United States District Court, E.D. Washington
QUANAH M. SPENCER, Plaintiff,
CITY OF SPOKANE, a municipal corporation in and for the State of Washington; GREGORY PAUL LEBSOCK, in his individual and official capacities; SPOKANE COUNTY, a municipal corporation and political subdivision of the State of Washington; and CASEY A. EVANS, in his individual and official capacities, Defendants.
ORDER RESOLVING DEFENDANTS' DISPOSITIVE MOTIONS
AND PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR A CONTINUANCE OF SUMMARY
Rosanna Malouf Peterson United States District Judge
THE COURT are Defendant Lebsock and City of Spokane's
Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 26, and Defendant Evans
and Spokane County's Motion for Judgment on the
Pleadings, ECF No. 21. In Plaintiff Spencer's Response to
Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, he moved for a
continuance of the Court's consideration of
Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(d). The Court considers
that motion as well. A hearing on these matters was held on
September 13, 2019, and all parties were present and
represented. The Court has considered the record, the
pleadings, counsels' oral argument, and is fully
2017, Quanah Spencer and his wife Gwen Spencer filed a
consumer protection lawsuit regarding property they had
purchased in Spokane against SAS Oregon, LLC and former
employees of the Spokane Police Department. ECF No. 22-2 at
2; ECF No. 1 at 10. Attorney Aaron Kandratowicz represented
them. See id. The Spencers did not prevail in their
lawsuit, and the court ordered garnishment of Mr.
Spencer's wages to pay the defendants' attorneys'
fees in the amount of $37, 102.50. ECF No. 22-2 at 2. Mr.
Spencer's employer, Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF),
was notified of the garnishment through a writ.
after the writ of garnishment was entered, the Spencers'
attorney, Mr. Kandratowicz, told the Spencers that he had
obtained an order for a permanent injunction of the order of
garnishment, shielding Mr. Spencer from further wage
garnishment. See ECF No. 1 at 9. In truth, the court
had issued no such order. Mr. Kandratowicz was charged with
forging the order and eventually pleaded guilty to the
charge. See ECF No. 1 at 23. Upon learning of the
purported injunction, Mr. Spencer used his credit card at a
UPS store to fax the order to his employer, BNSF. See
id.; ECF No. 22-2 at 4. BNSF stopped garnishing his
wages after receiving the forged order. Id. at 3.
Fifteen months later, counsel for SAS Oregon discovered the
purported injunction and contacted Mr. Kandratowicz and the
court. Id. Mr. Kandratowicz did not respond to
counsel's communications, nor did he appear at a show
cause hearing set for November 20, 2017, regarding the
purported injunction. See ECF No. 1 at 11.
court notified the City of Spokane Police Department (SPD),
which promptly initiated an investigation regarding who had
forged the order. SPD assigned Defendant Lebsock to
investigate the case. See ECF No. 22-2. On January
5, 2018, Officer Lebsock submitted an Affidavit of Facts,
setting out facts to support probable cause as to Mr.
Spencer, and requesting a warrant for Mr. Spencer's
arrest. ECF No. 22-2. A warrant was issued that same day for
Mr. Spencer's arrest. ECF No. 22-3. Mr. Spencer was
living in Missoula, Montana at the time.
Affidavit of Facts, Defendant Lebsock laid out facts to
support probable cause for a forgery charge against Mr.
Spencer. ECF No. 22-2 at 1, 8. Officer Lebsock's
investigation revealed that Mr. Spencer had used his credit
card to fax the forged order to his employer. Id.
Detective Lebsock's Affidavit of Facts did not mention
that Mr. Kandratowicz was a person of interest or a target
for further investigation even though Mr. Kandratowicz had
failed to appear at a show cause hearing regarding the forged
order several weeks earlier. ECF No. 1 at 13-14. However,
Officer Lebsock did note that the forged order was marked
with the stamp of Mr. Kandratowicz's law firm.
See ECF No. 22-2 at 4.
addition to Officer Lebsock's Affidavit of Facts, Deputy
Prosecuting Attorney (DPA) Evans submitted a
“Certificate” in support of the arrest warrant.
The Certificate states that “there exists good cause to
issue a direct warrant for the immediate arrest of the
defendant.” ECF No. 22-4 at 1. It also provides
supporting reasons, which include: (1) the nature of the
allegations; (2) “the defendant's multi-state
business dealings between Washington and Montana and the
potential risk for the defendant to seek refuge outside the
state of Washington”; (3) the defendant may not respond
to a summons because he appears to live at his Montana
residence; and (4) the potential to “interfere with the
administration of justice considering the nature of these
allegations and the risk of evidence tampering or
warrant was issued, and on January 11, 2018, Mr. Spencer was
arrested in his home in Montana. ECF No. 1 at 16. The
following day, a judge in Missoula County ordered that Mr.
Spencer be released immediately. Id. However, he was
not released until January 16, 2018. According to Mr.
Spencer, one of the jail guards told him that somebody from
Spokane had called and “cancelled his release.”
Id. at 16-17. Detective Lebsock agrees that he
called the Spokane County judge who issued the arrest
warrant, after learning that Mr. Spencer was about to be
released from Missoula County Jail. ECF No. 28 at 15.
Detective Lebsock states that, after he contacted the Spokane
County judge, the judge “contacted someone either at
the Missoula County Jail or at Missoula County Superior Court
to discuss the warrant.” Id.
January 16, 2018, when Mr. Spencer was released from jail, he
realized that his debit card was missing from his wallet, and
his coat was ripped and torn. Id. at 18. Mr. Spencer
claims that Detective Lebsock caused his debit card to go
missing and his jacket to be torn through alleged connections
at Missoula County Jail. Id.
February 27, 2018, the charge against Mr. Spencer was
dismissed. Id. at 24. Prior to the dismissal order,
SPD obtained a search warrant for Mr. Kandratowicz. ECF No. 1
at 19. He was never arrested or taken into custody.
Id. He pleaded guilty on May 11, 2018, to having
forged the order enjoining the garnishment. Id. As
punishment for his actions, DPA Evans recommended six months
of community custody, and no jail time. Id.
Spencer filed his complaint in this Court on March 29, 2019.
See ECF No. 1. The Spencers are both Native American
and argue that Defendants acted in a racially discriminatory
manner toward Mr. Spencer in their investigation and
prosecution of Mr. Kandratowicz's crime. They also allege
that the Defendants were motivated to harm Mr. Spencer
because Mr. Spencer had recently sued former SPD employees in
a 2017 lawsuit. Against each defendant, Mr. Spencer alleges
violations of his constitutional rights under the Fourth and
Fourteenth Amendments. He also alleges the following state
law claims against each defendant: false imprisonment, abuse
of process, malicious prosecution, negligence, conspiracy,
intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent
infliction of emotional distress. Furthermore, Mr. Spencer
alleges that the City of Spokane and Spokane County are
liable for the actions of their employees, Evans and Lebsock,
through a respondeat superior theory.
Spokane County and DPA Evans filed a 12(b) and 12(c) motion
to dismiss. See ECF No. 21. In their motion,
Defendants argue that DPA Evans has absolute immunity and, in
the alternative, qualified immunity. Id. at 6, 16.
Detective Lebsock and the City of Spokane have moved for
summary judgment on all of Mr. Spencer's claims.
See ECF No. 26. They argue that Mr. Spencer has
failed to support his claims against them, and that Detective
Lebsock is entitled to qualified immunity. Mr. Spencer has
asked the Court to either deny summary judgment or to
continue summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56(d) in order for
additional discovery to be completed.
for Judgment on the Pleadings
the parties agree that the Motion to Dismiss brought by the
County and DPA Evans is a motion for judgment on the
pleadings, they disagree about the applicable legal standard.
Mr. Spencer argues that the Court should decide the motion
using the summary judgment standard because Defendants have
supported their motion with documents outside the pleadings.
Rule 12(d) states that a court must apply the summary
judgment standard to 12(c) motions if it considers
“matters outside the pleadings” in its decision.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). However, a document is “not outside
the complaint if the complaint specifically refers to the
document and if its authenticity is not challenged.”
Branch v. Tunnell, 14 F.3d 449, 453 (9th Cir. 1994).
A defendant may attach these documents to a 12(c) motion for
the court's consideration without converting the motion
to a motion for summary judgment. Id. A court also
may consider any documents of which it may take judicial
notice pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 201 when deciding
a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, without converting it to a
motion for summary judgment. Id.
Defendants have attached the Information, Officer
Lebsock's Affidavit of Facts filed January 5, 2018, the
order issuing Mr. Spencer's arrest warrant, and Mr.
Evan's Certificate. ECF Nos. 22-1-22-4. Mr. Spencer
referenced these documents in his complaint, quoting two of
them at length. Therefore, the applicable standard for
Defendants' Motion to Dismiss is set out in Rule
to Rule 12(b)(6), a plaintiff's claim will be dismissed
if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). To survive a motion to
dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the plaintiff must plead
“enough facts to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A claim is plausible
when the plaintiff pleads “factual content that allows
the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant
is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).
ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a court
“accept[s] factual allegations in the complaint as true
and construe[s] the pleadings in the light most favorable to
the nonmoving party.” Manzarek v. St. Paul Fire
& Marine Ins. Co., 519 F.3d 1025, 1031 (9th Cir.
2008). A court is not required, however, to “assume the
truth of legal conclusions merely because they are cast in
the form of factual allegations.” Fayer v.
Vaughn, 649 F.3d 1061, 1064 (9th Cir. 2011) (per curiam)
(internal quotation omitted). “[C]onclusory allegations
of law and unwarranted inferences are insufficient to defeat
a motion to dismiss.” Adams v. Johnson, 355
F.3d 1179, 1183 (9th Cir. 2004).
for Summary Judgment
may grant summary judgment where “there is no genuine
dispute as to any material fact” of a party's prima
facie case, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Celotex Corp.
v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). A genuine issue
of material fact exists if sufficient evidence supports the
claimed factual dispute, requiring “a jury or judge to
resolve the parties' differing versions of the truth at
trial.” T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pac. Elec.
Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir.
1987). A key purpose of summary judgment “is to isolate
and dispose of factually unsupported claims.”
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324.
moving party bears the burden of showing the absence of a
genuine issue of material fact, or in the alternative, the
moving party may discharge this burden by showing that there
is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving
party's prima facie case. Celotex, 477 U.S. at
325. The burden then shifts to the nonmoving party to set
forth specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial.
See Id. at 324. The nonmoving party “may not
rest upon the mere allegations or denials of his pleading,
but his response, by affidavits or as otherwise provided . .
. must set forth specific facts showing that there is a
genuine issue for trial.” Id. at 322 n.3
(internal quotations omitted). The Court will not infer
evidence that does not exist in the record. See Lujan v.
Nat'l Wildlife Fed'n, 497 U.S. 871, 888-89
(1990). However, the Court will “view the evidence in
the light most favorable” to the nonmoving party.
Newmaker v. City of Fortuna, 842 F.3d 1108, 1111
(9th Cir. 2016). “The evidence of the non-movant is to
be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn
in his favor.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986).
Detective Lebsock and the City of Spokane's Motion for
Fourth Amendment Claim
Spencer brings his constitutional challenges through 42
U.S.C. § 1983. “Traditionally, the requirements
for relief under [§] 1983 have been articulated as (1) a
violation of rights protected by the Constitution or created
by a federal statute, (2) proximately caused (3) by the
conduct of a ‘person' (4) acting under color of
state law.” Crumpton v. Gates, 947, F.2d 1418,
1420 (9th Cir. 1991). For the purposes of Section 1983
litigation, municipalities are considered “persons,
” and may be found liable if their policies or customs
cause the plaintiff's constitutional injury. Long v.
Cty. of L.A., 442 F.3d 1178, 1185 (9th Cir. 2006)
(citing Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S.
658, 690 (1976)).
Spencer alleges that the Defendants acted together to violate
his Fourth Amendment right to be free of unreasonable
searches and seizures. He states that the
warrants used to search his property and to arrest
him lacked probable cause. ECF No. 1 at 33. The Spokane
County judge who issued the arrest warrant found, after
considering “an affidavit establishing probable cause,
” that “probable cause exist[ed] for the arrest
and detention” of Mr. Spencer. ECF No. 22-3. Mr.
Spencer does not contest the judge's finding of probable
cause on the facts put before him. However, Mr. Spencer
maintains that the Affidavit of Facts submitted by Detective
Lebsock was judicially deceptive, containing materially
incomplete information and false statements. ECF No. 1 at 33.
In addition to that Affidavit, DPA Evans submitted a
Certificate to the county court, explaining the reasons why
an arrest warrant should issue. ECF No. 22-4. Mr. Spencer
maintains that DPA Evans' Certificate contained false
statements and lacked material information, thereby making it
judicially deceptive. A warrant based on judicial deception
cannot provide the basis for a constitutional search,
seizure, or arrest. See Butler v. Elle, 281 F.3d
1014, 1023-24 (9th Cir. 2002).
Judicial Deception Claim Against Detective Lebsock
Lebsock, along with the City of Spokane, has moved for
summary judgment on Mr. Spencer's Fourth Amendment
judicial deception claim. To survive summary judgment on a
judicial deception claim, the plaintiff must “(1) make
a substantial showing of deliberate falsehood or reckless
disregard for the truth, and (2) establish that but for the
dishonesty, the challenged action would not have
occurred.” Id. at 1024. If the plaintiff meets
these two prongs, then, “the matter should go to
trial.” Butler v. Elle, 281 F.3d 1014, 1024
(9th Cir. 2002) (quoting Hervey v. Estes, 35 F.3d
784, 788-789 (9th Cir. 2002)).
judicial deception analysis, the question of materiality is
for the Court to decide. Id. (“Materiality is
for the court, state of mind is for the jury.”) (citing
Hervey, 65 F.3d at 789 (9th Cir. 1995)); see
also Bravo v. City of Santa Maria, 665 F.3d 1076, 1084
(9th Cir. 2011). To determine if an alleged false statement
or omission is material, the court must consider
“whether the affidavit, once corrected and
supplemented, establishes probable cause.”
Bravo, 665 F.3d at 1084 (quoting Ewing v. City
of Stockton, 588 F.3d 1218, 1224 (9th Cir. 2009)).
“If probable cause remains after amendment, then no
constitutional error has occurred.” Id.
cause exists “when police officers have facts and
circumstances within their knowledge sufficient to warrant a
reasonable belief that the suspect . . . committed . . . a
crime.” United States v. Wallace, 213 F.3d
1216, 1220 (9th Cir. 2000). The existence of probable cause
depends on the unique facts and circumstances of each case.
Id. District courts evaluate the existence of
probable cause using an objective test; while the facts
within the arresting officer's knowledge are relevant to
the assessment, the officer's state of mind is not
relevant. Devenpeck v. Alford, 543 U.S. 146, 593-94
(2004) (quoting Whren v. United States, 517 U.S.
806, 813 (1996) (quoting Scott v. United States, 436
U.S. 128, 138 (1978))). The Supreme Court ...