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Ostipow v. Federspiel

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

July 16, 2018

GERALD OSTIPOW, et al., Plaintiffs,
WILLIAM FEDERSPIEL, et al., Defendants.



         This matter is currently before the Court on Defendants Sheriff William Federspiel and Saginaw County - Office of Sheriff's motion for summary judgment (Dkt. 97) and Plaintiffs Gerald and Royetta Ostipow's motion for an order to name Kelly Suppes as Deputy Doe No. 1 (Dkt. 98). Because oral argument will not aid the decisional process, the motions will be decided based on the parties' briefing. See E.D. Mich. LR 7.1(f)(2); Fed.R.Civ.P. 78(b). For the reasons that follow, the Court finds that Defendants are entitled to summary judgment on Plaintiffs' federal claims and, therefore, dismisses those claims with prejudice. Because the dismissal of these federal claims means that this case no longer retains a federal character, the Court dismisses Plaintiffs' state-law claims without prejudice and denies those portions of Defendants' motions challenging the state-law claims against Defendant Federspiel without prejudice. The Court also denies Plaintiffs' motion for an order to name Kelly Suppes as Deputy Doe No. 1.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This case stems from the 2008 execution of search warrants on Plaintiff Gerald Ostipow's properties. On April 25, 2008, Saginaw County Sheriff's Deputies searched Gerald Ostipow's properties - 3551 and 3996 E. Allan Road in Owosso, Michigan - and discovered a large indoor marijuana growing operation at 3551 E. Allan Road. Defendants' Statement of Material Facts (“SMF”) ¶¶ 1-2 (Dkt. 97). Gerald Ostipow and his wife, Plaintiff Royetta Ostipow, did not reside at 3551 E. Allan Road, but their son, Steven Ostipow, did. Id. ¶ 1. Steven Ostipow was later charged with, and pleaded guilty to, manufacturing and possessing marijuana, in addition to other crimes. Id. ¶ 4. Plaintiffs deny any knowledge of their son's activities. Id.

         In executing the search warrants, deputies seized paraphernalia, marijuana growing equipment, a snow mobile, a motor vehicle, U.S. currency, and firearms. Id. ¶ 3. The Saginaw County Prosecutor initiated forfeiture proceedings on June 13, 2008, for the real and personal property located at 3551 E. Allan Road and for the personal property located at 3996 E. Allan Road. Id. ¶ 8. Plaintiffs filed an answer in the forfeiture proceedings, alleging that they were third-party innocent owners and had no knowledge of any illegal activity. Id. ¶ 9.

         On January 13, 2009, the circuit court granted summary disposition in favor of the county and entered an order of forfeiture, ordering that “all of the right, title and interest of the claimants in the above described real and personal property is FORFEITED to the Saginaw County Sheriff's Department and shall be disposed of by said Department as provided by statute, MCL 333.7524.” See Order Granting Motion for Summary Disposition and Order of Forfeiture, Ex. I to Defs. Mot. (Dkt. 97-10). Plaintiffs filed a claim of appeal, and motion for bond and stay of proceeding, for which a hearing was conducted on May 26, 2009. SMF ¶ 11. At the hearing, Plaintiffs' counsel requested a stay contingent upon the posting of a bond, and the trial court authorized a bond in the amount of $150, 000. Id. ¶ 12; see also 5/26/2009 Tr., Ex. J. to Defs. Mot., at 14-15, PageID.2389- 2390 (Dkt. 97-11). The court confirmed that the stay would not go into place until the bond was filed. 5/26/2009 Tr. at 15, PageID.2390. Plaintiffs did not post a bond, but did ask the Michigan Court of Appeals to review the bond conditions. SMF ¶ 13. The Court of Appeals denied this request on June 4, 2009. Id.

         In May 2009, Sheriff's deputies secured the structures at 3551 E. Allan Road and proceeded to remove Plaintiffs' personal property. Id. ¶ 16. The Saginaw County Purchasing Manager, Kelly Suppes, listed and sold the real property at 3551 E. Allan Road through an independent realtor and sold the personal property on Ebay. Id. ¶ 17. The sales were consummated in 2009. Id.

         On January 11, 2011, the Michigan Court of Appeals determined that Plaintiffs' affirmative defenses raised material issues of fact such that the circuit court's grant of summary disposition was inappropriate. See In re Forfeiture of a Quantity of Marijuana, 805 N.W.2d 217 (Mich. Ct. App. 2011). The court of appeals reversed the trial court's decision and remanded for further proceedings. Id.

         The case went to trial on March 20, 2012. SMF ¶ 21. The circuit court determined that Plaintiffs were not innocent owners; following another appeal, the court of appeals held that Royetta Ostipow, but not Gerald, was an innocent owner. Id. ¶¶ 21-23; see also In re Forfeiture of Marijuana, No. 310106, 2013 WL 5731508 (Mich. Ct. App. Oct. 22, 2013). On August 2, 2016, the circuit court entered a final judgment describing which of the real and personal property was and was not forfeited. SMF ¶ 24.

         On August 3, 2016, Plaintiffs made a written demand on Sheriff Federspiel for the return of the real and personal property which was previously seized and sold. Id. ¶ 26. Plaintiffs allege that Defendants have neither returned the property nor compensated them for the value of their non-forfeited property. Pls. Resp. at 11, PageID.5109 (Dkt. 118).

         Plaintiffs then filed the instant lawsuit on August 24, 2016. Plaintiffs allege claims for (i) trover/conversion, (ii) substantive due process violations pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, (iii) procedural due process violations pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, (iv) violation of the Fifth Amendment pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, (v) excessive fines in violation of the Eighth Amendment pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, (vi) a Monell claim, and (vii) violation of the Michigan Freedom of Information Act. Defendants now move for summary judgment, while Plaintiffs seek to name Kelly Suppes as a defendant.


         A motion for summary judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 shall be granted “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A genuine dispute of material fact exists when there are “disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). “[F]acts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party only if there is a ‘genuine' dispute as to those facts.” Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007). “Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no genuine issue for trial.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).

         Once the movant satisfies its initial burden of demonstrating the absence of any genuine issue of material fact, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to set forth specific facts showing a triable issue of material fact. Scott, 550 U.S. at 380; Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The nonmoving party “must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts, ” Scott, 550 U.S. at 380 (quoting Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586), as the “mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment, ” id. (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-248) (emphasis in original); see also Babcock & Wilcox Co. v. Cormetech, Inc., 848 F.3d 754, 758 (6th Cir. 2017) (“A mere scintilla of evidence or some metaphysical doubt as to a material fact is insufficient to forestall summary judgment.”).

         III. ANALYSIS

         Defendants put forth several reasons why Plaintiffs' claims should be dismissed; generally, these are (i) that the Sheriff's Office and the Deputy Does are improper defendants, (ii) that the claims fail on the merits, and (iii) that the statute of limitations has run on Plaintiffs' claims. Because the Court finds that Plaintiffs' claims cannot succeed on the merits, the issues regarding the statute of limitations need not be addressed.

         A. Whether the Sheriff's Office and Deputy Doe No. 1 are Proper Defendants

         i. Defendant Saginaw County - Office of Sheriff

         Defendants argue that the Saginaw County - Office of Sheriff is not a separate legal entity subject to suit. Plaintiffs respond that the “Office of Sheriff” is a formal office, not just an individual constitutional officer, and cites several cases that they claim contradict Defendants' position. They note that the circuit court's order in 2009 forfeited their property to the “Saginaw County Sheriff's Department.” Pls. Resp. at 14, PageID.5112 (citing Order Granting Mot. for Summ. Disp. and Order of Forfeiture, Ex. D to Pls. Resp. (Dkt. 118-5)).

         Defendants' authorities are persuasive. In Hughson v. County of Antrim, 707 F.Supp. 304, 306 (W.D. Mich. 1988), the court explained that “Michigan is a jurisdiction in which the sheriff and prosecutor are constitutional officers, and there does not exist a sheriff's department or a prosecutor's office. Instead, the sheriff and the prosecutor are individuals, elected in accordance with constitutional mandates. Mich. Const. Art. 7, § 4. Since the sheriff's department and the prosecutor's office do not exist, they obviously cannot be sued.” Other courts have found similarly, noting that the Sheriff's Office is simply an agent of the county. See, e.g., Dayson v. Rondeau, No. 12-1310, 2013 WL 1818628, at *8 n.2 (W.D. Mich. Apr. 29, 2013) (“The drug enforcement team is alleged to be a task force of the Cass County Sheriff's Department, which does not exist as a separate legal entity. The drug enforcement team, like the Cass County Sheriff's Department, is simply an agent of the county.”); Veliz v. Bouchard, No. 05-60039, 2008 WL 719251, at *1 (E.D. Mich. Mar. 14, 2008) (“Finally, the claim against the Oakland County Sheriff's Department shall be dismissed, as under Michigan law the Sheriff's Department is not a separate legal entity from Oakland County, and therefore not subject to suit.”).

         The cases relied upon by Plaintiffs do not contradict Defendants' authorities. Rather, they seem consistent with the analysis in Hughson. See, e.g., Brownstown Twp. v. Wayne Cty., 242 N.W.2d 538, 539 (Mich. Ct. App. 1976) (“The state has constitutionally delegated the duty of law enforcement to the county by providing for the office of sheriff.”); Mich. Labor Mediation Bd. v. Marr, 181 N.W.2d 44, 46 (Mich. Ct. App. 1970) (“The office of a sheriff is a constitutional office.”).

         Accordingly, Defendant Saginaw County - Office of Sheriff is dismissed.

         ii. Deputy ...

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