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RT v. Cincinnati Public Schools

December 29, 2006

RT, A MINOR, BY AND THROUGH HER NEXT FRIEND AND MOTHER CYNTHIA HARRIS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CINCINNATI PUBLIC SCHOOLS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

This matter comes before the Court on the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (doc. 23). For the reasons that follow, the Court GRANTS Defendants' motion.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff RT, a minor, brought this lawsuit alleging that her school, the school's principal, the City of Cincinnati, and a Cincinnati police officer violated her civil rights when the school responded to her disorderly behavior by calling the police, and the responding officer tased her and placed her under arrest. The Court dismissed the action as to the Cincinnati Public Schools, the school principal, and unnamed school employees when RT failed to oppose those Defendants' motion to dismiss and did not respond to the Court's show cause order. (Doc. 14.) Accordingly, only RT's claims against the City and Police Officer Rhone remain.*fn1 These Defendants now move the Court to grant summary judgment in their favor on all RT's claims against them: 42 U.S.C. § 1983, 42 U.S.C. § 1985, assault, battery, false arrest, malicious prosecution, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. Plaintiff did not oppose Defendants' motion, and the time permitted for her to do so has passed.

II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate if no genuine issue of material fact exists and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). On a motion for summary judgment, the movant has the burden of showing that no genuine issues of material fact are in dispute, and the evidence, together with all inferences that can permissibly be drawn therefrom, must be read in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 585-87 (1986). The moving party may support the motion for summary judgment with affidavits or other proof or by exposing the lack of evidence on an issue for which the nonmoving party will bear the burden of proof at trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986).

In responding to a summary judgment motion, the nonmoving party may not rest upon the pleadings but must go beyond the pleadings and "present affirmative evidence in order to defeat a properly supported motion for summary judgment." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 257 (1986). The nonmoving party "must set forth specific facts showing there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). The task of the Court is not "to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 249.

III. ANALYSIS

A. Plaintiff's Claims Under 42 U.S.C. § 1983

RT brings § 1983 claims against the City and against Officer Rhone. She alleges generally that the Defendants' actions deprived her of her Fourth Amendment right to be free from an unreasonable search and seizure and excessive force. (Doc. 1 at 6.) She alleges specifically that when Officer Rhone arrested her, he violated her constitutional right to be secure in her person against unreasonable searches and seizures and excessive force. (Id. at 8.) Defendants argue that RT's Fourth Amendment claim against Officer Rhone fails because the undisputed facts lead to but one conclusion: that Officer Rhone's on-the-spot judgment to use a taser on RT when she was resisting arrest did not violate the Fourth Amendment. Furthermore, Defendants argue that even if Officer Rhone's use of the taser violated RT's constitutional rights, he is entitled to qualified immunity from suit. Finally, Defendants argue that the City cannot be liable under § 1983 because RT cannot establish that the City had an unconstitutional policy or custom that proximately caused a constitutional injury.

1. Officer Rhone

Courts analyze claims that law enforcement officers have used excessive force in the course of an arrest using the Fourth Amendment's "reasonableness" standard. Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 395 (1989). The reasonableness test is not capable of mechanical application but requires careful application of the facts of the case, including "the severity of the crime at issue, whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others, and whether he is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight." Id. at 396. The reasonableness standard "contains a built-in measure of deference to the officer's onthe-spot judgment about the level of force necessary in light of the circumstances of the particular case." Burchett v. Kiefer, 310 F.3d 937, 944 (6th Cir. 2002). In other words, a court must "ask whether the officer's actions, in light of the totality of the circumstances, were objectively reasonable." Kostrzewa v. City of Troy, 247 F.3d 633, 639 (6th Cir. 2001).

The undisputed evidence is as follows:*fn2

* RT caused a disturbance at school, and a school official called the ...


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