Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Rodrigues v. County of Hawaii

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

April 20, 2018




         For the reasons discussed below, the Court GRANTS Defendants County of Hawaii and Samuel Jelsma's Motion to Dismiss filed on January 26, 2018, ECF No. 5, and dismisses all of Plaintiff's claims WITHOUT PREJUDICE.


         On January 9, 2018, Plaintiff John Rodrigues, Jr. (“Plaintiff”) filed a Complaint in state court against the County of Hawaii (the “County”), Samuel Jelsma (“Defendant Jelsma, ” and collectively with the County, the “County Defendants”), Doe Persons 1-10, Doe Partnerships 1-10, Doe Corporations 1-10, Roe “Non-Profit Corporations 1-10, and Roe Governmental Entities 1-10 (collectively with Doe Persons 1-10, Doe Partnerships 1-10, Doe Corporations 1-10, Roe Non-Profit Corporations 1-10, the “Doe Defendants”). ECF No. 1-2 (“Compl.”). The Complaint alleges the following eight counts: (1) violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (“section 1983”) by Defendant Jelsma; (2) violation of section 1983 by the County; (3) false arrest/false imprisonment; (4) defamation “per se”; (5) defamation “per quod”; (6) false light; (7) intentional infliction of emotional distress (“IIED”); and (8) negligent infliction of emotional distress (“NIED”). Compl. ¶¶ 70-132.

         On January 18, 2018, the County Defendants filed a notice of removal with this Court. ECF No. 1. Later that month, on January 26, 2018, the County Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss (“Motion”). ECF No. 5. On March 27, 2018, Plaintiff filed an Opposition to the County Defendants' Motion (“Opposition” or “Opp.”). ECF No. 9. On March 29, 2018, the County Defendants filed a Reply to Plaintiff's Opposition (“Reply”). ECF No. 11. The Court held a hearing on the County Defendants' Motion on April 16, 2018.


         According to the Complaint, Plaintiff is a retired law enforcement officer with the Hawaii County Police Department. Compl. ¶ 9. He served “for an aggregate of 10 years or more, ” id. ¶ 59, and previously met the standards for qualification in firearms training for active law enforcement officers with the Hawaii County Police Department, id. ¶ 60. At all relevant times, Plaintiff was a “qualified law enforcement officer” as that term is defined under 18 U.S.C. § 926C (the “Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act” or “LEOSA”). Id. ¶ 67.

         On or about January 26, 2017, Plaintiff called 9-1-1 to request police assistance after being threatened by an individual known as Wesley “Mana” Brooks (“Brooks”). Id. ¶¶ 11-12. Specifically, Brooks had brandished a firearm and fired a round at Plaintiff. Id. ¶ 13.

         When Hawaii County Police Department officers arrived at the scene, Defendant Jelsma-a Captain in the Hawaii County Police Department-asked Plaintiff if he kept any firearms in his vehicle. Id. at 14. Plaintiff responded that he did keep firearms in the vehicle, id. ¶ 15, which prompted Defendant Jelsma to state: “we need a consent from you to enter your vehicle, ” id. ¶ 16. Plaintiff immediately consented to a search of his vehicle, and officers therein recovered a shotgun and a 9mm handgun. Id. ¶¶ 17, 28.

         Meanwhile, after consenting to the vehicle search, Plaintiff began describing to Defendant Jelsma the history between Plaintiff's family and Brooks. Among other incidents, Brooks previously made death threats against Plaintiff's son while brandishing an AK-47 assault rifle and a 9mm handgun. Id. ¶ 19. Brooks also stalked Plaintiff's son at his workplace and threatened his life in front of others. Id. ¶ 20. These death threats prompted Plaintiff's son to file at least three prior police reports. Id. ¶ 18.

         Plaintiff further told Defendant Jelsma that, although Brooks's threats continued to escalate, “the Hawaii County Police Department was doing nothing to investigate the threats to his son's life and Brooks' unlawful possession and use of firearms.” Id. ¶ 25. Defendant Jelsma first responded that Plaintiff should have called a supervisor at the Hawaii County Police Department, id. ¶ 26, but he thereafter began to ignore Plaintiff. Id. ¶ 27.

         After officers recovered the firearms from Plaintiff's vehicle, Defendant Jelsma instructed Plaintiff to drive himself to the Pahoa Police Station “where later, he would be free to go.” Id. ¶ 31. Plaintiff drove to the Pahoa Police Station-at approximately 11:02am-with a police officer following behind him. Id. ¶¶ 31, 33.

         When Plaintiff arrived at Pahoa Police Station, that same officer directed him into an interrogation room and ordered him to remain there. Id. ¶ 34. Upon Defendant Jelsma's arrival at the station, Plaintiff asked him if he intended to conduct the Advice of Rights so that Plaintiff would be free to leave. Id. ¶¶ 35-36. Defendant Jelsma instructed Plaintiff to “wait.” Id. ¶ 37. When Plaintiff asked if he was under arrest, Defendant Jelsma first answered “No, ” id. ¶¶ 38-39, and then told Plaintiff loudly: “No you are not under arrest, but you are not free to leave, ” id. ¶ 41. When Plaintiff repeated Defendant Jelsma's statement, Defendant Jelsma confirmed: “Yes, you can't leave, you need to wait.” Id. ¶¶ 42-43.

         At this point, Plaintiff was thirsty and asked Defendant Jelsma if he could get his hydro-flask from his truck. Id. ¶ 46. Defendant Jelsma agreed, and armed officers escorted Plaintiff to his truck and back into the interrogation room. Id. ¶ 47.

         Once Plaintiff arrived back in the interrogation room, he again asked Defendant Jelsma about his plan regarding Brooks. Id. ¶ 48. Defendant Jelsma ignored Plaintiff, id., and Plaintiff began to believe that Defendant Jelsma was “trying to discredit [him] and ruin his reputation and standing in the community, ” id. ¶ 50.

         At approximately 2:00pm, a detective placed Plaintiff under arrest for three counts of Terroristic Threatening in the First Degree and six firearm violations. Id. ¶ 51. Plaintiff was then released pending further investigation after spending over four hours in custody. Id. ¶ 53. Defendants thereafter issued a media release about Plaintiff's arrest and charges, which they followed with another media release containing the criminal charges against Plaintiff and a recent photograph of him. Id. ¶ 52. The Prosecuting Attorney for the County of Hawaii, however, ultimately declined to prosecute Plaintiff. Id. ¶ 55.

         On or about January 28, 2018, the day after Plaintiff's arrest, Brooks threatened Plaintiff's son's life at his workplace. Id. ¶ 54. Defendants did not intervene. Id.


         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) authorizes the Court to dismiss a complaint that fails “to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Rule 12(b)(6) is read in conjunction with Rule 8(a), which requires only “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). The Court may dismiss a complaint either because it lacks a cognizable legal theory or because it lacks sufficient factual allegations to support a cognizable legal theory. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1988).

         In resolving a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court must construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and accept all well-pleaded factual allegations as true. Sateriale v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., 697 F.3d 777, 783 (9th Cir. 2012). The complaint “must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'”[1] Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “The plausibility standard . . . asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. “Where a complaint pleads facts that are ‘merely consistent with' a defendant's liability, it ‘stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.'” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).

         When the Court dismisses a complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) it should grant leave to amend unless the pleading cannot be cured by new factual allegations. OSU Student All. v. Ray, 699 F.3d 1053, 1079 (9th Cir. 2012).


         I. Claims Against Defendant Jelsma in his Official Capacity

         Plaintiff brings claims against Defendant Jelsma in his individual and official capacity. Compl. ¶ 3. Personal capacity suits, on the one hand, seek to impose personal liability upon a government official for actions he takes under color of state law. See Hafer v. Melo, 502 U.S. 21, 25 (1991). Official capacity suits, on the other hand, “generally represent only another way of pleading an action against an entity of which an officer is an agent.” Monell v. N.Y.C. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 690 n. 55 (1978). Courts, therefore, generally treat such suits as suits against the governmental entity. Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 166 (1985); see also Carnell v. Grimm, 872 F.Supp. 746, 752 (D. Haw. 1994) (dismissing claims against officials in their official capacity as duplicative where the municipality had also been sued); Freeland v. Cty. of Maui, No. CIV. 11-00617 ACK-KS, 2013 WL 6528831, at *5 (D. Haw. Dec. 11, 2013) (“[T]he official-capacity claims ‘duplicate[ ] the claims asserted against the [County of Maui]' and are therefore dismissed.” (alterations in original) (citation omitted)). Accordingly, the Court dismisses the claims against Defendant Jelsma in his official capacity with prejudice.[2]

         II. Section 1983 Claim (Count I) Against Defendant Jelsma

         The County Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiff's section 1983 claim against Defendant Jelsma based on qualified immunity. Defs.' Mem. in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss (“MTD”) at 2. Qualified immunity shields government officials who perform discretionary functions from liability for civil damages when “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). In deciding whether a government official is entitled to qualified immunity in a section 1983 action, courts must determine: (1) the constitutional right allegedly violated; (2) whether the right was clearly established[3]; and (3) whether a reasonable official would have believed the official's conduct to be lawful. Hamilton v. Endell, 981 F.2d 1062, 1066 (9th Cir.1992) (citing Romero v. Kitsap County, 931 F.2d 624, 627 (9th Cir.1991)).

         Whether an official is protected by qualified immunity often turns on the “objective legal reasonableness” of his action. Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 639 (1987). If the action at issue is an allegedly unlawful arrest, qualified immunity will shield the arresting officers if a reasonable police officer would have believed that probable cause existed to arrest the plaintiff. Hunter v. Bryant, 502 U.S. 224, 226-27 (1991).

         In this case, the Complaint alleges that Defendant Jelsma deprived Plaintiff of his Fourth Amendment right to be free from arrest unsupported by a warrant or probable cause. Compl. ¶ 73a. Plaintiff further alleges that his arrest violated LEOSA and Plaintiff's “legal right to carry concealed weapons.” Id. ¶ 73b. The issue therefore is (1) whether Defendant Jelsma had probable cause to arrest Plaintiff, or, if not, (2) whether a reasonable officer in Defendant Jelsma's position would have believed that he had probable cause arrest Plaintiff in light of clearly established law and the information he possessed and therefore is entitled to qualified immunity. See Hunter, 502 U.S. at 227.

         Probable cause exists “when officers have knowledge or reasonably trustworthy information sufficient to lead a person of reasonable caution to believe that an offense has been or is being committed by the person being arrested.” Fayer v. Vaughn, 649 F .3d 1061, 1064 (9th Cir. 2011) (quoting United States v. Lopez, 482 F.3d 1067, 1072 (9th Cir. 2007)); Michino v. Lewis, No. CIV. 13-00546 ACK, 2015 WL 3752503, at *5 (D. Haw. June 16, 2015) (“A warrantless arrest is lawful under the Fourth Amendment . . . if it is accompanied ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.