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Blue v. City of River Rouge

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

March 28, 2017

CITY OF RIVER ROUGE, et al., Defendants.


          MARK A. GOLDSMITH United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Sexual Sin De Un Abdul Blue, proceeding pro se, filed this civil rights case against Defendants pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging false arrest and other claims. The claims stem from his arrest for trespass during the course of a landlord-tenant dispute in which Blue's tenant claimed that Blue wrongfully evicted her. See Am. Compl. (Dkt. 19).

         The matter was referred to Magistrate Judge Mona K. Majzoub for all pretrial proceedings. See Order of Referral (Dkt. 7). The magistrate judge issued a Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) (Dkt. 49), recommending that Defendants' motion for summary judgment on Claims 1-5 and motion to dismiss Claims 6 and 7 (Dkt. 23) be granted.[1] Blue filed an objection to the R&R (Dkt. 50). Defendants subsequently filed a response (Dkt. 52). The Court reviews de novo any portion of the R&R to which specific objections are filed. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3). For the reasons discussed below, the Court accepts in part and denies in part the recommendation contained in the R&R, grants in part and denies in part Defendants' motion for summary judgment, and grants Defendants' motion to dismiss.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In May 2012, Blue began renting an apartment located at 50 Orchard Street in Ecorse, Michigan, to Jennifer Gondenoky. 3/22/13 Hr'g Tr., Ex. 1 to Pl. Resp., at 6 (Dkt. 35-1). In February 2013, Blue initiated an eviction proceeding in Michigan's 25th District Court for nonpayment of rent. Am. Compl. ¶ 9. At the conclusion of a March 22, 2013 eviction hearing, the court entered a judgment ordering Gondenoky to pay Blue $2, 436. Judgment, Ex. 1 to Defs. Mot., at 2 (cm/ecf page) (Dkt. 23-3). The judgment stated that if Gondenoky did not pay that amount to Blue by April 30, 2013, the court would issue a writ of eviction, provided that Blue presented proof to the court that he had paid to have the property inspected. Id.

         In a sworn affidavit, Blue states that on March 28, 2013, he and Gondenoky executed an agreement for Gondenoky to surrender the apartment immediately. Pl. Aff., Ex. A. to Pl. Resp., ¶ 3 (Dkt. 35); see also 3/28/13 Agreement, Ex. C. to Pl. Obj., at 7 (cm/ecf page) (Dkt. 50). The alleged agreement states that on March 28, 2013, Gondenoky vacated the apartment and “returned possession of the premises to the owner.” 3/28/13 Agreement at 7 (cm/ecf page).

         On March 31, 2013, Officer Edward Otis of the River Rouge Police Department was dispatched to 50 Orchard Street to investigate a landlord-tenant dispute. See 3/31/13 Police Report, Ex. 2. to Defs. Mot., at 3 (Dkt. 23-4). Upon arriving at the apartment, Otis observed “a large pile of furniture, clothing, children toys [sic], and other miscellaneous items on the sidewalk” in front of the property. Id. Otis then spoke with the complainant, Ryan Gregory, who informed Otis that he lived in the apartment with his fiancée, Gondenoky, and that the items on sidewalk belonged to them. Id. Gregory told Otis that Blue had moved the items there without any advance notice or permission. Id. Contrary to Gregory's version of the events, Blue states that none of Gondenoky's property was in the apartment on March 31, 2013, because she had already moved out on March 28, 2013 pursuant to their agreement. Pl. Aff. ¶ 5.

         Otis then went inside the apartment to speak with Blue. Id. Although Blue states that he presented Otis with a copy of a quitclaim deed as proof of his ownership of the property, Pl. Aff. ¶ 4, Otis stated in his police report that he was not provided with this documentation, 3/31/13 Police Report at 3. In an unsworn declaration, Otis states that Blue also did not provide him with a court order permitting him to evict Gondenoky and Gregory. Otis Decl., Ex. 18 to Defs. Reply, ¶ 7 (Dkt. 38-9). Blue and Otis agree that Blue showed Otis a copy of the purported agreement between Blue and Gondenoky in which Gondenoky agreed to surrender the apartment. Id.; Pl. Aff. ¶ 4. Otis then advised both Blue and Gregory that they needed to resolve the matter in court. 3/31/13 Police Report at 3. Otis told Blue not to return to the property “without the proper eviction documentation.” Otis Decl. ¶ 6.

         Otis did not return to court, but the next day Gondenoky did. At a hearing on the morning of April 1, 2013, Gondenoky complained to the state judge that Blue had evicted her, thrown her belongings on the street, and broken her daughter's bed. 4/1/13 Hr'g Tr., Ex. 15 to Defs. Reply, at 4-5 (Dkt. 38-6). In regard to the purported agreement to surrender the apartment, Gondenoky testified that Blue “was trying to trick me just to get my signature.” Id. at 8.[2] At the conclusion of the April 1, 2013 hearing, the court stayed the writ of execution and set a hearing regarding wrongful eviction. 4/1/13 Hr'g Tr. at 8. However, nothing in the records shows that Otis or other officers knew that Gonenoky disputed the validity of the agreement or that the state court had set a wrongful eviction hearing.

         At 5:30 p.m. on April 1, 2013, while on patrol in the area, Otis observed Blue back in the apartment. 4/1/13 Police Report, Ex. 3 to Defs. Mot., at 4 (Dkt. 23-5). Otis and Defendant Officer Copeland subsequently approached the home. As Otis knocked on the front door of the apartment, he heard someone going down the basement stairwell. Id. After knocking again, Otis and Copeland were met by two individuals, Nolan Hardie and Jasmine Smith, who claimed that they were the apartment's new tenants. Id. While the officers were informed that Blue was not on the premises, they heard noise coming from the basement of the apartment. Id. Upon entering the basement, Copeland found Blue behind a furnace and escorted him to the front door. Id. Otis then asked Blue if he had “any judicial paperwork that allowed him to enter” the apartment. Id. Blue responded by telling Otis that his lawyer advised him that he could go into the apartment. Id. When asked why he was hiding in the basement, Blue refused to answer. Id. Otis then advised Blue that he was under arrest. Id.

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. Blue's Objections

         Blue first contends that he was not provided with notice that he would be subject to arrest for trespassing upon his own property and, without such notice, he could not have been trespassing. Pl. Obj. at 4 (cm/ecf page). Blue also objects to the magistrate judge's conclusion that there was probable cause to arrest him. Id. Within his objection, Blue makes a cursory argument that the state district court judge “impermissibly entered a guilty plea on behalf of the Plaintiff in the Trespass case in an attempt to cover up the false arrest.” Id. Blue also argues that Otis improperly brought the trespass charge against him and questions the wisdom of preventing landlords from negotiating with tenants during the course of evictions proceedings. Id. Blue requests that this Court reject the magistrate judge's R&R and proceed to trial. Id.

         B. ...

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