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Gadd v. South Jordan City

United States District Court, D. Utah, Central Division

July 9, 2018

MATTHEW GADD, Plaintiff,
v.
SOUTH JORDAN CITY, SOUTH JORDAN CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT OFFICER JONATHAN CAMPBELL, SOUTH JORDAN CITY JUSTICE COURT PROSECUTOR EDWARD MONTGOMERY, ERIN GADD, and DOES 1-10, Defendants.

          David Nuffer Judge.

         MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT AS TO SOUTH JORDAN CITY AND ERIN GADD (ECF NO. 88) AND REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION TO DENY MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT AS TO JONATHAN CAMPBELL, EDWARD MONTGOMERGY, AND GENE MOSS (ECF NO. 88)

          EVELYN J. FURSE MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Matthew Gadd filed a Motion for Leave to File Second Amended Complaint and Supporting Memorandum. (Mot. for Leave to File 2d Am. Compl. ("Mot."), ECF No. 88.) Mr. Gadd seeks leave to amend his Complaint as to Defendants South Jordan City, Erin Gadd, South Jordan City Justice Court Prosecutor Edward Montgomery ("Prosecutor Montgomery"), and South Jordan City Police Department Officer Jonathan Campbell ("Officer Campbell"), and further seeks to add South Jordan City Justice Court Officer Gene Moss ("Officer Moss") as a defendant (the Court refers to South Jordan City, Officer Campbell, Prosecutor Montgomery, and Officer Moss collectively as the "South Jordan Defendants"). The South Jordan Defendants opposed Mr. Gadd's Motion for Leave to File the Second Amended Complaint, (South Jordan Defs.' Mem. in Opp'n to Pl.'s Mot. for Leave to File 2d Am. Compl. ("Opp'n"), ECF No. 91), but Ms. Gadd did not.

         On May 3, 2018, the undersigned[1] held a hearing on Mr. Gadd's Motion. (ECF No. 112.) During the hearing, the South Jordan Defendants conceded that the District Judge's prior Order allowing the claims against South Jordan City to proceed binds the Court but indicated their continued opposition to the proposed amendments as to Prosecutor Montgomery, Officer Campbell, and Officer Moss.

         Because the South Jordan Defendants concede the appropriateness of Mr. Gadd's amendment as to South Jordan City, Ms. Gadd does not oppose Mr. Gadd's amendment as to her, and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(2) provides that courts should freely grant leave to amend when justice requires, the Court GRANTS Mr. Gadd's Motion as to South Jordan City and Ms. Gadd. Further, because Mr. Gadd's amended allegations only allege actions within the scope of a prosecutor's role, they fail to overcome prosecutorial immunity. Therefore, the undersigned RECOMMENDS that the District Judge DENY Mr. Gadd's Motion as to Prosecutor Montgomery. As to Officer Campbell and Officer Moss, Mr. Gadd fails to show that the alleged unconstitutional actions were clearly established as unconstitutional at the time. Thus, the proposed amendment fails to overcome qualified immunity. Accordingly, the undersigned recommends District Judge DENY Mr. Gadd's Motion as to these two Defendants as well.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Mr. Gadd initiated this action on September 16, 2015, (Compl., ECF No. 1), and filed his First Amended Complaint on November 5, 2015 (1st Am. Compl., ECF No. 19). Mr. Gadd asserted 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims for malicious prosecution against South Jordan City, Prosecutor Montgomery, and Officer Campbell, and common law malicious prosecution and abuse of process claims against Ms. Gadd. (See 1st Am. Compl., ECF No. 19.)

         The allegations in this case arise out of charges that South Jordan City filed- and subsequently dropped-against Mr. Gadd for allegedly violating a Temporary Protective Order ("TPO"). (See generally 1st Am. Compl., ECF No. 19.) A court issued the TPO on June 23, 2014 at the request of Mr. Gadd's then-wife, Ms. Gadd. (Id. ¶ 20 & Ex. D, Temp. Protective Order, June 30, 2014.) The TPO placed restrictions on Mr. Gadd's communications with Ms. Gadd but did not place any restrictions on Mr. Gadd's ability to contact or communicate with his children. (1st Am. Compl., ¶¶ 26-27, & Ex. D, Temp. Protective Order, June 30, 2014, ECF No. 19.) On June 30, 2014, Mr. Gadd sent separate text messages to his two oldest children. (1st Am. Compl. ¶ 39, ECF No. 19.) Shortly thereafter, Ms. Gadd contacted the South Jordan City Police Department asking them to charge Mr. Gadd with violating the TPO. (Id. ¶ 43.) South Jordan dispatched Officer Campbell to investigate. (Id. ¶ 44.) On June 30, 2014, Officer Campbell filed his police report and screening paperwork with Prosecutor Montgomery, a South Jordan City prosecutor. (Id. ¶ 50.) On July 15, 2014, Mr. Montgomery filed charges against Mr. Gadd in the Justice Court of South Jordan City, charging him with two counts of violation of a protective order. (Id. ¶ 55.) On July 19, 2014, Mr. Gadd received a summons from the Justice Court of South Jordan City summoning him to appear for an arraignment on August 4, 2014. (Id. ¶ 56.) Prior to his arraignment, a South Jordan City bailiff ordered Mr. Gadd to a room adjacent to the courtroom and fingerprinted him. (Id. ¶ 63.) Mr. Gadd objected and expressly denied permission to take his fingerprints, but the bailiff told him it was mandatory and physically grabbed Mr. Gadd's hands to take the fingerprints. (Id.)

         On September 2014, Prosecutor Montgomery and Mr. Gadd's attorney spoke on the telephone and exchanged e-mails regarding the charges against Mr. Gadd. (Id. ¶¶ 61, 67-68.) Mr. Gadd's attorney pointed out that none of the restrictions in the TPO prohibited Mr. Gadd from communicating with his children, (Id. ¶ 68.) Prosecutor Montgomery subsequently dropped the charges against Mr. Gadd, indicating in an e-mail that he agreed with the analysis of Mr. Gadd's attorney. (Id. ¶ 69.) On September 17, 2014-one day after Mr. Gadd initiated the present action-Mr. Montgomery filed a motion to dismiss the charges against Mr. Gadd without prejudice, citing "insufficient evidence" as the reason for dismissal, and the court granted the motion to dismiss on September 19, 2014. (Id. ¶ 70-71, 73.)

         On November 24, 2015, South Jordan City, Prosecutor Montgomery, and Officer Campbell moved to dismiss the § 1983 malicious prosecution claims asserted against them. (Mot. to Dismiss 1st Am. Compl., ECF No. 21.) Specifically, they argued that absolute immunity shielded Prosecutor Montgomery from suit, that qualified immunity shielded Officer Campbell from suit, and that Mr. Gadd failed to allege sufficient factual allegations to establish South Jordan City's liability. (See id.)

         The District Judge granted the motion to dismiss as to Prosecutor Montgomery and denied the motion to dismiss as to South Jordan City and Officer Campbell. (See Am. Mem. Decision & Order Granting in Part & Denying in Part Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss ("Mot. to Dismiss Order"), ECF No. 29.) With respect to Prosecutor Montgomery, the District Judge found as follows:

In this case, the allegations in the complaint establish that Mr. Montgomery's actions fell within his role as a prosecutor. It is alleged that Mr. Montgomery reviewed Officer Campbell's statement and the TPO before bringing charges against Mr. Gadd. Mr. Montgomery subsequently filed a criminal information charging Mr. Gadd. Mr. Montgomery then negotiated with Mr. Gadd's attorney and ultimately dismissed the charges. The complaint does not allege any actions taken by Mr. Montgomery that are normally performed by a police officer or detective. Rather, all factual allegations involve his role as prosecutor.
Because all the factual allegations against Mr. Montgomery fall within his role as prosecutor, he is entitled to absolute immunity. This is true even if Mr. Montgomery knowingly and intentionally filed the criminal charges against Mr. Gadd without probable cause. Accordingly, Mr. Montgomery's motion to dismiss the claims against him is GRANTED.

(Id. at 6.) As to Officer Campbell, the District Judge found Mr. Gadd's allegations concerning the bailiff sufficient to allege that the bailiff had seized Mr. Gadd within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, as required to bring a claim for malicious prosecution. (Id. at 7-8.) The District Judge further found the underlying Fourth Amendment right clearly established at the time and therefore rejected Officer Campbell's qualified immunity defense.

Mr. Gadd alleges that Officer Campbell intentionally and knowingly falsified a police report in order to institute legal process. There is no doubt that Officer Campbell had sufficient notice under Tenth Circuit precedent that such conduct was unconstitutional. See Pierce v. Gilchrist, 359 F.3d 1279, 1298-99 (10th Cir. 2004) (holding that it was a Fourth Amendment violation to knowingly or recklessly use false information to institute legal process). Accordingly, taking the factual allegations in the complaint in the light most favorable to Mr. Gadd, Officer Campbell is not protected by qualified immunity and his motion to dismiss is DENIED.

(Id. at 9.) Finally, the District Judge denied the motion to dismiss as to South Jordan City, finding as follows:

Mr. Gadd has adequately pleaded that the City has a policy or custom of quotas that incentivizes officials to issue citations and prosecute crimes without probable cause. If Mr. Gadd is able to prove those assertions, the City may be found liable. Accordingly, Mr. Gadd has adequately stated a claim against the City and the City's motion to dismiss is DENIED.

(Id. at 10.)

         Officer Campbell immediately appealed the District Judge's denial of qualified immunity. (Notice of Appeal, ECF No. 30.) On October 26, 2017, the Tenth Circuit reversed the District Judge's decision on qualified immunity. Gadd v. Campbell, 712 Fed.Appx. 796 (10th Cir. 2017) (unpublished). Specifically, the Tenth Circuit found no analogous precedent clearly established that Officer Campbell's alleged conduct violated the Fourth Amendment, and therefore, qualified immunity protected him from suit.

The Supreme Court, then, has taken a rigorous approach to requiring prior relevant or controlling precedent that involves factually analogous situations holding similar conduct to be unconstitutional before an ...

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