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Brooks-Albrechtsen v. Mitchell

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

September 13, 2016

MARK A. BROOKS-ALBRECHTSEN, Plaintiff,
v.
MITCHELL Officer, in his individual and official capacity as a police officer for the Indianapolis Metro. Police Dep't, Department of Public Safety, Defendant.

          ORDER

          Hon. Jane Magnus-Stinson, Judge.

         This action stems from a traffic encounter between pro se Plaintiff Mark A. Brooks-Albrechtsen and Defendant Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department ("IMPD") Officer Mitchell that lasted forty seconds. After that encounter, Mr. Brooks-Albrechtsen sued Officer Mitchell in his individual capacity pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. [Filing No. 2.] Presently pending before the Court are the parties' Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment, [Filing No. 13; Filing No. 28], and Mr. Brooks-Albrechtsen's Motion to Strike portions of Officer Mitchell's reply brief on summary judgment, [Filing No. 53], I.

         Applicable Standard

         A motion for summary judgment asks the Court to find that a trial is unnecessary because there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and, instead, the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). As the current version of Rule 56 makes clear, whether a party asserts that a fact is undisputed or genuinely disputed, the party must support the asserted fact by citing to particular parts of the record, including depositions, documents, or affidavits. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A). A party can also support a fact by showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute or that the adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(B). Affidavits or declarations must be made on personal knowledge, set out facts that would be admissible in evidence, and show that the affiant is competent to testify on matters stated. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(4). Failure to properly support a fact in opposition to a movant's factual assertion can result in the movant's fact being considered undisputed, and potentially in the grant of summary judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e).

         In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the Court need only consider disputed facts that are material to the decision. A disputed fact is material if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Hampton v. Ford Motor Co., 561 F.3d 709, 713 (7th Cir. 2009). In other words, while there may be facts that are in dispute, summary judgment is appropriate if those facts are not outcome determinative. Harper v. Vigilant Ins. Co., 433 F.3d 521, 525 (7th Cir. 2005). Fact disputes that are irrelevant to the legal question will not be considered. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

         On summary judgment, a party must show the Court what evidence it has that would convince a trier of fact to accept its version of the events. Johnson v. Cambridge Indus., 325 F.3d 892, 901 (7th Cir. 2003). The moving party is entitled to summary judgment if no reasonable factfinder could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Nelson v. Miller, 570 F.3d 868, 875 (7th Cir. 2009). "The existence of cross-motions for summary judgment does not, however, imply that there are no genuine issues of material fact." R.J. Corman Derailment Servs., LLC v. Int'l Union of Operating Engineers, 335 F.3d 643, 647 (7th Cir. 2003). Specifically, "[p]arties have different burdens of proof with respect to particular facts; different legal theories will have an effect on which facts are material; and the process of taking the facts in the light most favorable to the non-movant, first for one side and then for the other, may highlight the point that neither side has enough to prevail without a trial." Id. at 648.

         As the Seventh Circuit recently recognized, "a twist on the usual standard of review is at play" when the evidence includes a videotape of the relevant events. Williams v. Brooks, 809 F.3d 936, 942 (7th Cir. 2016). In that circumstance, "the Court should not adopt the nonmoving party's version of the events when that version is blatantly contradicted by the videotape." Id. Instead, the Court should rely primarily on the videotape. Id.

         II.

         Relevant Background

         The following statement of facts was evaluated pursuant to the standards set forth above, specifically in light of the Seventh Circuit's recent precedent that when the evidence includes a videotape of the relevant events, the Court should rely primarily on it. Williams, 809 F.3d at 942.

         A. Traffic Encounter

         At approximately 1:24 a.m. on October 18, 2015, Mr. Brooks-Albrechtsen was working as an Uber driver, transporting a passenger eastbound on East 71st Street from Shadeland Avenue towards Hague Road in Indianapolis. [Filing No. 13-1 at 1; Filing No. 14.] As he came over a hill, he observed the emergency lights of a stationary police vehicle on the right side of the road. [Filing No. 13-1 at 1; Filing No. 14.] As he approached, he saw an FMPD officer standing in front of the patrol car with an individual who appeared to be in handcuffs. [Filing No. 13-1 at 1.] The traffic light at the intersection he was approaching was flashing red. [Filing No. 14.]

         As Mr. Brooks-Albrechtsen's vehicle approached the intersection, Officer Mitchell walked into his traffic lane. [Filing No. 13-1 at 1.] Officer Mitchell approached Mr. Brooks-Albrechtsen's vehicle, and Mr. Brooks-Albrechtsen rolled down his car window. [Filing No. 14.] The following conversation ensued:

Officer Mitchell: "Have you had anything to drink tonight?"
Mr. Brooks-Albrechtsen: "Not at all."
Officer Mitchell: "Okay. Why is it that I can hear your car going at a high rate of speed before I even see your lights?"
Mr. Brooks-Albrechtsen: "I don't know, man."
Officer Mitchell: "Then when I see your lights, I still hear your car going at a high rate of speed when you see these ...

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