456. The plaintiff must then respond by showing that this reason is pretextual. Id.

         Here, the parties do not dispute that Plaintiff has established the first two elements of his prima facie case of discrimination. (Dkt. No. 88 at 15.) In dispute are elements three and four, and whether Plaintiff can show Defendants' proffered legitimate explanation is pretextual.

         1. Element Three: Unequal Treatment

         Plaintiff alleges that Officer Serad discriminated against him by assuming he was a criminal or an undocumented immigrant, rather than a scared teenager, by inquiring into his immigration status, and by involving Border Patrol in the traffic stop. (Dkt. Nos. 1 at 20, 94 at 18.) He asserts that the Bellingham Police Department (“BPD”) does not treat “white teenagers in similar circumstances . . . in this manner.” (Dkt. No. 94 at 19.)

         As evidence for this assertion, Plaintiff offers a statement from a stepmother about her experience when her white stepson was stopped by BPD while drinking and “joyriding, ”[2] (See Dkt. Nos. 45 at 2; 58 at 2) and Officer Serad's deposition testimony (Dkt. No. 95-2). Officer Serad did not give Plaintiff the opportunity to contact his family, despite the fact that he had Plaintiff's name and home address. (See generally Dkt. No. 27.) Officer Serad testified that he had never previously asked a white, black, or Native American driver about their immigration status, or called Border Patrol[3] on a driver. (Dkt. Nos. 95-2 at 9; 88 at 12.) He also stated he would not necessarily inquire ...


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