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Booker v. Dillard's Department Stores

June 11, 2007

EZELMA BOOKER PLAINTIFF
v.
DILLARD'S DEPARTMENT STORES DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. Leon Holmes United States District Judge

OPINION AND ORDER

Ezelma Booker brought this action against Dillard's Department Stores for alleged violations of 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1982, the Arkansas Civil Rights Act of 1993, as well as for false arrest, outrage, and racial profiling. The Court has jurisdiction over the claims that arise under federal law pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. The Court has authority under 28 U.S.C. § 1367 to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the claims that arise under Arkansas law. Booker seeks to recover compensatory and punitive damages, costs and attorneys' fees, as well as injunctive relief. Dillard's has moved for summary judgment.

I.

A court should enter summary judgment if the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, demonstrates that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2511, 91 L.Ed. 2d 202 (1986); Cheshewalla v. Rand & Son Constr. Co., 415 F.3d 847, 850 (8th Cir. 2005). The party moving for summary judgment bears the initial responsibility of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2553, 91 L.Ed. 2d 265 (1986). If the moving party carries its burden, "the nonmoving party must come forward with 'specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 1356, 89 L.Ed. 2d 538 (1986) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)). Furthermore, the nonmoving party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586, 106 S.Ct. at 1356. A genuine issue for trial exists only if there is sufficient evidence to allow a jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249, 106 S.Ct. at 2511. When a nonmoving party cannot make an adequate showing on a necessary element of the case on which that party bears the burden of proof, the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322, 106 S.Ct. at 2552.

II.

On or about September 20, 2004, Ezelma Booker, an African-American woman, went to the Dillard's department store located at the Pines Mall in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, to return clothing that she had previously purchased. Booker entered the store with a Dillard's sales bag containing two outfits that she wanted to return. The tags had been removed from the merchandise. When she entered the store, Booker spoke to a Dillard's sales clerk named Tiffany Woods. Taking the items out of her sales bag, Booker explained that she wanted to exchange the previously purchased items. Woods suggested they each take one outfit and try to find something similar with which to exchange the item. Woods took one outfit, while Booker took the other and in the process placed it back in the sales bag that she had brought with her into the store.

The sales clerk did not find a replacement for the outfit, so she told Booker that she would issue her store credit instead. Booker went to the counter and signed the store credit at the sales clerk's request. After signing the store credit, Booker resumed looking for merchandise. While Booker was walking around Dillard's with the sales bag containing the remaining outfit that she planned to exchange, a security officer, wearing a Pine Bluff police department uniform, approached her. Touching her elbow, the officer directed Booker to come with him. Booker questioned why she should go with the officer when she had done nothing wrong. The officer pointed to a security camera and indicated that he had seen Booker shoplift an item on camera. Booker opened her bag for the officer to inspect it. The officer inspected the bag, looked around the store, and called the person monitoring the security camera to ask where Booker had allegedly placed the shoplifted item.

At that point, both Woods and another Dillard's sales clerk, Detra Camp, approached the officer and explained that Booker was a regular customer who had come to the store to return some merchandise. When the officer indicated that Booker had concealed merchandise in the sales bag, Woods and Camp explained that Booker had already purchased those items and brought them from home to return. The officer told Woods that she should have placed the merchandise in the bag, rather than Booker. According to Dillard's, at that point, Booker felt she was free to go. The entire incident lasted between fifteen and twenty-five minutes.

After the incident, Booker left the store. Three days later, Booker went to the Little Rock location of Dillard's and purchased new clothing using the store credit she had received in Pine Bluff. On December 5, 2005, Booker filed this claim.

III.

Booker has alleged that Dillard's violated her rights arising under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1982.

42 U.S.C. § 1981 states:

(a) Statement of equal rights

All persons within the jurisdiction of the United States shall have the same right in every State and Territory to make and enforce contracts, to sue, be parties, give evidence, and to the full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of persons and property as is enjoyed by white citizens, and shall be subject to like ...


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