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Martin v. Noble County Sheriff's Dept.

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

December 17, 2019



          William C. Lee, Judge U.S. District Court Northern District of Indiana

         This matter is before the Court on the motion for summary judgment filed by Defendant Fort Wayne Police Department (ECF 45). The Plaintiffs, proceeding pro se, filed pleadings in opposition to the motion, including a response brief (ECF 109), an affidavit from Plaintiff Denice Martin (ECF 110), a memorandum of law (ECF 111), and a “Notice to Court, Show of Compliance” (ECF 112).[1] The FWPD filed a supplemental designation of evidence (ECF 115), a reply brief (ECF 116), and a motion to strike portions of Denice Martin's affidavit (ECF 114). For the reasons set forth below, the motion for summary judgment is GRANTED; the motion to strike is DENIED as moot.


         The Plaintiffs filed this lawsuit on May 7, 2018, stating that it “is a civil action authorized by 42 U.S.C. section 1983 to redress the deprivation, under color of state law, of rights secured by the constitutions [sic] of the United States.” Complaint (ECF 1), p. 2. The Plaintiffs' allegations arise from an incident on August 22, 2017, when law enforcement officers entered Plaintiff Denice Martin's home where she lived with her teenage son, Quinton, who is autistic.[2] In the Complaint, Ms. Martin recounts the incident as follows:

On or about the 22nd day of August, around 10pm I was laying in my bed and I heard a loud boom. The front door was kicked in and I saw a lot of flashing lights and was hearing a lot of commotion going on from the officers commands and them yelling while making entry to the home with their guns drawn. I was thrown to the ground face first by several unknown officers, who began giving me commands and shoved my head hard into the floor when I did not respond to him or his questioning.

Id., p. 3 (verbatim). Ms. Martin alleges that the officers used excessive force against her and Quinton, including striking them both and screaming expletives at them. Ms. Martin further alleges as follows:

I was detained and held against my will for over several hours handcuffed, no shoes on, no phone, helpless and was not allowed back into the house until like 5am. While in the backseat [of a police vehicle], I saw several officers go inside the house and come outside the house, with numerous properties and personal material was taken from the house. The officers were coming out of the house with boxes, safes, bags, computers and clothing items in hand, which at no time was a “search warrant” shown to me or presented for my observation as to the reason “why” they were there searching and breaking into my home.

Id., pp. 3-4 (verbatim). Ms. Martin also claims that “[p]ersonal property, computers, computers data and documents of my son Anthony who is incarcerated and my brother Tony personal property was also ‘seized' by the officers, which I was storing for them in separate rooms upstairs in the house. They also seized my laptop computer along with other personal items. There is major damage to the front door, sofa, carpet, and couch from the forceful and reckless entry to the home, and the reckless searching for unknown items, which needs repaired immediately.” Id., p. 4. Ms. Martin, on behalf of herself and the other Plaintiffs, is “suing for 92.7 million dollars (U.S. currency), and all medical related bills, out-of-pocket expense, pain and suffering, damages, etc., al.” Id., p. 8.


         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). In addition, not all factual disputes will preclude the entry of summary judgment, only those that “could affect the outcome of the suit under governing law.” Outlaw v. Newkirk, 259 F.3d 833, 837 (7th Cir. 2001) (citation omitted).


         In its present motion, the FWPD argues that it is entitled to summary judgment because it was not involved in the August 22, 2017, incident at Martin's home: “The Fort Wayne Police Department had no contact with the plaintiffs on August 22, 2017. The Fort Wayne Police Department was not present at [the Martin home] and did not search [the home] on August 22, 2017.” Memorandum in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF 46), p. 1. In support of its position, the FWPD presents the affidavit of Sergeant Howard Johnson, who “holds the position of Sergeant of Internal Affairs for the [FWPD].” Id., p. 2. Sergeant Johnson states in his affidavit as follows:

. . . I currently hold the position of Sergeant of Internal Affairs for the Fort Wayne Police Department. . . . There are no records that any Fort Wayne police officer had contact with Denice Martin, Quinton Martin, Anthony Martin, Tony Martin, or Amanda Delagrange on August 22, 2017[, ] as alleged in the Complaint. . . . The Fort Wayne Police Main Names Table lists all involvements that an individual has had with the Fort Wayne Police Department. I have reviewed the Fort Wayne Police Names Table for Denice Martin, Quinton Martin, Anthony Martin, Tony Martin, and Amanda Delagrange. The Fort Wayne Police Department had no involvements with [those Plaintiffs] on August 22 2017. . . . There are no records indicating that any Fort Wayne police officer was present at the [Martin home] in Fort Wayne on August 22, 2017.

         Motion for Summary Judgment, Exhibit A, Affidavit of Sgt. Howard Johnson (ECF 45-1), pp. 1-2. The FWPD states emphatically that it “did not encounter or have any contact with the plaintiffs on August 22, 2017. The [FWPD] did not use any force against the plaintiffs on August 22, 2017. The [FWPD] did not violate the plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment rights. Memorandum in Support, p. 5.

         It is hard to imagine a better defense to the Plaintiffs' claims than the one advanced by the FWPD, i.e., that the Fort Wayne police were not present during the incident giving rise to the Plaintiffs' allegations. Nonetheless, the Plaintiffs oppose the FWPD's motion for summary judgment. They contend that “defendants still are in possession of overdue ‘discovery,' which they failed to supplement.” Plaintiffs' Response (ECF 109), p. 1. In her affidavit, Denice Martin states that she “witnessed Fort Wayne police officers, Allen Co. Sheriff's officers, Indiana State Police officers, and several plain cloth[ed] officers, go in and out of my home . . . searching the house and the cars outside of the home.” Affidavit of Denice Martin (ECF 110), p. 2. So, the Plaintiffs' arguments in opposition to summary judgment are twofold: ...

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