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Martinez v. Lochbuie Police Dep't

February 6, 2006

DANA MARTINEZ, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF THE MINOR CHILDREN AS NEXT OF KIN AND PARENT, JACOB MARTINEZ, A MINOR, ADAM MARTINEZ, A MINOR, MICHAEL MARTINEZ, A MINOR, SAMUEL MARTINEZ, A MINOR, ISAIAH MARTINEZ, A MINOR, PATRICE GOMEZ, A MINOR, GABRIELLE GOMEZ, A MINOR, AND ROMAN GOMEZ, A MINOR, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
THE LOCHBUIE POLICE DEPARTMENT, LOCHBUIE POLICE CHIEF JOE CISKAR, IN HIS OFFICIAL AND INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY, LOCHBUIE POLICE OFFICER MATT CLARK, IN HIS OFFICIAL AND INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY, LOCHBUIE POLICE OFFICER CONRAD VENEGAS, IN HIS OFFICIAL AND INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY, AND LOCHBUIE POLICE OFFICER TOM BACKER, IN HIS OFFICIAL AND INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Marcia S. Krieger

OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

THIS MATTER comes before the Court pursuant to the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment*fn1 (# 95), the Plaintiffs' response (# 97), and the Defendants' reply (# 100).

BACKGROUND

The following facts are undisputed. The claims at issue here arise from an incident on January 22, 2002.*fn2 On that date, Defendants Clark and Backer, among others, were executing a search warrant at Plaintiff Dana Martinez's home. During that search, Defendants Clark and Backer observed what they believed were unsanitary conditions inside the home, as well as the presence of illegal drugs and weapons. While the search was taking place, Paul Gomez drove up to the house in a van, accompanied by Plaintiff Dana Martinez and the minors appearing as Plaintiffs in this case. Defendants Clark and Backer had a warrant to arrest Paul Gomez, and they did so. At that time, both Defendants claimed to observe a smell of "burnt marijuana" from inside the van, and Defendant Clark observed Gomez to have physical symptoms indicating that he was under the influence of marijuana.*fn3 Another police officer on the scene searched the van and located a quantity of marijuana behind a seat in the van. Defendants Clark then placed Plaintiff Dana Martinez under arrest for three separate crimes: (i) child abuse, resulting from the unsanitary conditions inside the house; (ii) child abuse, resulting from allowing Paul Gomez, while under the influence of marijuana, to drive the van containing the children; and (iii) possession of the marijuana found in the van. The minor Plaintiffs were not arrested.

Criminal charges were filed against Plaintiff Dana Martinez by the Weld County District Attorney, but the record does not indicate the specific charges, nor the outcome of the proceedings on such charges. No criminal charges were filed against any of the minor Plaintiffs.

Plaintiff Dana Martinez commenced this action both in her own name and on behalf of her minor children. The Complaint alleges three claims by all Plaintiffs: (i) a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against all Defendants, based on a violation of each Plaintiff's 4th Amendment rights*fn4; (ii) a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against all Defendants, in that each Plaintiff was subjected to false arrest, malicious prosecution, and abuse of process in violation of the 14th Amendment; (iii) a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against all Defendants for "outrageous conduct in violation of the 8th Amendment."

The Defendants then filed the instant Motion for Summary Judgment (# 95). The Plaintiffs concede many of the arguments asserted in the Defendants' motion. Specifically, they concede that:

* none of the incidents discussed in the Complaint, other than the January 22, 2002 incident, are the subject of claims in this case;

* Defendant Venegas is entitled to summary judgment on all claims against him;

* Defendant Lochbuie Police Department is not an entity subject to suit, and that the claims against it should be dismissed; and

* the 8th Amendment claim is not viable under the facts of this case, and should be dismissed.

In addition, although the Plaintiffs have not addressed that portion of the Defendants' motion that challenges the ability of the minor Plaintiffs to assert violations of their own constitutional rights, and thus, the Defendants are entitled to summary judgment on the claims by the minor Plaintiffs. Because the Plaintiffs do not purport to assert claims against any institutional defendant, such as the Town of Lochbuie or the Lochbuie Police Department, the claims against the Defendants in their official capacities must also be dismissed.

Thus, only the following claims by Plaintiff Dana Martinez (hereinafter, "the Plaintiff") remain: (i) a 4th Amendment violation against Defendants Backer and Clark in their individual capacities, for her warrantless arrest on January 22, 2002 without probable cause; (ii) a malicious prosecution and abuse of process claim against Defendants Clark and Backer in their individual capacities, arising out of alleged misstatements made by them to the Weld County District Attorney that resulted in the commencement or continuation of criminal proceedings against her; and (iii) a Monell-type claim against Defendant Ciskar*fn5 in his individual capacity, based on his failure to properly train and supervise Defendants Backer and Clark. In their Motion for Summary Judgment, each Defendant contends that he is ...


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