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Khaled v. Dearborn Heights Police Department

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

December 12, 2016

SONIA KHALED, individually, and GHASSAN KHALED, individually and on behalf of S.K. and F.K., minors, Plaintiffs,
v.
DEARBORN HEIGHTS POLICE DEPARTMENT, CITY OF DEARBORN HEIGHTS, and UNNAMED DEARBORN HEIGHTS POLICE OFFICERS, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          Gerald E. Rosen, United States District Judge

         At a session of said Court, held in the U.S. Courthouse, Detroit, Michigan on December 12, 2016 PRESENT Honorable Gerald E. Rosen United States District Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiffs Sonia Khaled and Ghassan Khaled, individually and on behalf of Ghassan Khaled's minor daughters, S.K. and F.K., commenced this action in this Court on December 16, 2014, asserting federal civil rights claims against the Defendant City of Dearborn Heights, its police department, and unnamed Dearborn Heights police officers.[1] The principal thrust of these claims is that Plaintiffs were provided substandard law enforcement services and were subjected to mistreatment and harassment due to their Arab descent and Muslim religion. This Court's subject matter jurisdiction rests upon Plaintiffs' assertion of claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging violations of their right to equal protection of the laws under the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. See 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

         Through the present motion filed on October 23, 2015, Defendants seek an award of summary judgment in their favor as to each of the claims asserted against them in Plaintiffs' complaint. In support of this motion, Defendants argue (i) that the Dearborn Heights Police Department was improperly named as a party because it is not a legal entity separate from the Defendant City; (ii) that Plaintiffs have failed to produce evidence of a municipal policy or custom that could support a claim against the Defendant City; (iii) that Plaintiffs' request to substitute named police officers for the John Doe defendants should be denied as made after an undue delay; and (iv) that, in any event, any claims against individual Dearborn Heights police officers cannot prevail over the defense of qualified immunity.

         Defendants' motion has been fully briefed by the parties. Having reviewed the parties' briefs and their accompanying exhibits, as well as the remainder of the record, the Court finds that the relevant allegations, facts, and legal issues are sufficiently presented in these written submissions, and that oral argument would not aid the decisional process. Accordingly, the Court will decide Defendants' motion “on the briefs.” See Local Rule 7.1(f)(2), U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Michigan. As set forth below, the Court finds that this motion should be granted.

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs Sonia and Ghassan Khaled reside at 7450 Highview in Dearborn Heights, Michigan, along with Mr. Khaled's seven children from a prior marriage. Two of these children - a thirteen-year-old daughter, F.K., and a nine-year-old daughter, S.K. - also have been named as plaintiffs in this suit, and are represented in this litigation by Mr. Khaled.[2] Plaintiffs are Arab-Americans who practice Islam.

         In the early afternoon of December 6, 2014, one of Mr. Khaled's children called the Defendant Dearborn Heights Police Department to report an incident with Plaintiffs' next-door neighbor, Walter Solovey. (G. Khaled 6/18/2015 Dep. at 36.)[3] Mr. Khaled testified that he was away from his home at the time, and that he received a call from one of his daughters reporting that Mr. Solovey had grabbed her two sisters by their arms, removed their head scarves, dragged them over to his property, and ordered them to pick up a piece of trash from his property. (G. Khaled 6/18/2015 Dep. at 35.)[4] Upon receiving this call, Mr. Khaled quickly returned to his residence.

         In response to the call from Plaintiffs' home, Dearborn Heights Police Officer Michael Bacher reported to the scene. Officer Bacher testified that he was advised by dispatch to investigate a report of “[n]eighbor trouble, ” and that he was not told about any alleged assault of children. (Plaintiff's Response, Ex. C, Bacher Dep. at 14-15.) Similarly, Officer Bacher testified that upon arriving at Plaintiffs' residence and speaking to Mr. Khaled and his children, he learned only (i) that Mr. Khaled “had issues with the guy next door, ” who complained about Mr. Khaled's “kids being on his property” and told Mr. Khaled to “pick up [his] garbage, ” and (ii) that the children viewed the neighbor as “kind of a mean, crabby guy.” (Id. at 16, 18.) According to Officer Bacher, nobody at Plaintiffs' residence told him that the neighbor had assaulted Mr. Khaled's daughters or called them a derogatory name. (See Id. at 16-19.) Officer Bacher testified that after speaking to the Khaled family, he went to Mr. Solovey's house and knocked on his door in an effort to “get his version” of what had transpired, but nobody answered and he concluded his investigation. (Id. at 20.)[5]

         Mr. Khaled has offered a somewhat different account of this incident. He testified that upon returning to his home, a police officer had already arrived at the scene. (See G. Khaled 6/18/2015 Dep. at 36-37.) According to Mr. Khaled, after this unidentified officer investigated the incident, he told Mr. Khaled that he was “sorry about what happened, ” and he promised to obtain a “court order” or “search warrant” in order to enter Mr. Solovey's house and “pick him up.” (Id. at 37.)

         Although Dearborn Heights police officers returned to Plaintiffs' home later that day, they did not do so in order to further investigate the incident between Mr. Solovey and Mr. Khaled's daughters. Rather, according to Mr. Khaled:

. . . . Hours went by and I think it was around, I don't know, 5:00, 6:00 the same day I saw [Mr. Solovey] outside. I said, did you touch my kids. He said eff this, you Arab this. He called a number. I don't know who the hell he was calling.
The [next] thing I know, I had seven, eight police cars, okay, in front of my house. The one guy was not even wearing [a] uniform[], was wearing jeans and a shirt. He said, you, Arab, come here. Okay. I said, are you talking to me? He said, yeah, you come here. I went up to him, he said give me your license. He swiped my license. He said, go back in the house. I said, you guys are here to arrest someone for what happened to my daughter[?] He said, no, I'm here to give you a ticket. I said, ticket for what[?] He said, for trash because you put [out] your trash early. I said, you're trying to tell me you are here because of trash, you are not here for the guy who grabbed my two daughters in the middle of the grass and called them names and took their scarves[?] He said, I don't want to hear it.
I went into the house. Ten minutes later . . ., I see two white men, white guys walking [up to the house] and I swear, he said, here, that's your ticket because you need to learn how the law work[s]. I said, what is that ticket for? He said, that's a ticket for trash because you took the trash [out] early. I said, are you serious[, ] you are not here to protect my babies and what happened to my babies[?] All this, you [are] here to give me a ticket? He said, that's how it is, you are Arab, you can learn how the law works . . . .
* * * *
I told him, this is a racist issue. He looked at his friends. He said, look at this Arab, I don't want to hear your sh*t. He walk[ed] outside the house.
. . . . The only thing that happened next, I see th[at] whole bunch of officers over at [Mr. Solovey's house]. He said, oh, you know, now you guys - ...

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