Federal Judge Dismisses $3 Million Civil Rights Lawsuit Filed Against Alameda County Deputy Sheriff

Posted on Tuesday, January 07, 2014 at 12:00AM

Associate Attorneys

On September 25, 2013, after nearly a year in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, District Judge William Alsup entered final judgment in favor of Alameda County Deputy Sheriff Ryan Silcocks and numerous other defendants in a civil rights lawsuit, described by the judge as a procedural nightmare, filed by plaintiff Brian Lancaster. Lancaster filed suit in October 2012, alleging a cabal that made him victim to falsification of police records, false arrest, defamation and improper release of confidential records. The plaintiff’s ex-wife and her current husband allegedly enlisted the help of numerous law enforcement personnel to harass the plaintiff to gain an advantage in the ex-wife’s child custody dispute with him, which had been going on since 2008. The plaintiff alleged that Deputy Silcocks violated his civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act, 18 U.S.C. § 2721, by obtaining his California DMV records and disclosing them to the plaintiff’s ex-wife and her attorney. The plaintiff sought $3 million in damages.

Deputy Silcocks, represented by Mastagni, Holstedt, Amick, Miller & Johnsen after the firm was granted civil coverage by the PORAC Legal Defense Fund, obtained numerous favorable rulings throughout the action. First, the default improperly entered against Silcocks prior to PORAC’s involvement was promptly set aside following the immediate filing of a motion to set aside default by the Mastagni attorneys. Following abbreviated discovery practice, Mastagni quickly followed up with first a successful motion for judgment on the pleadings directed to all federal claims against Silcocks and then a successful opposition to the plaintiff’s last-ditch motion to amend the defects in his complaint. Following nearly an hour of oral argument and supplemental briefing on the merits of the plaintiff’s attempt to properly plead a violation of the federal Driver’s Privacy Protection Act, and whether any set of facts would support liability against Silcocks, Judge Alsup ultimately issued a nine-page ruling on September 13, 2013, denying the plaintiff’s final attempt to avoid dismissal from federal court. 
Judge Alsup found that the information allegedly obtained by Deputy Silcocks was used for a permissible purpose in connection with a civil proceeding — i.e., the custody dispute — and therefore fell under the litigation exception of the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act and was not considered protected information under the statute. Judge Alsup informed the plaintiff that he had given him “every opportunity to plead his best case” and was “not going to give him another.”
After dismissing all federal claims against Deputy Silcocks without leave to amend, claims that were anchoring the plaintiff’s sprawling state law claims, Judge Alsup ultimately declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state law claims, dismissed them without prejudice to refiling in state court, and entered judgment for Deputy Silcocks and the defendants and against the plaintiff. If the plaintiff chooses to refile his state law claims in state court, the attorneys at Mastagni, Holstedt, Amick, Miller & Johnsen will continue representing Deputy Silcocks to defend against the remnants of the plaintiff’s claims once and for all.

About the Authors
Craig A. Tomlins and Kevin A. Flautt are associate attorneys with Mastagni, Holstedt, Amick, Miller & Johnsen, providing representation to PORAC members in disciplinary, administrative and court actions throughout the state of California. After being granted civil coverage by Rebecca Mann and the PORAC Legal Defense Fund, and working closely with Ms. Mann throughout the action, both Tomlins and Flautt successfully represented Alameda County Deputy Sheriff Ryan Silcocks in this case before Judge William Alsup in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.  

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