United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
C. Coughenour United States District Judge.
matter comes before the Court on Defendant's motion to
dismiss Plaintiffs' second amended complaint (Dkt. No.
53). Having thoroughly considered the parties' briefing
and the relevant record, the Court finds oral argument
unnecessary and hereby GRANTS the motion for the reasons
1989, Plaintiffs Edward and Amanda Riveira founded Absolute
Mobility Center (“AMC”), a business based out of
their home. (Dkt. No. 51 at 2-3.) AMC sells
wheelchair-accessible vehicles, supplied by Indiana-based
Braun Corporation (“Braun”), and other
mobility-assistance devices to customers, including veterans.
(Id.) When qualified veterans purchase AMC vehicles,
“the [U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (the
“VA”)] would reimburse AMC certain costs
associated with the transaction. This includes the cost of
shipping the vehicles from Indiana [Braun's
location].” (Id. at 20.) Since starting the
business, Plaintiffs have established AMC offices outside of
their home. (See Id. at 34.)
Scott Dresch is a Special Agent with the Internal Revenue
Service's Criminal Investigation Division. (Id.
at 4.) On August 17, 2015, Defendant swore an affidavit
requesting search warrants in order to investigate
Plaintiffs' alleged violations of provisions of the U.S.
tax code, 18 U.S.C. §§ 287, 641, and 1001, as well
as 26 U.S.C. § 7206(1). (Dkt. Nos. 51-1, 53 at 3.) The
Honorable James P. Donohue, U.S. Magistrate Judge, issued the
warrants. (Dkt. Nos. 51-2, 51-3, 51-4.)
morning of August 19, 2015, armed federal agents arrived at
Plaintiffs' home while Mr. Riveira was present. (Dkt. No.
51 at 33.) At about the same time, Mrs. Riveira was pulled
over by a Snohomish County Sheriff patrol car and another
unmarked car while she drove through Plaintiffs'
neighborhood. (Id.) After being detained for about
25 minutes, Mrs. Riveira was brought to Plaintiffs' home,
and Plaintiffs were kept outside under armed guard while
agents searched their home. (Id.) Agents also raided
Plaintiffs' offices in Woodinville and Tacoma while AMC
customers and employees were there, seizing records and
computers. (Id. at 34.)
March 2018, the U.S. Attorney's Office ceased its
investigation into Plaintiffs' alleged criminal conduct
without charging Plaintiffs. (Id. at 34-35.)
Plaintiffs claim that they continue to experience financial,
emotional, and reputational harms as a result of the
agents' search of their home and offices. (Id.
at 35-36.) On August 16, 2018, Plaintiffs sued Defendant in
his individual capacity for allegedly violating
Plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable
searches and seizures. (Dkt. No. 1.) Plaintiffs later amended
their complaint to revise examples from AMC account records,
revise the number of boxes of records that were seized, and
to add allegations regarding a confidential source
(“CS1”) who provided information contained in
Defendant's warrant application. (See Dkt. No.
filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiffs' amended complaint
for failure to state a claim and asserting a qualified
immunity defense. (See Dkt. No. 33.) The Court
permitted Plaintiffs to file a second amended complaint, in
which they asserted additional factual allegations related to
Defendant's qualified immunity defense. (See
Dkt. Nos. 45-1, 51.) Plaintiffs allege that the raids of
their home and offices were based on overly broad and
unparticularized warrants. (See Dkt. No. 51 at 6,
32.) Plaintiffs assert that Defendant obtained these warrants
by knowingly and/or recklessly misrepresenting information
about Plaintiffs' finances and transactional history,
Plaintiffs' bookkeeping system, AMC's audit, and the
credibility of CS1, a former AMC employee from whom Defendant
obtained information to support his warrant affidavit.
(See Id. at 6-17.) Plaintiffs also allege that
Defendant knowingly misrepresented the VA's cost
reimbursement policy. (See Id. at 17-32.) In
response to Plaintiffs' second amended complaint,
Defendant filed a renewed motion to dismiss raising the same
claims and defenses. (See Dkt. Nos. 49 at 1, 53.)
Motion to Dismiss Legal Standard
may move for dismissal if the claimant “fail[s] to
state a claim upon which relief can be granted.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). A claim for relief must include
“a short and plain statement of the claim showing that
the pleader is entitled to relief; and . . . a demand for the
relief sought . . . .” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). The statement
must put a party on fair notice of the claim and its grounds.
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555
(2007). In reviewing a motion to dismiss, the Court accepts
all factual allegations as true and views them in the light
most favorable to the nonmoving party, but need not accept
conclusory allegations, unwarranted deductions of fact, or
unreasonable inferences as true. Sprewell v. Golden State
Warriors, 266 F.3d 979, 988 (9th Cir. 2001). To survive
a motion to dismiss, a claim must be “plausible”
in that the facts pled “allow the court to draw [a]
reasonable inference” that a defendant is liable for
the misconduct alleged. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
662, 678 (2009). Determining plausibility is
“context-specific” and “requires the
reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common
sense.” Id. at 679.
Qualified Immunity Legal Standard
officials are immune from civil liability if “in
performing discretionary functions . . . their conduct does
not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional
rights of which a reasonable person would have known.”
Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982). This
standard is a low bar-qualified immunity protects “all
but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate
the law.” Ashcroft v. al-Kidd, 563 U.S. 731,
743 (2011) (quoting Malley v. Briggs, 475 U.S. 335,
341 (1986)). For purposes of a motion to dismiss, the Court
applies the Harlow standard to the official's
conduct “as alleged in the complaint.”
Behrens v. Pelletier, 516 U.S. 299, 309 (1996).
overcome a qualified immunity defense, a party must show that
he or she experienced a violation of a constitutional right
and that the right was clearly established at the time of the
official's alleged misconduct. Pearson v.
Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 232, 236 (2009) (citing
Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194 (2001)). If a party
claims that the constitutional violation arose from the
official's deceptive or reckless preparation of an
affidavit for a search warrant, then the party must
“make a substantial preliminary showing that a false
statement knowingly and intentionally, or with reckless
disregard for the truth, was included by the affiant in the
warrant affidavit, and [that] the allegedly false statement
is necessary to the finding of probable cause.”
Franks v. Delaware, 438 U.S. 154, 155-56 (1978);
see also Chism v. Washington State, 661 F.3d 380,
386 (9th Cir. 2011) (describing such inquiry as a showing of
“judicial deception”). If the party makes such a
showing, he or she is entitled to a hearing. Id. If
the party fails to do so, the affidavit is presumed valid.
Id. at 171. The Harlow question of
reasonableness essentially “merges” with the
Franks question of dishonesty or recklessness.
See Butler v. Elle, 281 F.3d 1014, 1024 (9th Cir.
Fourth Amendment Search and Seizure Legal Standard
Fourth Amendment protects a person's rights “to be
secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against
unreasonable searches and seizures.” U.S. Const. amend.
IV. Fourth Amendment protections extend to seizures that are
less than arrests and to all intrusions by public agents on
personal security, in both civil and criminal investigations.
Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 16-17 (1968); City of
Ontario, Cal. v. Quon, 560 U.S. 746, 755 (2010). There
is “no ready test for determining reasonableness other
than by balancing the need to search against the invasion
which the search entails.” Camara v. Mun. Court of
City & Cty. of San Francisco, 387 U.S. 523, 536-37
(1967). Where a search warrant is mandated,
“reasonableness” of search and seizure is
measured in terms of whether “probable cause”
exists to conduct the search. Id. at 534. ...