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Brinkley v. City of Helena-West Helena

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Eastern Division

August 21, 2014

CITY OF HELENA-WEST HELENA, ARKANSAS and ARNELL WILLIS or JAMES VALLEY, Individually and in their Official Capacity as MAYOR and as Former MAYOR OF HELENA-WEST HELENA, MIKE HALL, in his Individual and Official Capacity as a police officer for the CITY OF HELENA-WEST HELENA, ARKANSAS, Defendants.



Doretha Brinkley brings this action against the City of Helena-West Helena, Arkansas (the City), Arnell Willis, Mayor of the City, James Valley, former Mayor of the City, and Mikel Hall, former police officer for the City, for injuries she claims she suffered while being arrested by Hall on November 16, 2008.[1] Brinkley claims that while she was handcuffed and compliant, Hall slammed her head into his police cruiser and struck her with his baton and fists, knocking out some of her teeth and causing her other serious bodily injury.

The matter is before the Court on motion of the City, Mayor Willis and former Mayor Valley, in their individual and official capacities, and Hall, in his official capacity only, for partial summary judgment [doc.#77].[2] Brinkley has responded in opposition to defendants' motion and defendants have replied to Brinkley's response. For the reasons that follow, the Court grants defendants' motion for partial summary judgment.


Brinkley asserts claims against Hall for violating her Fourth Amendment rights by using excessive force against her during her arrest. Compl. ¶¶ 5-8. She also asserts against Hall "all common law claims resulting from" his intentional actions. Id. ¶ 38.

Brinkley asserts claims against the City for negligent hiring, training, supervision, and retention of Hall. Id. ¶¶ 15-27. She also claims that Hall's unconstitutional use of force was pursuant to a "policy, custom, ordinance, regulation, decision, edict or act of a policymaker, " id. ¶ 2, and she asserts "all common law claims against City" resulting from Hall's intentional actions. Id. ¶ 35.

Brinkley claims former Mayor Valley was the final policymaker for the City's police department at the time of the incident and that the "policies, customs, ordinances, regulations, decisions, edicts or acts of the policymaker, under the color of state law, were the moving forces in [her] injuries and damages...." Id. ¶¶ 2-3. She names current Mayor Willis as a defendant "to the extent Arnell Willis should be the named party as he came into the office of mayor and succeeded to the duties and responsibilities of Valley...." Id. ¶ 3.

Brinkley seeks damages for the above claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1988; the Arkansas Civil Rights Act of 1993 (ACRA), Ark. Code Ann. §§ 16-123-101, 16-123-105; Ark. Code Ann. § 21-9-301; and Ark. Const. Art. 2, § 15.[3]


Defendants move for partial summary judgment on several grounds, including that the city council, not the mayor, is the final policy maker for the City's police department and that Brinkley has failed to establish the existence of a continuing, widespread, persistent pattern of unconstitutional misconduct by the City's police officers. Defendants argue there are no genuine issues of material fact with respect to these issues and that they are entitled to partial summary judgment as a matter of law.


Summary judgment is appropriate "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). To support an assertion that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed, a party must cite "to particular parts of materials in the record, " or show "that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, " or "that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A)-(B). "The court need consider only the cited materials, but it may consider other materials in the record." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3). The inferences to be drawn from the underlying facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio, 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (citations omitted). Credibility determinations, the weighing of the evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the facts are jury functions, not those of a judge. Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000) (citation and quotation marks omitted). However, "[w]here the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no genuine issue for trial.'" Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587 (citation omitted). "Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). "Factual disputes that are irrelevant or unnecessary will not be counted." Id.


As a preliminary matter, the Court identifies those arguments that are no longer at issue in this action. In addition to the two arguments set forth above on which defendants move for partial summary judgment, defendants also move for partial summary judgment regarding 1) the existence of an official policy regarding excessive force, 2) deliberately indifferent hiring, training, and supervising practices, 3) the impropriety of all claims against current Mayor Willis, 4) the claims of negligence and other state torts against the City, 5) the request for punitive damages against the City, and 6) the impropriety of the individual capacity claim against former Mayor Valley. Brinkley, however, does not contest these additional arguments that the defendants have set forth in their motion that they state entitles them to partial summary judgment. Accordingly, Brinkley ...

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