Sat. Jun 8th, 2024

Garmon v. County of Los Angeles, No. 12-55109 (9th Cir. 2016)

When plaintiff testified at her son’s trial, LA County Deputy District Attorney Michele Hanisee published all of plaintiff’s medical records that she had subpoenaed from Kaiser without redacting them for the sole purpose of discrediting plaintiff.

Plaintiff filed a complaint pro se for monetary damages under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and state law causes of action against Kaiser and Hanisee, as well as County Defendants.

The district court dismissed all causes of action against the County Defendants with prejudice and against Kaiser without prejudice.

The court concluded that defendants Hanisee and Cooley are not entitled to absolute immunity for Hanisee’s misrepresentations in her declaration supporting the application for the subpoena duces tecum; the district court abused its discretion by denying plaintiff leave to amend her section 1983 claim against the County; and the County Defendants are not entitled to the claimed state statutory immunity because the claims against them are not malicious prosecution claims.

Because the court reversed the dismissal of certain federal claims, the court reversed the district court’s dismissal of state law claims against Kaiser.

Court Description: 
Civil Rights.
The panel reversed in part the district court’s dismissal of a civil rights action brought by a plaintiff who was an alibi witness in her son’s murder trial.
Because the plaintiff was scheduled to undergo brain surgery with an uncertain outcome, her deposition was taken.
She authorized her medical provider to disclose to the prosecution medical records related to her brain tumor.
The lead prosecutor instead subpoenaed all of her medical records, erroneously representing that the plaintiff was the murder victim. The plaintiff ultimately testified at her son’s trial, and the prosecutor used her medical records to undermine her credibility.

The panel held that the prosecutor and her supervisor, the Los Angeles County District Attorney, were not entitled to absolute immunity for the prosecutor’s misrepresentations in her declaration supporting the subpoena application.

Following other circuits, the panel declined to adopt a rule that absolute prosecutorial immunity is unavailable against claims of unindicted third-party witnesses. The panel held that the prosecutor was absolutely immune for issuing the subpoena and for using the plaintiff’s medical information at trial. She was entitled to qualified immunity, at most, for her declaration. The supervising attorney was immune to the same extent as the prosecutor.
The panel held that the district court abused its discretion by denying the plaintiff leave to amend her claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the County of Los Angeles to allege that actions pursuant to the County’s policy or custom caused her injuries.
The panel held that the county, the district attorney, and the prosecutor were not entitled to state statutory immunity because the claims against them were not malicious prosecution claims.
The panel also reversed the dismissal of state law claims against the medical provider. It remanded the case to the district court.

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