NINTH CIRCUIT AFFIRMS SUMMARY JUDGMENT FOR OFFICER IN FALSE ARREST AND MALICIOUS PROSECUTION CASE WHERE INVESTIGATING OFFICER HAD INTIMATE RELATIONSHIP WITH DEFENDANT’S WIFE

On August 19, 2007, Plaintiff called the police regarding an altercation with his elderly father-in-law. When police officers arrived, they saw the elderly father-in-law on the floor in a pool of blood. A broken glass candlestick holder was found nearby. The Plaintiff claimed that his father-in-law attacked him with a cane and that he had struck his father-in-law in self-defense. The father-in-law and mother-in-law told the police that the Plaintiff, without provocation, struck the father-in-law in the head with the candlestick holder. The police then arrested the Plaintiff for assault with a deadly weapon. Later that day, the Defendant officer (represented by LBAC) who had arrested Plaintiff, met Plaintiff’s estranged wife at the hospital. She accused Plaintiff of possessing illegal drugs; the Defendant officer provided his cell phone number in case she found any drugs belonging to the Plaintiff. She called the Defendant later that evening regarding drugs she said she found in her husband’s vehicle. The Defendant and a sergeant went to the home, obtained the drugs, and booked them into evidence. The Defendant and the wife then began a sexual relationship.

A different Defendant detective conducted additional investigation of Plaintiff, and the District Attorney’s Office eventually filed assault and elder abuse charges against Plaintiff, as well as drug possession charges. The drug charges were dismissed at the preliminary hearing, but Plaintiff was held to answer on the assault related charges. Eventually, the Defendant officer’s sexual relationship with the Plaintiff’s wife was revealed, but the prosecution proceeded to trial. The Plaintiff was acquitted and the Defendant officer was fired from the police department. The Plaintiff then filed his lawsuit in state court against the Defendant officer, the Defendant detective, his by-then ex-wife, and the City of Glendale for false arrest and malicious prosecution under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law. LBAC represented the Defendant officer, while the Glendale City Attorney represented the Defendant detective and the City of Glendale.

The case was removed to federal court and LBAC moved for summary judgment, arguing, among other grounds, that there was probable cause to believe that the Plaintiff had assaulted his father-in-law and that there was no valid claim for malicious prosecution under Section 1983. It was argued that the relationship between the officer and the Plaintiff’s wife was irrelevant since the arrest occurred prior to the commencement of any relationship. The City of Glendale and the Defendant detective separately moved for summary judgment as well. In December 2012, the District Court granted summary judgment as to the claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and remanded the state law claims, which were eventually dismissed voluntarily by Plaintiff. The Plaintiff appealed the granting of summary judgment to the Ninth Circuit. After oral argument by David Lawrence of LBAC on behalf of the Defendant officer and Anne Maurer of the Glendale City Attorney’s Office on behalf of the Defendant detective and the City of Glendale, the Ninth Circuit issued a published opinion on March 5, 2015 affirming the District Court’s granting of summary judgment, holding that Plaintiff had failed to demonstrate the absence of probable cause, thereby defeating his false arrest and malicious prosecution claims. The Ninth Circuit also held that the drug charges did not result in an arrest, and that, to the extent that Plaintiff was subject to own-recognizance release conditions amounting to a Fourth Amendment seizure, the conditions were identical to those imposed as a result of the assault-related charges for which there was probable cause.