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Young v. County of Hawaii

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

May 22, 2013

WARNE KEAHI YOUNG, Plaintiff,
v.
COUNTY OF HAWAII, a municipal corporation; HAWAII ISLAND HUMANE SOCIETY S.P.C.A., a non-profit corporation; DONNA WHITAKER, individually and in her official capacity as Executive Director of the Hawaii Island Humane Society S.P.C.A.; STARR K. YAMADA, individually and in her official capacity as a Humane Officer; MICHAEL G.M. OSTENDORP; CARROLL COX; DARLEEN R.S. DELA CRUZ; ROBERTA KAWENA YOUNG; DOE DEFENDANTS 1-50, Defendants. ROBERTA KAWENA YOUNG, Cross Claimant,
v.
MICHAEL G.M. OSTENDORP, CARROLL COX, and DARLEEN R.S. DELA CRUZ, Cross Defendants.

ORDER (1) GRANTING IN PART AND DECLINING IN PART DEFENDANTS COUNTY OF HAWAII, HAWAII ISLAND HUMANE SOCIETY S.P.C.A., DONNA WHITAKER, STARR K. YAMADA, AND MICHAEL OSTENDORP'S MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AS TO PLAINTIFF'S SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT (2) DECLINING DEFENDANTS ROBERTA KAWENA YOUNG, CARROLL COX, AND DARLEEN DELA CRUZ'S MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AS TO PLAINTIFF'S SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT, AND (3) DECLINING CROSSCLAIM DEFENDANTS MICHAEL OSTENDORP, CARROLL COX, AND DARLEEN DELA CRUZ'S MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AS TO ROBERTA KAWENA YOUNG'S CROSSCLAIM

ALAN C. KAY, Magistrate Judge.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On September 23, 2011, Plaintiff Warne Keahi Young ("Plaintiff") filed a Complaint against Defendants County of Hawaii, the Hawaii Island Humane Society S.P.C.A. ("HIHS" or "Humane Society"), Donna Whitaker (individually and in her official capacity as Executive Director of HIHS), Starr K. Yamada (individually and in her official capacity as a HIHS Officer), Michael Ostendorp, Carroll Cox, Darleen Dela Cruz, and Roberta Kawena Young. (ECF No. 1). On January 9, 2012, Plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint against all Defendants. (ECF No. 8). On March 30, 2012, Plaintiff filed a Second Amended Complaint ("SAC").[1] (ECF No. 44).

On September 24, 2012, Roberta Kawena Young ("Roberta Young") filed a Crossclaim against Defendants Ostendorp, Cox, and Dela Cruz. (ECF No. 76-1).

On December 28, 2012, Defendant Roberta Young filed a "Motion for Summary Judgment" as to Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint. (ECF No. 102). On January 8, 2013, Defendant Roberta Young filed a Concise Statement of Facts in Support of her Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 108). Plaintiff filed a Memorandum in Opposition and a Concise Statement of Facts on January 10, 2013. (ECF No. 113, 114). Defendant Roberta Young did not file a Reply. (See generally, ECF Docket).

On December 31, 2012, Defendants County of Hawaii, HIHS, Donna Whitaker, and Starr Yamada (collectively, "HIHS Defendants") filed a "Motion for Summary Judgment Against Plaintiff Warne Keahi Young" ("HIHS MSJ") and a Concise Statement of Facts in support of their MSJ ("HIHS Defs.' CSF"). (ECF Nos. 98 & 99). The HIHS Defendants also filed an additional exhibit to their MSJ on January 2, 2013. (ECF No. 101). Plaintiff filed his Opposition to the HIHS Defendants' MSJ and a Concise Statement of Facts ("Plntf.'s HIHS CSF") on January 10, 2013. (ECF No. 109, 114). On February 21, 2013, the HIHS Defendants filed their Reply in support of their MSJ. (ECF No. 139). The HIHS Defendants also filed an errata to their Reply on February 22, 2013. (ECF No. 140). On March 5, 2013, Plaintiff filed an Amended Concise Statement of Facts.[2] (ECF No. 145). This Court held a hearing on March 7, 2013 regarding the HIHS Defendants' MSJ and Defendant Roberta Young's MSJ. (ECF No. 147).

Also on December 31, 2012, Defendants Ostendorp, Cox, and Dela Cruz each filed a "Motion for Summary Judgment as to Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint Filed on March 30, 2012 and Crossclaim Plaintiff Roberta Young's Crossclaim Filed on September 24, 2012" ("Ostendorp's MSJ, " "Cox's MSJ, " and "Dela Cruz's MSJ" respectively). (ECF No. 103, 104, 105). Ostendorp, Cox, and Dela Cruz also filed a Joint Separate Concise Statement of Facts in support of their Motions for Summary Judgment ("Ostendorp, Cox, and Dela Cruz's JCSF"). (ECF No. 106). On January 10, 2013, Plaintiff filed a Memorandum in Opposition to Ostendorp's MSJ, a Memorandum in Opposition to Cox's MSJ, and a Memorandum in Opposition to Dela Cruz's MSJ. (ECF No. 110, 111, 112). Plaintiff also filed a Concise Statement of Facts in response to Defendants' Joint Statement of Facts ("Plntf.'s JCSF"). (ECF No. 114). On January 23, 2013, Plaintiff untimely filed a "Supplemental Concise Statement of Material Facts in Opposition to Defendant[s] Ostendorp, Cox, and Dela Cruz[s] Joint Separate Concise Statement of Facts in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment" ("Plntf.'s Supp. JCSF").[3] (ECF No. 121). On January 28, 2013, Ostendorp, Cox, and Dela Cruz filed a single Reply Memorandum responding to Plaintiff's Oppositions. (ECF No. 124).

On January 29, 2013, eight days past the deadline for opposition memorandums, [4] Crossclaim Plaintiff Roberta Young filed an "Omnibus Memorandum in Opposition to Defendants Michael G.M. Ostendorp, Carroll Cox, and Darleen R.S. Dela Cruz'[s] Motion for Summary Judgment." (ECF No. 129). Crossclaim Plaintiff Roberta Young did not file a Concise Statement of Facts. See ECF Docket. Defendants Ostendorp, Cox, and Dela Cruz did not file a reply. Id . On February 11, 2013, this Court held a hearing regarding Defendants Ostendorp, Cox, and Dela Cruz's Motions for Summary Judgment as to Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint and Roberta Young's Crossclaim. (ECF No. 133).

In the February 11 and March 7, 2013 hearings, the Court observed that Exhibit 4 of Plaintiff's Supplemental Joint Concise Statement of Facts (ECF No. 121) is a heavily redacted report of the State of Hawaii Department of the Attorney General's ("AG") investigation regarding an allegedly forged general power of attorney dated September 12, 2009. On April 3, 2013, this Court issued an Order Granting in Part and Denying in Part Plaintiff's Motion to Compel Discovery Response and directed the Hawaii AG to submit to this Court an unredacted version of the report. ECF No. 152. The Court received an unredacted copy of the Hawaii AG's report on April 23, 2013. (ECF No. 154 & 155). The Court subsequently allowed the parties to view the unredacted version of the AG report and to submit supplemental briefing regarding the report's effect on Defendants' MSJs. (ECF No. 155). Plaintiff timely submitted a Supplemental Memorandum in Opposition discussing the effect of the report on Defendant's MSJs. (ECF No. 156).[5]

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

This case arises from the seizure of seventeen dogs ("Dogs") from a residence in Hilo and the subsequent events that resulted in the HIHS's disposal of the Dogs by way of euthanasia or offering the Dogs for adoption. The parties agree on the following basic outline of events, but they disagree regarding the details.

At some point in 2007, Plaintiff was charged with Animal Cruelty in the 2nd Degree under Haw. Rev. Stat. § 711-1109.[6] See HIHS Defs.' MSJ Ex. A at 4, Ex. F. at 92-93, ECF No. 98. After pleading guilty to the offense of animal neglect and cruelty, Plaintiff subsequently was fined and placed on probation. HIHS Defs.' MSJ Ex. F at 93-94, 106-107, ECF No. 98. As a result of the charges in 2007, Plaintiff was only allowed to have ten dogs at his house. Id at 106-07.

On September 25, 2009, Yamada, an officer of HIHS, applied for a search warrant in the District Court of the Third Circuit of the State of Hawaii to search Plaintiff's residence at 42 W. Kahaopea Street, District of South Hilo, HI ("Residence").[7] See HIHS Defs.' MSJ Ex. A, ECF No. 98; SAC at 7, ECF No. 44. According to the affidavit that Yamada submitted as part of the application, Yamada had observed two of the Dogs on June 30, August 17, September 18, and September 24, 2009. Id . She observed among other things that (1) the kennels of the two Dogs had feces covering the bottoms of the cages, (2) the Dogs did not have water in their bowls, and (3) one of the Dogs appeared to have a skin infection. Id . The District Court of the Third Circuit, State of Hawaii subsequently granted Search Warrant No. 09-001 on September 25, 2009 ("Search Warrant") based on the search warrant application. Id.

The Search Warrant empowered HIHS officers to search for and seize any abused animals at the Residence, as well as documents establishing the identity of the person who owned or controlled the Residence. HIHS Defs.' MSJ at 3, Ex. B, ECF No. 98.

On the morning of September 29, 2009, [8] Yamada executed the search warrant at the Residence and seized the Dogs, pieces of mail belonging to Plaintiff, and a court document in Plaintiff's name. SAC at 8, ECF No. 44. On that same morning of September 29, 2009, Plaintiff traveled to Oahu; he was not at the Residence when HIHS executed the search warrant. Id . On September 30, 2009, a Return of Search Warrant No. 09-001 was filed in the District Court of the Third Circuit, State of Hawaii. Id . Yamada attached an inventory statement to the Return of Search Warrant containing a list of the Dogs, pieces of mail, and a court document seized from the Residence. Id at 9.

Shortly thereafter, on or about October 1, 2009, Plaintiff and Roberta Young[9] met with Defendant Ostendorp, an attorney in private practice, in Honolulu at the Waikiki Yacht Club. Dec. of Ostendorp at 3, ECF No. 139; Plntf.'s Supp. JCSF Ex. 4 at 000020, ECF Nos. 154 & 155. Ostendorp agreed to help Plaintiff and Roberta Young regarding the seizure of the Dogs on September 29, 2009. Id . As a result of the agreement to help Plaintiff and Roberta Young, Ostendorp flew with Defendant Cox and Plaintiff to Hilo. Id . Subsequently, Ostendorp met with HIHS Officer Yamada on October 5, 2009 regarding the status of the Dogs. Id.

During Ostendorp's meeting with Officer Yamada on October 5, 2009, Ostendorp told Yamada that he represented Plaintiff, that Plaintiff was under suicide watch in a Honolulu hospital, and informed her that he "wanted to work this out because [Plaintiff] did not want to get into any more trouble since he was still on probation." Plntf.'s Supp. JCSF Ex. 4 at 00016, ECF Nos. 154 & 155.[10] Yamada indicated that an owner surrender of the dogs would be an ideal way to resolve the situation. Id.

At some point after the October 5 meeting, Defendant Ostendorp drafted a general Power of Attorney dated September 12, 2009, ("POA") purporting to appoint Roberta Young as Plaintiff's attorney-in-fact. SAC at 16, Dec. of Ostendorp at 3 ¶ 6-7, ECF No. 139-6. On October 7, 2009, Ostendorp called Yamada and stated that Roberta Young had a signed power of attorney from Plaintiff, and that Roberta Young wanted to surrender the dogs to HIHS. Plntf.'s Supp. JCSF Ex. 4 at 00016, ECF Nos. 154 & 155. Yamada told Ostendorp that she would need to speak with Roberta Young. Id . A woman identifying herself as Roberta Young called later that day, stated that she had a power of attorney from Plaintiff, and indicated that she wanted to surrender the Dogs to HIHS. Id . During the conversation, the woman told Yamada that she was fearful of Plaintiff and did not want him to find out that she had surrendered the Dogs. Id . Using Plaintiff's general POA, Roberta Young completed an Animal Surrender Policy Form surrendering "her dogs" to HIHS on October 7, 2009 ("Surrender Form"). SAC at 16; HIHS Defs.' MSJ at Ex. C, D, & E, ECF No. 98. She gave the Surrender Form to Ostendorp, who in turn transmitted it to HIHS along with a letter asking Yamada not to notify Plaintiff regarding the status of the Dogs because "he is not the owner of the dogs." Id.

On October 13, 2009, Yamada sent an email requesting a power of attorney from Ostendorp. Plntf.'s Supp. JCSF Ex. 3, ECF No. 121. Ostendorp's office sent the September 12, 2009 general POA to Yamada. Id . Subsequently, HIHS euthanized nine of the Dogs and placed eight of them for adoption. HIHS Defs.' MSJ at 6 n.3, ECF No. 98.

I. Defendants' Version of the Facts

Defendants state that Plaintiff informed attorney Ostendorp that he was afraid of criminal prosecution for the neglect of the Dogs that had been seized at the Residence and for being accused of violating the terms of his probation from the 2007 animal neglect charges. HIHS Defs.' MSJ Reply, Dec. of Ostendorp at 2, ECF No. 139-6. When Ostendorp spoke with HIHS regarding Plaintiff's alleged violations of law, HIHS suggested that if the Dogs were surrendered to HIHS, Plaintiff would not be charged with violating state animal cruelty laws and thus his probation would not be revoked. Plntf.'s Supp. JCSF Ex. 4 at 000016, ECF Nos. 154 & 155. As a result of the surrender of the Dogs, HIHS never initiated proceedings to file charges against Plaintiff for violating any animal cruelty law in 2009. See HIHS Defs.' MSJ Ex. F at 104-105, ECF No. 98. Additionally, Plaintiff at some point threatened to commit suicide because of the prospect of facing jail time as a result of the September 29, 2009 seizure of the neglected Dogs.[11] Dec. of Ostendorp at 3, ECF No. 139-6. Plaintiff and Roberta Young decided to pick the date of September 12, 2009 on the general POA in order to substantiate Plaintiff's claim that Roberta Young was the true owner of the Dogs during the time of the September 29, 2009 seizure. Id at 3.

II. Plaintiff's Version of the Facts

Plaintiff claims that he never told Defendant Ostendorp that he was afraid of criminal prosecution for neglecting the Dogs. Ostendorp, Cox, and Dela Cruz's JCSF Ex. A at 104, ECF No. 106. He also claims that he never told Defendants Ostendorp and Cox that he was in violation of the terms of his probation, that he was afraid of going to jail, or that he would commit suicide if he had to go to jail.[12] Id at 223. Plaintiff states that he never signed the general POA transferring his rights to Roberta Young or giving Roberta Young the legal right to transfer his property. HIHS Defs.' MSJ Ex. F at 168, ECF No. 98. He also contends that the Surrender Form did not legally surrender his dogs seized from his property. Id at 172.

However, the Court notes that Plaintiff does admit to (1) calling Ostendorp for legal assistance regarding seizure of the Dogs, (2) meeting with Ostendorp, Cox, Dela Cruz, and Roberta Young at the Waikiki Yacht Club on October 1 and October 8, (3) learning that Roberta Young hired Ostendorp to keep Plaintiff out of jail, and (4) signing a general power of attorney dated October 8, 2009, that would give Roberta Young authority to exercise his legal rights in the event that Plaintiff was declared "not mentally fit" by a psychiatrist. Plntf.'s Supp. JCSF Ex. 4 at 000020, ECF Nos. 154 & 155, Plntf.'s Supp. JCSF Ex. 6 at 1, ECF No. 121. Additionally, Plaintiff's Exhibit 4, a copy of a Hawaii AG report, indicates that Ostendorp told Yamada that he was representing Plaintiff, that Plaintiff was under suicide watch, and that Ostendorp as Plaintiff's attorney wanted to "work this out" to prevent Plaintiff from violating his probation. Plntf.'s Supp. JCSF Ex. 4 at 000016, ECF Nos. 154 & 155. Plaintiff's Exhibit 4 also states that a woman purported to be Roberta Young called Yamada and indicated that she had a signed power of attorney signed by Plaintiff and desired to surrender the Dogs. Id .; see Plntf.'s Supp. Opp. at 3, ECF No. 156.

STANDARD

A party may move for summary judgment on any claim or defense - or part of a claim or defense - under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 56. Summary judgment "should be granted 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.'" Maxwell v. Cnty. of San Diego , 697 F.3d 941, 947 (9th Cir. 2012) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a)). Under Rule 56, a "party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must support the assertion, " either by "citing to particular parts of materials in the record" or by "showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1).

The substantive law determines which facts are material; "only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law properly preclude the entry of summary judgment." Nat'l Ass'n of Optometrists & Opticians v. Harris , 682 F.3d 1144, 1147 (9th Cir. 2012). "The mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact." Scott v. Harris , 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007) (citation omitted).

A genuine issue of material fact exists if "a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." United States v. Arango , 670 F.3d 988, 992 (9th Cir. 2012) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986)). Conversely, "[w]here the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no genuine issue for trial." Scott , 550 U.S. at 380.

The moving party has the burden of persuading the court as to the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Avalos v. Baca , 596 F.3d 583, 587 (9th Cir. 2010).[13] If the moving party satisfies its burden, the nonmoving party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Sluimer v. Verity, Inc. , 606 F.3d 584, 587 (9th Cir. 2010). The nonmoving party must present evidence of a "genuine issue for trial, " Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e), that is "significantly probative or more than merely colorable."[14] LVRC Holdings LLC v. Brekka , 581 F.3d 1127, 1137 (9th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted). Summary judgment will be granted against a party who fails to demonstrate facts sufficient to establish "an element essential to that party's case and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Parth v. Pomona Valley Hosp. Med. Ctr. , 630 F.3d 794, 798-99 (9th Cir. 2010 (citation omitted).

When evaluating a motion for summary judgment, the court must "view the facts and draw reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the party opposing the summary judgment motion." Scott v. Harris , 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007). The court may not, however, weigh conflicting evidence or assess credibility. In re Barboza , 545 F.3d 702, 707 (9th Cir. 2008).[15] Accordingly, if "reasonable minds could differ as to the import of the evidence, " summary judgment will be denied. Anderson , 477 U.S. at 250-51.

DISCUSSION

I. Whether This Court Should Grant the HIHS Defendants' MSJ as to Plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Claims

Plaintiff's SAC alleges, inter alia, that the HIHS Defendants violated Plaintiff's constitutional rights under the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments by seizing and disposing of the Dogs. SAC at 22-25. Accordingly, Plaintiff seeks relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Id . To prevail on a § 1983 claim, Plaintiff must prove two essential elements: (1) "that a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was violated, " and (2) "that the alleged violation was committed by a person acting under the color of State law." Long v. Cnty. of Los Angeles , 442 F.3d 1178, 1185 (9th Cir. 2006). The HIHS Defendants do not contest that they were acting under the color of state law. See HIHS Defs.' MSJ at 10-18, ECF No. 98. The HIHS Defendants only contest the first element by arguing that they did not violate Plaintiff's constitutional rights.

The Court also notes that Plaintiff's § 1983 claims in the SAC and the § 1983 discussion in his Opposition refer only to the Dogs and do not discuss other property mentioned in the state tort law claims of the SAC and the MSJ briefs. See SAC Counts I-IV and Plntf.'s HIHS MSJ Opp. at 4-13. Accordingly, the Court only examines the HIHS Defendants and Defendant Ostendorp's conduct regarding the Dogs when considering the § 1983 claims.

A. Whether the HIHS Defendants Violated Plaintiff's Constitutional Rights

1. Whether the HIHS Defendants Violated Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment Rights

The Fourth Amendment protects the "right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures." U.S. v. Place , 462 U.S. 696, 700 (1983). A "seizure" of property occurs when "there is some meaningful interference with an individual's possessory interests in that property." Soldal v. Cook Cnty, III , 506 U.S. 56, 68 (1992). "In the ordinary case, the Court has viewed a seizure of personal property as per se unreasonable within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment unless it is accomplished pursuant to a judicial warrant issued upon probable cause and particularly describing the items to be seized." Id at 701. Destruction of property originally obtained through a lawful search and seizure may constitute a violation of the Fourth Amendment. See U.S. v. Jacobsen , 466 U.S. 109, 124-25 (1984) (noting that a field test that destroyed a small quantity of powder violated the owner's possessory interest).

Plaintiff alleges that Officer Yamada violated his Fourth Amendment rights because (1) she was not statutorily authorized to apply for and execute the Search Warrant, and (2) "the continued illegal seizure of [Plaintiff's Dogs]... effectively deprived [Plaintiff] of his 4th Amendment rights." Plntf.'s HIHS Opp. at 5-6. The Court will address each argument in turn.

Plaintiff argues that HIHS officers do not have authority to apply for or execute search warrants under Hawai'i statutory law. Plntf.'s HIHS Opp. at 5. Contrary to Plaintiff's erroneous interpretation of the statutory language, HIHS officers may apply for and execute search warrants as officers of the state. According to Haw. Rev. Stat. § 711-1109.1 (1993 & Supp. 2009), a law enforcement officer who obtains a valid search warrant may impound a pet animal, among other things. The statute defines "law enforcement officer" according to H.R.S. § 710-1000 (1993 & Supp. 2009), which provides the following definition:

any public servant, whether employed by the State or subdivisions thereof... vested by law with a duty to maintain public order, to make arrests for offenses or to enforce the criminal laws, whether that duty extends to all offenses or is limited to a specific class of offenses.

H.R.S. § 710-1000 defines a "public servant" as "any officer or employee of any branch of government... and any person participating as advisor, consultant, or otherwise, in performing a ...


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