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Brown v. Novak

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Harrison Division

March 5, 2019

DESIRE KRISTIN BROWN PLAINTIFF
v.
REBECCA NOVAK, Individually and in her Official Capacity; KIMBERLY FLOWERS, Individually and in her Official Capacity; MARK BAILEY, Individually and in his Official Capacity; RANDY P. MAYFIELD, Individually and in his Official Capacity; CARROLL COUNTY, ARKANSAS; and JOHN DOES l-IV, Individually and in their Official Capacities DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          TIMOTHY L. BROOKS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

Currently before the Court are:
• a Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 29), Brief in Support (Doc. 30), and Statement of Indisputable Material Facts in Support (Doc. 31), all filed by Defendants Kimberly Flowers, Mark Bailey, Randy Mayfield, and Carroll County (collectively, "Carroll County Defendants"); and a Response (Doc. 41), Brief in Support of Response (Doc. 42), and Response to Defendants' Statement of Indisputable Material Facts (Doc. 43), all filed by Plaintiff Desire Kristin Brown; and
• a Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 32), Statement of Undisputed Material Facts (Doc. 33), and Brief in Support (Doc. 34), all filed by Defendant Rebecca Novak; and a Response (Doc. 44), Brief in Support of Response (Doc. 45), and Statement of Disputed Facts (Doc. 46), all filed by Ms. Brown.

For the reasons given below, both Motions are GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On January 6, 2017, Plaintiff Desire Brown's husband, Billy Brown, called the police and reported that during an argument with Ms. Brown earlier that day, she had pointed a gun at him and at one of their children. After interviewing Mr. Brown in a parking lot, deputies from the Carroll County Sheriffs Department (including Kimberly Flowers and Mark Bailey) went to the Browns' residence, along with an investigator from the Arkansas Department of Human Services ("DHS") named Rebecca Novak. There, while interviewing Ms. Brown, they found several unsecured and easily accessible guns throughout the house. At the conclusion of this interview, Ms. Brown was arrested and taken to the Carroll County jail for aggravated assault on a family member, endangering the welfare of a minor, obstructing governmental operations, and terroristic threatening. Mr. Brown was also arrested for endangering the welfare of a minor and for being a felon in possession of a firearm.

         A protective hold was placed on the Browns' children by DHS, and on January 9, 2017, Ms. Novak submitted an affidavit to the Carroll County Circuit Court in support of a DHS petition for emergency custody. That Court issued an ex parte order granting the petition two days later; and then, following a hearing on February 23, 2017, where all parties were present and represented by counsel, it found that the children were dependent-neglected.

         Ms. Brown's initial appearance on her criminal charges also occurred on January 9, at which time a judge set her bond at $75, 000. Ms. Brown was unable to post that bond. On February 3, an Information was filed formally charging her with accomplice liability for Mr. Brown's unlawful possession of a firearm, and with aggravated assault on a family member, terroristic threatening, and endangering the welfare of a minor. Three days later, she was released from jail after her bond was reduced to $5, 000. Four and a half months after that, the State of Arkansas moved for nolle prosequi of the Information. The State's motion was granted, and the charges against Ms. Brown were dismissed.

         Ms. Brown filed the instant lawsuit on February 9, 2018. Her Amended Complaint styles her claims against these Defendants as six counts: (1) malicious prosecution; (2) cruel and unusual treatment during her incarceration in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution; (3) civil conspiracy; (4) violation of substantive due process; (5) outrage; and (6) punitive damages. Ms. Novak and the Carroll County Defendants filed their respective motions for summary judgment on December 28, 2018, seeking dismissal of all claims. Ms. Brown responded to both motions on January 25, 2019. No. replies were filed in support of either motion. Both motions are now ripe for decision.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         "The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The Court must view the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and give the non-moving party the benefit of any logical inferences that can be drawn from the facts. Canada v. Union Elec. Co., 135 F.3d 1211, 1212-13 (8th Cir. 1997). The moving party bears the burden of proving the absence of any material factual disputes. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986). If the moving party meets this burden, then the non-moving party must "come forward with 'specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587 (quoting then-Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)) (emphasis removed). These facts must be "such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Allison v. Flexway Trucking, Inc., 28 F.3d 64, 66 (8th Cir. 1994) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). "The nonmoving party must do more than rely on allegations or denials in the pleadings, and the court should grant summary judgment if any essential element of the prima facie case is not supported by specific facts sufficient to raise a genuine issue for trial." Register v. Honeywell Fed. Mfg. & Techs., LLC, 397 F.3d 1130, 1136 (8th Cir. 2005) (citing Celotex Corp v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986)).

         III. DISCUSSION

         The Court will begin its analysis with Ms. Brown's constitutional claims. Then, the Court will discuss ...


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