It was summer of 2005 when then 16 year-old Halema Buzayan was arrested by Davis Police Officer Pheng Ly. Much has happened since that time both within the city and the police department. But one thing that has not happened is that the Federal Lawsuit filed by Ms. Buzayan’s family has not gone to trial. That may finally change shortly as a Federal Judge last week ordered the defense to quit stalling and allow the case to move forward.
Halema Buzayan and her family allege 16 causes of action against the Davis Police Department, individual police officers, the Yolo County District Attorney and several individual’s from the DA’s Office, and the City of Davis. Specifically the list of defendants include: City of Davis, former Davis Police Chief James Hyde, Assistant Police Chief Steven Pierce, Officer Pheng Ly and Ben Hartz, Former DA David Henderson, Deputy DA Patricia Fong, and Counsel for Yolo County and the City of Davis Douglas Thorn who is himself a defendant in this case.
The defendants have submitted a series of motions to dismiss, but to this point the only original defendant whose case was dismissed was the Davis Enterprise, dismissed in July of 2007.
US District Judge Morrison England describes the current motion to dismiss as being submitted “in an unusual manner.”
“Although the Court concludes that the majority of the Second Motion to Dismiss is duplicative and unnecessary, and while Plaintiffs have strong arguments that the Motion to Dismiss is untimely in the first place, the Court will nonetheless exercise its discretion to hear Defendants’ pleading challenge one final time because resolution of Defendants most recent contentions may help clarify the remaining issues in the present action.”
Judge England proceeds to deny all but a very small portion of the defendant’s motion to dismiss.
“Based on the foregoing analysis, Defendants’ Motion to Strike (Docket No. 156) is DENIED. Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss (Docket No. 138) is also DENIED, except that the Court clarifies, with respect to Plaintiffs’ Fourteenth Cause of Action that any reliance on false light invasion of privacy is precluded. Defendants’ Second Motion to Dismiss is accordingly GRANTED in that regard. Pursuant to Rule 12(f)(1), the Court orders the second sentence of paragraph 190, and the first sentence in paragraph 192, in Plaintiffs’ Second Amended Complaint stricken. All other causes of action shall proceed in a manner consistent with this Order.”
While the judge struck those two paragraphs, he left the bulk of the fourteenth cause of action in place.
“However, the Fourteenth Cause of Action remains viable to the extent Plaintiffs rely on alleged disclosure and broadcast of private information.”
The Fourteenth cause of action is a complaint regarding a violation of the California Constitutional Right to Privacy. The bulk of that complaint claims a deliberate disclosure and broadcast of private information.
“Defendants’ conduct has resulted in Halema Buzayan and her family being placed in a false light in the public and within the community. Defendants have violated Plaintiffs’ right to privacy as secured under the California Constitution. Plaintiffs assert claims for violation of their right to privacy as secured under the California Constitution against all involved Defendants.”
Judge England then concludes his opinion with the following:
“Additionally, while the Court concludes that entertaining Defendants’ Second Motion to Dismiss had some limited utility in narrowing the arguments, many of the other arguments raised were either cumulative, premature, inadequately developed, and/or unsubstantiated. Defendants are directed to refrain from any further efforts to frustrate the timely resolution of this litigation.”
In other words, Judge England is telling the defendants to quit trying to stall this case. It is time to move forward.
He roundly criticizes their arguments as being premature, inadequately developed, and/ or unsubstantiated. He questioned the need for this second motion to strike. And although he limited the 14th complaint somewhat, for the most part virtually summarily dismissed it.
At this point in time, it is time to move forward with the case, and let the Buzayan Family after three and a half years finally have their day in court. Then the court can determine if they were wronged and what the damages were.
—David M. Greenwald reporting