United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division
OPINION AND ORDER
DEGUILIO Judge United States District Court
Houchin, II, a pro se prisoner, is suing Detective
Paul Heaten in his individual capacity for monetary damages.
Houchin alleges that Detective Heaten violated his Fourth
Amendment rights by conducting a warrantless search of his
residence on June 12, 2014. Detective Heaten filed a summary
judgment motion arguing that the undisputed facts show that
the search was not illegal and that he is entitled to
qualified immunity. Detective Heaten also seeks to strike a
number of filings Houchin submitted in response to his motion
for summary judgment.
Motions to Strike
Heaten filed three motions (DE 56, 63, 67) to strike various
documents filed by Houchin in response to his motion for
summary judgment. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c)(2)
provides that “[a] party may object that the material
cited to support or dispute a fact cannot be presented in a
form that would be admissible in evidence.” The 2010
Comments to that rule explain that “[t]here is no need
to make a separate motion to strike.” Therefore the
motions will be denied and construed as a Rule 56(c)(2)
objection. The defendant argues that the documents are
“immaterial, ” “unauthorized, ”
“unsworn and inadmissible.” (DE 63 at 2; DE 67 at
1.) However, the defendant does not argue that these
documents “cannot be presented in a form that would be
admissible in evidence” - only that they have not now
been presented in such a form. Pursuant to Rule 56(e), the
court has numerous options “[i]f a party fails to
properly support an assertion of fact . . ..” Motions
to strike are usually only granted in circumstances where the
contested evidence causes prejudice to the moving party.
Kuntzman v. Wal-Mart, 673 F.Supp.2d 690, 695 (N.D.
Ind. 2009). That is not the case here.
ruling on the motion for summary judgment, the court is
capable of sifting through the evidence, arguments and
purported disputes under the applicable federal rules and
case law, giving each purported dispute the credit to which
it is due. Therefore, there is no need to strike any
statements or filings made by Houchin in response to the
motion for summary judgment.
Motion for Summary Judgment
to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a), summary judgment is appropriate
“if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute
as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law.” The party seeking summary
judgment “bears the initial responsibility of informing
the district court of the basis for its motion, and
identifying” the evidence which “demonstrate[s]
the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.”
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).
“Substantive law determines which facts are material;
that is, which facts might affect the outcome of the suit
under the governing law.” Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A party asserting
that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must support
the assertion by “citing to particular parts of
materials in the record” or show “that the
materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a
genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce
admissible evidence to support the fact.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(c)(1). To establish a genuine issue of fact, the nonmoving
party must come forward with specific facts showing that
there is a genuine issue for trial, not “simply show
that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material
facts.” First Nat'l Bank of Cicero v. Lewco
Secs. Corp., 860 F.2d 1407, 1411 (7th Cir. 1988) (citing
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio
Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986)). If the nonmoving party
fails to establish the existence of an essential element on
which it bears the burden of proof at trial, summary judgment
is proper. Massey v. Johnson, 457 F.3d 711, 716 (7th
Cir. 2006) (holding that a failure to prove one essential
element necessarily renders all other facts immaterial).
ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court must view
all facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. The court will not
“make credibility determinations, weigh the evidence,
or decide which inferences to draw from the facts; these are
jobs for a factfinder.” Payne v. Pauley, 337
F.3d 767, 770 (7th Cir. 2003). Summary judgment is not a
substitute for a trial on the merits or a vehicle for
resolving factual disputes. Waldridge v. Am. Hoechst
Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 920 (7th Cir. 1994). Instead, the
court's sole task in ruling on a motion for summary
judgment is “to decide, based on the evidence of
record, whether there is any material dispute of fact that
requires a trial.” Payne, 337 F.3d at 770. If
a reasonable fact finder could find in favor of the nonmoving
party, summary judgment may not be granted. Id.
events leading up to the search of Houchin's home are
largely undisputed. Detectives Paul Heaten and R.J. Nethaway
from the Kosciusko Sheriff's Department were
investigating the dealing and use of illegal drugs at
Houchin's residence. (Ex. A, Heaten Decl. ¶¶
3-5; Ex. B, Nethaway Decl. ¶¶ 3-5.) When they
arrived at Houchin's residence on June 12, 2014, they
observed Jennifer Moore exiting the residence. (Ex. A ¶
7.) Detective Heaten discovered that Moore had 8 morphine
pills in her possession. (Id.) Detective Heaten
placed Moore in handcuffs because he believed that she had
just purchased the morphine tablets from Houchin.
(Id. at ¶ 8.) Detective Heaten stayed with
Moore while Nethaway approached Houchin's residence. (Ex.
B ¶¶ 8-9.)
knocked on Houchin's door and Houchin opened the door.
(Ex. B ¶ 9; DE 59 at 1.) Nethaway asked if he could come
in the home and speak with Houchin. (Ex. B ¶ 9.) Houchin
agreed. (DE 59 at 1.) Nethaway then asked if he could search
Houchin's home, but Houchin refused. (Ex. B. ¶ 13;
DE 59 at 1.) Nethaway told another officer to let Detective
Heaten know that they may need to obtain a search warrant.
(Ex. B ¶ 13.) Approximately nineteen (19) minutes after
Nethaway entered Houchin's residence, Detective Heaten
went into Houchin's residence. (Ex. A ¶¶ 9-10;
Ex. B ¶ 16.) As Detective Heaten stood in the living
room area, Nethaway told him that Houchin refused permission
to search his residence. (Ex. A ¶ 11.) What follows is
to Detective Heaten, while talking with Houchin in the living
room, he observed a prescription pill bottle that contained
morphine pills in a nearby bedroom, the door of which was
open. (Id. at ¶ 13.) Detective Heaten walked a
few feet over to the prescription bottle and saw that the
label indicated that the morphine was prescribed to Houchin.
(Id.) Detective Heaten told Houchin that he had just
found the same morphine pills in Moore's possession
outside of the residence. (Id.) Houchin admitted
selling morphine pills. (Ex. A ¶ 15; Ex. B ¶ 18.)
Detective Heaten then asked Houchin if he had anything
illegal in the residence, and Houchin located a plate of
marijuana under the couch in the living room. (Ex. A ¶
16; Ex. B ¶ 19.) The detectives say that Houchin
admitted he had traded pills with another person and that he
was supposed to receive marijuana for the morphine pills.
(Ex. A ¶ 17; Ex. B. ¶ 17.) Detective Heaten
informed Houchin that they were taking him to jail for
dealing a controlled substance, possession of a controlled
substance, and conspiracy to deal a controlled substance.
(Ex. A ¶ 19; Ex. B ¶ 20.) Detectives Heaten and
Nethaway then accompanied Houchin to his bedroom so that
Houchin could put on his shoes before being taken to jail.
(Ex. A ¶ 20; Ex. B ¶ 21.) While in the bedroom, the
detectives claim to have heard a clicking sound coming from
the bedroom closet and asked Houchin if any one else was in
the residence. (Ex. A ¶ 21; Ex. B ¶ 22.) They were
concerned someone may have been hiding in the closet, so they
drew their firearms and Detective Heaten opened the closet
door only to find a small marijuana growing operation.
Detective Heaten believes the clicking he heard was likely
the timer for the marijuana grow light. (Ex. A ¶ 22; Ex.
B ¶ 23.)
claims a far different scenario took place in his home.
Houchin states Detective Heaten did not see the pill bottle
in his bedroom while they were talking in the living room. He
explains that the pill bottle was on a night stand behind the
bedroom door and was not in Detective Heaten's view from
the living room. (DE 61 at 1.) Instead, Houchin asserts that,
when Nethaway told Detective Heaten that they could not
search the house without a search warrant Detective Heaten
simply shrugged his shoulders, disregarded that directive,
and walked into Houchin's bedroom where he found
Houchin's pill bottles. (DE 52 at 1; DE 59 at 1; DE 61 at
1; DE 62 at 1.) Houchin says that after Detective Heaten
finished searching the prescription pill bottles, Detective
Heaten then “went straight to my closet and opened the
door and also went through my dresser drawers.” (DE 52
at 1.) After he finished searching Houchin's bedroom and
located the marijuana plants and prescription pills,
Detective Heaten returned to the living room and began
questioning Houchin about selling drugs. (Id.)
Houchin was charged with two drug related felonies under
Cause No. 43C01-1406-FB-424 in Kosciusko County. (Ex. A
¶¶ 27-28; Ex. E.) Houchin entered into a plea