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Harris v. Stephens

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

December 31, 2019

DARREN STEPHENS, et al., Defendants.

          Chelsey M. Vascura, Magistrate Judge



         This matter is before the Court on Defendants Darren Stephens, Chase Pinkerman, Columbus Division of Police, and the City of Columbus' Partial Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (ECF No. 13), Plaintiff DeShawn Harris' Memorandum Contra (ECF No. 16), and Defendants' Reply (ECF No. 17). For the reasons that follow, the Court GRANTS Defendants' Motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On June 17, 2017, Crystal Powell allegedly reported to Columbus Division of Police (“CPD”) Officers Darren Stephens and Chase Pinkerman that she was assaulted by DeShawn Clark, her boyfriend and father of her child. (Compl., ¶¶ 8-15, ECF No. 1; DV Screen, ECF No. 1-2). Officer Stephens, with the assistance of Officer Pinkerman, filed two criminal complaints and an affidavit in support of probable cause to secure an arrest warrant for Plaintiff DeShawn Harris for charges of assault and domestic violence stemming from the incident. (Compl., ¶¶ 21- 24). According to Plaintiff, he had never met Ms. Powell, he was not the father of her child, he was not at the bar where Ms. Powell picked up her boyfriend prior to the assault, and he resided approximately 5.7 miles from Ms. Powell's residence where the assault took place. (Id. ¶ 17).

         Pursuant to that warrant, on June 29, 2017, Plaintiff was arrested and held on $40, 054 bond in the Franklin County Corrections Center until he secured bail through a bondsman. (Id. ¶¶ 30-31). The next day, Plaintiff was arraigned and entered a plea of not guilty. (Id. ¶ 35). Plaintiff alleges that although the City's discovery revealed no evidence that he was the person Ms. Powell had identified as her assailant, the Columbus City Attorney's Office refused to dismiss the case until the morning of trial on September 13, 2017. (Id. ¶¶ 36-46). The reason for dismissal was listed as “wrong defendant.” (Dismissal Entry, ECF No. 1-6).

         Plaintiff alleges that “CPD and/or the City of Columbus had a pervasive, longstanding custom or practice that had the force of law, which authorized its officers, and specifically Officers Stephen and Pinkerman, to file charges against[, ] cause the arrest of and pursue prosecution of, individuals for whom the officers had no probable cause to charge, arrest, or prosecute.” (Compl., ¶ 27). In the alternative, Plaintiff alleges that “CPD and/or the City of Columbus fail[ed] to properly train its officers, thereby permitting them to charge, arrest and prosecute individuals without probable cause.” (Id. ¶ 28).

         On June 18, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Complaint against Officer Stephens, Officer Pinkerman, CPD, and the City of Columbus, alleging false arrest (Count I), malicious prosecution (Count II), and a Monell claim (Count IV), [1] in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and negligent and/or intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count III), in violation of Ohio law. (ECF No. 1). In addition to monetary damages, Plaintiff requests that the Court declare “that the training programs in place within CPD and the City of Columbus are inadequate to advise officers of the demands of the Fourth Amendment, ” and grant “a continuing injunction mandating the CPD and the City of Columbus to provide a court-monitored officer training program outlining the citizens' Fourth Amendment right to be free of malicious prosecution and Fourth Amendment right to be free of false arrest, to be implemented immediately and continued for a period of five years thereafter.” (Id. at p. 20). Defendants filed a joint Answer on January 18, 2019. (ECF No. 9).

         On April 4, 2019, Defendants filed a partial Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (ECF No. 13). CPD requests judgment on all claims and Defendants Stephens and Pinkerman request judgment on Plaintiff's negligent infliction of emotional distress claim. Defendants also argue that Plaintiff lacks standing to seek the injunctive relief he requests. On May 8, 2019, Plaintiff filed his Memorandum Contra. (ECF No. 16). Defendants filed their Reply on May 13. (ECF No. 17). Defendants' Motion is now ripe for review.


         A motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) is analyzed in the same manner as a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). Tucker v. Middleburg-Legacy Place, LLC, 539 F.3d 545, 549 (6th Cir. 2008). All allegations in the plaintiff's complaint are construed in the light most favorable to him, with all allegations accepted as true and all reasonable inferences drawn in the plaintiff's favor. Bullington v. Bedford Cty., 905 F.3d 467, 469 (6th Cir. 2018). “To overcome a defendant's motion, ‘a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Bullington, 905 F.3d at 469 (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). The motion should be granted when there is no material issue of fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Tucker, 539 F.3d at 549.

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Columbus Division of Police

         CPD argues that it is entitled to judgment on all counts because police departments are not sui juris. Plaintiff responds that the pleadings do not establish whether CPD is sui juris or not. Rather, Plaintiff contends that at this point in the proceedings, a question exists as to whether CPD is a sub-unit of the City of Columbus or whether it is a ...

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