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Phillips v. Stevens

March 29, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: John D. Holschuh, Judge United States District Court

Magistrate Judge Abel


Following their arrest at a Rolling Stones concert on October 21, 2002, Plaintiffs Patrick Phillips and Timothy Mollette filed suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of their Fourth Amendment rights. This matter is currently before the Court on Defendant Michael Kirkpatrick's motion for summary judgment. (Record at 45). Because the Court finds that Kirkpatrick is entitled to qualified immunity, that motion is granted.

I. Background

On October 21, 2002, Plaintiffs attended a Rolling Stones concert at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. During the concert, Plaintiffs purchased several t-shirts and other souvenirs from licensed vendors inside the arena. Franklin County Sheriff's Deputies Sanford Crayton and Troy Stevens were working a plainclothes detail to stymie the sale of "bootleg" Rolling Stones merchandise. After the concert, as Plaintiffs left the arena, carrying the bag containing the Rolling Stones merchandise they had purchased, Crayton and Stevens approached them to determine whether that merchandise was licensed.

While the details of what happened next are hotly disputed, suffice it to say that a scuffle ensued. Plaintiffs, allegedly believing that Crayton and Stevens were attempting to rob them, tried to fight them off. Phillips allegedly pushed Deputy Stevens and punched him several times. Stevens was later treated for a contusion on his left temple. (Stevens Dep. at 80, 86-87, 119). Mollette allegedly "sucker punched" Deputy Crayton, who was later treated for an injured lip, abrasions, and contusions. (Crayton Dep. at 38, 43-44). Four uniformed Columbus police officers working in the area rushed to the scene to break up the fight. Mollette and Phillips were arrested by the Columbus police officers and taken into custody.

Defendant Michael Kirkpatrick was a Franklin County Sheriff's Deputy on duty that evening. He was not present when Plaintiffs were arrested. He was, however, ordered to report to the Franklin County Sheriff Detective Bureau for the purpose of transporting Plaintiffs to the Franklin County Jail. (Kirkpatrick Aff. ¶ 6, Ex. 1 to Mot. Summ. J.). Kirkpatrick met with Detective Shepherd at the Detective Bureau. Shepherd told him that Plaintiffs had assaulted Deputies Crayton and Stevens, who were being treated for their injuries. (Kirkpatrick Aff. ¶ 7). Typically, criminal complaints are prepared by the investigating detective and sworn to by the victim or witnesses. However, since Crayton and Stevens were not available, Shepherd directed Kirkpatrick to transport Plaintiffs to the Franklin County Jail and swear to the criminal complaints Shepherd had prepared. (Kirkpatrick Aff. ¶¶ 8, 10-11). Plaintiffs were charged with assaulting a peace officer, and later indicted by a grand jury. The charges against them were eventually dismissed because a key witness was out of town on military duty.

Plaintiffs filed suit against Deputies Crayton, Stevens, and Kirkpatrick, Franklin County Sheriff Jim Karnes, Columbus police officers Thomas Paige, Donald Paden, James Barnes, Anthony Richardson, the City of Columbus, and RST Concerts, Inc. Plaintiffs seek relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which states, in pertinent part:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress . . . 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In order to recover under § 1983, a plaintiff must prove that a person, acting under color of law, violated his or her rights as guaranteed by the Constitution or laws of the United States. See Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 150 (1970). Plaintiffs allege that Defendants, while acting under color of state law, violated their rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution. Plaintiffs' claims include unlawful search and seizure, arrest without probable cause, excessive and unnecessary force, and prosecution without probable cause.

Deputy Kirkpatrick played a very limited role. He simply transported Plaintiffs to the Franklin County Jail and filed the criminal complaints that Detective Shepherd had prepared. The First Amended Complaint alleges that Defendant Kirkpatrick "caused the Plaintiffs to be . . . charged with criminal offenses. These charges were false, and brought without probable cause. Those charges have been resolved favorably to Plaintiffs." (Am. Compl. ¶ 18). Deputy Kirkpatrick has filed a motion for summary judgment on all claims against him.

II. Standard of Review

Although summary judgment should be cautiously invoked, it is an integral part of the Federal Rules, which are designed "to secure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every action." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 327 (1986) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 1). The standard for summary judgment is found in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c):

[Summary judgment] . . . shall be rendered forthwith if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

Summary judgment will be granted "only where the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, where it is quite clear what the truth is . . . [and where] no genuine issue remains for trial, . . . [for] the purpose of the rule is not to cut litigants off from their right of trial by jury if they really have issues to try." Poller v. Columbia Broadcasting Sys., 368 U.S. 464, 467 (1962) (quoting Sartor v. Arkansas Natural ...

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