Medical marijuana patient/activist Susan Soares has filed a 26-count lawsuit against the City of Redondo Beach and the Redondo Beach Police Department.
Soares, 55, a former Redondo Beach resident, alleges that police violated her civil rights to free speech, to freedom of association, unreasonable search and seizure, the constitutional right to petition the government for regressive grievances, and the right to freedom of commerce in the purchase and possession of a legal substance for medical needs.
Soares is awaiting U.S. District Judge John F. Walter's decision as to whether or not her case will move on to a jury trial. The motion for summary judgment was in front of Judge Walter on Monday. Soares and others named in the suit will be notified by mail of his decision.
Judge Walter wrote, “Pursuant to Rule 78 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Local Rule 7-15, the Court finds that this matter is appropriate for decision without oral argument.”
According to the suit, Soares, executive director of the patient advocacy group Cannabis Awareness Research and Economics (CARE), was one of five citizens under constant police surveillance in 2010 and 2011. In the suit, she points to the 2010-11 Redondo Beach Police Department Budget Core Service Activities where a listed line item is “conduct surveillance of five known or suspected career criminals that are believed to be operating in Redondo Beach and/or adjacent cities.”
“I have never profited from cannabis cultivation,” said Soares in the lawsuit. “I have never sold any illegal drugs or violated California law. I have to assume that I’m being targeted because Redondo Beach wants nothing to do with medical marijuana and doesn't care that an overwhelming majority of California voters approved of the 'Compassionate Use Act,'” she declared under penalty of perjury.
She filed her case against the City of Redondo Beach, the Redondo Beach Police Department, Robert Carlborg, Jim Booth and “John Does 1-100.” Her allegations against the city stem from her home being raided, and her being arrested on marijuana cultivation and distribution charges in March 2011, and her treatment by police in the months following her completion of resulting court-ordered obligations.
Prior to her 2011 arrest, Soares had been an outspoken activist for marijuana legalization for more than six years. She claims her medical marijuana permitting was in order when police raided her home and seized her plants.
On Tuesday, March 22, 2011, she was returning to her residence in Redondo Beach, but when she saw four black Cadillac Escalades, a police car in her driveway and large men carrying black plastic bags out of her home, she kept driving. She said she sought refuge with friends while seeking legal consultation.
“They arrested my roommate and took my dog; he was in the pound,” Soares said. “When I became an activist, I never imagined that I would be turning to the community for support. I was a volunteer organizing conferences, chairing committees and voter initiatives.”
On Monday March 28, 2011, Soares met her attorney at the Redondo Beach Police Department and surrendered. Under the pressure of facing seven felonies, she said she finally accepted a plea deal and was referred to the Deferred Entry Judgment program which is offered to first-time offenders. She plead “no contest” and completed the 18-week program. However, in the suit, Soares said in the weeks and months that followed, she alleges being subjected to police misconduct and retaliation for her activism.
“They say you can't fight city hall, but I say you have to try. I'm lucky enough to have supporters that give me resources to do it,” she said.
If Judge Walter grants her a jury trail, Soares' case will begin May 13.