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Aaseby v. Longo

July 9, 2010

GUY KEVIN AASEBY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF COEUR D' ALENE POLICE CHIEF WAYNE LONGO, CITY OF COEUR D' ALENE, COEUR D' ALENE POLICE DEPARTMENT, OFFICER ANDREW STERLING, OFFICER MARIO RIOS JR., OFFICER JOHN KELLY, OFFICER TIMOTHY NEAL, OFFICER DAN O' DELL, JOHN DOES 1-10, JANE DOES 1-10. DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Edward J. Lodge U. S. District Judge

MEMORANDUM ORDER

INTRODUCTION

Pending before the Court in the above-entitled matter is Defendants City of Coeur d'Alene Police Chief Wayne Longo, City of Coeur d'Alene, Officer Andrew Sterling, Officer Mario Rios Jr., Officer John Kelly, Officer Timothy Neal and Officer Dan O'Dell's Motion for Summary Judgment. (Collectively referred to as "Defendants") (Mot. for Summ. J., Dkt. 18.) The motion is made pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. The matter is ripe for the Court's consideration. Having fully reviewed the record herein, the Court finds that the facts and legal arguments are adequately represented in the briefs and record. Accordingly, and in the interest of avoiding further delay, and because the Court conclusively finds that the decisional process would not be significantly aided by oral argument, this motion shall be decided on the record before this Court without oral argument.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDUAL BACKGROUND

The complaint in this action alleges violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in connection with two arrests and the prosecution of Guy Kevin Aaseby ("Aaseby") by the Defendant City of Coeur d'Alene. It is uncontested that on February 15, 2008, Aaseby contacted the Coeur d'Alene Police Department to report that Miranda Medici (Medici) had been harassing him and had threatened to kill him with a gun if he contacted her again. (Guy Kevin Aaseby Affidavit at 4 ¶ 10-11, Dkt. 23.) In response to the complaint Defendant Officer Sterling responded and questioned the Plaintiff about the incident. Plaintiff contends that Medici had been seeking a relationship with him for about two years and that she had continuously driven by his apartment and had left a note indicating that she was willing to break up with her fiancée in order to be with Aaseby. Id. at 3-4. Medici and other witnesses including the manager at the store where she worked and her friends contend the opposite; that it was Aaseby who had been seeking a relationship with her, who had frequented her place of work, called her, and gone past her home and her friend's home. (Def.'s Statement of Undisputed Material Facts at 2-3, Dkt. 18-2.) Officer Sterling first heard Aaseby's version of events and discovered Medici's version through subsequent investigation. Medici admitted to making the threat against Aaseby to Officer Sterling, but said that she did so because in a call the previous day (Valentine's Day) Aaseby had responded to Medici's request to leave her alone by replying "Oh, honey, I've seen you coming out of places" which made her afraid for her safety. Id. at 4.

On February 21, 2008 Defendant Officers Sterling and Rios went to Aaseby's apartment. What transpired is disputed. Aaseby contends that the officers mocked him, his physical appearance and his disabilities. (Aaseby Aff. at 5 ¶ 14.) Defendants contend that Aaseby told them that he was in love with Medici and she had engaged in behavior intended to make him notice her. (Defendant's Statement at 6.) The result of the meeting was that Aaseby was arrested for stalking in the second degree. When he was being apprehended Aaseby contends that Defendant Officers put the handcuffs on his left arm too tight. Aaseby alleges that as a result of a car accident in 2002 where his shoulder was dislocated and his neck broken, the range of motion in his left arm was severely and painfully restricted. Aaseby alleges that he informed the officers that the way they were applying the handcuffs was uncomfortable and painful. (Randall R. Adams Affidavit Ex. D at 53, Dkt. 18-3.) Aaseby contends that the more he suffered the more the arresting officers liked it. Id. Aaseby was released on February 22, 2008 and a No Contact Order was issued for Medici. Id. at Ex. B.

On April 26, 2008 Medici contacted Defendant Officer Kelly and reported that her friend (Veien) had told her that Aaseby had driven past her house and shouted "You tell her I'll have her one way or another. You tell her that." (Defendant's Statement at 7 ¶ 32.) Defendant Officer Kelly confirmed Medici's statement with Veien and contacted Defendant Officer Neal and instructed him to arrest Aaseby for violation of the No Contact Order. Id. at 7 ¶ 33. Aaseby was arrested. Aaseby alleges that he had an alibi for the violation and that his protests were ignored at the time of arrest. (Aaseby Aff. at 6.) Aaseby makes the same allegations concerning the force used in the second arrest as the first. (Adams Aff., Ex. D, Dkt. 18-3 at 68.) Aaseby was found "not guilty" of both charges.

On February 9, 2009 Aaseby filed this complaint in the United States District Court for the District of Idaho. Aaseby alleges four counts:

Count I: 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Action for Deprivation of Civil Rights, which alleges that Aaseby was arrested without probable cause, that he was maliciously prosecuted and that the force used incident to the arrest was excessive.

Count II: 42 U.S.C. § 1985 Action for Conspiracy to Interfere with Civil Rights, which alleges that there was a conspiracy among the Defendants to deprive Aaseby of his constitutional rights.

(There is no Count III)

Count IV: 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Failure to Adequately Train & Supervise Police Officers, which alleges that the City of Coeur d'Alene is liable for the actions of its officers.

Count V: 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Negligent Hiring, Retention and Failure to Discipline or Take Necessary Corrective Action, which alleges the same as Count IV.

On January 19, 2010 the Defendants filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on all counts. (Motion for Summary Judgment.)

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Motions for summary judgment are governed by Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 56 provides, in pertinent part, that 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." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c).

The Supreme Court has made it clear that under Rule 56 summary judgment is mandated if the non-moving party fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element which is essential to the non-moving party's case and upon which the non-moving party will bear the burden of proof at trial. See, Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). If the non-moving party fails to make such a showing on any essential element, "there can be no 'genuine issue of material fact,' since a completely failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Id. at 323.*fn1

Moreover, under Rule 56, it is clear that an issue, in order to preclude entry of summary judgment, must be both "material" and "genuine." An issue is "material" if it affects the outcome of the litigation. An issue, before it may be considered "genuine," must be established by "sufficient evidence supporting the claimed factual dispute... to require a jury or judge to resolve the parties' differing versions of the truth at trial." Hahn v. Sargent, 523 F.3d 461, 464 (1st Cir. 1975) (quoting First Nat'l Bank v. Cities Serv. Co. Inc., 391 U.S. 253, 289 (1968)). The Ninth Circuit cases are in accord. See, e.g., British Motor Car Distrib. V. San Francisco Automotive Indus. Welfare Fund, 883 F.2d 371 (9th Cir. 1989).

DISCUSSION

1. Count I 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Claims

Congress has created a cause of action against private individuals who, while acting under color of law, violate the constitutional rights of private citizens. 42 U.S.C. § 1983 provides in pertinent part:

Every person who, under color of any statute, [.] subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivations of any rights, privileges or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured.

Id. In order for a plaintiff to prevail on a § 1983 claim they must show that (1) the actor that deprived them of their rights acted under color of law and (2) that the action actually deprived them of a constitutional right. In this case (1) is not disputed by either of the parties. Police officers carrying out their duties act under color of law. Aaseby contends that the constitutional rights which were violated in this case are the right to be free from unlawful arrest, malicious prosecution and excessive force incident to arrest.

While § 1983 provides a cause of action against police officers for constitutional violations that they might have committed, they are also entitled to qualified immunity from § 1983 claims. Qualified immunity operates to "shield an officer from personal liability when an officer reasonably believes that his or her conduct complies with law." Pearson v. Callahan, 129 S.Ct. 808 (2009). The court in Pearson rejected the mandatory two-step approach that it had announced in Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194 (2001). Id. at 818. That approach had required courts to first decide if the defendant's "conduct violated a constitutional right" then decide whether the right was clearly established at the time of the alleged violation. Saucier, 533 U.S. at 201. Courts are now free to decide either question in whatever order is most appropriate given the circumstances. The Court is satisfied that the rights Aaseby claims were violated are guaranteed by the federal Constitution. Any reasonable government actor would have shaped their conduct to preserve them. What is at issue is whether they were violated. Whether the rights were violated, and thus whether the ...


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