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Martz v. Simmons

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

May 14, 2019



          Susan O. Hickey Chief United States District Judg

         Before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 19). Plaintiff filed his Response on February 8, 2019. (ECF No. 24). Defendants filed a Reply (ECF No. 26) and two supplements (ECF Nos. 28, 30, 33). The Court finds this matter is ripe for consideration.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This is a civil rights action filed by Plaintiff pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff proceeds pro se and in forma pauperis. Plaintiff is incarcerated in the Pine Bluff Unit of the Arkansas Department of Correction (“ADC”). Plaintiff has named Sevier County Sheriff Benny Simmons and Deputy Kris Hundley as Defendants.

         On April 27, 2016, Sevier County Deputies were dispatched to the residence of Thomas and Christina Martz at 9:02 p.m., following a 911 call reporting that Plaintiff was shooting a gun and being disorderly. (ECF No. 21-2 at 5-6). A Remington 870 Express shotgun was found in a vehicle in front of the residence. (Id. at 5). Two spent shell casings were found and a vehicle had been damaged by a shotgun blast. (Id.). Plaintiff could not be located and the officers left the scene. (Id.). At approximately 12:30 a.m., Trudy Martz contacted the Sheriff's Office again and reported that Plaintiff was back in her yard. (Id.). Deputies, including Kris Hundley, were dispatched and Plaintiff was taken to the ground, handcuffed, and placed under arrest. (Id.).

         On April 27, 2016, Deputy Michael Barnes completed a probable cause affidavit for Plaintiff's arrest. (ECF No. 21-2 at 16-18). The probable cause affidavit outlines Plaintiff's conduct and notes that he was on “[p]robation with the Arkansas Department of Corrections for Aggravated Assault.” (Id. at 17). On April 28, 2016, a judge found probable cause existed for the issuance of an arrest warrant. (Id. at 19). A notation was made that bond would be set at the first appearance. (Id.). Plaintiff was booked into the Sevier County Detention Center (“SCDC”) on April 28, 2016, and charged with criminal mischief in the first degree, possession of firearms by certain persons, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and terroristic threatening. (ECF No. 21-2 at 22). On May 1 and 6, 2016, Plaintiff submitted grievances claiming that he was placed under arrest without a warrant, without any “paperwork, ” and without any legal charges. (ECF No. 21-3 at 2-3).

         It is the policy of the SCDC that “detainees are responsible for informing detention facility staff of their needs, and of problems they are experiencing. They must utilize the written sick call and grievance procedures if necessary.” (ECF No. 21-1 at 2). Further, “[a]ny inmate shall be allowed to file a grievance at such time as the inmate believes that he/she has been subjected to abuse, harassment, abridgement of civil rights or denied privileges specified in the posted rules.” (ECF No. 21-4 at 4). The SCDC has no written policy regarding first appearance hearings. (ECF No. 30-1). According to Jail Administrator Chris Wolcott, “Former Sheriff Benny Simmons had no personal involvement in arranging for the Plaintiff's first appearance hearings on the criminal charges made against him in Sevier County.” (Id.).

         Plaintiff's first appearance was held on May 12, 2016. (ECF No. 21-2 at 23). On June 10, 2016, Plaintiff was transported to the ADC. (ECF No. 21-2 at 25). Thereafter, he was booked back into the SCDC on several occasions not having to do with the issues currently before the Court. (Id. at 27-40).

         Plaintiff's criminal trial was held on March 14-15, 2018. (ECF No. 1-1 at 2). Plaintiff was found guilty of possession of a firearm by a certain person and sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 144 months in the ADC. (ECF No. 28-1 at 1 & 3). This charge had been severed from the other pending charges. (Id. at 3). Plaintiff received jail time credit for the thirty-three days he was incarcerated in the SCDC in 2016. (Id.). At the time judgment was entered on March 28, 2018, the other charges remained pending. (Id.).

         In the instant case, Plaintiff alleges that his civil rights were violated when he was arrested on April 28, 2016, and during his subsequent detention in the Sevier County Detention Center (“SCDC”). Specifically, Plaintiff contends he was: (1) arrested without probable cause, (2) subjected to the use of false statements in connection with his criminal prosecution, (3) subjected to an illegal seizure of his firearm, (4) subjected to a violation of the speedy trial act, (5) not given Miranda warnings, and (6) detained fifteen days before his first appearance on May 12, 2016.[1]Plaintiff sues Defendants in their individual and official capacities.


         Summary judgment is appropriate if, after viewing the facts and all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, the record “show[s] that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). “Once a party moving for summary judgment has made a sufficient showing, the burden rests with the non-moving party to set forth specific facts, by affidavit or other evidence, showing that a genuine issue of material fact exists.” Nat'l Bank of Comm. v. Dow Chem. Co., 165 F.3d 602, 607 (8th Cir. 1999).

         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. “They must show there is sufficient evidence to support a jury verdict in their favor.” Nat'l Bank, 165 F.3d at 607 (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986)). “A case founded on speculation or suspicion is insufficient to survive a motion for summary judgment.” Id. (citing Metge v. Baehler, 762 F.2d 621, 625 (8th Cir. 1985)).


         Defendants contend they are entitled to summary judgment for the following reasons: (1) there is no proof of any personal involvement by Defendants; (2) Plaintiff's constitutional rights were not violated by his first appearance hearing; (3) Plaintiff's allegations are barred as a collateral attack on his conviction under Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994) and/or because collateral estoppel applies; (4) Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity; and (5) there is no basis for official capacity liability.

         A. Arrest without Probable Cause, False Statements, and Illegal Seizure

         Plaintiff's claim that he was arrested without probable cause is not cognizable. In Heck v. Humphrey, the Supreme Court held that a claim for damages for “allegedly unconstitutional conviction or imprisonment, or for other harm caused by actions whose unlawfulness would render a conviction or sentence invalid” is not cognizable until “the conviction or sentence has been reversed on direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid by a state tribunal authorized to make such a determination, or called into question by a federal court's issuance of a writ of habeas corpus.” 512 U.S. 477, 486-87. A finding that Plaintiff was arrested without probable cause would necessarily imply the invalidity of his conviction. See, e.g, Sanders v. Fayetteville City Police Dep't, 160 Fed. App'x. 542, 543 (8th Cir. 2005) (citing Smithart v. Towery, 79 F.3d 951, 952 (9th Cir. 1996) (allegations that the defendants lacked probable cause to arrest the plaintiff and brought unfounded criminal charges challenged validity of conviction and were Heck-barred)). To the extent Plaintiff is asserting his firearm was illegally seized and the speedy trial act was violated, these claims too are not cognizable under Heck.[2] Similarly, his claim that Deputy Hundley made false statements and/or fabricated reports are barred by Heck. See, e.g., Young v. Bullock, No. 1:18-cv-102, 2019 WL 354874, at *3 (E.D. Mo. Jan. 29, 2019). Moreover, Plaintiff's conviction of the underlying offense of possession of a firearm by a certain person conclusively determines that probable cause existed for his arrest. Malady v. Crunk, 902 F.2d 10, 11 (8th Cir. 1990) (conviction of underlying offense is complete defense to a civil rights action asserting arrest was without probable cause).[3]

         Accordingly, Defendants are entitled to summary judgment on these claims.

         B. Miranda Warnings

         The claims based on Defendants' alleged failure to read Plaintiff his Miranda[4] warnings fail as a matter of law. The Constitution does not require the giving of Miranda warnings. See, e.g., Chavez v. Martinez, 538 U.S. 760 (2003). In United States v. Patane, the Supreme Court noted that “[o]ur cases . . . make clear . . . that a mere failure to give Miranda warnings does not, by itself, violate a suspect's constitutional rights or even the Miranda rule. . . . [T]he nature of the right protected by the Self-Incrimination Clause, which the Miranda rule, in turn, protects . . . is a fundamental trial right.” 542 U.S. 630, 641 (2004) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted) (emphasis in original). If statements obtained during custodial interrogation are not used against the party, ...

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