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Satchel v. Dayton Township

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

June 20, 2018

James Satchel, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
Dayton Township, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION & ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          Sean F. Cox United States District Court Judge

         Plaintiffs' Counsel brought this case on behalf of three Plaintiffs, who asserted twelve separate counts against nine different Defendants. Several defendants and claims have since been dismissed. The matter is currently before the Court, following the close of discovery, on a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by the remaining Defendants that seeks summary judgment as to all remaining claims. The parties have briefed the issues and Court heard oral argument on June 7, 2018. For the reasons set forth below, the Court shall GRANT the motion as to the remaining claims because: 1) the remaining individual Defendants are entitled to absolute legislative immunity for many of the alleged actions that form the basis of Plaintiffs' claims; 2) the individual Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity as to Plaintiffs' federal claims; 3) Plaintiffs have failed to establish municipal liability on the part of the Township; 4) Plaintiffs' ethnic intimidation claims fail under the plain language of the Michigan statute because Plaintiffs have not alleged, and have provided no evidence to establish, that they suffered injury to their person or damage to their property; and 5) Plaintiffs' claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress fail because, in response to the motion, Plaintiffs have not even identified the conduct upon which these claims are based.

         BACKGROUND

         Acting through Counsel, Plaintiffs James Satchel, Robert Adams, and Rod Merten (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) filed this action on April 27, 2016. Plaintiffs filed the action in federal court based on federal-question jurisdiction and ask the Court to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state-law claims in this action. The original complaint asserted twelve different counts against nine different Defendants.

         On October 24, 2016, this Court granted a Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendant Richard Horsch, and granted a motion for sanctions, after Plaintiffs' Counsel failed to respond to the motions or show cause orders issued by this Court. Thus, all claims against Horsch were dismissed with prejudice back in 2016.

         In an Order issued on August 8, 2017, after a status conference with counsel, this Court allowed Plaintiffs to file an amended complaint, in order to amend allegations as to their conspiracy claims, and allowed Defendants to amend their affirmative defenses. In that same order, the Court allowed Plaintiffs discovery as to the affirmative defense of legislative immunity. Finally, that order dismissed without a prejudice a motion for summary judgment that had been filed by Defendants, and cautioned the parties that “any future motions and responses pertaining to qualified immunity must address each Defendant separately and include an analysis on a claim-by-claim basis.” (D.E. No. 43).

         Plaintiffs filed a First Amended Complaint (D.E. No. 44) on August 10, 2017. Although Defendant Horsch had already been dismissed, Plaintiffs' Counsel included claims against him in the First Amended Complaint.

         Following the stipulated dismissal of multiple counts and parties, the following claims now remain pending in this action:

Count I, First Amendment Retaliation Claim (42 U.S.C. § 1983):
1) Satchel asserts claims against Dayton Township and Cook;
2) Adams asserts claims against Dayton Township alone; and
3) Merten asserts claims against Dayton Township and Mocniak.
Count II, First Amendment Retaliation Conspiracy (42 U.S.C. § 1985);
1) Satchel asserts claim against Cook, Steel and Mocniak; and
2) Merten asserts claim against Cook, Steel and Mocniak.
Count IV, Racial Discrimination (42 U.S.C. § 1983):
1) Satchel asserts claim against Dayton Township and Cook; and
2) Adams asserts claim against Dayton Township.
Count V, Conspiracy to Commit Racial Discrimination (42 U.S.C. § 1983):
1) Satchel asserts claim against Cook, Steele and Mocniak.
Count VI, Ethnic Intimidation (Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.147b):
1) Satchel asserts claim against Chris and Amanda Gusek; and
2) Adams asserts claim against Chris and Amanda Gusek.
Count VIII, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (under Michigan law):
1) Satchel asserts claim against Cook, Steele, Mocniak, Kilmer, Chris Gusek, and Amanda Gusek;
2) Adams asserts claim against Chris and Amanda Gusek; and
3) Merten asserts claim against Cook, Steel, and Mocniak.

(See Pls.' & Defs.' Stmts. at ¶ 3).

         On December 1, 2017, Defendants filed a new Motion for Summary Judgment, that seeks summary judgment as to all remaining claims.

         This Court's practice guidelines, which are expressly included in the Scheduling Order issued in this case, provide, consistent with Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 (c) and (e), that:

a. The moving party's papers shall include a separate document entitled Statement of Material Facts Not in Dispute. The statement shall list in separately numbered paragraphs concise statements of each undisputed material fact, supported by appropriate citations to the record. . .
b. In response, the opposing party shall file a separate document entitled Counter-Statement of Disputed Facts. The counter-statement shall list in separately numbered paragraphs following the order or the movant's statement, whether each of the facts asserted by the moving party is admitted or denied and shall also be supported by appropriate citations to the record. The Counter-Statement shall also include, in a separate section, a list of each issue of material fact as to which it is contended there is a genuine issue for trial.
c. All material facts as set forth in the Statement of Material Facts Not in Dispute shall be deemed admitted unless controverted in the Counter-Statement of Disputed Facts.

(Scheduling Order at 2-3).

         In support of their Motion for Summary Judgment, Defendants filed a “Statement of Material Facts Not In Dispute” (“Defs.' Stmt.”).

         In response to that submission, Plaintiffs filed a “Counter-Statement of Disputed Facts” (“Pls.' Stmt.”). That Counter-Statement contains 210 paragraphs and Plaintiffs' Counsel attached 65 exhibits to their response brief.

         The following facts are undisputed.

         Dayton Township is a Michigan municipal corporation created pursuant to and in accordance with the statutes and Constitution of the State of Michigan. It is governed by a five-member elected Board of Trustees consisting of a Supervisor, Clerk, Treasurer, and two Trustees. Each is elected for a four-year term. (Defs.' & Pls.' Stmts. at ¶¶ 5-6).

         Defendant Cook is the elected Supervisor for the Township and has held that position continuously from 2007 to present. (Id. at ¶ 7).

         Defendant Kilmer is the elected Treasurer for the Township and has held that position from 1980 to the present. (Id. at ¶ 8).

         Defendant Mocniak was an elected Trustee for the Township from 2008 to 2012. Mocniak was appointed Township Clerk on August 4, 2014 and served until his resignation in May of 2015. (Id. at ¶ 9).

         Defendant Amanda Gusek is the Clerk for the Township. She was appointed to that position on January 2, 2016, to fill the vacancy created when (former Defendant) Stacy Phillips resigned as Clerk. (Id. at ¶ 10). Defendant Chris Gusek is Amanda's husband and he served as Deputy Clerk for the Township from January 2, 2016 to the present. (Id. at ¶ 11). Prior to January 2, 2016, neither Chris nor Amanda Gusek held any elective or appointed office or position with the Township nor were either involved in Township government prior to January 2, 2016. (Id. at ¶ 12).

         Plaintiff Satchel was elected as Township Trustee in November of 2012. Satchel served as Trustee until the date of his resignation on January 4, 2016. Satchel is black and he resides in the Shay Lake residential development in the Township. (Id. at ¶ 13-14).

         On December 4, 2012, Satchel was sworn in as Township Trustee at the Tuscola County ...


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