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Wilson v. City of Shaker Heights

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

November 1, 2017

GLADYS WILSON, Plaintiff,
v.
THE CITY OF SHAKER HEIGHTS, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          DONALD C. NUGENT, United States District Judge

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant's, City of Shaker Heights Patrolman Martin Dunn (hereinafter "Ptl. Dunn" or "Defendant") Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF #3 5). Plaintiff Gladys Wilson (hereinafter "Ms. Wilson" or "Plaintiff') filed a Brief in Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF #42). Defendant filed a Reply in Support of their Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF #45). Having considered all of the submissions, and having reviewed the undisputed facts and applicable law, this Court finds that Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment should be GRANTED.

         Facts and Procedural History[1]

         Plaintiff filed a Complaint with six causes of actions, alleging: (1) a violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (hereinafter "§ 1983") for malicious prosecution; (2) a violation of § 1983 for Equal Protection; (3) a violation of § 1983 for Due Process; (4) a violation of § 1983 for First Amendment; (5) violation of § 1983 for liberty, safety, and privacy; and (6) a state law claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. (ECF #1). The facts underlying her claims are largely undisputed, and are set forth below.

         Gladys Wilson and Richard and Elizabeth Minkowetz are neighbors in the city of Shaker Heights. In 2005, the Minkowetz's purchased a black frog lawn ornament and placed it in their yard. Ms. Wilson believed the ornament was meant to bother her and was racially insulting. (ECF #35-1, p. 199). Since that time, Ms. Wilson began making signs and posted them in her window as a way to retaliate against the alleged misconduct by the Minkowetz's. In response to these signs, the Minkowetz's felt harassed and began communicating with the City of Shaker Heights Prosecutor's Office sometime in 2010. On December 11, 2014, City of Shaker Heights Patrolman Martin Dunn reported to the Minkowetz's home to interview them and take pictures of the signs. During this interview, Ptl. Dunn took pictures of the signs in Ms. Wilson's window. On the side of Ms. Wilson's house that faces the Minkowetz's home, Ptl. Dunn took pictures of signs that read "Thur. 10:50" and "Stop" and "2014 SOS Bull." (ECF #35-5, p. 257-58). In the rear of Ms. Wilson's house facing her backyard, Ptl. Dunn took pictures of signs that read "Nasty Lil Twit, " "Zoomed Zapped and Snapped, " "Dates Time, and Photos Available, " "Peeping Tom Exposed, " and "3654 Riedham Rd., " the address of the Minkowetz's home. (Id. at 260-63). Ms. Wilson approached Ptl. Dunn and asked him why he was on her property, to which Ptl. Dunn responded that he was conducting a police investigation. Ptl. Dunn asked Ms. Wilson for identification, to which she refused and promptly went back inside her home.

         Ptl. Dunn's turned over his Case Report for this matter to the City of Shaker Heights Prosecutor's Office, who, under the direction of Prosecutor Randolph Keller and Prosecutor Lisa Gold-Scott, charged Ms. Wilson with Disorderly Conduct in violation of Shaker Heights Codified Ordinance § 709.03 on March 31, 2015. That same day, Ptl. Dunn signed an affidavit to establish probable cause. (ECF #35-9, p. 284). Accordingly, the Shaker Heights Municipal Court found there was probable cause to charge Ms. Wilson with Disorderly Conduct. (ECF #35-9, p. 282). The charges against Ms. Wilson were ultimately dropped because it was thought by the Shaker Heights Prosecutor's Office that an administrative route to resolve this issue would be more appropriate. (ECF #38-1, p. 471).

         Ms. Wilson then filed this instant lawsuit against the City of Shaker Heights, Prosecutor Randolph Keller, and Officer Martin Dunn. (ECF #1). The City of Shaker Heights and Prosecutor Randolph Keller each filed a Motion to Dismiss (ECF #12, 13). The City of Shaker Heights argued that the Complaint failed to allege specific facts to show that the City had an express policy in violation of the Constitution, a widespread practice or custom in violation of the Constitution, or that the Constitutional injury is caused by a person with final policymaking authority. (ECF #12, p. 4). Further, the City argued that the it held immunity from intentional torts. (ECF #12, p. 7). Prosecutor Randolph Keller argued that he was entitled to full prosecutorial immunity for both the § 1983 and state law claims. (ECF #13, p. 2). This Court granted the City's and the Prosecutor's motions to dismiss, agreeing with the defendants. (ECF #21). Accordingly, Ptl. Dunn, who did not file a motion to dismiss, is the sole remaining defendant, and now moves for summary judgment.

         Summary Judgment Standard

         "The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The burden of showing the absence of any such "genuine issue" rests with the moving party:

[A] party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of 'the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, which it believes demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.

Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (citing prior FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c)). A fact is "material" only if its resolution will affect the outcome of the lawsuit. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). Determination of whether a factual issue is "genuine" requires consideration of the applicable evidentiary standards. The court will view the summary judgment motion in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).

         Summary judgment should be granted if a party who bears the burden of proof at trial does not establish an essential element of their case. Tolton v. American Biodyne, Inc., 48 F.3d 937, 941 (6th Cir. 1995) (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322). Accordingly, "[t]he mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiffs position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the plaintiff." Copeland v. Machulis, 57 F.3d 476, 479 (6th Cir. 1995) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252). Moreover, if the evidence presented is "merely colorable" and not "significantly probative, " the court may decide the legal issue and grant summary judgment. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50 (citations omitted). In most civil cases involving summary judgment, the court must decide "whether reasonable jurors could find by a preponderance of the evidence that the [non-moving party] is entitled to a verdict." Id. at 252. However, if the non-moving party faces a heightened burden of proof, such as clear and convincing evidence, it must show that it can produce evidence which, if believed, will meet the higher standard. See Street v. J.C. Bradford & Co., 886 F.2d 1472, 1479 (6thCir. 1989).

         Once the moving party has satisfied its burden of proof, the burden then shifts to the non-mover. The non-moving party may not simply rely on its pleadings, but must "produce evidence that results in a conflict of material fact to be solved by a jury." Cox v. Kentucky Dep 't of Tramp., 53 F.3d 146, 149 (6th Cir. 1995). A party asserting that a fact is genuinely disputed must cite "to particular parts of materials in the record" or show "that the [admissible] materials cited [by the other party] do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). FED. R. CIV. P. 56(e) states:

If a party fails to properly support an assertion of fact or fails to properly address another party's assertion of fact as required by Rule 56(c), the court may... consider the fact undisputed for purposes of the motion; [or] grant summary judgment if the motion and supporting materials - including the facts considered undisputed - show that the movant is entitled to it...

         Though parties must produce evidence in support of and in opposition to a motion for summary judgment, not all types of evidence are permissible. The Sixth Circuit has concurred with the Ninth Circuit that "'it is well settled that only admissible evidence may be considered by the trial court in ruling on a motion for summary judgment.'" Wiley v. United States, 20 F.3d 222, 225-26 (6th Cir. 1994) (quoting Beyene v. Coleman Sec. Servs., Inc., 854 F.2d 1179, 1181 (9th Cir. 1988)). Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c) also has certain, more specific requirements:

An affidavit or declaration used to support or oppose a motion must be made on personal knowledge, set out facts that would be admissible in evidence, and show that the affiant or declarant is competent to testify on the matters stated.

         However, evidence not meeting this standard may be considered by the district court unless the opposing party affirmatively raises the issue of the defect. .

If a party fails to object before the district court to the affidavits or evidentiary materials submitted by the other party in support of its position on summary judgment, any objections to the district court's consideration of such materials are deemed to have been waived, and [the Sixth ...

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