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O'Brien v. City of Mason

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

June 29, 2017

CITY OF MASON and MARK RECKLING, sued in his individual capacity, Defendants.



         This case arises out of the arrest of Plaintiff Marcia O'Brien. Plaintiff Richard O'Brien is Marcia's husband. Plaintiffs allege that the arresting officer, Defendant Mark Reckling, violated their First and Fourth Amendment rights and that the City of Mason is liable for failure to properly train Reckling and other officers. Defendants moved for summary judgment and asserted the defense of qualified immunity. Oral argument was heard on June 20, 2017. For the following reasons, the Court will grant Defendants' motion.


         On August 29, 2015, at approximately 11:17 p.m., City of Mason Police Officers Mark Reckling and Alex Thompson responded to a call regarding trespassing at the Quality Dairy in Mason, Michigan. A music festival was either ongoing or had recently ended. Officer Joe Fairbotham was already in the parking lot of the Quality Dairy and had made contact with Jaime McKnight, an African American male, and several other individuals. Thompson parked his vehicle about 25 feet away from Fairbotham and McKnight and went to assist Fairbotham in handling the group. Reckling stayed with the vehicle.

         The Plaintiffs walked by the Thompson-Fairbotham-McKnight group shortly after Thompson and Reckling arrived. As they walked by, Richard said, “I see you have got the only African American person in town tonight.” (ECF No. 30-8 at PageID.450.) The couple continued walking and stopped at the corner of Maple and Parks street. Marcia then turned around and started walking back towards the crowd. (ECF No. 30-2 at PageID.345.) Richard stayed at the corner of Park and Maple. (Id.) Marcia stopped near Thompson's police cruiser (roughly 20 feet from the crowd), and Reckling approached her almost immediately. (Id.) Reckling told Marcia to leave. After she refused to leave, Reckling told Richard that Marcia and Richard should go home. (Id.) Reckling took Marcia by the arm in the “escort position” and turned her around to get her to walk away. (ECF No. 30-4 at PageID.388.) Marcia spun free, telling Reckling that “he can't grab her like that.” (ECF No. 30-2 at PageID.345.)

         After another verbal exchange, Reckling handcuffed and put Marcia into the back of the police vehicle. Reckling wrote Marcia a citation for resisting and obstructing a city official:

Sec. 42-2. Resistance and obstruction of city officials prohibited.

         (a) No person shall willfully obstruct, resist or oppose the performance of duties by someone the person knows or reasonably should have known to be a city police or any other authorized official of the city.

(b) As used in this section, "obstruct" includes the use or threatened use of physical interference or force or knowing failure to comply with a lawful command

(Mason Ord., Part 2, Ch. 22, Art. II, Sec. 22-34.) It is undisputed that Richard stayed a distance away from Marcia's confrontation with Reckling.

         The officers' accounts of the interaction differ from Marcia and Richard's only in characterizing Marcia as having been “loud and boisterous” when she was speaking with Reckling. During discovery, Marcia made a F.R.Civ.P. 36 admission that she had been loud and boisterous. (ECF No. 23-11 at PageID.196.) Marcia testified in her deposition that she was not yelling at Reckling and that she did not make a commotion at the crime scene. (ECF No. 30-2 at PageID.346.) However, Marcia's Rule 36 admission controls: “A matter admitted under [Rule 36] is conclusively established unless the court, on motion, permits the admission to be withdrawn or amended.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 36(b). “Further, such conclusive admissions ‘cannot be overcome at the summary judgment stage by contradictory affidavit testimony or other evidence in the record.'” Goodson v. Brennan, No. 16-5023, 2017 WL 1857270, at *3 (6th Cir. May 8, 2017) (quoting Williams v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 560 F. App'x. 233, 244 (5th Cir. 2014)).

         Marcia later admitted responsibility for a civil infraction of noise violation and paid a $130 fine. The cited ordinance is § 22.34, which provides:

The following acts, among others, are declared to be loud, disturbing, injurious, and unnecessary noises in violation of this article; but this enumeration shall not be deemed to be exclusive: .
(3) Yelling, shouting, etc. Yelling, shouting, hooting, whistling or singing on the public streets, particularly between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. or at any time or place so as to annoy or disturb the quiet, comfort or repose of persons in any office, or in any dwelling, hotel or other type of residence, or of any persons in the vicinity.

(Mason Ord., Part 2, Ch. 22, Art. II, Sec. ...

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