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Armijo v. Hayes

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

September 30, 2017

SIMON ARMIJO, Plaintiff,
v.
RONY D. HAYS; LARRY CEARLY; ROBERT GRIEGO and VILLAGE OF MAGDALENA, Defendants.

          Simon Armijo Magdalena, New Mexico Plaintiff pro se.

          Douglas E. Gardner Robles, Rael & Anaya, P.C. Albuquerque, New Mexico Attorney for Defendants Robert Griego and Rony D. Hays

          James P. Lyle Law Offices of James P. Lyle P.C. Albuquerque, New Mexico Attorney for Defendants Larry Cearly and the Village of Magdalena

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ADOPTING THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S PROPOSED FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on the United States Magistrate Judge's Proposed Findings and Recommended Disposition, filed January 4, 2016 (Doc. 102)(“PFRD”). In the PFRD, the Honorable Carmen E. Garza, United States Magistrate Judge for the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico concludes that Defendant Robert Griego is entitled to qualified immunity, and, therefore, the Court should grant his Motion for Summary Judgment on the Basis of Qualified Immunity, filed November 1, 2016 (Doc. 98)(“Motion”). See PFRD at 12.

         Judge Garza notified the parties that written objections to the PFRD were due within fourteen days. See PFRD at 12. Plaintiff Simon Armijo has filed Objections to Propossed [sic] Findings and Recommendation, filed January 18, 2017 (Doc. 103)(“First Objection”), and Objection to Propossed [sic] Findings and Recommendation, filed January 19, 2017 (Doc. 105) (“Second Objection”)(collectively “Objections”). Defendant Greigo does not respond to Armijo's Objections, and the time for doing so has passed. See D.N.M.LR-Civ 7.4(a). After a de novo review of the record and the PFRD, the Court adopts Judge Garza's PFRD in whole and grants Griego's Motion.

         BACKGROUND

         This case arises from two searches and seizures of Armijo's property. On April 17, 2012, Defendant Rony D. Hays executed a search warrant on Plaintiff's property looking for evidence of marijuana trafficking. See Affidavit for Search Warrant at 1-3, 5, filed July 1, 2015 (Doc. 43-1). While executing the warrant, Hays found several deer heads, deer parts, and a deer carcass sawed in half in a shed. Affidavit for Search Warrant at 10, filed July 1, 2015 (Doc. 43-2)(“Griego Affidavit”). Hays became suspicious about the shed's contents and called Defendant Robert Griego, a New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (“NMDGF”) officer, for assistance.

         When Griego arrived, Armijo objected to his presence and told him he needed his own warrant. See Civil Rights Complaint at 7, filed April 16, 2014 (Doc. 2)(“Complaint”).[1] Griego continued onto the property over Armijo's objection. See Complaint at 7; Defendant Griego's Motion for Summary Judgment on the Basis of Qualified Immunity at 7, filed November 1, 2016 (Doc. 98). Inside the shed, Griego observed approximately fifteen to twenty mule deer heads and a deer carcass sawn in half. See Griego Affidavit at 11. According to Griego, Armijo said he was a good hunter and that he also had deer meat in a freezer. See Griego Affidavit at 11. Armijo denies he told Griego about keeping deer meat in a freezer. See First Objection at 4.

         Griego then examined a tag attached to one of the deer heads and determined the deer was not lawfully killed based on the applicable deer hunt dates and the date notched on the tag. See Griego Affidavit at 11. Griego also noted some of the deer heads did not have tags attached to them and noticed deer hair on a hanging gambrel outside the shed. See Griego Affidavit at 11.

         Based on his observations and alleged conversation with Plaintiff, Defendant Griego applied for a search warrant. See Search Warrant at 8-9, filed July 1, 2015 (Doc. 43-2). On the same day, he received and executed the warrant, seizing several deer legs, deer heads, packages of deer meat, and packages of elk meat, along with a golden eagle carcass and red-tailed hawk feathers. See Return and Inventory at 12-13, filed on July 1, 2015 (Doc. 43-2). Armijo was subsequently charged for illegal possession of the golden eagle carcass and red-tailed hawk feathers. See U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service United States District Court Violation Notice, at 1 (Doc. 43-4).

         Armijo then filed the Complaint alleging, in relevant part, that Griego violated his rights under the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. See Complaint at 7-9. In response, Griego filed the Motion. In the Motion, Griego contends that he is entitled to qualified immunity and therefore summary judgment, because he did not violate Armijo's constitutional rights, and even if he did, Armijo's rights were not clearly established at the time he violated them. See Motion at 17-25.

         After considering the relevant law, Judge Garza concluded that Griego is entitled to qualified immunity, because he did not violate Armijo's clearly established rights. See PFRD at 7-9, 12. As Judge Garza noted, Griego is entitled to qualified immunity unless it is “beyond debate” that his “particular conduct” violated Plaintiff's rights. See Ashcroft v. al-Kidd, 563 U.S. 731, 741-42 (2011)(citation omitted). Although Armijo cited a relevant New Mexico Court of Appeals case, see Plaintiff's Opposition and Response to Defendant Griego's Motion for Summary Judgment on the Basis of Qualified Immunity at 9-12 (Doc. 99)(“MSJ Opposition”), Judge Garza determined that law is insufficient to “clearly establish” his rights. PRFD at 8-9. Accordingly, Judge Garza recommended granting summary judgment in Griego's favor. See PRFD at 12.

         Armijo timely objected to Judge Garza's PFRD. See First Objection at 3-6; Second Objection at 5-10. Griego neither objected nor responded to Armijo's objections, and the ...


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