United States District Court, D. Utah, Northern Division
SU-YI YOCUM, As. Y., Ad. Y., and Am. Y., Plaintiffs,
STATE OF UTAH, UTAH ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE, ATTORNEY GENERAL SEAN REYES, WEBER COUNTY, WEBER COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE, SHERIFF TERRY THOMPSON, SUMMIT COUNTY, SUMMIT COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE, SHERIFF JUSTIN MARTINEZ, SYRACUSE CITY, SYRACUSE POLICE DEPARTMENT, CHIEF GARRET ATKIN, INVESTIGATOR RON BRIDGE, SPECIAL AGENT WEIR, SPECIAL AGENT PURDY, SPECIAL AGENT ZIMMERMAN, SPECIAL AGENT BAGGS, SPECIAL AGENT WHITE, SPECIAL AGENT RENFRO, SPECIAL AGENT WARE, SPECIAL AGENT CODY TRACY, SPECIAL AGENT RICHMOND, CAMERON HARTMAN, JESSICA FARNSWORTH, PATTY REED, ZACHARY SNOW, and JOHN DOES 1-10, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER GRANTING SUMMIT COUNTY
AND SYRACUSE CITY DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS
WADDOUPS UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.
matter is before the court on a motion to dismiss each of
plaintiffs' three causes of action against Summit County,
the Summit County Sheriff's Office, Detective Ron Bridge,
Sheriff Justin Martinez (collectively the Summit County
Defendants), and Syracuse City, the Syracuse Police
Department, Chief Garret Atkin, and Special Agent Weir
(collectively, the Syracuse Defendants). (Dkt. No. 6.) The
court heard oral argument on the motion on February 1, 2017.
For the reasons stated below, the court GRANTS the motion and
dismisses all claims against the Summit County Defendants and
the Syracuse Defendants.
are the wife and three daughters of Jason Yocum, who was the
subject of a search warrant related to child pornography
charges executed on March 12, 2015 by a number of officers
alleged to belong to several county and/or city agencies.
alleged that around August 4, 2014, Special Agent Richmond
began investigating various IP addresses allegedly using
“Peer to Peer” file sharing protocols and
websites to share, download, and/or allegedly distribute
child pornography. (Compl. ¶ 30, Dkt. No. 2.) During the
course of the investigation, Richmond obtained information
about an IP address originating in Syracuse, Utah involved
with sharing child pornography over a “Peer to
Peer” network. (Id. at ¶¶ 31-32.) On
March 11, 2015, Detective Bridge prepared an affidavit in
support of a search warrant and obtained a search warrant for
Mr. Yocum's residence. (Id. at ¶¶
allege that on March 12, 2015, numerous “[o]fficers
entered forcibly pursuant to [the] search warrant. They
threatened and otherwise pushed eight-year-old Am. Y., who
answered the door, out of the way as they entered in combat
gear with guns drawn.” (Id. at ¶¶
36-37.) “Officers threatened Su-Yi Yocum, As. Y., Ad.
Y., and Am. Y. with firearms while multiple police officers
yelled at them, pointed guns at them, [and] herded them into
a single room where they were detained against their
will.” (Id. at ¶ 38.) “Officers
threatened Su-Yi with the loss of her children during this
unreasonable search and seizure.” (Id. at
¶ 39.) “Investigator Bridge was recorded making
the admission that he was sure that no female in the
residence had committed a crime.” (Id. at
¶ 40.) Plaintiffs allege that their constitutional
rights were violated because of the manner in which officers
executed the search warrant. They also allege supervisory and
municipal liability based on failure to train or supervise
and/or fostering an institutional culture that supports
constitutional rights violations. The Summit County and
Syracuse Defendants filed this motion to dismiss for failure
to state a claim and asserted a qualified immunity defense.
12(b)(6) motion to dismiss tests the sufficiency of a
complaint. “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint
must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to
state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)
(internal punctuation omitted). “[M]ere labels and
conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a
cause of action will not suffice; a plaintiff must offer
specific factual allegations to support each claim.”
Kan. Penn Gaming, LLC v. Collins, 656 F.3d 1210,
1214 (10th Cir. 2011) (internal punctuation omitted).
in a § 1983 case, such as this one, where defendants
include a number of government agencies and actors sued in
their individual capacities, “it is particularly
important . . . that the complaint make
clear exactly who is alleged to have done
what to whom, to provide each individual
with fair notice as to the basis of the claims against him or
her, as distinguished from the collective allegations against
the state.” Robbins v. Oklahoma, 519 F.3d
1242, 1249 (10th Cir. 2008) (emphasis in original).
officials are immune from suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
unless they have violated a statutory or constitutional right
that was clearly established at the time of the challenged
conduct.” City & Cnty. of San Francisco v.
Sheehan, 135 S.Ct. 1765, 1774 (2015) (internal quotation
marks omitted). To overcome a qualified immunity defense,
plaintiffs bear the burden to demonstrate on the facts
alleged: “(1) that the official violated a statutory or
constitutional right; and (2) that the right was
‘clearly established' at the time of the challenged
conduct.” Quinn v. Young, 780 F.3d 998, 1004
(10th Cir. 2015) (recognizing that the court may decide
“which of the two prongs of the qualified immunity
analysis should be addressed first in light of the
circumstances of a particular case.”). “Because
qualified immunity is an immunity from suit rather than a
mere defense to liability it is effectively lost if a case is
erroneously permitted to go to trial.” Glover v.
Mabrey, 384 F. App'x 763, 767 (10th Cir. 2010).
“The plaintiff must plead that each Government-official
defendant, through his own individual actions, has violated
the Constitution.” Id. (internal quotation
marks omitted). At the motion to dismiss stage, “it is
the defendant's conduct as alleged in the
complaint that is scrutinized for objective legal
reasonableness.” Duncan v. Hickenlooper, 631
F. App'x 664, 648 (10th Cir. 2015) (emphasis in original,
internal quotation marks omitted).
Summit County Sheriff's Office and Syracuse Police
Department are not legal entities amenable to suit and should
subdivisions, such as its sheriff's office or police
department, are not separate legal entities with the capacity
to sue or be sued. Lindsey v. Thomson, 275 F.
App'x 744, 746 (10th Cir. 2007) (affirming dismissal of
§ 1983 claims against police departments and county
sheriff's department, entities with no apparent legal
existence). Plaintiffs' reply acknowledges this reality.
Accordingly, defendants Summit County Sheriff's Office
and Syracuse Police Department are dismissed with prejudice.
Unreasonable search, excessive force, and ...