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Lawson v. Gregg

United States District Court, D. Alaska

October 20, 2015

LEONARD A. LAWSON, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
JEFFERY GREGG, et al., Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO DISMISS

Sharon L. Gleason UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

Before the Court at Docket 72 is Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment. Defendants opposed at Docket 77, and Plaintiff replied at Docket 81. Shortly afterwards, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss Based on Qualified Immunity at Docket 87. Plaintiff opposed at Docket 89, and Defendants replied at Docket 92. Oral argument was not requested by either party and was not necessary to the Court’s determination of these motions. For the reasons discussed below, the Court denies Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment and grants Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss Based on Qualified Immunity.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Defendants applied for and received an anticipatory warrant to retrieve a package that was packed with cocaine and addressed to an address on Stella Place.[1] The package was fitted with a beeper that would emit a different tone when the box was opened.[2] The anticipatory warrant listed as triggering conditions for its execution that the package be

delivered and received by a person at [the Stella Place home], or left at the front door, and a person takes the box inside, or a person takes the box to another location and one of the following has occurred: a change of tone indicating the box has been opened, the electronic device fails to transmit or at least two hours has elapsed with no change indicting the box remains unopened inside the residence.[3]

As Defendants were delivering the package to the Stella Place home the beeper malfunctioned and submitted the tone indicating that the box had been opened.[4] The package was picked from the Stella Place home by Mr. Lawson’s co-defendant and delivered to his residence.[5] Defendants entered the home and performed a sweep to retrieve the package.[6]

On November 16, 2010, Mr. Lawson was indicted for drug conspiracy, possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking, attempted possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, and being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition.[7] Mr. Lawson moved to suppress evidence secured during the search of his residence.[8] The Magistrate Judge issued a Recommendation Regarding Motions to Suppress, which recommended denying Mr. Lawson’s motion to suppress because the search complied with the anticipatory warrant or, alternatively, because exigent circumstances justified a warrantless entry.[9] The District Court Judge issued an order adopting the Magistrate Judge’s recommendation in April 2011.[10]

In July 2011, Mr. Lawson, representing himself, initiated this action by filing a Civil Rights Complaint in which he alleged “police, governmental, prosecutorial, and judicial misconduct of falsified statements, writings and documents; and illegal entry, search & seizure, arrest and incarceration; also improper investigation of alleged crime against this plaintiff, in reference to [the criminal case].”[11] Shortly thereafter, the Court issued an order staying Mr. Lawson’s civil case until the conclusion of the criminal case.[12]

In September 2011, Mr. Lawson’s criminal case was tried before a jury. The jury found Mr. Lawson not guilty on the first three counts of the indictment but guilty of being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition.[13] Mr. Lawson appealed.[14] On November 30, 2012, the Ninth Circuit issued a memorandum disposition vacating his conviction and holding the firearm used to convict Mr. Lawson “was seized during an unlawful search and should have been suppressed.”[15] The Circuit Court held that (1) the triggering conditions in the anticipatory search warrant had not been fulfilled and (2) Defendants had failed to demonstrate that there were exigent circumstances because they did not show it would have been time consuming to get a second search warrant. The Appeals Court did not consider Mr. Lawson’s warrantless arrest.[16]

On February 27, 2013, the Court issued an order lifting the stay of this case and permitting Mr. Lawson to file an amended complaint.[17] Mr. Lawson filed an Amended Complaint on April 29, 2013.[18] On June 19, 2013, the Court issued an order dismissing certain claims and defendants named in the Amended Complaint. That order stated that only one claim had been adequately pled in the Amended Complaint: “the claim asserting constitutional violations of Mr. Lawson’s right to be free from an illegal home entry and an illegal search and seizure.”[19] The order explained that Mr. Lawson could pursue that claim on the basis of the Amended Complaint “against the appropriate, individually participating officers, ” or he could file a Second Amended Complaint.[20]

Mr. Lawson filed a Second Amended Complaint (“SAC”) on September 3, 2013.[21]The SAC contains two causes of action: (1) violation of Mr. Lawson’s Fourth Amendment right “to not be subjected to unreasonable search and seizure, ” and (2) violation of Mr. Lawson’s Fourteenth Amendment due process rights. The SAC names Anchorage police officers Jeffery Gregg and Monique Doll, as well as DEA agents Michael Dahlstrom, Nathaniel Clementson, and Richard F. Youngblood, as Defendants.

The SAC alleges that on July 14, 2010, at approximately 3:45 p.m., Mr. Lawson was unlawfully arrested while standing on his back porch. The SAC alleges that law enforcement then conducted a “warrantless” search of Mr. Lawson’s home and seized property within the home, including the shotgun that was used as evidence in Mr. Lawson’s criminal case.[22] The SAC alleges that prior to Mr. Lawson’s arrest, he “was not a person of interest of any investigation, ” and law enforcement “did not even know [his] name.”[23] The SAC asserts that Mr. Lawson’s arrest and the subsequent search of his home and seizure of evidence were unlawful. The SAC also asserts that Mr. Lawson’s indictment was “a direct result of the unlawful arrest, search and seizure” and therefore violative of his due process rights. The SAC requests $100, 000 in compensatory damages, $1, 000, 000 in punitive damages, “[a]n order requiring defendant(s) to possess a valid warrant to search and or seize people or property ‘before’ they enter a home or arrest a non-suspect, ” and “[a] declaration that it won’t happen again[.]”[24]

Defendants filed a motion to dismiss on February 27, 2014, relying on qualified immunity. The Court denied that motion by order dated August 25, 2014.[25] The order stated that the allegations in the SAC, when taken as true, alleged a violation of clearly established Fourth Amendment rights.

Mr. Lawson filed the current Motion for Summary Judgment on June 1, 2015. He asserts that the Ninth Circuit’s memorandum decision in the criminal case demonstrates that he had clearly established Fourth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment rights, which Defendants violated. Mr. Lawson maintains that there were no exigent circumstances to allow a warrantless arrest, and he assets that Defendants’ application for a second warrant is evidence that they knew ...


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