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Robinson v. Donovan

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

July 27, 2015

THOMAS ROBINSON, Plaintiff,
v.
OFFICER NEAL DONOVAN, OFFICER ROBERT CAVETT, DET. SGT. JAMES BALDWIN, SGT. JAMES DALY, and OFFICER JOHN DOE, Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER (1) DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO STAY [ECF NO. 48]; (2)ADOPTING MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION [ECF NO. 43]; AND (3) GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [ECF NO. 30]

LINDA V. PARKER, District Judge.

Plaintiff Thomas Robinson ("Plaintiff"), a pro se litigant, commenced this civil rights action against Defendants pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on November 18, 2013. On May 28, 2014, the Honorable Denise Page Hood reassigned this matter to the undersigned pursuant to Administrative Order 14-AO-030. (ECF No. 25.) On September 10, 2014, Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 30). This Court has referred Plaintiff's lawsuit to Magistrate Judge David Grand "for all pretrial proceedings, including a hearing and determination of all non-dispositive matters pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) and/or report and recommendation on all dispositive matters pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B)." (ECF No. 39.)

On March 24, 2015, Magistrate Judge David Grand issued a Report and Recommendation ("R&R") in which he recommends that this Court grant Defendants' motion. (ECF No. 43). At the conclusion of his R&R, Magistrate Judge Grand informs the parties that they have fourteen days to file objections to the R&R and that the "[f]ailure to file specific objections constitutes a waiver of any further right of appeal." ( Id. at 18, citations omitted.) Plaintiff filed objections on April 19, 2015. (ECF No. 46.) On May 8, 2015, Plaintiff also filed a "Motion to Stay Proceedings in Lieu of Production of Records/Audio/Video/Documents." (ECF No. 48.) That motion has been fully briefed. (ECF Nos. 50, 51.) For the reasons set forth below, the Court denies Plaintiff's motion to stay, rejects Plaintiff's objections to Magistrate Judge Grand's March 24, 2015 R&R, adopts the R&R, and grants Defendants' summary judgment motion.

Background

Plaintiff's Complaint arises from an incident on September 19, 2011, at the Hometown Inn in Flint Township, Michigan. Plaintiff claims that he was harassed and arrested by Defendants based on retaliatory and racial motivation and due to the exercise of his constitutionally protected right to free speech. The incident, in addition to Plaintiff's subsequent charges and plea, are set forth in detail in Magistrate Judge Grand's R&R. (ECF No. 43 at 1-5.) Plaintiff is suing the following Flint Township Police Department officers in their individual capacities: Patrol Officers Neal Donovan and Robert Cavett ("Officer Donovan" and "Officer Cavett", respectively); Detective Sergeant James Baldwin ("Sergeant Baldwin"); Sergeant James Daly ("Sergeant Daly"), and Officer John Doe.

In his R&R, Magistrate Judge Grand concludes that Sergeant Baldwin should be dismissed because Plaintiff fails to establish that he was physically present or involved in the conduct that gives rise to this lawsuit. ( Id. at 8.) Magistrate Judge Grand next recommends dismissal of Plaintiff's wrongful detention and false arrest claim, concluding that they are barred by the doctrine set forth in Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994). Magistrate Judge Grand recommends dismissal of Plaintiff's selective enforcement claim also based on Heck. ( Id. at 10.) Alternatively, the magistrate judge concludes that the claim lacks merit because Plaintiff was not similarly situated to the individuals he asserts were treated more favorably and because he fails to make the requisite showing of discriminatory effect. ( Id. at 10-12.)

As to Plaintiff's excessive force claim, Magistrate Judge Grand concludes that Officer Cavett did not use excessive force "in light of the inherently dangerous situation he was facing." ( Id. at 13.) In reaching this conclusion, the magistrate judge notes that the officers arrived on the scene in response to a reported abduction and Plaintiff "fit the description of one of the alleged abductors."[1] ( Id. ) Magistrate Judge Grand concludes that there is no evidence suggesting that the officers' arrest of Plaintiff was retaliatory. ( Id. at 14-15.) Specifically, Magistrate Judge Grand finds no evidence to suggest that the officers arrested Plaintiff because "he was exercising his First Amendment right to free speech or that, in the absence of his alleged protected conduct, they would not have taken the same actions." ( Id. at 15.)

Turning to Plaintiff's claim that the length of his detention was unconstitutional, Magistrate Judge Grand finds that Plaintiff's assertion of how long he was detained is "entirely unsupported by the record." ( Id. at 16.) Magistrate Judge Grand indicates that Plaintiff's assertion that Defendant Officer John Doe verbally intimidated him is not cognizable under § 1983. ( Id. at 17, citations omitted). Finally, having found no constitutional violations, Magistrate Judge Grand rejects Plaintiff's claims against Sergeant Daly based on his supervisory role over the other officers. ( Id. at 17.)

Standard of Review

When objections are filed to a magistrate judge's report and recommendation on a dispositive matter, the district court judge must "make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The court, however, "is not required to articulate all of the reasons it rejects a party's objections." Thomas v. Halter, 131 F.Supp.2d 942, 944 (E.D. Mich. 2001) (citations omitted). A party's failure to file objections to certain conclusions of the R&R waives any further right to appeal on those issues. See Smith v. Detroit Fed'n of Teachers Local 231, 829 F.2d 1370, 1373 (6th Cir. 1987). This includes the district court judge's duty to independently review those issues. See Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 149 (1985).

A court must construe a pro se litigant's submissions liberally and interpret them in a manner to raise the strongest arguments they suggest. See Kirkland v. Cablevision Sys., 760 F.3d 223, 224 (2d Cir. 2014); see also Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). Nevertheless, general objections, or those merely restating arguments previously presented, do not sufficiently identify alleged errors on the part of a magistrate judge. Watkins v. Tribley, No. 09-14990, 2011 WL 4445823, at *1 (E.D. Mich., Sept. 26, 2011). An objection that does nothing more than disagree with a magistrate judge's conclusion, or simply summarizes what has been argued before, is not considered a valid objection. Howard v. Sec'y of Health and Human Servs., 932 F.2d 505, 508 (6th Cir. 1991). Only specific objections are entitled to de novo review, not those objections that are "frivolous, conclusive or general." Mira v. Marshall, 806 F.2d 636, 637 (6th Cir. 1986) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

Plaintiff's Objections

Plaintiff's seventeen page filing (titled as a motion) does not concisely state objections or specifically identify the portion of the magistrate judge's R&R to which objection is made. Instead, Plaintiff mostly reiterates the original arguments he made in response to Defendants' summary judgment motion.

Although Plaintiff's objections fall into the category of a general objection that does nothing more than disagree with the conclusions reached by Magistrate Judge Grand and summarizes positions that were argued before, the Court notes that Plaintiff has loosely identified the following in his objections. First, Plaintiff argues that the Heck doctrine does not bar his claim of wrongful detention, false arrest, or selective enforcement. Governing Supreme Court and Sixth Circuit precedent establishes, however, that Magistrate Judge Grand correctly concluded (for the reasons set forth in his R&R) that Plaintiff's plea to conspiracy to commit disorderly conduct bars an award of damages on ...


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