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Cartwright v. State

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

June 6, 2016



          Laurie Smith Camp Chief United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on the Motion for Summary Judgment (Filing No. 84) ("Motion"), filed by Defendants City of Sydney, Joanie Matthes ("Matthes"), Jordan Ball ("Ball"), and Gary Pearson ("Pearson") (collectively "Defendants"). For the reasons stated below, the Motion will be granted, and the above-captioned action will be dismissed with prejudice.


         The following facts are those stated in the parties’ briefs, supported by pinpoint citations to evidence in the record, according to NECivR 56.1[1] and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. It is noted that Plaintiff Jennifer Lynn Cartwright ("Cartwright"), proceeding pro se, failed to comply with these rules. She did not "address each numbered paragraph" of Defendants’ statement of facts, as NECivR 56.1 requires, but instead "object[ed] to [Defendants’] statement of facts numbered 1-30." (Filing No. 92 at ECF 3.) Cartwright did submit her own statement of facts. (Id. at ECF 3-10.)

         Based on Cartwright’s statement of facts, and the evidence she presented, it is apparent that very few material facts-if any-are in dispute. Below are those facts that are undisputed, based on the Parties’ statements of facts and the evidence, or lack thereof, revealed in the record.

         On June 2, 2011, Matthes, in her capacity as code enforcement officer for the City of Sydney, went to a residence at 2300 Trail Road in Sydney, Nebraska, where Cartwright was living with her boyfriend, Troy Frerichs ("Frerichs"). The purpose of Matthes’s visit was to leave a warning regarding a weed violation on a different property owned by Frerichs. (Filing No. 86 ¶ 13.) No one answered when Matthes knocked on the door, but she heard several dogs barking. (Id.) Matthes contacted the Sydney Police Department to determine if any dogs were licensed at the address in accordance with City of Sydney Ordinance 618.06.[2] (Id.) Upon learning that no dogs were licensed, Matthes left written notice on the door asking the residents to license all dogs at the property within seven days. (Id.; Filing No. 92 at ECF 4 ¶ 2.)

         On June 15, 2011, Matthes checked the Sydney Police Department database and found that no dogs had been licensed to Cartwright, Frerichs, or the residence at 2300 Trail Road. (Filing No. 86 ¶ 14.) The same day, Matthes sent a letter restating the request that any dogs kept at the property be licensed and stating that any unlicensed dogs were in violation of City of Sydney Ordinance 618.06. (Id.; Filing No. 92 at ECF 5 ¶ 3.)

         On June 21, 2011, Cartwright called Matthes inquiring if she could administer the dogs’ required rabies vaccinations herself.[3] Upon learning that the vaccinations could be performed only by licensed veterinarians, [4] Cartwright requested an extension and was given until July 5, 2011, to obtain the licenses. (Filing No. 86 ¶ 15.) On July 11, 2011, Cartwright again contacted Matthes, stating that there had been an illness in her family and that she would vaccinate the dogs on July 14, 2011. Matthes instructed her to license the dogs by July 15, 2011. (Id. ¶ 16.)

         On July 15, 2011, Cartwright contacted Matthes and explained that she had four dogs at the residence. The dogs were named Midget, Boogie, Paris, and Putsy, and all four were toy poodles, none exceeding eight pounds. This conversation was the first time Matthes became aware that the number of dogs at the home exceeded the three-dog residential limit imposed by City of Sydney Ordinance 618.25.[5] (Id. ¶ 17.) Matthes informed Cartwright of this limit and that she could only license up to three dogs. Matthes also told Cartwright that she could apply for a kennel permit, which, if approved, would allow her keep all four dogs at the residence. (Id.)

         On July 19, 2011, Cartwright called Matthes and informed her that one of the dogs was a service animal. Matthes told Cartwright that all the dogs needed to be licensed, that Cartwright would not be charged a fee for licensing the service animal, and that she could only keep a total of three dogs at the residence. (Id. ¶ 18.)

         On July 22, 2011, the City of Sydney filed a complaint in Cheyenne County Court against Cartwright for failure to license the dogs and for having more than three dogs at her residence. (Id. ¶ 21; Filing No. 92 at ECF 5 ¶ 3.) On July 25, 2011, Cartwright licensed Midget, Boogie, and Paris. Cartwright identified Midget and Boogie as service dogs and was not charged a licensing fee for them. (Filing No. 86 ¶ 22.) Midget and Boogie were licensed as belonging to Cartwright, while Cartwright identified Frerichs as the owner of Paris. (Id.) Cartwright did not license Putsy at that time, although Putsy was previously licensed to Cartwright in 2009. (Id.)

         The Cheyenne County Court found Cartwright guilty of violating City of Sydney ordinances in a trial held on September 26, 2011; fined her $100 for each violation; and charged her $49 in court costs, for a total of $249. (Id. ¶ 24; Filing No. 92 at ECF 6 ¶ 13.)

         On September 26, 2011, Cartwright filed a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development ("HUD"), which referred the case to the Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission ("NEOC"). (Filing No. 86 ¶ 25.) The NEOC issued a determination letter on August 17, 2012, and, on September 21, 2012, referred the file to the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office, which declined to pursue the case. (Id. ¶¶ 26-27.)

         In April of 2013, Cartwright and Frerichs ended their relationship, and Cartwright moved out of the residence at 2300 Trail Road, leaving all four dogs with Frerichs. Within two months of Cartwright moving out, Frerichs got rid of the dogs. (Id. ¶¶ 28- 29.) Eventually, Cartwright reacquired Midget and Boogie, both of whom she currently owns. (Id. ¶ 30.)

         Cartwright initiated this action on August 19, 2014, (see Filing No. 1), and filed her Amended Complaint (Filing No. 11) ("Amended Complaint") on December 8, 2014. In its order denying Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss (Filing No. 28), the Court liberally construed Cartwright’s pro se Amended Complaint-a document that did not enumerate any specific claims but, instead, referenced and included her entire NEOC complaint. The Court held that Cartwright sufficiently pled claims for relief under the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601-3631 ("FHA"), and the Nebraska Fair Housing Act, Neb. Rev. Stat. §§ 20-301 to 20-344 (Reissue 2012) ("NFHA").


         "Summary judgment is appropriate when, construing the evidence most favorably to the nonmoving party, there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Crozier v. Wint, 736 F.3d 1134, 1136 (8th Cir. 2013) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)). "[S]ummary judgment is not disfavored and is designed for every action." Briscoe v. Cnty. of St. Louis, 690 F.3d 1004, 1011 n.2 (8th Cir. 2012) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Torgerson v. City of Rochester, 643 F.3d 1031, 1042 (8th Cir. 2011) (en banc) cert. denied, 132 S.Ct. 513 (2011)). In reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the Court will view "all facts and mak[e] all reasonable inferences favorable to the nonmovant." Gen. Mills Operations, LLC v. FiveStar Custom Foods, Ltd., 703 F.3d 1104, 1107 (8th Cir. 2013). "[W]here the nonmoving party will bear the burden of proof at trial on a dispositive issue . . . Rule 56(e) permits a proper summary judgment motion to be opposed by any of the kinds of evidentiary materials listed in Rule 56(c), except the mere pleadings themselves." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986). The moving party need not negate the nonmoving party‚Äôs claims by showing "the absence ...

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