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Jelks v. Belew

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

April 6, 2017

Leinahtan Jelks, Plaintiff,
v.
Ivan Belew, Garnette Steen, Juan Windham, and City of Detroit, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER DENYING IN PART AND GRANTING IN PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [38]

          Arthur J. Tarnow Senior United States District Judge.

         After Detroit police officers Ivan Belew, Garnette Steen, and Juan Windham discovered on April 8, 2010 that Plaintiff Leinahtan Jelks' Concealed Pistol License (“CPL”) had been suspended, Plaintiff was arrested and charged with illegally carrying a concealed weapon. Plaintiff was in jail for six days before being released on a $2, 000 bond. It turns out that the Michigan Law Enforcement Information Network (“LEIN”), the database that the officers used to verify Plaintiff's CPL, was incorrect; Plaintiff's license was in fact valid on the day of his arrest. The charge against Plaintiff was dropped on May 7, 2010, and Plaintiff subsequently filed this lawsuit against the Defendants on June 1, 2012, alleging violations of his rights under the Second, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

         For the reasons stated below, the Court will DENY IN PART Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [38].

         Factual Background

         Given the nature of Defendants' motion, the Court will construe the evidence and all reasonable inferences drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).

         At approximately 1:30 A.M. on April 8, 2010, Plaintiff went to a gas station convenience store in northeast Detroit to buy cigarettes. Officers Belew, Steen, and Windham were on routine patrol duty in the area. They had stopped at this particular store because it was a regular site for illegal narcotic activity. Officer Belew observed Plaintiff as he entered the store, and noticed the handle of a gun protruding from Plaintiff's waistband. Officer Belew approached Plaintiff and asked about the gun. Plaintiff told the officers that he was licensed to carry it and handed over his CPL. Two officers detained Plaintiff and secured his gun while the third ran Plaintiff's CPL through Michigan's LEIN, a database maintained by the State of Michigan. According to the LEIN printout, Plaintiff's CPL had been suspended since October 27, 2008.

         Mr. Jelks was arrested and charged with illegally carrying a concealed weapon pursuant to M.C.L. § 750.227.[1] He was jailed for six days and released on $2, 000 bond. As it turns out, the LEIN printout gave inaccurate information: Plaintiff's license was not, in fact, suspended at the time of his arrest. Plaintiff provided a letter to the Court from the Wayne County Clerk which indicates that the CPL had been reinstated nearly a year before the arrest. The letter states: “According to Wayne County Clerk records, Mr. Jelks had a valid CPL permit from 4/14/2009 to 4/8/2010.”[2] The charge against Plaintiff was dropped on May 7, 2010. Although Plaintiff appeared before the gun board to retrieve his gun and CPL license, the City of Detroit has refused to release Plaintiff's gun.

         Standard of Review

         Summary judgment is appropriate “if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The moving party has the burden of establishing that there are no genuine issues of material fact, which may be accomplished by demonstrating that the nonmoving party lacks evidence to support an essential element of its case. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The nonmoving party cannot rest on the pleadings and must show more than “some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd., 475 U.S. at 586-87. Rather, he must “go beyond the pleadings and by . . . affidavits, or by the ‘depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, ' designate ‘specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'” Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 324 (quoting Rule 56(e)); see also United States v. WRW Corp., 986 F.2d 138, 143 (6th Cir. 1993). Where the record completely contradicts the movant's version of the facts so that no reasonable jury could believe it, the court should not adopt the movant's version of the facts. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380-81 (2007).

         Analysis

         I. Qualified Immunity

         “The doctrine of qualified immunity protects government officials ‘from liability for civil damages insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.'” Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 231 (2009) (quoting Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982)). “To determine whether an officer is entitled to qualified immunity, a court evaluates two independent prongs: whether the officer's conduct violated a constitutional right, and whether that right was clearly established at the time of the incident.” Richko v. Wayne County, Mich., 819 F.3d 907, 914-15 (6th Cir. 2016) (citing Pearson, 555 U.S. at 232). A right is clearly established when “it would be clear to a reasonable officer that his conduct was unlawful in the situation he confronted.” Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 202 (2001). It is not enough for a plaintiff to show that a violation occurred; the plaintiff must also show that the law had already been established in such a particularized way that the defendants should have known that their conduct was illegal. Thus, a qualified immunity claim can fail if the plaintiff fails to satisfy either requirement. Pray v. Sandusky, 49 F.3d 1154, 1157 (6th Cir. 1995) (citing Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 640 (1987)).

         Government agents are entitled to qualified immunity if they can show that their actions were objectively reasonable in light of the law existing at the time. Tucker v. City of Richmond, Ky., 388 F.3d 216, 220 (6th Cir. 2004). “In other words, qualified immunity is appropriate . . . on the basis that the right allegedly violated, [even] if clearly established, was one that a reasonable person in the defendant's position could have failed to appreciate would be violated by his conduct.” Pray, 49 F.3d at 1157 (internal quotations omitted). The doctrine protects “all but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law.” Malley v. Briggs, 475 U.S. 335, 341 (1986).

         Plaintiff argues that the Defendants violated the Fourth Amendment by arresting him without probable cause. He points out that at the time the officers approached him, he was not committing a ...


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