United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
Anthony P. Patti Magistrate Judge.
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING IN PART AND GRANTING IN
PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
Honorable Laurie J. Michelson United States District Judge.
case arises out of a planned redevelopment project in an area
of Downtown Detroit. Centre Park Bar was in the area slated
for redevelopment. The bar's managers wanted to take part
in the redevelopment project. But their proposal was
rejected. Following the rejection, the bar's managers and
one of its owners publicly complained about the bid process.
And according to the bar managers and owner, the public
complaints led to retaliation both from the City and from
redevelopment officials. So this First Amendment retaliation
lawsuit was commenced.
the plaintiffs consisted of Lotus, LLC, the entity that owned
Centre Park Bar; Gwendolyn Williams, a member of the LLC; and
Christopher Williams and Kenneth Scott Bridgewater, two of
Centre Park Bar's managers. In a nutshell, the suit
alleged that City and redevelopment officials independently
and as conspirators, worked behind the scenes to end Centre
Park Bar's lease and prevent the individual plaintiffs
from participating in the redevelopment project.
Plaintiffs' sued a host of people and entities, including
the City of Detroit, the Detroit Development Authority, the
Detroit Economic Growth Corporation (DEGC), a Detroit police
officer, and a Detroit fire captain.
this litigation, Lotus, LLC filed for bankruptcy, reached a
settlement with all Defendants, and agreed to dismiss its
claims against all Defendants. (ECF No. 208.) Soon after, the
DEGC argued that this Court lacked subject-matter
jurisdiction over the individual plaintiffs' claims
against the redevelopment officials. (ECF No. 209.) The gist
of the DEGC's motion was a shareholder standing argument.
Because the individual plaintiffs were all bringing suit
based on injuries suffered by the LLC, no longer a party to
the case, the individual plaintiffs' injuries were
derivative of the LLC's and so the individual
plaintiffs' claims really belonged to the LLC. Thus, the
individual plaintiffs lacked standing to proceed further. The
individual plaintiffs never responded to this motion.
DEGC and the City also each moved for summary judgment on the
merits. (ECF No. 210, 211.) And each are fully briefed. (ECF
No. 213, 214, 217, 218.) However, because the DEGC's
shareholder-standing argument potentially implicated
subject-matter jurisdiction, the Court started there. As the
Sixth Circuit treats shareholder standing as a concern either
of Article III or Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 17, the
Court relied on both doctrines to grant the DEGC's
motion. (ECF No. 227.)
shareholder standing may implicate Article III (and Rule 17),
the Court ordered the remaining parties-the individual
plaintiffs and the Detroit defendants-to show cause why the
plaintiffs' remaining claims against the City, save one,
should not also be dismissed for lack of shareholder
standing. (ECF No. 227, PageID.7038.) In response to the
Court's show cause order, the City and the individual
plaintiffs staked out different positions. The City agreed
that all but Kenneth Scott's claim based on his arrest
should be dismissed for want of shareholder standing. (ECF
No. 228.) Yet hoping to save all their claims, the individual
plaintiffs raised a number of arguments. (ECF No. 229.) But
only one merits any attention. Christopher Williams says he
suffered an injury separate and distinct from the LLC when
he, personally, was issued a noise citation by a Detroit
police officer named Lewis. (ECF No. 229, PageID.7050.)
Christopher points to the amended complaint, where he alleged
the ticket was issued in retaliation for Christopher's
public complaints against what he perceived to be a corrupt
redevelopment process. (Id.; see also ECF
No. 66, PageID.1931, 1932, 1936-1937.) And Christopher
provides a docket sheet showing that in August 2016, an
Officer Lewis issued Christopher a noise citation. (ECF No.
231, PageID.7063.) Thus, like Kenneth Scott, Christopher
insists he has an official-policy, retaliatory-arrest claim.
reviewed the supplemental briefing and materials provided in
response to the order to show cause, the Court now returns to
the City's motion for summary judgment. For the reasons
that follow, Kenneth Scott and Christopher each have standing
to bring their First Amendment claims. Both allege individual
injuries separate and distinct from any injury to Lotus, LLC.
While Kenneth Scott's claim survives summary judgment and
will proceed to a bench trial, Christopher's claim does
not. The remainder of the individual plaintiffs' claims
are dismissed for the reasons set forth in the Court's
opinion and order granting the DEGC's motion to dismiss
for want of standing. (ECF No. 227.) Thus the Court will
grant in part and deny in part the City's motion for
first, Kenneth Scott's retaliation claim. Kenneth Scott
sues Detroit Police officer Robert Harris and Detroit Fire
captain Kelvin Harris-each in their official capacity.
Bridgewater says the pair arrested him at the behest of the
city in retaliation for Bridgewater filing a lawsuit bringing
to light alleged public corruption.
his deposition, Kenneth Scott said the police officer and
fire captain told him he was going to be arrested because
higher-ups in the City wanted to retaliate against him for
suing the city. And Kenneth Scott was arrested at the Centre
Park Bar for failing to follow the officers' orders to
close the bar for overcrowding, charged, and ultimately
acquitted following trial. So Kenneth Scott showed an injury
separate and distinct from any injury to Lotus, Gwendolyn, or
Christopher. See Old Blast, Inc. v. Operating Eng'rs
Local 324 Pension Fund, 663 Fed.Appx. 454, 457 (6th Cir.
2017). Accordingly, the Court finds that Bridgewater has
standing to bring his retaliation claims.
to the merits of that claim, the relevant facts are as
along with Christopher Williams, managed a restaurant and bar
in Detroit's Harmonie Park neighborhood. After the City
announced a redevelopment project for the area, Bridgewater
and Williams submitted a proposal to take part in the
project. (ECF No. 211, PageID.5355.) But they submitted their
proposal late, (id. at PageID.5361-5362), and it was
eventually rejected for that reason (id. at
PageID.5369). Even so, Bridgewater, Williams, and one of the
bar's owners publicly complained. (Id. at
PageID.5398.) In particular, Bridgewater's complaints
underscored what he perceived as a corrupt redevelopment
process tied to a city-led conspiracy to keep
African-American businesses out of Detroit. (ECF No. 211,
PageID.5435- 5437, 5441-5443.)
says his complaints caused a backlash. Detroit police
officers started to focus their attention on Centre Park Bar.
(ECF No. 211, PageID.5440, 5444-5445.) Bridgewater believed
the police attention was directed by Mayor Duggan as a ruse
to allow the bar's landlord to cancel the ...