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Campbell v. City of Northglenn

United States District Court, D. Colorado

May 15, 2017

SERENA CAMPBELL, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF NORTHGLENN, COLORADO, and ADAMS COUNTY, COLORADO, Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO DISMISS

          R. Brooke Jackson United States District Judge

         This matter comes before the Court on defendant Adams County's motion to dismiss, or, in the alternative, for summary judgment; the City of Northglenn's similar motion; and the City of Northglenn's motion regarding relocation of the dog at issue in this case. ECF Nos. 52, 53, 62. The motions to dismiss are granted, and the motion to relocate the dog is moot.

         BACKGROUND

         In 2012 Serena Campbell began living with her boyfriend, Richard Jackson, and his dog, a male American Staffordshire Terrier named Adolf (later renamed Baby). In August 2014 Ms. Campbell moved out of the residence, but she still came by to take care of Adolf. A month later, on September 11, 2014, Adolf bit a mail carrier. Northglenn police officers responded to the scene and told Ms. Campbell that Mr. Jackson may be receiving a summons because of the dog attack. A week later, Northglenn Police Department filed an application and affidavit for an arrest warrant for Mr. Jackson for unlawful ownership of a dangerous dog. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Jackson and Ms. Campbell were arrested on unrelated charges, and Adolf was placed in protective custody at the Adams County Animal Shelter. The shelter refused to release Adolf.

         In February 2015 Ms. Campbell was notified that a hearing had been scheduled regarding the disposition of Adolf. At the hearing, the Northglenn Municipal Court heard testimony from police officers and Ms. Campbell, and it ordered that Adolf be destroyed. Ms. Campbell appealed to the Adams County District Court, which affirmed the order. Ms. Campbell then petitioned the Colorado Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari, but it denied this petition on April 18, 2016.

         A few weeks prior, on March 25, 2016, Ms. Campbell filed this civil action. Her First Amended Complaint raises three claims for relief: (1) violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the City of Northglenn because the city performed an illegal traffic stop and detained her without probable cause, and subsequently acted directly “through its Police Department, City Attorney's Office and/or Municipal Court, ” or indirectly by “approv[ing] or ratif[ying] the unlawful deliberate disposition of property belonging to [Ms. Campbell], ” i.e., Adolf, “without due process”; (2) violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Adams County because the county, “through its Animal Shelter” or through “approv[al] or ratifi[cation], ” unreasonably seized Adolf and failed to provide due process; and (3) declaratory relief that the Northglenn Municipal Code provision providing authority for Adolf's disposition violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, that Northglenn Municipal Court had no jurisdiction to hold a disposition hearing to determine Adolf's fate, and that Adolf should immediately be released from the Adams County Shelter's custody. ECF No. 51 at 26-32.

         Adams County has filed a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, a motion for summary judgment. ECF No. 52. The City of Northglenn has filed a similar motion. ECF No. 53. The motions have been fully briefed. ECF Nos. 55, 56, 57, 58. Northglenn has also filed an unopposed motion for approval to relocate Adolf to an animal sanctuary pending the disposition of this case. ECF No. 62.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         To survive a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the complaint must contain “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). While the Court must accept the well-pleaded allegations of the complaint as true and construe them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, Robbins v. Wilkie, 300 F.3d 1208, 1210 (10th Cir. 2002), purely conclusory allegations are not entitled to be presumed true, Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 681 (2009). However, so long as the plaintiff offers sufficient factual allegations such that the right to relief is raised above the speculative level, he has met the threshold pleading standard. See Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556. “The court's function on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is not to weigh potential evidence that the parties might present at trial, but to assess whether the plaintiff's complaint alone is legally sufficient to state a claim for which relief may be granted.” Miller v. Glanz, 948 F.2d 1562, 1565 (10th Cir. 1991).

         The Court may grant summary judgment if “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party has the burden to show that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). The nonmoving party must “designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Id. at 324. A fact is material “if under the substantive law it is essential to the proper disposition of the claim.” Adler v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 144 F.3d 664, 670 (10th Cir. 1998). A material fact is genuine if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The Court will examine the factual record and make reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment. Concrete Works of Colo., Inc. v. City & Cnty. of Denver, 36 F.3d 1513, 1517 (10th Cir. 1994).

         ANALYSIS

         Defendants contend that Ms. Campbell has not correctly named defendant the Board of County Commissioners of Adams County (“BOCC”); Ms. Campbell's allegations are insufficient to state a claim against BOCC; Ms. Campbell's Monell claim based on a final policymaker fails to state a claim against BOCC; the Rooker-Feldman doctrine deprives this Court of subject matter jurisdiction to hear a challenge to the Northglenn Municipal Court's order; and Ms. Campbell cannot establish a Fourth Amendment violation because she did not own Adolf when he was seized. ECF Nos. 52, 53. Although I agree that BOCC was not correctly named as a defendant under Colorado Revised Statutes § 30-11-105, I will focus my discussion on the infirmities in Ms. Campbell's complaint that cannot be corrected by further amendment.

         A. Unreasonable Seizure: Traffic Stop.

         Ms. Campbell alleges that “the City of Northglenn . . . performed an illegal traffic stop of [her], and order [sic] her out of her vehicle at gunpoint, and detain [sic] her all without probable cause.” ECF No. 51 at ¶ 101. But cities do not perform traffic stops; police officers do. Ms. ...


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