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Causey v. City of Bay City

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

November 1, 2017

Choice Causey, Plaintiff,
v.
City of Bay City, et al. Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [23]

          GERSHWIN A. DRAIN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. Introduction

         Presently before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff commenced suit against Defendants alleging equal protection and/or retaliation violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff Choice Causey commenced suit against the City of Bay City, Michael Cecchini, the Public Safety Director, Tom Pletzke, the Acting Director of the Bay City Public Safety Department, and City Manager Richard Finn. For the reasons discussed herein, the Court will grant in part and deny in part Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment.

         II. Factual Background

         On December 24, 2002, Plaintiff Choice Causey filed a complaint against the Bay City Police Department and Thomas Pletzke. Complaint, Causey v. City of Bay City, et al., No. 2:02-cv-10318 (E.D. Mich. Dec. 24, 2002). Plaintiff alleged unlawful search and seizure. Amended Complaint at 3-6, Causey v. City of Bay City, et al., No. 2:02-cv-10318 (E.D. Mich. Jan. 9, 2002). The City moved for summary judgment, which the Court granted in part and denied in part. Opinion and Order at 37, Causey v. City of Bay City, et al., No. 2:02-cv-10318 (E.D. Mich. Jan. 7, 2005). The Court dismissed Pletzke from the lawsuit. Id. Plaintiff settled with the City. See Order of Dismissal, Causey v. City of Bay City, et al., No. 2:02-cv-10318 (E.D. Mich. Jan. 4, 2007).

         After the lawsuit concluded, Plaintiff continued to run his company, which bought and sold houses. Dkt. No. 26-2, pg. 4 (Pg. ID 535). In 2015, he liquidated the company's assets in order to lease the Prime Event Center (“Event Center”); he also bought a bar called Trix's (Plaintiff later changed the name to Northern Lights). Id. On March 1, 2016, Plaintiff entered into a lease with Dore Real Estate, LLC to lease the Event Center in Bay City, Michigan. Dkt. No. 1-1. Plaintiff had a lease purchase agreement with Mr. Art Dore in which Plaintiff planned to buy the Event Center from Mr. Dore for $300, 000. Dkt. No. 26-2, pg. 6 (Pg. ID 537).

         Prior to Plaintiff, Mr. Stephen Coppler ran events at the Event Center for Mr. Dore. Dkt. No. 26-5, pg. 10 (Pg. ID 610). Plaintiff then took over the management and control of the Event Center. Dkt. No. 1, at pg. 4 (Pg. ID 4). Plaintiff alleges that after he took control of the Event Center, Defendants began to pressure Dore Real Estate, LLC to end its contract with Plaintiff. Id.

         Mr. John Roszatycki owns the bowling alley next to the Event Center. Dkt. No. 23-3, pg. 8-9 (Pg. ID 276-77). On the night of March 5, 2016, Mr. Roszatycki's staff contacted him and told him that there was a huge fight outside, in front of the bowling alley. Id. at pg. 14 (Pg. ID 282); see Dkt. No. 23-4, pg. 9 (Pg. ID 312). This prompted Roszatycki to call Mr. Finn. Id. On March 11, 2016, Mr. Roszatycki met with Mr. Finn, Mr. Pletzke, and Mr. Stamiris (the commissioner from Roszatycki's ward). Id. at pg. 18 (Pg. ID 321). At the meeting with Mr. Pletzke, Roszatycki told Pletzke that there was an extremely violent fight outside of the Event Center. Id. at pg. 20 (Pg. ID 288). Roszatycki claims that he also told Mr. Pletzke that the fight appeared to be gang related based on what his employees told him. Id. However, Mr. Finn's memorandum of the meeting does not say that Roszatycki mentioned anything about gangs. See Dkt. No. 22-6. Roszatycki also expressed concern about an upcoming event on March 19, 2016 at the Event Center. Dkt. No. 23-6, pg. 2 (Pg. ID 369). Roszatycki asked if the City could contact the owner of the Event Center, Mr. Art Dore to alert Mr. Dore to his concerns. Id.

         Mr. Finn communicated Roszatycki's concern to Public Safety, Mr. Pletzke. Dkt. No. 23-4, pg. 20 (Pg. ID 323). Mr. Pletzke instructed Sergeant Potts and Officer Chad Warren to look into the March 19, 2016 event for potential violence. Sergeant Potts then instructed Officer Warren to investigate the Event Center through Facebook. Dkt. No. 23-7, pg. 12 (Pg. ID 384). Officer Warren found that members of two rival gangs were promoting and planning on attending the event. Id. at pg. 17 (Pg. ID 15). On March 11, 2017, Finn and Pletzke conducted a conference call with Mr. Art Dore. Dkt. No. 23-6, pg. 2 (Pg. ID 369). Sergeant Potts entered the phone call about halfway through in order to provide the information that Officer Warren gathered, which indicated that two rival gangs were planning to attend the March 19, 2016 event. Id. Mr. Pletze and Sergeant Potts shared their concerns with Dore that the event had a high potential for becoming a major disruption. Id. at pg. 3 (Pg. ID 370). On that same day-March 11, 2016, Mr. Dore cancelled the lease contract that Dore Real Estate, LLC had with Plaintiff. Dkt. No. 26-2, pg. 6 (Pg. ID 537). Mr. Dore maintains that he cancelled Plaintiff's contract because “[Plaintiff] didn't pay rent.” Dkt. No. 23-11, pg. 13 (Pg. ID 493). However, Mr. Dore called Plaintiff on the day of March 11, 2016 and said, “The police department, the city manager, everybody is on my ass. They're saying that some gangs from Saginaw are promoting the event starting tomorrow and they're scared shitless that something is going to happen. . . . [s]o the deal is off.” Id. at pg. 12 (Pg. ID 492). Shortly after Mr. Dore left this message, he instructed Plaintiff to call Mr. Pletzke and get approval from the City regarding his lease with Mr. Dore. Dkt. No. 26-2, at pg. 8 (Pg. ID 539). If Plaintiff could get approval from the City, then Mr. Dore would reinstate the contract. Id.

         On March 16, 2016, Plaintiff met with Mr. Pletzke and Mr. Stephen Coppler. Id. at pg. 9 (Pg. ID 540). At this meeting, Plaintiff asked Mr. Pletzke what was going on regarding the Event Center. Id. One of the first things that Mr. Pletzke said to Plaintiff was that he did not want another lawsuit. Id. at pg. 19 (Pg. ID 550). Mr. Pletzke also told Plaintiff that some gangs were doing promoting at the events taking place at the Event Center. Id. at pg. 9 (Pg. ID 540). Plaintiff also alleges that Pletzke told Plaintiff that he (Plaintiff) was “doing bad business, ” and he (Pletzke) was going to “shut [Plaintiff] down over at Trix's.” Id. This meeting lasted about ten minutes. Id.

         After the initial meeting with Pletzke, Plaintiff tried to get another meeting with Pletzke in order to secure his approval so that Plaintiff could reinstate his contract with Mr. Dore. Id. at pg. 11 (Pg. ID 542). Plaintiff called and texted Pletzke several times; Pletzke did not return any of these calls or texts. Id. Plaintiff saw Pletzke at Jimmy John's not long after his phone calls and texts, and Pletzke acknowledged his receipt of Plaintiff's communications. Id. Pletzke told Plaintiff that he would get back with Plaintiff, but he never did. Id. Plaintiff and his wife met with Mr. Art Dore, Mr. Jason Dore (who handled the finances for Dore Real Estate, LLC), and Mr. Stephen Coppler at some point after Plaintiff's initial meeting with Pletzke. Id. at pg. 18 (Pg. ID 549). At this meeting, Mr. Dore explained to Plaintiff that the City had a problem with the “black acts” that were coming to perform at the Event Center. Id. Plaintiff never heard from Pletzke, and his contract with Mr. Dore remained terminated. After Dore Real Estate terminated its lease with Plaintiff, Mr. Stephen Coppler took over the management of the Event Center. Dkt. No. 26-5, pg. 10 (Pg. ID 610). Plaintiff now lives in Alpharetta, Georgia, where he moved to find new opportunity. Id. at pg. 3 (Pg. ID 534). Plaintiff maintains that he was “basically driven out of town by [the] Bay City Police Department.” Id. at pg. 5 (Pg. ID 536).

         On July 25, 2016, Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendants alleging violations of Equal Protection and retaliation. Dkt. No. 1. Defendants filed this Motion for Summary Judgment on August 11, 2017. Dkt. No. 23. Plaintiff opposed the Motion September 15, 2017. Dkt. No. 26. Defendants then filed a reply on October 3, 2017.

         III. Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c) governs summary judgment. The Rule states, “summary judgment shall be granted if ‘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.'” Cehrs v. Ne. Ohio Alzheimer's Research Ctr., 155 F.3d 775, 779 (6th Cir. 1998). “All factual inferences ‘must be viewed in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion.'” Id. (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus., Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)). There is a genuine issue of material fact “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id. (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986)). Ultimately, the court evaluates “whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52.

         IV. Discussion

         Claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1981

         Under 42 U.S.C. § 1981, “[a]ll persons . . . have the same right . . . to make and enforce contracts . . . includ[ing] the making, performance, modification, and termination of contracts, and the enjoyment of all benefits, privileges, terms, and conditions of the contractual relationship.” 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (2012). The Sixth Circuit holds that “the express cause of action for damages created by § 1983 constitutes the exclusive federal remedy for violation of the rights guaranteed in § 1981 by state governmental units.” Arendale v. City of Memphis, 519 F.3d 587, 598-99 (6th Cir. 2008) (quoting Jett v. Dallas Indep. Sch. Dist., 491 U.S. 701, 733 (1989)). Plaintiff concedes that he does not have a cause of action against Defendants under 42 U.S.C. § 1981. Dkt. No 26, pg. 14 (Pg. ID 516).

         For these reasons, this Court will grant Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment in regards to Plaintiff's claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1981. The Court will therefore only consider Plaintiff's Equal Protection and retaliation claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

         Claims under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 Against the ...


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