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Holeton v. City of Livonia

Court of Appeals of Michigan

May 7, 2019

JOHN HOLETON and PAULINE HOLETON, Plaintiffs-Appellees,
v.
CITY OF LIVONIA, LAURA M. TOY, JOHN R. PASTOR, BRANDON M. KRITZMAN, JAMES C. MCCANN, JOE LAURA, THOMAS A. ROBINSON, CITY OF LIVONIA CITY COUNCIL, CITY OF LIVONIA CITY COUNCIL'S INFRASTRUCTURE COMMUNITY TRANSIT COMMITTEE, and LIVONIA POLICE OFFICER JOHN DOE, Defendants, and LIVONIA POLICE OFFICER JOHN DOE, Defendants-Appellants.

          Wayne Circuit Court LC No. 14-000104-CZ

          Before: Murray, C.J., and Sawyer and Redford, JJ.

          Per Curiam.

         These consolidated appeals originated in a claim that defendants violated the Open Meetings Act (OMA), MCL 15.261 et seq., or otherwise wrongfully interfered with the rights of plaintiffs, John and Pauline Holeton, to participate in meetings held by Livonia's city council. In Docket No. 341624, defendant Maureen Miller Brosnan appeals by right the trial court's order denying her motion for summary disposition of the Holetons' claim under 42 USC 1983, premised in part on her assertion of governmental immunity. In Docket No. 341847, defendants City of Livonia, City of Livonia City Council, City of Livonia City Council's Infrastructure Community Transit Committee (the Infrastructure Committee), Laura M. Toy, Maureen Miller Brosnan, John R. Pastor, Brandon M. Kritzman, James C. McCann, Joe Laura, Thomas A. Robinson, and an unknown police officer, appeal by leave granted the trial court's order denying in part their motion for summary disposition of the same claim. For the reasons more fully explained below, we reverse the trial court's decision to deny defendants' motions to dismiss the Holetons' claim under 42 USC 1983.

         I. BASIC FACTS

         The individual defendants, other than the unknown police officer, were, or are, members of Livonia City Council. The Holetons are self-styled "community activists" who want to raise public awareness about the harms associated with DTE Energy's advanced metering infrastructure-otherwise known as "smart meters"-and do so in part by attending local governmental meetings, such as those held by the City Council. The Holetons sued defendants in January 2014 for violating the OMA. The case reached this Court, then our Supreme Court, and was eventually remanded for further proceedings. See Holeton v Livonia, unpublished per curiam opinion of the Court of Appeals, issued August 2, 2016 (Docket No. 321501).

         In August 2017, the Holetons filed an amended complaint that stated additional claims, including a claim that Brosnan violated their rights guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States when she expelled Pauline from a meeting of the Infrastructure Committee held in March 2012. Brosnan ostensibly ordered Pauline to leave for violating an address-the-chair rule. Defendants each moved for summary disposition of the Holetons' claims in September 2017. Although the trial court dismissed many of the Holetons' claims, it allowed the Holetons' claims under 42 USC 1983 to proceed against Brosnan and the City Council.

         These appeals followed.

         II. BROSNAN'S APPEAL IN DOCKET NO. 341624

         In her appeal, Brosnan argues that the trial court erred when it denied her motion to dismiss the Holetons' claims under 42 USC 1983. Specifically, she argues that the trial court should have granted her motion because the Holetons failed to identify a federal constitutional or statutory right that she violated. In the alternative, she maintains that the Holetons failed to overcome her qualified immunity.

         This Court reviews de novo a trial court's decision on a motion for summary disposition. Barnard Mfg Co, Inc v Gates Performance Engineering, Inc, 285 Mich.App. 362, 369; 775 N.W.2d 618 (2009). This Court also reviews de novo whether Brosnan had qualified immunity for her actions. See Morden v Grand Traverse Co, 275 Mich.App. 325, 340; 738 N.W.2d 278 (2007).

         Congress provided a cause of action for persons who have been deprived of their rights by persons acting under color of state law:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress . . . . [42 USC 1983.]

         In order to establish a claim under 42 USC 1983, the plaintiff must plead and be able to prove that the defendant deprived him or her of a right secured by the Constitution of the United States or the laws of the United States and that the defendant was acting under color of state law when ...


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