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Gusek v. County of Tuscola

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

September 11, 2019

CHRISTOPHER GUSEK, and AMANDA GUSEK, Plaintiffs,
v.
COUNTY OF TUSCOLA, and DANIELLE GALBENSKI, in her Official and individual capacities as, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT DANIELLE GALBENSKI'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT, GRANTING DEFENDANT TUSCOLA COUNTY'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT, AND DENYING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          HONORABLE THOMAS L. LUDINGTON JUDGE

         In October 2017, Plaintiffs, Christopher and Amanda Gusek, were charged with violating MCL § 750.50(4)(d) and bound over to Circuit Court. Circuit Judge Gierhat dismissed the charges based on insufficient probable cause. Def's Mot. Summ. J., ECF No. 16 at PageID.166-172. After the criminal case concluded, on October 9, 2018, Plaintiffs filed a complaint against Tuscola County and Danielle Galbenski in her personal and official capacity. ECF No. 1. Plaintiffs are suing the county and Ms. Galbenski under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for false arrest and malicious prosecution. Id.

         On July 22, 2019, Defendant Danielle Galbenski filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 16), Defendant Tuscola County filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 17), and Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (ECF No. 18). On July 24, 2019, Defendant Tuscola County filed a Notice of Joinder/Concurrence in Defendant Galbenski's Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 19. All parties filed responses to the Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment on August 12, 2019 (ECF Nos. 22-25). On August 15 and August 23, 2019, Plaintiffs filed reply briefs to their Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF Nos. 26, 28. On August 23, 2019, Defendant Galbenski filed her reply brief. ECF No. 27. On August 26, 2019, Defendant Tuscola County filed its reply brief. ECF No. 29. For the following reasons, Defendant Galbenski's Motion for Summary Judgment will be granted, Defendant Tuscola County's Motion for Summary Judgment will be granted, and Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment will be denied.

         I.

         Plaintiffs, Christopher and Amanda Gusek, are married and live in Tuscola County. Def.'s Mot. Summ. J., ECF No. 16 at PageID.158. Defendant Danielle Galbenski works for Sanilac County as an animal control officer. Id. at PageID.159. Sanilac County has an intergovernmental agreement with Tuscola County to provide animal control services to Tuscola County. Id. Plaintiffs rent property from Amanda Gusek's parents to use as a cattle farm for over 100 cattle. Id. at PageID.158-159; Compl., ECF No. 1 at PageID.2-3. Plaintiffs kept a group of cattle separate from the herd to be “feeder cattle.” Def.'s Mot. Summ. J., ECF No. 16 at PageID.159-160.

         In May 2017, Tuscola County Animal Control received an anonymous tip about cattle “without shelter.” Id. at PageID.161. On May 15, 2017, Defendant Galbenski drove to the farm and observed 12 cattle in a small penned in area without shelter. Id.; Id. at PageID.251, Exhibit 3. Despite the lack of shelter, Galbenski wrote in her report that “cattle were of good weight and appeared to be in good health” and noted that “[w]ater was available to the animals.” Id.; Compl. at PageID.3. Galbenski left a warning note on the home adjacent to the farm, requesting the owners telephone her. Def.'s Mot. Summ. J., ECF No. 16 at PageID.161. Ms. Galbenski had a phone conversation with each Plaintiff separately where she explained that there was no shelter for the cattle in violation of Michigan law and requested that Plaintiffs construct a temporary shelter within 72 hours. Id. at PageID.162-63; Compl. at PageID.3-4.

         Defendant Galbenski and Donna Lautner, another animal control officer, conducted follow-up visits to the property over a two week period, left a second warning notice, and had a phone call with property owner Ms. Franckowiak. Def.'s Mot. Summ. J., ECF No. 16 at PageID.163. At Defendant Galbenski's request, on June 23, 2017, Deputy Spencer Coleman from Tuscola County Sheriff's Office visited the farm to take pictures and interview the property owners, Paul and Lucille Franckowiak. Id. at PageID.164-165; Compl. at PageID.4-5.

         On September 28, 2017, Defendant Galbenski submitted a report to the Tuscola County Prosecuting Attorney and requested Plaintiffs be charged with “failure to provide adequate care” to the cattle due to insufficient shelter. Def.'s Mot. Summ. J., ECF No. 16 at PageID.165; Compl. at PageID.5. On October 19, 2019, the Tuscola County Prosecuting Attorney filed a felony complaint and on October 31, 2019, Magistrate Joseph Van Auken authorized the felony complaint that charged Plaintiffs with violating MCL § 750.50(4)(d). Def.'s Mot. Summ. J., ECF No. 16 at PageID.166-167; Id. at PageID.336, Exhibit 14; Compl. at PageID.5.

         Michigan's animal cruelty statute is MCL § 750.50. Subsection (1) provides the relevant definitions, Subsection (2) includes the elements of the crime, Subsection (4) includes the requirements for a misdemeanor or a felony charge.

         MCL § 750.50(2) states:

(2) An owner, possessor, breeder, operator of a pet shop, or person having the charge or custody of an animal shall not do any of the following:
(a) Fail to provide an animal with adequate care. . . .

         MCL § 750.50(4)(d) states:

(4) A person who violates subsection (2) is guilty of a crime as follows:
(d) If the violation involved 10 or more animals but fewer than 25 animals or the person had 2 prior convictions for violating subsection (2), the person is guilty of a felony punishable by 1 or more of the following and may be ordered to pay the costs of prosecution:
(i) Imprisonment for not more than 4 ...

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