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Garcia v. Cnty. of Riverside

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

February 3, 2016

MARIO ALBERTO GARCIA, individually and as class representative, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
COUNTY OF RIVERSIDE, Defendant, and COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES; LOS ANGELES COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT; LEE BACA, in his personal and individual capacity, Defendants-Appellants

Argued and Submitted December 11, 2015, Pasadena, California

Page 1221

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California. D.C. No. 5:13-cv-00616-JGB-SP. Jesus G. Bernal, District Judge, Presiding.

SUMMARY[**]

Civil Rights

The panel affirmed the district court's denial of qualified immunity, absolute (quasi-judicial) immunity, and immunity under two California statutes in an action brought by Mario A. Garcia pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law alleging that he was wrongfully incarcerated by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department based on the misapplication of a felony warrant issued in 1994 for Mario L. Garcia, who has the same date of birth as plaintiff.

The panel first held that former Los Angeles Sheriff Lee Baca in his individual capacity may appeal the denial of absolute quasi-judicial immunity for the same reasons he may appeal denial of qualified immunity in his individual capacity. The panel held that Los Angeles County and the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department could not appeal denial of quasi-judicial immunity because they could not assert an absolute immunity in the first place. The panel held that it had jurisdiction over defendants' appeals from denial of state-law immunity because the district court's denial determined rights collateral to those asserted in the action, and like the denial of qualified immunity, the district court's decision was effectively unreviewable on appeal from a final judgment.

The panel held that plaintiff had sufficiently pleaded a Fourteenth Amendment violation arising from law enforcement's failure to investigate his claim of mistaken identity after he was arrested. The panel stated that an obvious physical discrepancy between a warrant subject and a booked individual, such as a nine-inch difference in height, accompanied by a detainee's complaints of misidentification, should prompt officers to engage in readily available and resource-efficient identity checks, such as a fingerprint comparison, to ensure that they are not detaining the wrong person. The panel further held that Sheriff Baca was not entitled to qualified immunity because at the time of plaintiff's November 2012 incarceration, the standards for determining whether alleged police conduct violated the Fourteenth Amendment were clearly established.

The panel held that Sheriff Baca was not entitled to absolute, quasi-judicial immunity because plaintiff challenged not just the fact of his incarceration but also the lack of procedures to prevent the misidentification. Finally, the panel rejected defendants' contention that they were immune from plaintiff's state-law claims because of immunities provided in California Penal Code § 847 and California Civil Code § 43.55. The panel held that those statutes do not shield defendants from liability under state law because plaintiff was not asserting claims " arising out of an[] arrest" or against the arresting officer.

Scott E. Caron (argued), Paul B. Beach, and Michael D. Allen, Lawrence Beach Allen & Choi, P.C., Glendale, California, for Defendants-Appellants.

Donald W. Cook, Los Angeles, California, for Plaintiff-Appellee.

Before: Ronald M. Gould and Marsha S. Berzon, Circuit Judges, and Jack Zouhary,[*] District Judge.

OPINION

Page 1222

GOULD, Circuit Judge.

Los Angeles County, LA County Sheriff's Department (LASD), and former LA Sheriff Lee Baca appeal the district court's denial of qualified immunity, absolute (quasi-judicial) immunity, and immunity under two California statutes in this suit by Plaintiff Mario A. Garcia. Plaintiff asserted claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the California Constitution, and state tort law, alleging that he was wrongfully incarcerated by LASD based on the misapplication of a felony warrant issued in 1994 for Mario L. Garcia, who has the same date of birth

Page 1223

as Plaintiff. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

I

Plaintiff was arrested for driving under the influence in Riverside County, California, on November 26, 2012. He was booked in a Riverside County jail. A booked individual is electronically fingerprinted through a system called " Livescan." The Livescan image is then sent to the California Department of Justice (CDOJ), which responds in one of two ways. If the arrestee's fingerprints are already on file, the subject's criminal identification and information (CII) number and criminal history are sent to the arresting agency. If the arrestee's fingerprints are not on file, a new CII number is assigned. This number is linked to fingerprints, name, birth date, address, and other identifiers such as Social Security number. Los Angeles County agencies also assign a fingerprint-based " LA Main" number to their warrants. CII and LA Main numbers are often used to generate an arrestee's criminal history, which can include the subject's full name, birth date, residential addresses, and Social Security and driver's ...


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