United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO
DISMISS (DKT. 13, 14, 16, 17)
TERRENCE G. BERG, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
and David Slee are suing Woodhull Township and several of its
officials, employees and attorneys for allegedly violating
their civil rights by bringing a malicious retaliatory
lawsuit against them and by unlawfully searching their home
and seizing their property. Dkt. 1. Woodhull Township is a
political subdivision of Shiawassee County, Michigan. Pamela
Slee was formerly the elected Supervisor of Woodhull Township
and now serves as its elected Treasurer. This civil action
raises claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and several state
law causes of action against the following thirteen
. Woodhull Township
. Diana Hasse, Supervisor of Woodhull
. Kay Nickols, formerly Supervisor of
. Carol Maize, Clerk of Woodhull Township
. Tom Jelenek, Trustee of Woodhull Township
. Rick Betts, Trustee of Woodhull Township
. Jim Cribbs, Trustee of Woodhull Township
. Bill Dodge, Trustee of Woodhull Township
. Jim Brehm, Trustee of Woodhull Township
. Ken Young, “IT Expert”
employed by Woodhull Township
. Deputy Keith Hansen, a Shiawasse County
Deputy Sheriff 
. Helen Mills, an outside attorney for
Woodhull Townhip, with the law firm Fahey Schultz Burzich
. The law firm of Fahey Schultz Burzich
to the Complaint, the Defendants violated Plaintiffs'
civil rights by filing a lawsuit against Ms. Slee after she
had resigned from her position as Township Supervisor and by
wrongfully attempting to serve a temporary restraining order
requiring her to return certain Township records and
property. Dkt. 1.
divided themselves into four groups, each of which filed a
Motion to Dismiss the § 1983 and pendent state law
claims against them. Dkts. 13, 14, 16 and 17. For the reasons
discussed below, their motions are GRANTED.
Pamela Slee served as the Woodhull Township Supervisor, an
elected position, for at least eight years before resigning
on May 5, 2016. Dkt. 13-1 at Pg ID 74; Dkt 13-3 at Pg ID 101;
Dkt. 13-3 at Pg ID 109 (Ms. Slee's resignation letter).
After she resigned from her position the Township made two
written requests that Ms. Slee return “all records,
documents, and property” in her possession that
belonged to the Township. Dkt. 13-3 at Pg ID 126, 130. The
first letter on May 24, 2016, from the new Township
Supervisor, Defendant Diana Hasse was returned unclaimed.
Dkt. 13-3 at Pg ID 130. Ms. Slee received the second, July 5,
2016, letter from Stephen Delie, an attorney for the Township
who works at the Defendant law firm Fahey Schultz Burzych
Rhodes PLC. Dkt. 13-3 at Pg ID 130. Ms. Slee replied on
Thursday July 7, 2016, stating that she had already turned
over all the Township property when she resigned, including
anything she had in her home office. Dkt. 13-3 at Pg ID 132.
She also stated that she had already forwarded to the
Township's clerk any emails concerning Township business
that had been received in her personal email account.
September 9, 2016, Defendant Township filed a civil complaint
against Ms. Slee in the 35th Circuit Court for the County of
Shiawassee, Michigan. Dkt. 13-3. Defendant Helen Mills,
attorney at Defendant Fahey Schultz Burzych Rhodes PLC,
represented the Township in that State Court Action. Dkt.
13-3 at Pg ID 107. The Township alleged that Ms. Slee had
used several home computers purchased in whole or part with
Township funds to conduct most of her work as Township
Supervisor, and also used a private email address, fax
number, and home telephone number for Township business. Dkt.
13-3 at Pg ID 101-102. The Township further alleged that
following her resignation Ms. Slee had returned neither the
devices themselves-which were Township-owned property-nor any
of the Township records that she maintained on those devices,
despite repeated demands. Dkt. 13-3 at Pg ID 101-102. The
Township claimed this conduct violated Ms. Slee's legal
duty under MCL 41.62 to deliver Township records upon demand
to her successor. Id. The Township requested that
the state court judge grant an emergency ex parte temporary
restraining order (TRO) that would: 1) enjoin Ms. Slee from
destroying, damaging, or altering the records and other
Township property she had until the Township could make
copies; 2) authorize the information technology firm
“IT Right” to make and preserve copies of data
and software on the hard drives of any computers Ms. Slee
used to conduct Township business; and 3) order Ms. Slee to
immediately deliver to the Township: a) any correspondence
from her time as Township supervisor including what she sent
from her private email accounts, b) any other documents or
materials she had created, received, or maintained in her
capacity as Township supervisor, and c) any Township property
or records she created, received, or maintained as Township
supervisor, including several specifically identified items.
Dkt. 13-3 at Pg ID 105-106.
state court granted the Township's request for the TRO
the same day it was filed on September 9, 2016, and ordered,
verbatim, the relief the Township had requested. Dkt. 13-4 at
Pg ID 141-42. The TRO also required Ms. Slee file a report
within 14 days summarizing her progress complying with the
TRO. Dkt. 13-4 at Pg ID 143.
issued at 4:24 pm on September 9, 2016. Dkt. 13-4 at Pg ID
143. Around 6:00 pm that evening Defendant Mills, the
Township's Attorney, Defendant Ken Young, the IT
specialist from IT Right, and two deputy sheriffs-one of whom
(Keith Hansen) was previously a defendant in this case until
he was dismissed per a stipulation between the parties, Dkt.
46-went to Ms. Slee's home, which she shares with her
husband David Slee, to serve the TRO. Dkt. 1 at Pg ID 3; Dkt.
13-1 at Pg ID 76.
Slee claims that Defendant Mills, at some unspecified time,
misrepresented to the deputy sheriffs who ultimately
accompanied her to the Slees' home that she had a search
warrant for their home and personal computers. Dkt 1 at Pg ID
4, ¶¶ 23-24. Ms. Slee further claims that Defendant
Mills “used the TRO and the two Deputy Sheriffs to gain
access and entry” into her home. Id. It is
unclear from these allegations whether Defendant Mills or the
deputy sheriffs told the Slees that they had a search warrant
when they went to their home on September 9, 2016.
Mills does not offer much clarification in terms of what
happened leading up to the alleged search. Her Motion to
Dismiss states only that she, the deputy sheriffs, and
Defendant Young (the IT specialist) “went to the Slee
house for service of the TRO.” Dkt. 13-1 at Pg ID 75.
Defendants executed the TRO the parties continued to litigate
the case. Ms. Slee filed her Verified Answer to the
Township's Complaint for Temporary Restraining Order on
September 28, 2016, in which she accused the Township of
filing the complaint against her as a “political
ploy.” Dtk. 13-5 at Pg ID 150. Ms. Slee also filed a
response to the Township's motion for summary disposition
on January 20, 2017, in which she accused the Township of
using the TRO as an unlawful pretext for invading her home.
Dkt. 13-6 at Pg ID 157.
Ms. Slee and the Township settled the State Court Action. The
parties executed a Settlement Agreement on March 9, 2017,
Dkt. 13-8 at Pg ID 173-75, and stipulated to dismissal of the
State Court Action with prejudice on March 13, 2017. Dkt.
13-9 at Pg ID 177-79. Under the terms of the Settlement
Agreement Ms. Slee agreed that the Township Supervisor would
be allowed to review the hard drive copied from her computer
during the September 9, 2016 execution of the TRO. Dkt. 13-8
at Pg ID 173. She also agreed that the Settlement Agreement
“may be pled as a complete defense to any past, present
or future claim that either party has asserted or may
subsequently assert in any suit or claim against the other
party.” Id. at Pg ID 174.
28, 2017, several months after the stipulated dismissal with
prejudice of the State Court Action, Plaintiffs filed this 42
U.S.C. § 1983 action. Dkt. 1.
their Complaint Plaintiffs make the following “common
. “Defendants” filed the State
Court Action against Ms. Slee as retaliation for her public
criticism of their management of Township funds. Dkt. 1 at Pg
ID 3, ¶ ¶19-20.
. Defendant Mills misrepresented to Deputy
Sheriff Hansen, and another deputy whose name was unknown
that the TRO was a search warrant, and then “used the
TRO and the two Deputy Sheriffs to gain access” to
Plaintiffs' home on September 9, 2016. Dkt. 1 at Pg ID 4,
. Defendant Mills and Deputy Sheriff Hansen
had Defendant Young, the IT expert, search Plaintiffs'
computers, including Mr. Slee's personal computer, which
did not include any Township business records. Dkt. 1 at Pg
ID 4 ¶25.
. Defendant Mills and Deputy Sheriff Hansen
questioned Plaintiffs in their home for several hours and
made Plaintiffs feel like they could not leave. Dkt. 1 at Pg
ID 4 ¶26.
. Defendant Mills, Defendant Young, and
Deputy Sheriff Hansen “seized” Plaintiffs'
personal computers and monitors and removed them from
Plaintiffs' home. Dkt. 1 at Pg ID 4 ¶27.
. As a result of this “search and
seizure” Plaintiffs experienced extreme emotions
distress, damage to their professional reputations, loss of
job benefits, and economic loss in the form of attorneys'
fees. Dkt. 1 at Pg ID 4-5.
then make the following claims against
“Defendants” without specifying whether that
includes all named Defendants or a particular group: 1)
Fourth Amendment Violation for unlawful search of
Plaintiffs' home and seizure of their computers (Dkt. 1
at Pg ID 7-9; 2) Class One Equal Protection Violation under
Village of Willowbrook v. Olech for singling
Plaintiffs out for “retribution and punishment”
by filing the State Court Action against Ms. Slee and then
illegally searching her home and seizing her property without
a warrant (Dkt. 1 at Pg ID 9-11); 3) First Amendment
Retaliation against the Plaintiffs-who spoke publicly about
Township's mismanagement of funds-by filing the State
Court Action against Ms. Slee and unlawfully searching the
Slees' home (Dkt. 1 at Pg ID 11-13); 4) Fifth Amendment
violation for seizing Plaintiffs' personal property
without payment (Dkt. 1 at Pg ID 13-14); 5) state law
trespass in Plaintiffs' home (Dkt. 1 at Pg ID 15); 6)
false imprisonment through questioning Plaintiffs in their
home and making them feel as though they could not leave
(Dkt. 1 at Pg. ID 16-17); 7) malicious prosecution for filing
the State Court Action and continuing the litigation
“beyond the point” that it should have continued
(Dkt. 1 at Pg ID 17-18); 8) abuse of process for failure to
dismiss the State Court Action after there was nothing else
to be gained from it, and for Defendant Mills' alleged
misrepresentation to the deputy sheriffs that the TRO they
were effectuating in searching Plaintiffs' home computers
was in fact a search warrant (Dkt. 1 at Pg ID 18-19); 9)
false light invasion of privacy for falsely claiming that Ms.
Slee stole Township property, and disclosing private
information about Mr. Slee. (Dkt. 1 at Pg ID 19-20).
responded with four motions to dismiss. (Dkts. 13, 14, 16 and
reasons discussed below the Court GRANTS
each of these motions to dismiss.