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Hendrick v. Knoebel

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, New Albany Division

May 10, 2017

SUSAN KNOEBEL, et al. Defendants.



         This cause is before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [Docket No. 35], filed on September 16, 2016, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. For the reasons explained herein, Defendants' motion is GRANTED.

         Factual Background

         On May 10, 2012, Plaintiff James Hendrick was enrolled in the Clark County Drug Treatment Court Program (“DTC Program”) after pleading guilty to possession of marijuana and admitting to having violated his probation.

         Upon entering the program, Hendrick signed a Drug Court Agreement, which explained that, in exchange for agreeing to enter the DTC Program, the Clark Circuit Court would defer entering a judgment of conviction against him and would instead subject him to the conditions established by the DTC Program. Hendrick Dep. Ex. 7 at ¶ 1. If Hendrick successfully completed the DTC Program, the State would move to dismiss with prejudice the charges to which he had pled guilty. Id. If, however, the court determined that Hendrick had violated any of the conditions of the Drug Court Agreement, his participation in the DTC Program would be terminated (following a “due process hearing on Petition to Terminate”), a judgment of conviction would be entered against him, and he would be sentenced pursuant to the plea agreement for his offenses. Id. at ¶ 2, 4.

         Of particular relevance here is the requirement under the Drug Court Agreement that Hendrick “notify his[] case manager and treatment providers within 24 hours of any change in residence, mailing address, phone number, or employment.” Id. at ¶ 21. He was also notified that a “[f]ailure to meet with Staff as directed, ” or any other “non-compliance with Drug Court requirements defined in this Agreement … may result in sanctions from the Judge, including short[-]term jail detention for each new incident and the possibility of termination from the Program.” Id. at ¶ 19.

         The Agreement also contained the following release/waiver provision:

The Defendant releases and forever discharges the complaining witness, victims, judge, prosecutor, defense counsel, police departments, drug court staff, and service providers and their respective heirs, successors and executors from any and all claims of any kind or nature whatsoever, either in law in inequity (sic), arising out of his or her arrest, participation in, or terminations from, the Drug Court Program and does expressly release and forever hold harmless from any criminal or civil action which the Defendant may have a right to bring as a result of the Defendant's arrest or participation in the Drug Treatment Court Program.

Id. at ¶ 11.

         In September 2013, Hendrick was participating in the DTC Program and residing at “Jerry's Place, ” a Drug Court-approved halfway house owned and operated by Jerry Westmoreland. During that time, Hendrick was using a prepaid cellular phone, the number for which he had provided to his case manager, Mr. Seybold. However, on Friday, September 20, 2013, when Hendrick was nearing the end of his prepaid minutes on the phone, he purchased a new prepaid phone with a new number. Hendrick gave the new phone number to Jerry Westmoreland, but did not contact his case manager, Mr. Seybold, to provide it to him.

         The following day, on September 21, 2013, Hendrick took advantage of a “weekend pass” issued by Westmoreland. According to Hendrick, the pass allowed him to spend the night outside the halfway house. Before departing Jerry's Place for the night, Hendrick left contact information with Westmoreland, including the name, phone number, and address of the friend with whom he would be staying. That evening, the Director of the Drug Court Program, Susan Knoebel, and the Drug Court Bailiff, Jeremy Snelling, conducted home visits and curfew compliance checks of participants of the DTC Program. Following up on reports that, contrary to DTC Program rules, residents of Jerry's Place were being given weekend passes, Knoebel contacted the Jerry's Place house manager, John Doss, who confirmed that approximately five DTC Program participants, including Hendrick, had been issued weekend passes.

         Snelling called the phone numbers on file with the DTC for each of the five participants, informing them that the weekend passes issued by Westmoreland were not allowed by the Program and instructing the participants to return to Jerry's Place by the regular 11:00 p.m. curfew. Given that Hendrick's phone number that was on file with the DTC had run out of minutes the day prior, Snelling was unable to reach Hendrick, resulting in several voices messages being left for him.

         Later that evening, Knoebel and Snelling travelled to Jerry's Place to confirm that the participants whom Snelling had been able to reach had returned to the halfway house by the 11:00 p.m. curfew. While at the residence, they spoke with Doss and Westmoreland concerning Hendrick's whereabouts. The parties dispute whether Doss and Westmoreland provided Knoebel and Snelling with Hendrick's new phone number as well as the number and address of the friend with whom Hendrick was staying that night; however, it is undisputed that no attempts were made to reach Hendrick at either of those numbers that evening. Knoebel logged her attempts to reach Hendrick into the court's case management system, and she and Snelling returned to the courthouse to complete their duties for the night.

         The next morning, upon discovering that Knoebel and Snelling had been looking for him, Hendrick called the DTC emergency hotline and left a message stating that though he had been away on a weekend pass, he had now returned to Jerry's Place. Iris Rubadue, another member of the DTC staff, returned Hendrick's call and left a message stating that they knew he was away on a weekend pass, that “everything was fine, ” and that he could call back if he had any questions. Hendrick attempted to call back, but his call went unanswered.

         On Monday morning, after having been notified of Hendrick's calls to the hotline, Knoebel told Hendrick's case manager, Mr. Seybold, to contact Hendrick and inform him that he needed to report to the DTC Office immediately. At approximately 10:40 a.m., Seybold reached Hendrick by phone at Hendrick's place of employment, Rocky's Sub Pub, and informed him that he must report to the DTC Office “as soon as possible.” Hendrick understood the instruction to mean that he should report to the DTC Office immediately after his shift at Rocky's ended. Thus, as of 1:30 p.m. that afternoon, Hendrick had still not reported to the office, prompting Knoebel to inform the supervising judge of the Drug Treatment Court, Clark Circuit Judge Jerome F. Jacobi, that Hendrick had not been located at Jerry's Place on Saturday night and that he had not promptly reported to the office on Monday morning.

         Shortly thereafter, Judge Jacobi conducted a warrant hearing on the record, during which Knoebel testified regarding her efforts to locate Hendrick on Saturday, his phone calls on Sunday, and his instructions to report on Monday. Judge Jacobi also spoke by phone with Jerry Westmoreland, who reported that Hendrick had returned to Jerry's Place on Sunday evening and that he (Westmoreland) had instructed Hendrick to report to the DTC Office first thing Monday morning. Judge Jacobi indicated on the record that a warrant would issue for Hendrick's arrest.

         According to Defendants, an off-the-record conversation occurred following the hearing, during which Judge Jacobi instructed Snelling and Knoebel to “locate” Hendrick and take him to the Clark County Jail. Although neither Knoebel nor Snelling possessed the legal power to make an arrest beyond the courthouse premises, they drove to Hendrick's place of employment, handcuffed Hendrick behind his back, escorted Hendrick out of the restaurant and into a county-owned car, and transported Hendrick to the Clark County Jail, where he was held for three days until he appeared at a hearing on Thursday September 26, 2013, and for an additional thirty days thereafter, until October 25, 2013.[1]

         On April 15, 2015, Hendrick filed this lawsuit against Defendants Clark County, Clark County Sheriff, John and Jane Does 1-5, Susan Knoebel, and Jeremy Snelling. Dkt. 1. Hendrick alleged in his Complaint that Knoebel and Snelling committed an unreasonable seizure and unlawful arrest in violation of Fourth Amendment (Counts I & II) and unlawfully deprived him of his liberty in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause (Count III). He also alleged that Clark County and the Clark County Sheriff were liable for these constitutional violations under Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978) (Count IV). In addition, Hendrick raised claims against Knoebel, Snelling, and Clark County for battery, false imprisonment, false arrest, and negligence in violation of Indiana law (Counts V-VIII).

         On September 16, 2016, Defendants filed motions for summary judgment on Plaintiff's claims. Dkts. 35, 37. In responding to Defendants' motions, Plaintiff abandoned his Fourteenth Amendment claims against Knoebel and Snelling (Count III), his Monell claims against Clark County and Clark County Sheriff (Count IV), and all of his state law claims (Counts V-VIII). See Dkt. 45 at 2. We, therefore, GRANT Defendants' Motion [Docket No. 35] with regard to those claims.[2] What remains are Hendrick's Fourth Amendment claims against Defendants Knoebel and Snelling (Counts 1 & II). Defendants' motion for summary judgment became fully briefed on November 30, 2016 and is now ripe for decision.

         Legal Standard

         The purpose of summary judgment is to “pierce the pleadings and to assess the proof in order to see whether there is a genuine need for trial.” Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 provides that summary judgment is appropriate 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.” Hemsworth v., Inc., 476 F.3d 487, 489-90 (7th Cir. 2007). In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court reviews “the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw[s] all reasonable inferences in that party's favor.” Zerante v. DeLuca, 555 F.3d 582, 584 (7th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted).

         “However, inferences that are supported by only speculation or conjecture will not defeat a summary judgment motion.” Dorsey v. Morgan Stanley, 507 F.3d 624, 627 (7th Cir. 2007) (citation and quotation marks omitted). Additionally, “[a] party who bears the burden of proof on a particular issue may not rest on its pleadings, but must affirmatively demonstrate, by specific factual allegations, that there is a genuine issue of material fact that requires trial.” Hemsworth, 476 F.3d at 490 (citation omitted). “The opposing party cannot meet this burden with conclusory statements or speculation but only with appropriate citations to relevant admissible evidence.” Sink v. Knox County Hosp., 900 F.Supp. 1065, 1072 (S.D. Ind. 1995) (citations omitted).

         “In much the same way that a court is not required to scour the record in search of evidence to defeat a motion for summary judgment, nor is it permitted to conduct a paper trial on the merits of [the] claim.” Ritchie v. Glidden Co., 242 F.3d 713, 723 (7th Cir. 2001) (citations and quotation marks omitted). “[N]either the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties nor the existence of some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts is sufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment.” Chiaramonte v. Fashion Bed Grp., Inc., 129 F.3d 391, 395 (7th Cir. 1997) (citations and quotation marks omitted).


         Defendants Knoebel and Snelling raise two challenges to Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment claims against them. First, they contend that his claims are barred by a release provision contained in the DTC Agreement signed by Hendrick upon his entry into the DTC Program. Second, they contend that, even if the release did not bar Hendrick's claims against them, they are nonetheless entitled to immunity from suit. Because we find that Defendants are ...

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