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Baxter v. Rivers

November 23, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable B. Lynn Winmill Chief U. S. District Judge


Before the Court are Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 34), and Motion to Appoint Counsel (Dkt. 35). The Court finds that oral argument would not significantly assist the decisional process, and will thus consider the motions without a hearing. The Court rules as follows.


On January 12, 2005, a bondsman falsely identified Plaintiff Joseph Baxter as Jared Hillier, for whom a bench warrant had been issued. On information from the bondsman, Officer Rivers stopped the car in which Baxter was a passenger; three others were in the car. Baxter got out and identified himself as Joseph Baxter. Baxter indicated he had no identification with him. Other officers, including Officer Hendrickson, began to arrive. Rivers frisked Baxter and asked to remove his wallet. During search of Baxter's wallet, Rivers and Hendrickson found baggies of methamphetamine, and placed Baxter under arrest.

In Baxter's criminal proceedings, the state court judge found that the search of Baxter's wallet was reasonable, and denied his motion to suppress. A jury found Baxter guilty of possession of methamphetamine and being a persistent violator, and Baxter was sentenced to a unified term of seven years. See State v. Baxter, 168 P.3d 1019 (Idaho Ct. App. 2007).

On appeal, Baxter argued that Rivers and Hendrickson lacked reasonable grounds to believe he was armed and dangerous, so as to justify a frisk under Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 27 (1968). The Idaho Court of Appeals agreed and found that the trial judge erred. The Court of Appeals held that the facts did not support an "objectively reasonable" basis to conclude that a frisk of Baxter was necessary to protect the officers or others. Baxter, 168 P.3d at 1026, citing State v. Henage, 152 P.3d 16, 22 (Idaho 2007). Baxter's convictions for possession of a controlled substance and being a persistent violator were thus vacated.

On October 29, 2008, Baxter filed a Complaint against Rivers and Hendrickson under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, asserting violations of his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unlawful search, among other claims. Baxter filed an Amended Complaint (Dkt. 21) on May 15, 2009, which included claims of false arrest, false imprisonment, and malicious prosecution. Defendants Rivers and Hendrickson moved to dismiss (Dkt. 32), asserting absolute and qualified immunity, which the Court denied. Order, Dkt. 40.*fn1 The Court now considers Baxter's motion for summary judgment (Dkt. 34), and Defendants' legal arguments in response.


1. Motion to Appoint Counsel

As an initial matter, Plaintiff requests appointment of counsel for the third time. The Court has previously denied Plaintiff's requests. See Orders, Dkts. 5, 31. For those same reasons, the Court will again deny the motion.

2. Legal Standard

One of the principal purposes of the summary judgment "is to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims...." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). It is "not a disfavored procedural shortcut," but is instead the "principal tool[ ] by which factually insufficient claims or defenses [can] be isolated and prevented from going to trial with the attendant unwarranted consumption of public and private resources." Id. at 327. "[T]he mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986).

The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Devereaux v. Abbey, 263 F.3d 1070, 1076 (9th Cir. 2001)(en banc). To carry this burden, the moving party need not introduce any affirmative evidence (such as affidavits or deposition excerpts) but may simply point out the absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case. Fairbank v. Wunderman Cato Johnson, 212 F.3d 528, 532 (9th Cir.2000).

This shifts the burden to the non-moving party to produce evidence sufficient to support a jury verdict in her favor. Id. at 256-57. The non-moving party must go beyond the pleadings and show "by her affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, or admissions on ...

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