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Medina v. Danaher

United States District Court, D. Colorado

September 21, 2018

CHRISTOPHER DANAHER, in his individual capacity, ROBERT SHIFLETT, in his individual capacity, and JOHN/JANE DOES 1-7 or more, all in their individual capacities, Defendants.



         This matter is before the Court on the Motion to Dismiss by Defendant Shiflett [Docket No. 28]. The Court has subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

         I. BACKGROUND[1]

         This case arises out of plaintiff's arrest and detention by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) officials. Plaintiff is an American citizen who lives in Gunnison, Colorado. Docket No. 26 at 1-2, ¶¶ 1, 5. On January 27, 2015, plaintiff was at the Gunnison county court for a traffic matter when he was confronted by two men. Id. at 3-4, ¶¶ 12-13. Plaintiff alleges, “[o]n information and belief, ” that the men “may have been Defendant [Christopher] Danaher and Defendant Doe #1. Id. After plaintiff provided the men with his Colorado identification, defendants conducted a search of plaintiff without providing a warrant or asking for plaintiff's permission. Id. at 4, ¶ 14. The men then informed plaintiff that he would need to accompany them to Alamosa for questioning. Id., ¶ 15. After reaching a detention center in Alamosa, Defendant Does #2, #3, and #4 asked plaintiff questions regarding his “immigration status.” Id. at 5, ¶ 19. Plaintiff informed these defendants that he was an American citizen and had been born in Montrose. Id. In response, these defendants accused plaintiff of lying and stated that he was a Mexican citizen who was in the United States illegally. Id. at 5, ¶ 20. One of these defendants told plaintiff, “[Y]ou don't look like you were born in Montrose, ” allegedly referring to plaintiff's “Hispanic appearance.” Id., ¶ 22.

         Defendant Does #2, #3, and #4 told plaintiff that he could leave the Alamosa detention center by posting a $12, 000 ICE bond. Id., ¶ 23. Sometime on January 27, 2015, the Department of Homeland Security issued documents “which attempted to justify and prolong Plaintiff's custody, ” namely, a Warrant for Alien Arrest, a Notice to Appear, and a Notice of Custody Determination. Id. at 5-6, ¶ 25. Each document was signed by defendant Robert Shiflett and served by defendant Danaher. Id. at 6, ¶ 25. That evening, defendant was transferred to a detention facility in Colorado Springs, id. at 6, ¶ 26, and, on January 29, 2015, was transferred to a detention facility in Denver, Colorado. Id., ¶ 29. At both facilities, plaintiff told an unknown number of Defendant Does that he was an American citizen. Id., ¶¶ 27, 30. During this same period, plaintiff's family members attempted to present plaintiff's birth certificate to any official they could get in contact with. Id. at 7, ¶ 32. Despite these efforts, there was no investigation into plaintiff's claim of citizenship. Id., ¶¶ 33-34. On January 30, 2015, defendants learned that plaintiff was an American citizen. Id., ¶ 35. After questioning plaintiff as to why he had not told them sooner, defendants released plaintiff from the detention center. Id. at 7, ¶¶ 36, 39.

         Plaintiff filed this lawsuit on January 27, 2017 asserting claims pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), for unlawful search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment, denial of due process under the Fifth Amendment, and denial of equal protection under the Fifth Amendment. Docket No. 1. On August 7, 2017, defendant Robert Shiflett moved to dismiss the claims against him based on qualified immunity. Docket No. 28. Plaintiff filed a response to the motion, Docket No. 31, to which defendant replied. Docket No. 36. On September 11, 2018, the Court ordered the parties to file supplemental briefs addressing (1) whether a Warrant for Arrest of Alien, a Notice to Appear, or a Notice of Custody Determination is required to state specific facts to support a probable cause determination and, if so, (2) whether the facts asserted can be so facially deficient as to render the issuing officer's determination of probable cause objectively unreasonable. Docket No. 48. Both parties filed supplemental briefs on September 18, 2018. Docket Nos. 49, 50.


         To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a complaint must allege enough factual matter that, taken as true, makes the plaintiff's “claim to relief . . . plausible on its face.” Khalik v. United Air Lines, 671 F.3d 1188, 1190 (10th Cir. 2012) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not shown-that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009) (internal quotation marks and alteration marks omitted); see also Khalik, 671 F.3d at 1190 (“A plaintiff must nudge [his] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible in order to survive a motion to dismiss.” (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570)). If a complaint's allegations are “so general that they encompass a wide swath of conduct, much of it innocent, ” then plaintiff has not stated a plausible claim. Khalik, 671 F.3d at 1191 (quotations omitted). Thus, even though modern rules of pleading are somewhat forgiving, “a complaint still must contain either direct or inferential allegations respecting all the material elements necessary to sustain a recovery under some viable legal theory.” Bryson v. Gonzales, 534 F.3d 1282, 1286 (10th Cir. 2008) (alteration marks omitted).

         In the qualified immunity context, a plaintiff “must allege facts sufficient to show (assuming they are true) that the defendants plausibly violated their constitutional rights, and that those rights were clearly established at the time.” Robbins v. Oklahoma ex rel. Dep't of Human Servs., 519 F.3d 1242, 1249 (10th Cir. 2008).

         III. ANALYSIS

         Defendant Shiflett moves for dismissal of plaintiff's claims under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments on the ground that plaintiff has failed, pursuant to qualified immunity analysis, to allege a plausible violation of his clearly established constitutional rights.

         Docket No. 28 at 1, 3-9.

         A. Fourth Amendment Claim

         The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution “prohibits government officials from detaining a person in the absence of probable cause.” Manuel v. City of Joliet, Ill., 137 S.Ct. 911, 918 (2017). “Probable cause exists if facts and circumstances within the . . . officer's knowledge and of which he or she has reasonably trustworthy information are sufficient to lead a prudent person to believe that the arrestee has committed or is committing an offense.” Olsen v. Layton Hills Mall, 312 F.3d 1304, 1312 (10th Cir. 2002) (internal quotation marks omitted). Because probable cause is determined according to an objective standard, United States v. Valenzuela, 365 F.3d 892, 896 (10th Cir. 2004), the focus of the inquiry is ...

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