United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Northern Division
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY
JUDGMENT AND DISMISSING PLAINTIFF'S CLAIMS WITH
L. LUDINGTON United States District Judge
James Lee Butcher initiated the above-captioned matter by
filing his complaint on March 28, 2016 against Defendants
Gratiot County, City of Alma, Eric Leonard, Adam Walter, and
Brian Fox. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated the
Fourth Amendment pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by
unlawfully seizing him for allegedly failing to pay child
support. See Compl., ECF No. 1. Plaintiff also
asserts claims of false arrest and imprisonment and gross
negligence against all Defendants, and a claim pursuant to
Monell v. Department of Social Services of New York,
436 U.S. 658 (1978) against Defendants Gratiot County and the
City of Alma. Id. Defendants Gratiot County, Eric
Leonard, and Brian Fox have since been dismissed from the
case. See ECF Nos. 23 & 33. Accordingly,
Defendants Adam Walter and City of Alma are therefore the
only remaining defendants in this action.
March 13, 2017 Defendants Walter and City of Alma filed a
motion for summary judgment. See ECF No. 37.
Defendants argue that Plaintiff's claims must be
dismissed because he was arrested pursuant to an outstanding
bench warrant. For the reasons stated below, Defendants'
motion will be granted and the claims set forth in
Plaintiff's complaint will be dismissed with prejudice.
James Lee Butcher is a resident of Alma, Michigan.
See Butcher Dep. 15, ECF No. 37-5. At the time of
the relevant events, Defendant Adam Walter was employed by
the City of Alma Police Department. See Walter Dep.
11, ECF No. 37-2. Walter was assigned to a multi-jurisdiction
task force - the Mid-Michigan Area Group Narcotics
Enforcement Team (“MAGNET”) - along with
Detective Eric Leonard and Sergeant Brian Fox. See
Walter Dep. 12-13. The MAGNET officers worked in plain
clothes and were assigned unmarked state vehicles.
Id. at 13, 25.
December 28, 2014, the Family Division of the 29th Circuit
Court in Gratiot County, Michigan, issued an order directing
Plaintiff Butcher to appear and show cause as to why he
should not be held in contempt for failure to pay $191.28 in
past-due child support. See Mot. & Order, ECF
No. 37-7. The hearing was scheduled for January 27, 2015 at
2:30 PM, and the order explained as follows:
The Friend of the Court will meet with individuals for Court
from 9:00 a.m. until 12:00 noon. If arrangements for payment
on your file are not successful, your hearing [will] be held
before the Circuit/Probate Court Judge as noted above. If the
named party fails to appear, he/she may be found in contempt
and a bench warrant may be issued for his/her arrest. If
contempt is found, the court may apply any enforcement remedy
allowed under law.
Id. The order was signed by Gratiot County Probate
Judge Kristin M. Bakker. Id. A nearly identical,
“Amended” show cause order was entered on January
16, 2015, again stating that Plaintiff owed $191.28 in child
support and again directing him to appear on January 27,
2015. It is not immediately apparent why the amended order
was necessary, and the parties do not provide any possible
rationale. The issuance of the amended order is ultimately
irrelevant, however, as Plaintiff acknowledged that he
received a copy of the show cause order. See Butcher
response to the order Butcher visited the Friend of Court
office in the Gratiot County courthouse in order to pay the
past-due child support on January 27, 2017 at around 10:30 or
11:00 a.m.. See Butcher Dep. 19. Plaintiff received
a receipt from the Friend of Court showing that he had paid
$191.28. See Receipt, ECF No. 44-4. Having paid the
delinquent amount, Plaintiff left without attending the
hearing. See Butcher Dep. 24.
Plaintiff's payment, on January 28, 2015 Judge Bakker
entered a support enforcement order against Butcher after he
failed to appear at the January 27, 2015 hearing.
See Support Enforcement Order, ECF No. 37-3. The
order noted that Butcher had failed to appear as ordered, and
noted that he owed $308.28 in past-due support. Id.
The judge then issued a bench warrant for Butcher's
arrest. See Bench Warrant, ECF No. 37-4. The warrant
directed that Butcher be brought before the court
immediately, or released upon the posting of a $500.00
cash-performance bond. Id. At 11:46 a.m. the warrant
for Plaintiff's arrest was entered into the Law
Enforcement Information Network (“LIEN”).
See ECF No. 37-12.
that same day, Judge Bakker issued an order recalling and
discharging the bench warrant based on Plaintiff's
payment of $191.28 to the Friend of Court. See ECF
No. 37-4. The order advised Plaintiff that after making
payments in the future he should “speak with his
caseworker to make sure he is taken off of the docket.”
Id. The order noted that Plaintiff still owed
$117.00 in past-due child support, and adjourned the hearing
on the support enforcement order to February 10, 2015.
meantime, during the early afternoon of January 28, 2017,
Defendant Walter and Deputy Leonard ran a LIEN search for
outstanding warrants See Walter Dep. 21.
The LIEN search revealed the outstanding bench warrant for
Plaintiff Butcher's arrest. Id. at 21. At around
3:00 p.m. that afternoon, Detective Leonard advised Walter
that he had observed Plaintiff Butcher as a passenger in a
Jeep pulling into a B&P gas station. See Id. at
25; Butcher Dep. 26. Defendant Walter therefore drove to the
B&P gas station, where he observed Butcher exiting the
store with a carton of milk ...