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Rose v. Davis

July 19, 2006

KENNETH ROSE, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
ERIC DAVIS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: District Judge Susan J. Dlott

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR JUDGMENT AS A MATTER OF LAW

This matter comes before the Court on Defendant's oral Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law. For the reasons that follow, and consistent with its oral ruling in open court on July 18, 2006, the Court GRANTS Defendant's Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law and DIRECTS a verdict in favor of Defendants.

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY*fn1

This Court was scheduled to begin the trial in this case on Monday morning, July 17, 2006. On Saturday July 15, 2006, in the early morning, Defendants filed their Motion for Leave to File a Motion for Summary Judgment (doc. #60). The Court did not see the Motion for Leave until Monday morning, just before trial was to begin. When the Court convened on Monday morning, Defendants asked the Court to consider the Motion, in which Defendants argued that they were entitled to qualified immunity as a matter of law and therefore should not be subjected to trial. For support, Defendants cited their deposition testimony, which Plaintiff had taken just the Friday before trial, as well as Cincinnati Municipal Code § 513-1 and Cincinnati Police Division policy manual § 12.270.

The Court advised Defendants that it would deny their Motion for Leave. The Court recognized that the doctrine of qualified immunity, where applicable, protects government officials from both liability and suit. Nevertheless, given that 1) Defendants made their Motion at the very last minute before trial, 2) the jury and parties had already arrived prepared for trial, and most importantly 3) Defendants could have obtained all of the evidence on which they based their motion years before they made it, the Court found Defendants' Motion for Leave to be untimely.

The Court then began trial. At the close of Plaintiff's evidence on Monday afternoon, July 17, 2006, Defendants made a Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50(a)(1). The Court took the Motion under advisement. The next morning, Tuesday, July 18, 2006, the Court granted Defendants' Motion and directed a verdict for Defendants. The Court advised the parties that it would issue this Order further explaining its reasons for so ruling.

II. ANALYSIS

Plaintiff filed this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Section 1983 provides that an individual may seek redress in this Court, by way of damages, against any person who under color of state law, including any statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom, subjects such individual to a deprivation of any right, privilege, or immunity secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States. 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff argued that Defendants, City of Cincinnati Police Officers Davis and Battison, violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unconstitutional seizures when they impounded his car following his arrest at his father's home.*fn2 In order to prevail on his claim, Plaintiff had to prove three requirements: (1) that Defendants acted under color of law; (2) that Defendants deprived Plaintiff of his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unconstitutional seizures; and (3) that as a proximate result, Plaintiff suffered injury or damages.Monell v. Dept. of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658, (1978).*fn3

In support of their Rule 50(a)(1) motion, Defendants argued that they were entitled to judgment as a matter of law because under the evidence Plaintiff presented at trial, it was clear that 1) Defendants did not subject Plaintiff to a constitutional deprivation; and/or 2) Defendants were entitled to qualified immunity. Defendants concluded that no reasonable jury could find for Plaintiff on his claim of an unconstitutional seizure under the Fourth Amendment.

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50(a) provides for judgment as a matter of law in jury trials. Under Rule 50(a)(1),

If during a trial by jury a party has been fully heard on an issue and there is no legally sufficient evidentiary basis for a reasonable jury to find for that party on that issue, the court may determine the issue against that party and may grant a motion for judgment as a matter of law against that party with respect to a claim or defense that cannot under the controlling law be maintained or defeated without a favorable finding on that issue.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 50(a)(1).

The Supreme Court has stated that in making this determination, "the court must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, and it may not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence." Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 151 (2000). The Supreme Court has instructed further, "the court should give credence to the evidence favoring the non-movant as well as that 'evidence supporting the moving party that is uncontradicted and unimpeached, at least to the extent that the evidence comes from disinterested witnesses.'" Id. (citation omitted).

The Court holds that, even when all reasonable inferences are drawn in favor of Plaintiff, both of Defendants' arguments entitle ...


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