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Gerics v. Trevino

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

June 12, 2019

ADAM GERICS, Plaintiff,
ALEX TREVINO, ET AL., Defendants.

          Stephanie Dawkins Davis, United States Magistrate Judge.


          Hon. Gershwin A. Drain, United States District Court Judge.

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff Adam Gerics initiated this § 1983 action on August 17, 2015, alleging several constitutional rights violations at the hands of three City of Flint police officers. Dkt. No. 1; see Dkt. No. 36 (Amended Complaint). Defendants --Officers Joseph Hall, Bobby Fowlkes, and Felix Trevino -- have moved for summary judgment on all Counts.

         Present before the Court is Defendants' Joint Motion for Summary Judgment. Dkt. No. 76. Plaintiff has also filed a Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment against Defendant Hall on three Counts set forth in the Complaint. A hearing on the Motions was held on June 11, 2019. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will GRANT Defendants' Motion [#76] IN PART and DENY Plaintiff's Motion [#78].

         II. Background

         This case arises out of an ongoing feud between Plaintiff and his neighbor, Tim Monahan. Dkt. No. 76, p. 11 (Pg. ID 475). According to Monahan, Plaintiff began harassing him in 2010, frequently calling him profane and derogatory names such as “HIV positive pedophile, ” “cocksucker, ” and “shithead.” Id. Often, Plaintiff would make these comments by means of a megaphone or by putting up signs on properties throughout the neighborhood. Id. at pp. 11-12 (Pg. ID 475-76). On a number of occasions, Monahan attempted to file a complaint with the City of Flint Police Department, but was told that officers could not intervene because this was a civil matter, and not a criminal one. Id. at p. 12 (Pg. ID 476). However, in the fall of 2013, Monahan had an opportunity to speak directly with the Police Chief. Id. Based on Monahan's representations, the Police Chief agreed to send officers to investigate. Id.

         On September 27, 2013, Defendant Hall met Monahan near Plaintiff's property. Id. Plaintiff, who was standing outside his home, noticed the two men talking and began recording them with his cellphone. Id. at p. 13 (Pg. ID 477). At the time, Plaintiff did not know Defendant Hall was a police officer. Id. Thus, Plaintiff addressed Monahan, stating: “And this dude's a crook, he likes to rip people off, families especially. I got it on video of him returning my property. It's on Facebook all over the place. Total thief, took two water heaters and a dryer.” Id. Plaintiff then went on to say, “Why are you in front of my fucking house anyways? Fucking harassment.” Id. At that point, Defendant Hall approached Plaintiff and placed him under arrest for a breach of the peace. Id.

         During the arrest, Defendant Hall grabbed Plaintiff's cellphone and threw it on the ground. Dkt. No. 83, p. 9 (Pg. ID 920). Defendant Fowlkes arrived on the scene soon after to help secure Plaintiff. Id. at p. 10 (Pg. ID 921). Defendant Trevino was observing from his vehicle a half block away. Dkt. No. 76, p. 13 (Pg. ID 477). Following the arrest, Plaintiff was transported to the City Lockup, where he was booked and held. Dkt. No. 83, p. 9 (Pg. ID 921). In holding, Plaintiff was searched by a Sheriff Deputy, who found what was later determined to be marijuana. Dkt. No. 76, p. 14 (Pg. ID 478). Despite this, Plaintiff was released from custody three days later with only a citation for breach of the peace. Id.

         On August 17, 2015, nearly two years after being released from police custody, Plaintiff filed the instant suit claiming, among other things, wrongful arrest. Id. Roughly one month later, the Genesee County Prosecutor's Office initiated criminal charges against Plaintiff stemming from that September 2013 arrest. Id. Specifically, Plaintiff was charged with Furnishing Contraband to Prisoners (Count One), Resisting Arrest (Count Two), and Possession of Marijuana (Count Three). A state court judge found sufficient probable cause for the prosecutor to proceed on those charges; however, a second judge later suppressed the evidence after finding Plaintiff's arrest violated the Fourth Amendment. Dkt. No. 76, p. 15 (Pg. ID 479); Dkt. No. 83, p. 10 (Pg. ID 921).

         Thereafter, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint in this case asserting nine Counts: Retaliatory Arrest (Count One), Unlawful Arrest (Count Two), Excessive Force (Count Three), Unlawful Seizure of Cellphone (Count Four), Failure to Intervene (Count Five), Malicious Prosecution (Count Six), Retaliatory Prosecution (Count Seven), Abuse of Process (Count Eight), and Municipal Liability (Count Nine). Dkt. No. 36. The Court Dismissed Counts Eight and Nine on March 19, 2018. See Dkt. No. 46. Defendants now move for summary judgment on all remaining Counts on the basis of qualified immunity. Dkt. No. 76. Plaintiff moves for summary judgment against Defendant Hall on Counts Two, Four, and Six. See Dkt. No. 78.

         III. Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c) “directs that 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) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). The court must view the facts, and draw reasonable inferences from those facts, in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. No. genuine dispute of material fact exists where the record “taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party.” Matsushita Elec. Indus., Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (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

         “The qualified-immunity doctrine shields government officials performing discretionary functions from civil liability unless their conduct violates clearly established rights.” Quigley v. Tuong, 707 F.3d 675, 680 (6th Cir. 2013). “Thus, a defendant is entitled to qualified immunity on summary judgment unless the facts, when viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, would permit a reasonable juror to find that: (1) the defendant violated a constitutional right; and (2) the right was clearly established.” Id. (quoting Bishop v. Hackel, 636 F.3d 757, 765 (6th Cir. 2011)). “Once a defendant invokes qualified immunity, the plaintiff bears the burden to show that qualified immunity is inappropriate.” Id. at 681.

         Here, Defendants move for summary judgment on Counts One through Seven of Plaintiff's Complaint on the basis of qualified immunity. Plaintiff, in turn, has moved for summary judgment against Defendant Hall on Counts Two, Four, and Six. The parties address these claims out of order. The Court's analysis will follow suit.

         A. Defendants are Entitled to Qualified Immunity on Plaintiff's Malicious Prosecution Claim (Count Six).

         In Count Six of the Complaint, Plaintiff alleges Defendants initiated criminal proceedings against him without any belief that he was guilty of the charged crimes. Plaintiff maintains that Defendants were motivated by malice, vexation, and retaliation. However, Plaintiff fails to demonstrate how Defendants unlawfully influenced his prosecution.

         “To succeed on a malicious-prosecution claim under § 1983 when the claim is premised on a violation of the Fourth Amendment, a plaintiff must prove the following: First, the plaintiff must show that a criminal prosecution was initiated against the plaintiff and that the defendant made, influenced, or participated in the decision to prosecute. Second, because a § 1983 claim is premised on the violation of a constitutional right the plaintiff must show that there was a lack of probable cause for the criminal prosecution. Third, the plaintiff must show that, as a consequence of a legal proceeding, the plaintiff suffered a deprivation of liberty, as understood in our Fourth Amendment jurisprudence, apart from the initial seizure. Fourth, the criminal proceeding must have been resolved in the plaintiff's favor.” Sykes v. Anderson, 625 F.3d 294, 308-09 (6th Cir. 2010) (internal quotations and citations omitted).

         “[A]n officer will not be deemed to have commenced a criminal proceeding against a person when the claim is predicated on the mere fact that the officer turned over to the prosecution the officer's truthful materials.” Id. at 314. Even the submission of inaccurate materials does not automatically render an officer liable. Rather, “in order to show that [an officer] participated in or that his actions influenced the commencement of criminal proceedings as required to sustain a claim of malicious prosecution, Plaintiffs [are] required to present some evidence that the impact of [the officer's] misstatements and falsehoods in his investigatory materials extended beyond the Plaintiffs' initial arrest and ultimately influenced the Plaintiffs' continued detention.” Id. at 316. Similarly, “in order to establish that a testifying officer was responsible for commencing a criminal proceeding for purposes of a malicious-prosecution claim, the Plaintiffs [are] required to present evidence that [the officer] (1) stated a deliberate falsehood or showed reckless disregard for the truth at the hearing and (2) that the allegedly false or omitted information was material to the court's finding of probable cause.” Id. at 312 (internal quotations omitted).

         Here, Plaintiff's malicious prosecution claim against Defendant Trevino is predicated solely on the fact that he issued Plaintiff's citation for breach of the peace, allegedly without cause. But the charges that the Genesee County Prosecutor's Office brought against Plaintiff did not include any such violation. See Dkt. No. 76-11. Furthermore, Plaintiff has not shown that Defendant Trevino had any contact with the Genesee County Prosecutor's Office, such as to encourage the pursuit of criminal charges. Hence, Defendant Trevino cannot be said to have influenced Plaintiff's prosecution.

         Plaintiff's malicious prosecution claim against Defendant Fowlkes also lacks merit. His claim is based on the fact that Defendant Fowlkes testified at his preliminary hearing on the resisting arrest charge. Dkt. No. 83, p. 15 (Pg. ID 926). While Plaintiff contends that Defendant Fowlkes' testimony cannot be trusted, he offers no supporting evidence other than his own assertion. This does not satisfy Plaintiff's burden of proving Defendant Fowlkes stated a deliberate falsehood or showed reckless disregard for the truth.

         Likewise, Plaintiff's malicious prosecution claim against Defendant Hall fails. Plaintiff notes that Defendant Hall's police report surrounding the September 2013 arrest contained an inaccuracy. Specifically, Defendant Hall recanted the fact that he personally heard Plaintiff yell a sexual innuendo at Monahan on the day of the arrest. See Dkt. No. 78-1, pp. 62-63 (Pg. ID 688-689). But even so, none of the charges brought by the Genesee County Prosecutor's Office were founded on this inaccuracy. Indeed, the exact words that Plaintiff spoke that day in no way relate to furnishing contraband to prisoners, resisting arrest, or the possession of marijuana. Thus, there is no evidence that the impact of Defendant Hall's misstatement extended beyond Plaintiff's initial arrest. Furthermore, this single misstatement, alone, does not suggest that Defendant Hall's ...

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