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Rudd v. City of Jonesboro

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

March 1, 2017

TERESA RUDD, Individually and as Administratrix of the Estate of CHAVIS CHACOBIE CARTER, deceased PLAINTIFF


          Kristine G. Baker United States District Judge

         On September 9, 2016, the Court entered an Opinion and Order granting defendants Ronald Marsh, Keith Baggett, Michael Yates, and the City of Jonesboro's motion for summary judgment and dismissing most of plaintiff Teresa Rudd's claims (Dkt. No. 50). The Court did not dismiss Ms. Rudd's claims under the Fourth Amendment, as they were not explicitly addressed by the defendants' motion for summary judgment or Ms. Rudd's response, though the defendants did assert that they were entitled to qualified immunity (Dkt. No. 43, at 11). The parties have submitted supplemental briefing on Ms. Rudd's remaining claims (Dkt. Nos. 54; 55). For the following reasons, the Court grants judgment in favor of defendants on these remaining claims.

         I. Background

         A comprehensive recitation of the factual background of this case is provided in the Court's earlier Opinion and Order (Dkt. No. 50, at 2-5). For the purposes of Ms. Rudd's remaining claims, these are the relevant alleged facts. These facts are taken from Ms. Rudd's response in opposition to defendants' statement of undisputed material facts, unless otherwise indicated (Dkt. No. 46-1).

         On July 28, 2012, the Jonesboro Police Department received a report that a white truck was suspiciously driving up and down Haltom Street in Jonesboro, Arkansas, with its lights off. Officer Keith Baggett was dispatched to investigate the report. When he arrived at Haltom Street, he saw a white truck parked with only its parking lights on. Officer Baggett turned on his police cruiser's blue lights and made contact with the occupants of the truck: two Caucasian males and an African American male (Dkt. No. 43-1, ¶ 6).

         Officer Baggett asked the truck's occupants to identify themselves. The driver produced a driver's license, but the other two occupants did not have identification. Instead, they told Officer Baggett their names, Timothy Teal and Laryan Bowman, and dates of birth. Officer Baggett ran this information through dispatch and only got a return on the driver. At that point, Officer Baggett requested assistance, and Officer Ronald Marsh radioed that he would respond to Officer Baggett's location (Dkt. No. 43-1, ¶ 11). Officer Baggett returned to the white truck and asked Mr. Teal and Mr. Bowman for additional information about their identities. Based on that information, Officer Baggett was able to get a return through dispatch on Mr. Teal but not on Mr. Bowman. Officer Marsh arrived at the scene, and Officer Baggett had him take Mr. Bowman from the truck to his squad car.

         Officer Marsh checked Mr. Bowman's short pockets and shook his shorts. He also asked Mr. Bowman about his name and whether he had any drugs on him. Mr. Bowman admitted that his real name was Chavis Chacobie Carter, and he “handed Officer Marsh a small bag of what appeared to be marijuana, which he had in his front shirt pocket” (Dkt. No. 46-1, ¶ 9).[1] Officer Marsh placed Mr. Carter in the back seat of his police cruiser.

         A police database search revealed that there was an outstanding warrant for Mr. Carter's arrest out of Mississippi. Officer Baggett also searched the truck that Mr. Carter had been sitting in and discovered a set of scales under the passenger seat where Mr. Carter had been seated. The officers removed Mr. Carter from the police cruiser, searched him incident to an impending arrest, and placed him under arrest for the warrant out of Mississippi. The officers handcuffed Mr. Carter's hands behind his back and placed him back into Officer Marsh's police cruiser. Mr. Carter committed suicide by shooting himself in the head while his hands were handcuffed behind his back in the backseat of Officer Marsh's vehicle.

         II. Standard of Review

         Summary judgment is proper if the evidence, when viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, shows that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the defendant is entitled to entry of judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56; Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). A factual dispute is genuine if the evidence could cause a reasonable jury to return a verdict for either party. Miner v. Local 373, 513 F.3d 854, 860 (8th Cir. 2008). “The mere existence of a factual dispute is insufficient alone to bar summary judgment; rather, the dispute must be outcome determinative under the prevailing law.” Holloway v. Pigman, 884 F.2d 365, 366 (8th Cir. 1989).

         Parties opposing a summary judgment motion may not rest merely upon the allegations in their pleadings. Buford v. Tremayne, 747 F.2d 445, 447 (8th Cir. 1984). The initial burden is on the moving party to demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 323. The burden then shifts to the nonmoving party to establish that there is a genuine issue to be determined at trial. Prudential Ins. Co. v. Hinkel, 121 F.3d 364, 366 (8th Cir. 2008). “The evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). However, one of the “principal purposes” of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, the rule pertaining to summary judgment, “‘is to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims or defenses . . . .'” Amerinet, Inc. v. Xerox Corp., 972 F.2d 1483, 1490 (8th Cir. 1992) (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)). Therefore, while any inferences drawn from the underlying facts must be construed in the light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment, “‘the plain language of Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden at trial.'” Id. (quoting Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322).

         III. Discussion

         In Count 1 of Ms. Rudd's complaint, she claims that Officers Baggett and Marsh, “through their unlawful and unethical conduct, deprived [Mr. Carter] of clearly established rights and privileges as guaranteed under the United States Constitution, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983” (Dkt. No. 1, ¶ 38). She also asserts that “[t]he acts of Defendant Baggett and Defendant Marsh, along with the acts of Defendant City of Jonesboro, Arkansas' employees of the Jonesboro Police Department, were a part of a pattern of conduct at the Jonesboro Police Department” (Id., ¶ 39). In Count 2 of Ms. Rudd's complaint, she claims that Sheriff Yates and the City of Jonesboro, Arkansas, “failed to properly train the officers of the Jonesboro Police department, including Defendants Baggett and Marsh, regarding proper search and seizures” (Id., ¶ 53).

         “The Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures.” United States v. Kimhong Thi Le, 474 F.3d 511, 514 (8th Cir. 2007). In her complaint, Ms. Rudd claims that Officers Baggett and Marsh violated Mr. Carter's Fourth Amendment rights by: (1) detaining Mr. Carter without probable cause or any other justification; (2) searching Mr. Carter without probable cause or any other justification; (3) improperly ordering Mr. Carter to exit a vehicle without legal justification; and (4) improperly searching Mr. Carter without his consent, and doing so in a negligent manner (Id., ΒΆΒΆ 40-43). The Court requested additional briefing from the parties ...

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