United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division
OPINION AND ORDER
A. BRADY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on Defendant Andrew D.
Hahn's (“Hahn”) Motion for Summary
Judgment (ECF No. 136) filed on May 2, 2019.
Plaintiff Carl Lee Ledford (“Ledford”) filed his
Response and Memorandum of Law (ECF No. 144) on July 2, 2019.
Hahn filed his Reply (ECF No. 146) on July 17, 2019. This
matter is now ripe for review.
October 16, 2016, Hahn, a Deputy Sheriff with the LaPorte
County Sheriff's Department, observed a black 2001
Chevrolet traveling at an excessive speed on County Road 400
North in LaPorte County, Indiana. Hahn stopped the vehicle
and advised Ledford that Hahn had pulled him over for
speeding. The interaction between the two men was benign,
ending with Hahn issuing Ledford a warning citation for
Standard of Review
judgment is warranted when “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.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The non-moving party must marshal and
present the Court with evidence on which a reasonable jury
could rely to find in their favor. Goodman v. Nat'l
Sec. Agency, Inc., 621 F.3d 651, 654 (7th Cir. 2010). A
court must deny a motion for summary judgment when the
nonmoving party presents admissible evidence that creates a
genuine issue of material fact. Luster v. Ill. Dep't
of Corrs., 652 F.3d 726, 731 (7th Cir. 2011) (citations
omitted). A court's role in deciding a motion for summary
judgment “is not to sift through the evidence,
pondering the nuances and inconsistencies, and decide whom to
believe. The court has one task and one task only: to decide,
based on the evidence of record, whether there is any
material dispute of fact that requires a trial.”
Waldridge v. Am. Heochst Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 920
(7th Cir. 1994).
that are outcome determinative under the applicable law are
material for summary judgment purposes. Smith ex rel.
Smith v. Severn, 129 F.3d 419, 427 (7th Cir. 1997).
Although a bare contention that an issue of material fact
exists is insufficient to create a factual dispute, a court
must construe all facts in a light most favorable to the
nonmoving party, view all reasonable inferences in that
party's favor, Bellaver v. Quanex Corp., 200
F.3d 485, 491-92 (7th Cir. 2000), and avoid “the
temptation to decide which party's version of the facts
is more likely true, ” Payne v. Pauley, 337
F.3d 767, 770 (7th Cir. 2003). Additionally, a court is not
“obliged to research and construct legal arguments for
parties, especially when they are represented by
counsel.” Nelson v. Napolitano, 657 F.3d 586,
590 (7th Cir. 2011).
does not exempt a pro se party facing summary judgment from
demonstrating a material dispute of fact, and furthermore,
the law does not require a district court judge to scour the
record in search of a dispute of fact on behalf of a pro se
party. Pro se status may excuse compliance with some of the
technical rigors of summary judgment. See Kincaid v.
Vail, 969 F.2d 594, 598 (7th Cir. 1992). Nevertheless,
pro se status alone does not excuse noncompliance with all
procedural rules. Members v. Paige, 140 F.3d 699,
702-03 (7th Cir. 1998) (explaining that “rules apply to
uncounseled litigants and must be enforced”).
“The essence of liberal construction [given to pro se
parties] is to give a pro se plaintiff a break when, although
he stumbles on a technicality, his pleading is otherwise
understandable.” Hudson v. McHugh, 148 F.3d
859, 864 (7th Cir. 1998). However, in the context of summary
judgment, a district court need not, even for pro se
plaintiffs, “scour the record looking for factual
disputes, ” and a pro se party cannot avoid summary
judgment without demonstrating a material dispute of fact.
Greer v. Bd. of Ed. of the City of Chi., 267 F.3d
723, 727 (7th Cir. 2001).
Hahn is Entitled to Summary Judgment
cannot prevail on his claim that the October 16, 2016,
traffic stop was a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights
unless the stop was unreasonable. United States v.
Miranda-Sotolongo, 827 F.3d 663, 666 (7th Cir. 2016).
The Supreme Court has held that the decision to stop an
automobile is reasonable when the police have probable cause
to believe that a traffic violation has occurred. Whren
v. United States, 517 U.S. 806, 810 (1996); see also
United States v. Smith, 668 F.3d 427, 430 (7th Cir.
2012) (“A traffic stop does not violate the Fourth
Amendment when the police officer has probable cause to
believe that a driver has committed [a traffic
violation].”). Probable cause exists when “the
circumstances confronting a police officer support the
reasonable belief that a driver has committed even a minor
traffic offense.” United States v. Cashman,
216 F.3d 582, 586 (7th Cir. 2000). “A stop and search
can be reasonable even if the defendant did not actually
commit an offense as long as the officer reasonably believed
an offense occurred.” United States v.
McDonald, 453 F.3d 958, 960 (7th Cir. 2006).
Code § 9-21-5-2 makes it a Class C infraction to travel
in excess of the posted speed limit. Based on his
observation, Hahn reasonably believed that Ledford was
traveling in excess of the speed limit. These circumstances
supplied the necessary probable cause for the stop.
has identified those portions of the record that he believes
demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.
See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323
(1986). Accordingly, Ledford was required to marshal and
present the court with the evidence on which a reasonable
jury could rely to find in his favor. See AA Sales &
Assocs., Inc. v. Coni-Seal, Inc., 550 F.3d 605, 613 (7th
Cir. 2008). “When a plaintiff fails to produce
evidence, the defendant is entitled to judgment; a defendant
moving for summary judgment need not produce evidence of its
own.” Marion v. Radtke, 641 F.3d 874, 876-77
(7th Cir. 2011) (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. 317).
short, Ledford's claims fail because he puts forth no
evidence that would enable a reasonable jury to find that
Hahn lacked probable cause to stop his vehicle. Ledford has
designated no evidence whatsoever in response to Hahn's
summary judgment, instead simply reiterating the allegations
of his Complaint. Because Ledford has not presented the Court
with evidence on which a reasonable jury could rely to find
in his favor, see Goodman, 621 F.3d at 654, Hahn is
entitled to judgment as a ...