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Gonzales v. Bernalillo County Sheriff Department

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

May 31, 2017

DAVID GONZALES, Plaintiff,
v.
BERNALILLO COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT and J. GARCIA, Defendants.

          ORDER ADOPTING MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S PROPOSED FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION

          M. CHRISTINA ARMIJO Chief United States District Judge.

         This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff's Objections (doc. 36) to the Magistrate Judge's Proposed Findings and Recommended Disposition (doc. 33). At issue in this Order are Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (doc. 23), Plaintiff's Motion to Reinstate Default Judgment (doc. 14), and Plaintiff's Motion to Remand (doc. 15). Having reviewed the relevant filings and the applicable law, the Court will overrule the objections and adopt the Proposed Findings and Recommended Disposition. Accordingly, the Court will grant Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment and deny Plaintiff's Motion to Reinstate Default Judgment and Motion to Remand.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff was arrested on January 6, 2015 for trafficking and distribution of a controlled substance and being a felon in possession of a firearm following a search of his home by the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Office, conducted pursuant to a search warrant. Doc. 22 at 1-2; doc. 22-1 at 9. The search of Plaintiff's home revealed methamphetamine, heroin, digital scales, plastic bags consistent with narcotics trafficking, a loaded ammunition clip, a ballistic vest, and a .380 handgun. Doc. 22 at 2; doc. 22-5. Plaintiff sued Defendants in the Second Judicial District Court of New Mexico on October 28, 2015. Doc. 1-1. Plaintiff's Complaint states that it is a tort suit brought pursuant to the New Mexico Tort Claims Act (NMTCA). Id. at 1. Plaintiff also alleges constitutional violations arising under the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments as a result of the search of his home. Id. at 2. These allegations are properly construed as claims brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

         Plaintiff was initially granted an entry of default by the state court below on June 30, 2016 due to Defendants' failure to respond to Plaintiff's Complaint or appear at a hearing in the matter. See doc. 7-1 at 31-33. However, upon motion by Defendants, the state court set aside its entry of default pursuant to Rule 1-055(C) of the New Mexico Rules of Civil Procedure on September 2, 2016, prior to the entry of a final default judgment. See Id. at 39-44; 58-59. Defendants removed this action on September 21, 2016. Doc. 1. Following removal, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Reconsider and a Motion to Remand, asking the Court to reinstate the default judgment set aside by the state court below and to remand this matter to state court. Docs. 14, 15. Defendants then filed a Martinez Report in lieu of formal discovery concurrently with their Motion for Summary Judgment on December 9, 2016. Docs. 22, 23. Plaintiff filed his own Motion for Summary Judgment on February 13, 2017 (doc. 29), but his motion has been construed as a response to Defendants' summary judgment motion, and therefore, to the extent it is a separate motion, it will be denied. See doc. 32.

         On April 4, 2017, the Magistrate Judge filed his Proposed Findings and Recommended Disposition (PFRD). Doc. 33. The Magistrate Judge first examined the jurisdictional issue as to whether the Court has authority to reconsider and overturn orders entered by the state court prior to removal. Id. at 3-5. After determining that it does, the Magistrate Judge recommended that the Court deny Plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration (doc. 14) and Motion to Remand (doc. 15) on the basis that the entry of default was properly set aside for good cause shown. Doc. 33 at 5-7. The Magistrate Judge also noted that Plaintiff's Motion to Remand was untimely and recommended denying it on that alternative basis. Id. at 6.

         As for Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (doc. 23), the Magistrate Judge recommended that the Court grant that motion on the following grounds: (1) Defendant Garcia is entitled to summary judgment on the basis of qualified immunity; (2) Defendant Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department is entitled to summary judgment because no reasonable jury could find that a constitutional violation occurred under the evidence presented; and (3) Plaintiff's NMTCA claims should be dismissed due to his failure to comply with the notice requirement of the Act. Doc. 33 at 15-36.

         On April 28, 2017, Plaintiff filed Objections to the PFRD. Doc. 36. Plaintiff argues that (1) the evidence does create a triable issue as to whether his constitutional rights were violated by Defendants and (2) Plaintiff correctly followed procedure in the state court below, and therefore Defendants received the proper notice of his NMTCA claims. See Id. at 2-6.

         II. Legal Standard Applicable to Objections

         The motions at issue were referred to the Magistrate Judge pursuant to Title 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and (b)(3). See doc. 12. When resolving objections to a magistrate judge's PFRD, “[t]he district judge must determine de novo any part of the magistrate judge's disposition that has been properly objected to. The district judge may accept, reject, or modify the recommended disposition; receive further evidence; or return the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3); see also 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). The Tenth Circuit has held “that a party's objections to [a] magistrate judge's report and recommendation must be both timely and specific to preserve an issue for de novo review by the district court or for appellate review.” United States v. 2121 E. 30th St., 73 F.3d 1057, 1060 (10th Cir. 1996). When neither party objects to a finding or recommendation, no further review by the district court is required. See Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 151-52 (1985). “Issues raised for the first time in objections to the magistrate judge's recommendation are deemed waived.” Marshall v. Chater, 75 F.3d 1421, 1426 (10th Cir. 1996).

         III. Analysis

         As a preliminary matter, Plaintiff offers no objections regarding the Magistrate Judge's recommendation to deny Plaintiff's Motion to Reinstate Default Judgment (doc. 14) and Motion to Remand (doc. 15). Upon review of the record, the Court concurs with the Magistrate Judge's findings and recommendations as to those motions, and will therefore adopt them and deny those motions without further analysis. See Thomas, 474 U.S. at 151-52. Plaintiff also does not object to the Magistrate Judge's findings and recommendation regarding Defendant Garcia's entitlement to summary judgment on the basis of qualified immunity. Doc. 33 at 15-18. Having reviewed the applicable law and pertinent facts, the Court finds that Plaintiff has not met his burden of showing that Defendant Garcia's conduct violated Plaintiff's constitutional rights under clearly established law. Therefore, the Court agrees that Defendant Garcia is entitled to summary judgment on the basis of qualified immunity and will grant it to him. See Pueblo Neighborhood Health Ctrs., Inc., v. Losavio, 847 F.2d 642, 645-46 (10th Cir. 1988).

         Plaintiff objects to the PFRD claiming that the Magistrate Judge improperly concluded that (1) the evidence does not create a triable issue as to whether Plaintiff's constitutional rights were violated, and (2) Plaintiff failed to comply with the notice requirement of the NMTCA. See doc. 36 at 2-6. Specifically, Plaintiff argues that the affidavit supporting the search warrant contained known falsehoods and information from a non-credible confidential source, and that the judge who issued the warrant was not a neutral magistrate. Id. at 3-5. Plaintiff contends that this evidence establishes a triable question as to whether Defendants violated his constitutional rights to due process under the Fourteenth Amendment and to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures under the Fourth Amendment. Id. Additionally, Plaintiff asserts that the records from the state court below suffice to show that he complied with the NMTCA's notice requirement. Id. at 6. The Court will address each argument in turn.

         A. Sufficiency of the Affidavit Underlying ...


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