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Jefferson v. Gatton

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division

August 19, 2019



          William C. Lee, Judge

         This matter is before the Court on the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendants Marcus Gatton and Sean Martin (ECF 18). Plaintiff Dorrion Jefferson did not file a response to the motion and the time for doing so has long passed. For the reasons explained below, the motion is GRANTED. The Clerk of the Court is instructed to enter judgment in favor of Defendants and against Plaintiff. This case is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.


         Defendant Marcus Gatton, the Sheriff of Whitley County, Indiana, and Defendant Sean Martin, the Whitley County Jail Commander, filed their joint motion for summary judgment on February 4, 2019. At that time, Jefferson was represented by counsel, but his attorney withdrew his representation shortly before the deadline for Plaintiff to file a response to the motion. Judge Springmann, who was presiding over this case at the time, granted Jefferson's attorney's motion to withdraw on April 9, 2019, and ordered that “Plaintiff shall have up to and including May 15, 2019, to obtain new counsel and have counsel appear in the case. Further, the Court extends the deadline for Plaintiff to respond to summary judgment, either pro se or by counsel, to June 12, 2019.”[1] Order (ECF 23), pp. 1-2. Judge Springmann further instructed “the Clerk of the Court to send to pro se Plaintiff Dorrion Jefferson, by first class mail: (1) an updated copy of the docket, (2) a copy of this Order, and (3) the Notice to Pro Se Litigant that the Court is issuing in a separate docket entry.” Id., p. 2. Two days later the Clerk of the Court mailed to Jefferson the Notice that Judge Springmann referred to, which informs a pro se plaintiff about the summary judgment motion, summary judgment procedure, and the need for the plaintiff to respond to the motion. Notice of Summary Judgment Motion (ECF 24). The record reflects that the mail sent to Jefferson was not returned to the Clerk as undeliverable. Despite Judge Springmann's order and the Court's notice, no attorney has entered an appearance on behalf of Jefferson and no response to Defendants' motion has been filed.

         Jefferson brought this suit against Sheriff Gatton and Jail Commander Martin based on his allegation that he was confined in the Whitley County Jail longer than he should have been. Jefferson alleges in his Complaint as follows:

Mr. Jefferson was unlawfully imprisoned thirty-one days in the Whitley County Jail due to the malicious acts, interference, and wrongdoing of Whitley County Jail Commander Sean Martin. . . . Mr. Jefferson brings constitutional and tort claims in this action for damages pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Ind. Code § 34-24-3.

Complaint, p. 1. Jefferson's allegations and claims are also summarized in the opening paragraph of Defendants' Memorandum in support of their motion, which states as follows:

In his Complaint, Plaintiff claims that he was wrongfully imprisoned by Defendants because he claim[s] that he was held thirty-one (31) days longer than he believes his actual sentence required. He raises various claims under the Eighth, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, as well as state law tort claims of false imprisonment, confinement, malicious prosecution, abuse of process, negligence and negligent infliction of [emotional] distress.

Defendants' Memorandum of Law in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF 19), p. 1.


         Summary judgment is appropriate when the record shows 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©; Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Disputes concerning material facts are genuine where the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). In deciding whether genuine issues of material fact exist, the court construes all facts in a light most favorable to the non-moving party and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. See Id. at 255. However, neither the “mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties, ” id. at 247, nor the existence of “some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts, ” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986), will defeat a motion for summary judgment. Michas v. Health Cost Controls of Ill., Inc., 209 F.3d 687, 692 (7th Cir. 2000).

         Summary judgment is not a substitute for a trial on the merits nor is it a vehicle for resolving factual disputes. Waldridge v. Am. Hoechst Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 920 (7th Cir. 1994). Therefore, after drawing all reasonable inferences from the facts in favor of the non-movant, if genuine doubts remain and a reasonable fact-finder could find for the party opposing the motion, summary judgment is inappropriate. See Shields Enterprises, Inc. v. First Chicago Corp., 975 F.2d 1290, 1294 (7th Cir. 1992); Wolf v. City of Fitchburg, 870 F.2d 1327, 1330 (7th Cir. 1989). However, if it is clear that a plaintiff will be unable to satisfy the legal requirements necessary to establish his or her case, summary judgment is not only appropriate, but mandated. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322; Ziliak v. AstraZeneca LP, 324 F.3d 518, 520 (7th Cir. 2003). “[S]peculation and conjecture” also cannot defeat a motion for summary judgment. Cooney v. Casady, 735 F.3d 514, 519 (7th Cir. 2013).

         As this Court has explained, “Rule 7-1(d) (4) of the Local Rules of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana indicates that ‘[t]he court may rule on a motion summarily if an opposing party does not file a response before the deadline.'” Shepherd v. Covidien, Inc., 2014 WL 1207516, at *4 (N.D. Ind. Mar. 24, 2014). The Court has also explained that “a trial court has the authority to strictly enforce its Local Rules, even if summary judgment results.” Major v. Indiana, 2018 WL 5830742, at *3 (N.D. Ind. Nov. 7, 2018) (citing Petty v. City of Chicago, 754 F.3d 416, 420 (7th Cir. 2014); Koszola v. Bd. of Educ., 385 F.3d 1104, 1108 (7th Cir. 2004); Waldridge v. American Hoechst Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 921-22 (7th Cir. 1994) (upholding the trial court's strict enforcement of local rules on summary judgment)). Also, Federal Rule 56(e) states that “[w]hen a motion for summary judgment is properly made and supported, an opposing party may not rely merely on allegations or denials in its own pleading.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(2). The Rule further states that summary judgment, if appropriate, should be entered against a party who fails to respond as provided in the Rule. Id. ‚ÄúThus, summary ...

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