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Martin v. Fort Wayne Police Department

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division

March 5, 2014

Anthony C. Martin, Plaintiff,
Fort Wayne Police Department, Officer McEachern, Sergeant Shank, Officer Hatfield, Sergeant Rich, Unknown Officer, Unknown Desk Clerk of the F.W.P.D., The City of Fort Wayne, Mayor Tom Henry, and Chief of Police Russell York, Defendants.



In this ยง 1983 lawsuit, Plaintiff Anthony Martin complains about a February 16, 2011, traffic stop and his later visit to the police station. He claims the officers wrongfully searched his person and car; used excessive force; failed to intervene; behaved vindictively; and harassed, retaliated, and defamed him. Plaintiff alleges this caused mental stress and anguish. He asserts that Defendants violated his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, as well as his state law rights. After discovery closed, Defendants Officer Michael McEachern, Sergeant John Shank, Officer James Hatfield, Sergeant Rich, the City of Fort Wayne, the Fort Wayne Police Department, Mayor Tom Henry, and Police Chief Russell York moved for Summary Judgment on all of Plaintiff's claims. Upon review, the Court grants the motion as detailed below.

A. Defendants Provided Plaintiff with Sufficient Notice

Plaintiff claims Defendants have not served him with the Motion for Summary Judgment. (Pl's. Notice to the Court, DE 117.) If so, a ruling on Defendants' motion would have to wait until Plaintiff is properly served. "[A] district court cannot properly act on a motion for summary judgment without giving the opposing party a reasonable opportunity to submit affidavits that contradict the affidavits submitted in support of the motion." Lewis v. Faulkner, 689 F.2d 100, 101 (7th Cir. 1982). A reasonable opportunity requires notice, and mere time is not enough, if knowledge of the consequences of not making use of it is wanting. Id. The notice must include a short and plain statement of the need to respond, giving both the text of Rule 56(e) and an explanation of the rule in plain English. Id. at 102; see also N.D. Ind. L.R. 56-1(f).

Here Defendants sent both the Motion for Summary Judgment and notice to Plaintiff at his stated address via certified mail, and Plaintiff's mother signed the receipt form. (Defs.' Response to Pl's. Notice to the Court, DE 118-1 at 2; DE 118 at 2.) The motion quoted Rule 56, explained the rule in plain English, and provided the consequences of inaction. (Defs.' Notice of Filing Mot. Summ. J., DE 116.) This notice included all the requirements necessary when filing against a pro se plaintiff. Therefore, the Court rejects Plaintiff's lack of notice argument.

B. Summary Judgment Standard

A motion for summary judgment must be granted "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 a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). Rule 56(c) further requires the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery, against a party "who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

A party seeking summary judgment bears the initial responsibility of informing a court of the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Id. at 323. If the moving party supports its motion for summary judgment with affidavits or other materials, it thereby shifts to the non-moving party the burden of showing that an issue of material fact exists. Keri v. Bd. of Trust. of Purdue Univ., 458 F.3d 620, 628 (7th Cir. 2006).

Rule 56(e) specifies that once a properly supported motion for summary judgment is made, "the adverse party's response, by affidavits or as otherwise provided in this rule, must set forth specific facts to establish that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). In viewing the facts presented on a motion for summary judgment, a court must construe all facts in a light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all legitimate inferences and resolve all doubts in favor of that party. Keri, 458 F.3d at 628. A court's role is not to evaluate the weight of the evidence, to judge the credibility of witnesses, or to determine the truth of the matter, but instead to determine whether there is a genuine issue of triable fact. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 249-50 (1986).

C. Summary of Events

In his Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleged the Defendants committed several violations of federal and Indiana state law, but he never responded to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment or provided any evidence to support the allegations in the complaint. When a party fails to properly address another party's facts, the court may consider those facts undisputed. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(2). Unlike Plaintiff, Defendants submitted their facts and supported them with evidence. Because Plaintiff did not challenge these facts, the Court considers them admitted.

(1) Plaintiff's Traffic Stop and Search

On February 16, 2011, Officer McEachern was on duty as a Fort Wayne police officer. (McEachern Aff., DE-114-1 at 1.) Officer McEachern was in police uniform and driving a marked police car. ( Id. ) While Officer McEachern was driving south on Clinton Street and approaching the Masterson Avenue intersection, a green Chevrolet Blazer, license plate 747EUB, turned southbound onto Clinton Street from eastbound Masterson Avenue. ( Id. )

After turning, the driver of the green Chevrolet Blazer, later identified as Plaintiff, changed lanes from the far right lane to the far left lane without signaling, violating Indiana law. ( Id. at 2.) Plaintiff then signaled and turned left onto Dewald Street. ( Id. ) Officer McEachern stopped him at Dewald and Clinton Streets. ( Id. )

Plaintiff became agitated and immediately demanded that a sergeant arrive. ( Id. ) Officer McEachern informed Plaintiff that he was stopped for failing to signal his lane changes. ( Id. ) He asked for Plaintiff's driver's license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance. ( Id. ) Plaintiff provided his driver's license and the vehicle registration. ( Id. ) Officer McEachern again asked Plaintiff for his proof of insurance, but Plaintiff was unable to provide it. ( Id. ) Officer McEachern also identified the front seat passenger, Natasha King. ( Id. )

After returning to his squad car, Officer McEachern asked Officer Derrick Demorest, who had later arrived at the scene, to request a sergeant. ( Id. ) Sergeant James Ritchie responded to the request and arrived at the scene. ( Id. )

Officer McEachern ran Plaintiff's name through the Spillman database. ( Id. at 3.) The database showed Plaintiff was a known resistor and convicted felon and previously armed. ( Id. )

After Officer McEachern completed the citations, Sergeant Ritchie and Officer McEachern approached Plaintiff's car. ( Id. ) Officer McEachern issued Plaintiff citations for failing to signal a lane change and provide proof of insurance. ( Id. ) While Officer McEachern explained the citations, Plaintiff started yelling, interrupting the officer. ( Id. ) Plaintiff told Sergeant Ritchie that Officer McEachern informed Plaintiff that he was stopped for speeding. ( Id. ) Plaintiff proceeded to argue the citations. ( Id. ) Officer McEachern told Plaintiff the date ...

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