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Christopher Kirk v. Clinton County Board of Commissioners

October 26, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: S. Arthur Spiegel United States Senior District Judge


This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment Regarding Liability (doc. 17), Defendants' Response in Opposition (doc. 32), and Plaintiff's Reply (doc. 38). Also before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (doc. 36), Plaintiff's Response (doc. 42), and Defendants' Reply (doc. 47). For the reasons indicated herein, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's motion and GRANTS Defendants' motion.

I. Background

Plaintiff Christopher Kirk ("Kirk"), started working for Defendant Clinton County Sheriff's Office ("CCSO"), as a Sheriff's Deputy on March 6, 2000 (doc. 1). He was certified as a K-9 Patrol and worked in such capacity for just over nine years, when on May 27, 2009 his employment was terminated due to a criminal complaint lodged against him for alleged domestic violence against his then-wife, Misty Kirk (Id.).

Specifically, on May 12, 2009, Misty Kirk complained to Defendant Detective Brian Edwards that Kirk had assaulted her the previous day, grabbing her by the arms and throwing her away from her truck when she attempted to confront him with allegations of marital infidelity outside the home of the alleged mistress, Amy McCleese (doc. 36). Misty Kirk reported to Edwards that she suffered bruises, scratches, and broken fingernails (Id.). Edwards documented Misty Kirk's injuries with photos, and interviewed witnesses who confirmed that they had seen Kirk many times throughout the year at the home of the alleged mistress (Id.). On May 13, 2009, Misty Kirk called Defendant Edwards and indicated she wanted to file domestic violence charges against Kirk (Id.). Edwards gave her a blank affidavit which she completed, in which she described that during the May 11 altercation Kirk had been "enraged," "started screaming and ran towards [her]," that she was afraid and tried to leave when Kirk, "grabbed me around the waist and pulled me back and then threw me back. I was screaming for him to stop" (doc. 32). Misty Kirk's affidavit further indicated that Kirk had grabbed her by the left wrist, "causing me to yell at him to let me go" (Id.). Once Kirk released her, she further stated she found several of her fingernails were broken and she "felt pain on my left side of my back" (Id.).

Defendant Edwards filed Misty Kirk's Complaint in the filing box at the Sheriff's Office on May 13, before performing any further investigation (Id.). At such moment, Defendant Edwards made the decision to arrest Kirk for domestic violence (Id.).

Edwards then went to Plaintiff's house and escorted him to the Sheriff's Office for questioning (Id.). Prior to questioning, Edwards informed Kirk that Edwards was investigating an incident between Kirk and his wife (Id.). Edwards further advised Plaintiff that his statements could not be used in a subsequent criminal prosecution, but failure to answer all questions truthfully could result in a termination of employment (Id.).

Plaintiff completed a statement concerning his altercation with Misty Kirk, that provided a different version of the events, in which Misty Kirk essentially attacked him and he acted in self-defense (doc. 17).*fn1 In his statement, Plaintiff admitted that he had grabbed his wife's arms to protect himself, and that he pushed her so that he could get away (Id.).

According to Plaintiff, Edwards told Plaintiff that Plaintiff was lying, falsely indicated that there were witnesses against him, and informed him that a criminal complaint had been filed (Id.). Edwards then placed Plaintiff under arrest (doc. 32).

Edwards indicated he kept his notes and interview with Kirk separate from any of his files related to the criminal investigation (Id.). However, Edwards later participated in Kirk's bond hearing, seeking a higher bond based on his belief that Kirk was attempting to circumvent the civil protection order entered against him, by using a relative to contact Misty Kirk (Id.).

Plaintiff was released on bond, and on May 20, 2009, received a pre-disciplinary conference (doc. 32). At such conference he was charged with 1) having assaulted Misty Kirk, 2) falsifying information for not disclosing his involvement with McCleese, and 3) being unable to carry a firearm because of the weapons disability required in the civil protection order (Id.). After a disciplary hearing, Defendant Sheriff Fizer was found to be justified in continuing the disciplinary process (Id.). On May 27, 2009, Defendant Sheriff Fizer terminated Plaintiff's employment for each of the above reasons (Id.).

The prosecution in the domestic violence case, through a public records request, sought Kirk's employment file from Defendants, which included his statements made to Defendant Edwards. However, the record shows that the prosecution had already obtained such statements from Kirk's counsel on June 15, 2009, who submitted them "under seal," and warned that such statements could not be used at trial, although they were necessary for pretrial purposes (doc. 32).

On September 2, 2009, the trial court ultimately dismissed the criminal case against Kirk*fn2 (Id.). Kirk was reinstated to a dispatch position*fn3 , with back-pay, on January 7, 2010 (doc. 1).

On May 28, 2010, Plaintiff filed the Complaint in this matter, seeking redress for deprivation of civil rights, breach of contract, false arrest, malicious prosecution, abuse of process, defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and for declaratory judgment (doc. 1). He sues the Clinton County Board of Commissioners ("the Board"), Sheriff Ralph Fizer, Jr. ("Fizer"), and Detective ...

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