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Payne v. Lowry

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

September 11, 2019

JAMES U. PAYNE, Plaintiff,
v.
JOSEPH LOWRY, OFFICER CLARK, and KELLIE M. FITTONNEVILLE, Defendants.

          Magistrate Judge R. Steven Whalen

          OPINION AND ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION, GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT, AND DISMISSING THE COMPLAINT WITH PREJUDICE

          David M. Lawson United States District Judge

         This matter is before the Court on objections to an August 15, 2019 report issued by Magistrate Judge R. Steven Whalen recommending that the Court grant the defendants' motion for summary judgment and dismiss the complaint with prejudice. On April 9, 2018, the plaintiff filed his pro se complaint alleging violations of his rights under the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments. The case was referred to Magistrate Judge Whalen for management of all pretrial proceedings. After a period of discovery, the defendants filed their motion for summary judgment. The magistrate judge subsequently issued his report recommending dismissal of the case, and the plaintiff filed timely objections. The matter now is before the Court for a fresh review.

         I.

         The lawsuit arises from events that followed an April 2016 traffic stop during which the plaintiff was arrested, and his car and property were searched and seized. The plaintiff contends that there was no basis for the traffic stop, but his claims are premised solely on events that occurred after the stop and arrest. First, he alleges that his First Amendment rights were violated when he was not allowed to speak freely during hearings before the state trial court. Second, he contends that his Fourth Amendment rights were violated when the police refused to return his driver license, which was confiscated during or after the traffic stop. Third, he alleges that his Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated while he was in custody, when officers at the jail prevented paramedics from taking the plaintiff to the hospital after he had a seizure. Fourth, the plaintiff alleges that his rights further were violated when, during a probation violation hearing, defendant probation officer Kellie Fittonneville falsely stated that the plaintiff went to a restaurant instead of attending a court-ordered meeting with her.

         It is undisputed that as a result of the traffic stop and arrest the plaintiff was taken to the Hazel Park, Michigan jail, and that he subsequently was charged with felony fleeing and eluding. While in custody, on the morning after he was arrested, the plaintiff complained to jail officers that he had a seizure and paramedics were called. The plaintiff was examined by them and, according to his testimony, the paramedics recommended that he be taken to the hospital. However, unnamed jail officers who were present spoke to the paramedics, who then left, and the plaintiff then was transported to the Oakland County Jail. The plaintiff later was released from jail, and he eventually pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of misdemeanor resisting and obstructing and was sentenced to probation.

         After he was sentenced, the plaintiff failed to appear for a scheduled meeting with his probation officer (defendant Fittonneville), and he was sentenced to 17 days in jail for the probation violation.

         The plaintiff alleges that when he was arrested the police seized from his person and vehicle around two ounces of marijuana, more than $600 in cash, his driver license, and a state-issued medical marijuana caregiver identification card. The police also impounded the vehicle and subsequently served the plaintiff a notice that the car would be subject to forfeiture. The plaintiff admits that the police later returned his money and the marijuana caregiver card, but he alleges that his driver license was not returned, and he had to get a new one in June 2016. The plaintiff also alleges that he could not retrieve his impounded vehicle because he did not have his original driver license when he went to the impound facility.

         The magistrate judge recommended that all of the claims be dismissed because: (1) the complaint did not plead any facts to suggest that Officer Clark was in any way personally involved with any violations of the plaintiff's rights, and the plaintiff conceded during his deposition and asserted in various filings that he intended Clark to be involved in the proceedings solely as a witness, (2) defendant Fittonneville was entitled to absolute quasi-judicial immunity from the claims of misconduct while performing her court-directed duties as a probation officer, (3) the claim that property was improperly retained after a valid seizure (during an inventory search of the plaintiff's person and vehicle) is not cognizable under the Fourth Amendment, and (4) the Fourteenth Amendment deliberate indifference claim was unsupported by the evidence because the record showed that paramedics promptly were summoned when the plaintiff complained to jail officers that he had a seizure, and the medical notes indicated “normal” vital signs upon examination; moreover, the magistrate judge noted, the records contained a refusal of ambulance transport signed by the plaintiff.

         II.

         The filing of timely objections to a report and recommendation requires the court to “make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified findings or recommendations to which objection is made.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); see also United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667 (1980); United States v. Walters, 638 F.2d 947 (6th Cir. 1981). This de novo review requires the court to re-examine all of the relevant evidence previously reviewed by the magistrate judge in order to determine whether the recommendation should be accepted, rejected, or modified in whole or in part. 28 U.S.C. ‘ 636(b)(1). “The filing of objections provides the district court with the opportunity to consider the specific contentions of the parties and to correct any errors immediately, ” Walters, 638 F.2d at 950, enabling the court “to focus attention on those issues - factual and legal - that are at the heart of the parties' dispute, ” Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 147 (1985). As a result, “‘[o]nly those specific objections to the magistrate's report made to the district court will be preserved for appellate review; making some objections but failing to raise others will not preserve all the objections a party may have.'” McClanahan v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 474 F.3d 830, 837 (6th Cir. 2006) (quoting Smith v. Detroit Fed'n of Teachers Local 231, 829 F.2d 1370, 1373 (6th Cir. 1987)).

         “Section 1983 of Title 42 of the United States Code imposes civil liability on those individuals who, acting under color of state law, deprive a citizen of, among other things, his federally guaranteed constitutional rights.” Baynes v. Cleland, 799 F.3d 600, 607 (6th Cir. 2015) (citing Brosseau v. Haugen, 543 U.S. 194, 197-98 (2004)). “To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must set forth facts that, when favorably construed, establish: (1) the deprivation of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States; (2) caused by a person acting under the color of state law.” Ibid. (citing Sigley v. City of Parma Heights, 437 F.3d 527, 533 (6th Cir. 2006)). The plaintiff must establish the liability of each individual defendant by that person's own conduct. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 676 (2009) (“Because vicarious liability is inapplicable to Bivens and § 1983 suits, a plaintiff must plead that each Government-official defendant, through the official's own individual actions, has violated the Constitution.”).

         A. Defendant Officer Clark

         As an initial matter, the plaintiff does not raise any objection to the dismissal of all claims against defendant Officer Clark. The plaintiff conceded at his deposition and admits in his objections that he did not intend to bring any claims against Officer Clark and only wanted him to participate in the lawsuit as a witness. The claims against defendant Clark will be dismissed because the plaintiff has not alleged any ...


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