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Kerner v. Seattle Police Department

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

April 30, 2019




         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant's unopposed motion for summary judgment (Dkt. No. 13). Having thoroughly considered Defendant's motion and the relevant record, the Court finds oral argument unnecessary and hereby GRANTS Defendant's motion for the reasons explained herein.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, alleges that Defendant Seattle Police Department violated several Washington criminal statutes and federal constitutional provisions based on how its officers allegedly responded to Plaintiff's report that she had been assaulted. (See generally Dkt. No. 1-2.)[1] Plaintiff's claims arise out of an incident that occurred on October 8, 2017. (Id. at 7.) Plaintiff was involved in a verbal and physical altercation with a group of men in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood. (Dkt. No. 5-3 at 43-46.) A witness called 911 and reported that Plaintiff had been assaulted by the men. (Id.) Several Seattle Police officers responded and made contact with the suspects. (Id.) After speaking with the suspects, the officers made contact with Plaintiff. (Id.) A portion of Plaintiff's interaction with the police officers was captured on a officer-worn body camera. (Dkt. No. 17.)

         After speaking with all involved parties, the officers decided to not make an arrest or refer any charges. (Dkt. No. 1-2 at 9.) Based on the officers' conduct, Plaintiff alleges the following causes of action against Defendant: (1) official misconduct in violation of Revised Code of Washington § 9A.80.010; (2) false reporting in violation of Revised Code of Washington § 42.20.040; (3) failure to perform a duty to investigate a claim of malicious harassment in violation of Revised Code of Washington §§ 42.20.100, 9A.36.080; (4) failure to perform a duty to investigate a claim of first degree assault in violation of Revised Code of Washington §§ 42.20.100, 9A.36.011; (5) violation of the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution; and (6) violation of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution. (Id. at 22-31.) Defendant moves for summary judgment on all claims. (Dkt. No. 13.)


         A. Summary Judgment Standard

         “The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that 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). In making such a 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, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). Once a motion for summary judgment is properly made and supported, the opposing party “must come forward with ‘specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)). Material facts are those that may affect the outcome of the case, and 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. While courts liberally construe the claims in a pro se civil rights complaint, courts may not “supply essential elements of claims that were not initially pled.” Ivey v. Bd. of Regents of the Univ. of Alaska, 673 F.2d 266, 268 (9th Cir. 1982).

         B. Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment

         As an initial matter, Plaintiff has only named the Seattle Police Department as a Defendant in this lawsuit. The Seattle Police Department, as an entity of the City of Seattle, is not legally capable of being sued. See Streit v. Cty. of L.A., 236 F.3d 552, 565 (9th Cir. 2001) (state law controls the issue of whether a police department may be sued as a separate entity apart from a city); see also Lee v. City of SeaTac Police Dep't., No. C12-0194-RSL, Dkt. No. 25 at 2 (W.D. Wash. 2013) (citing Nolan v. Snohomish Cty., 802 P.2d 792, 796 (1990)) (“[I]n a legal action involving a county, the county itself is the only legal entity capable of being sued.”).

         Moreover, Plaintiff did not name any individual police officers as defendants, and thus is precluded from asserting constitutional or statutory violations pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1983.[2] “A plaintiff must allege facts, not simply conclusions, that show that an individual was personally involved in the deprivation of his civil rights.” Barren v. Harrington, 152 F.3d 1193, 1194 (9th Cir. 1998). “Liability under § 1983 must be based on the personal involvement of the defendant.” Id. (citing May v. Enomoto, 633 F.2d 164, 167 (9th Cir. 1980)). For a municipality to be held directly liable for a § 1983 violation, a plaintiff must allege a “policy or custom, whether made by its lawmakers or those whose edicts or acts may be fairly said to represent official policy.” Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658-690-91(1978). Plaintiff has not alleged that Defendant had an official policy or custom that caused her alleged injury. Indeed, Plaintiff's allegations against the individual officers emphasize that they failed to follow Defendant's established protocols and procedures. (See Dkt. No. 1-2 at 9) (“Through this action, Isabelle Kerner, seeks to hold the Seattle Police Department collectively accountable for failing to enforce the law and for failing to follow the SPD guidelines pursuant to RCW 9A.36.080, for knowingly falsifying the police report pursuant to RCW 42.20.040, for failing to uphold their duties pursuant to RCW 42.20.100, for violating their code of conduct and failing to investigate pursuant to RCW, for Official Misconduct pursuant to RCW 9A.80.010.”).

         As the Court explains below, even if Plaintiff could assert her claims against Defendant, without naming the City of Seattle or the individual officers, each cause of action fails as a matter of law.

         1. Washington Revised Code §§ 9A.80.010, 42.20.040, 42.20.100, 9A.36.080, 9A.36.011

         Plaintiff asserts four causes of action based on violations of Washington criminal statutes. (See Dkt. No. 1-2 at 22-28.) For example, Plaintiff asserts that the officers committed official misconduct by engaging in biased policing, failing to complete a thorough investigation, and discrediting the statements of an independent witness. (Id. at 23) (citing RCW § 9A.80.010). ...

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