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Myers v. Brooks

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

September 13, 2019

THURSTON MYERS, Plaintiff,
v.
SERGEANT THOMAS J. BROOKS, SERGEANT JEFFREY MASON, JOHN & JANE DOES 1 - 34; and the CITY OF LYNNWOOD, a municipal corporation, Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          The Honorable Richard A. Jones United States District Judge.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants' motion for summary judgment (“Motion”). Dkt. # 26. For the reasons below, the Court GRANTS the Motion.

         II. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Thurston Myers is a Lynnwood, Washington resident who brings claims against the City of Lynnwood and two members of the Lynnwood Police Department, Sergeant Thomas J. Brooks and Detective Jeffrey Mason. Dkt. # 32-1 at 4. At the time of the events underlying the Complaint, Plaintiff claims to have had medical authorization to grow and possess marijuana at his property under former Washington statute RCW 69.51A.085(d). Subject to certain conditions, qualifying patients under the statute could create and participate in “collective gardens” to produce, process, transport, and deliver marijuana for medical use. A collective garden could contain no more than ten patients at any time; could contain not more than fifteen plants per patient up to a total of forty-five plants; and could not contain more than twenty-four ounces of useable marijuana per patient up to a total of seventy-two ounces of useable marijuana. RCW 69.51A.085(d) (eff. through July 1, 2016).

         On July 29, 2014, a Snohomish County judge found probable cause that the crime of unlawful manufacturing of a controlled substance was occurring at Plaintiff's residence and issued a warrant. Dkt. # 29-1. The next day, detectives with the South Snohomish County Narcotics Task Force (the “Task Force”) served the warrant on Plaintiff and confiscated marijuana and other property in accordance with the warrant. Dkt. # 29-2. The Task Force located a growing operation in what appeared to be shipping containers, although Plaintiff refers to them as “container buildings.” See Dkt. # 33. Plaintiff told the Task Force that he was authorized to grow and keep a “collective garden” on his property. Dkt. # 29-2 at 3. Defendant Mason informed Plaintiff that there were only three people with valid medical authorization at the residence, that each card hold could possess fifteen marijuana plants, and that the remainder would be seized. Id. The Task Force seized approximately 395 marijuana plants from the shipping containers. Id. The Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney's Office subsequently charged Plaintiff with the crime of manufacturing a controlled substance. Dkt. # 31-1.

         Approximately one year later, Lynnwood Detective Paul Bryan applied for a search warrant for Plaintiff's residence. The affidavit that he filed in support detailed facts of an on-going investigation into the marijuana grow on Plaintiff's property. Of note, Bryan detailed Plaintiff's past history of unlawful marijuana growing, electrical records for Plaintiff's property showing excessive power consumption consistent with an unlawful marijuana growing operation, knowledge of fans and humming noises coming from Plaintiff's shipping containers, and complaints from neighbors about the smell of marijuana coming from Plaintiff's property. Dkt. # 28-1 at 6-8. On July 21, 2015, a Snohomish County judge found probable cause that the crime of unlawful manufacturing of a controlled substance was occurring at Plaintiff's residence and authorized a search of Plaintiff's “two-story split entry wood sided residence” and “shipping containers” located on the east side of the residence. Dkt. # 29-1. The warrant authorized the seizure of “[a]ll growing marijuana plants or those in excess of the medical cannabis provisions if a valid medical authorization exists”; it also authorized the seizure of “marijuana growing equipment, ” “drug paraphernalia” and “any other items used to grow marijuana, ” unless valid medical authorization existed. Dkt. # 29-1.

         On July 22, 2015, Defendants executed the warrant and provided a copy to Plaintiff. Dkt. # 28-2. As before, Plaintiff stated that he was entitled to grow a “collective garden” on his property, but this time claimed to have a provider license which permitted him to grow for multiple people at a time. Id. at 5. Defendants seized over 200 marijuana plants, shake marijuana totaling 275.2 pounds, growing equipment, lights, marijuana license documentation, and the two shipping containers. Id. Defendants left 45 marijuana plants which they believed Plaintiff was authorized to keep per state law. Id. Defendant Brooks took custody of Plaintiff and transported him to jail. Once at the jail, Plaintiff received a Notice of Seizure and Intended Forfeiture, which advised him of his right to a hearing regarding the seized property. Dkt. # 28-2; Dkt. # 31-2 at 41.

         Plaintiff claims that the seizure of the containers, or his “container buildings, ” as well as his arrest violate the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. Dkt. # 1. Plaintiff also brings a claim against the City of Lynnwood (the “City”), alleging that municipal policy makers exhibited deliberate indifference to his constitutional rights and failed to provide adequate training on “collective garden” marijuana laws. Id.

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate if there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Where the moving party will have the burden of proof at trial, it must affirmatively demonstrate that no reasonable trier of fact could find other than for the moving party. Soremekun v. Thrifty Payless, Inc., 509 F.3d 978, 984 (9th Cir. 2007). On an issue where the nonmoving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the moving party can prevail merely by pointing out to the district court that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 325. If the moving party meets the initial burden, the opposing party must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue of fact for trial in order to defeat the motion. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986). The court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., 530 U.S. 133, 150-51 (2000).

         However, the court need not, and will not, “scour the record in search of a genuine issue of triable fact.” Keenan v. Allan, 91 F.3d 1275, 1279 (9th Cir. 1996); see also, White v. McDonnel-Douglas Corp., 904 F.2d 456, 458 (8th Cir. 1990) (the court need not “speculate on which portion of the record the nonmoving party relies, nor is it obliged to wade through and search the entire record for some specific facts that might support the nonmoving party's claim”). The opposing party must present significant and probative evidence to support its claim or defense. Intel Corp. v. Hartford Accident & Indem. Co., 952 F.2d 1551, 1558 (9th Cir. 1991). Uncorroborated allegations and “self-serving testimony” will not create a genuine issue of material fact. Villiarimo v. Aloha Island Air, Inc., 281 F.3d 1054, 1061 (9th Cir. 2002); T.W. Elec. Serv. v. Pac Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987).

         IV. DISCUSSION

         Plaintiff claims that Defendants breached the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments by unlawfully seizing the containers, or “container buildings” in his backyard as well as all the contents connected to and contained within them. Dkt. # 1 at 9. In support of his claim, Plaintiff argues that the “container buildings” are real property under Washington law and ...


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