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Swift v. Kyler

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

November 25, 2015

CHARLES SWIFT, Plaintiff,
v.
RICHARD KYLER, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

JOHN M. GERRARD, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

This matter is before the Court on the defendant's motion for summary judgment (filing 71), the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment (filing 61), and the plaintiff's cross-motion for summary judgment (filing 84). The Court will deny the plaintiff's motion, grant the defendant's motion, and dismiss the plaintiff's complaint.

BACKGROUND

This case began with a report to the Omaha Police Department that the plaintiff was selling drugs from his Omaha home. Filing 72at 2.[1] On August 1, 2014, the defendant applied for a search warrant for the residence, which was issued by a state county court judge. Filing 72at 3. On August 8, 2014, the defendant and other Omaha law enforcement officers executed the warrant. Filing 72at 3. The plaintiff was not home at the time. Filing 72 at 4.

Instead, the plaintiff was nearby, being detained by police conducting a traffic stop. Filing 72at 4. He was operating a motor vehicle without a valid license, in violation of Nebraska law. Filing 72 at 4. He was detained and, along with his passenger, was transported to his residence, where he was Mirandized and invoked his right to counsel.[2] Filing 72 at 4. Drug residue and paraphernalia were located at the residence and seized, but the plaintiff was not arrested at that time. Filing 72 at 5.

The plaintiff sued the Omaha police and the defendant, who was then styled as a John Doe. Filing 1 at 1. The plaintiff's complaint, generally described, alleged that the defendants (i.e., the City of Omaha and John Doe) had illegally broken into his house and had detained him and his passenger while driving, purportedly because he had not used his traffic signal. Filing 1at 1-2. Then, according to the complaint, they were handcuffed and transported to his residence. Filing 1 at 2. The complaint sought money damages. Filing 1 at 3.

On initial review, the Court found that the plaintiff had not stated a claim against the City, but the plaintiff might have a viable Fourth Amendment claim against John Doe arising from the plaintiff's detention while away from the residence to be searched.[3] Filing 6 at 4-5 (citing Bailey v. United States, 133 S.Ct. 1031, 1042-43 (2013)). So, the Court gave the plaintiff an opportunity to file an amended complaint stating a claim for relief against the City, and gave the plaintiff 30 days to identify John Doe so that process could be served. Filing 6 at 5. The plaintiff did not file an amended complaint, so his claims against the City were dismissed. Filing 8at 2. He did, however, file a supplement identifying John Doe as the defendant. Filing 7. The Court ordered that the plaintiff's claim against the defendant proceed to service of process. Filing 8. The plaintiff subsequently filed a number of supplements to his pleadings, raising allegations such as that he was "illegally arrested on pretext search warrant, " and that the defendant contacted the plaintiff and asked him to work as a confidential informant. Filing 23; filing 30; filing 32.[4]

After several delays occasioned by the plaintiff's filings, the defendant moved for summary judgment. Filing 71. In support of his motion for summary judgment, the defendant placed evidence before the Court that for the first time clearly explained two facts: (1) the plaintiff was operating a motor vehicle without a license when he was detained, and (2) the defendant was not actually the officer who detained the plaintiff, because the defendant was at the time busy executing the search warrant. Filing 73-1 at 3. The plaintiff filed an affidavit in opposition to summary judgment (filing 74), then filed his own motion for summary judgment (filing 84).

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment is proper if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). The movant bears the initial responsibility of informing the Court of the basis for the motion, and must identify those portions of the record which the movant believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Torgerson v. City of Rochester, 643 F.3d 1031, 1042 (8th Cir. 2011) (en banc). If the movant does so, the nonmovant must respond by submitting evidentiary materials that set out specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id.

On a motion for summary judgment, facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party only if there is a genuine dispute as to those facts. Id. Credibility determinations, the weighing of the evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the evidence are jury functions, not those of a judge. Id. But the nonmovant must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts. Id.In order to show that disputed facts are material, the party opposing summary judgment must cite to the relevant substantive law in identifying facts that might affect the outcome of the suit. Quinn v. St. Louis County, 653 F.3d 745, 751 (8th Cir. 2011). The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the nonmovant's position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could conceivably find for the nonmovant. Barber v. C1 Truck Driver Training, LLC, 656 F.3d 782, 791-92 (8th Cir. 2011). Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no genuine issue for trial. Torgerson, 643 F.3d at 1042.

DISCUSSION

The defendant's motion for summary judgment is based on qualified immunity. Qualified immunity shields public officials performing discretionary functions from liability for conduct that does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known. Parker v. Chard, 777 F.3d 977, 979 (8th Cir. 2015); see, Messerschmidt v. Millender, 132 S.Ct. 1235, 1244 (2012); Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 231 (2009). Qualified immunity balances two important interests-the need to hold public officials accountable when they exercise power irresponsibly, and the need to shield officials from harassment, distraction, and liability when they perform their duties reasonably. Pearson, 555 U.S. at 231. It gives government officials breathing room to make reasonable but mistaken judgments about open legal questions and protects all but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law. Parker, 777 F.3d at 979-80.

In determining whether a government official is entitled to qualified immunity, the Court asks (1) whether the facts alleged establish a violation of a constitutional or statutory right and (2) whether that right was clearly established at the time of the alleged violation, such that a reasonable official would have known that his actions were unlawful. Johnson v. Phillips, 664 F.3d 232, 236 (8th Cir. 2011); see Parker, 777 F.3d at 980. Whether an official protected by qualified immunity may be held personally liable for an allegedly unlawful official action turns on the objective legal reasonableness of the action, assessed in light of the legal rules that were clearly established at the time it was taken. Messerschmidt, 132 S.Ct. at 1245; Pearson, 555 U.S. at 244. The protection of ...


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