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Putnam v. Boll

United States District Court, D. Idaho

August 28, 2017

JENNIFER PUTNAM, Putnam,
v.
PETE BOLL, in his official and individual capacities, and the CITY OF POCATELLO Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          B. Lynn Winmill, Chief Judge United States District Judge

         INTRODUCTION

         The Court has before it Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 30). The motion is fully briefed and the Court had heard oral argument on June 14, 2017. For the reasons explained below, the Court will grant the motion.

         BACKGROUND

         From November, 2011, to May 3, 2013, Jennifer Putnam was involved in a series of contacts with Jennifer Hope and her family. These contacts included sending letters, showing up at events, and requesting that messages be relayed to certain members of the Hope family. Putnam Dep. 110:16-25, Dkt. 30-7; 136:15-137:9, Dkt. 30-8; 180:2-16, Dkt. 30-8. Officer Pete Boll was responsible for investigating these allegations. Boll compiled a report and spoke with the city prosecutors about whether the evidence constituted probable cause for a stalking charge under I.C. 18-7906. Johnson Dep. 68:3- 11, Dkt. 30-10; Ferris Dep. 16:24-17:15, Dkt. 30-11. The prosecutors advised Boll that there seemed to be sufficient evidence to warrant issuing a citation for stalking. Id. Boll then went to Putnam's home to question her. Boll Dep. 38:3-39:3, Dkt. 30-9. At Putnam's residence, Boll and the Putnam engaged in a conversation. Putnam Aff., Dkt. 34-2. At the end of the conversation, Boll charged Putnam with stalking and placed her under arrest. Def. Stat. of Fact, at 3, Dkt. 30-20. Putnam asserts that, during their conversation, Boll talked about a HIPAA complaint that she had filed, and that he threatened to arrest her if she contacted her attorney. Putnam Aff., Dkt 34-2; Recording of Arrest, Dkt. 34-13.

         The city charged Putnam with stalking under I.C. 18-7906. Judge Carnaroli dismissed the charge, stating, “This is not even a weak stalking case. It is simply not a stalking case.” Mem. in Sup. of Mot. to Exclude Expert, at 48, Dkt. 22-1.

         Putnam filed this lawsuit against Boll and the City of Pocatello. Compl., Dkt. 3. Defendants successfully moved to dismiss some of the claims, but the state and federal malicious prosecution claims survived the motion to dismiss. Mem. Dec. & Order, Dkt. 27. Defendants have now moved for summary judgment on the remaining claims. Def. Mot., Dkt. 30.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate where a party can show that, as to any claim or defense, “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(a). The evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and the Court must not make credibility findings. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255. Direct testimony of the non-movant must be believed, however implausible. Leslie v. Grupo ICA, 198 F.3d 1152, 1159 (9th Cir. 1999). On the other hand, the Court is not required to adopt unreasonable inferences from circumstantial evidence. McLaughlin v. Liu, 849 F.2d 1205, 1208 (9th Cir. 1988).

         The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine dispute as to 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. Deveraux, 263 F.3d at 1076. The non-moving party must go beyond the pleadings and show “by her … affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, or admissions on file” that a genuine dispute of material fact exists. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324.

         ANALYSIS

         1. § 1983 Claim Against Pete Boll

         Putnam has brought a § 1983 action for malicious prosecution against Officer Boll. The Court finds it unnecessary to address Boll's §1983 liability or her claim of qualified immunity, because the causal chain between the arrest and any claimed harm was broken by an independent prosecutor's charging decision.

         If a prosecutor applies his independent judgment and makes the decision to charge an individual with a crime, that decision is an intervening cause which shields the arresting officer from liability. Hartman v. Moore, 547 U.S. 250, 262-63 (2006). Currently, there is some uncertainty as to how the role of a prosecutor's charging decision is to be analyzed in a § 1983 case. Beck v. City of Upland, 527 F.3d 853 (9th Cir. 2008). The Ninth Circuit originally articulated a framework in Smiddy v. Varney, 665 U.S. 261 (9th Cir. 1981), which began with a rebuttable presumption that prosecuting decisions are acts of independent judgment. That presumption was rebuttable if the arresting officer “improperly exerted pressure on the prosecutor, knowingly provided misinformation to him, concealed exculpatory evidence, or otherwise engaged in wrongful or bad faith conduct that was actively instrumental in causing the initiation of legal proceedings.” Awadby v. City of Adelanto, 368 F.3d ...


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