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Mabry v. Lee County

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Aberdeen Division

March 30, 2015

NICOLE MABRY, as Mother and Next Friend of T.M., a Minor, PLAINTIFF
v.
LEE COUNTY, et al., DEFENDANTS

For Nicole Mabry, as Mother and Next Friend of T.M., A Minor, Plaintiff: Victor Israel Fleitas, LEAD ATTORNEY, VICTOR I. FLEITAS, ATTORNEY, Tupelo, MS.

For Lee County, Defendant: Gary L. Carnathan, LEAD ATTORNEY, CARNATHAN & MCAULEY, Tupelo, MS; William C. Murphree, LEAD ATTORNEY, MITCHELL, MCNUTT & SAMS, Tupelo, MS.

For City of Tupelo, Jon Bramble, in his individual capacity, Defendants: John Samuel Hill, LEAD ATTORNEY, MITCHELL, MCNUTT & SAMS, Tupelo, MS; Stephen Pierce Spencer, LEAD ATTORNEY, MITCHELL, MCNUTT & SAMS - Tupelo, Tupelo, MS.

For Tupelo Public School District, Dr. Kristy Luse, in her individual capacity, Defendants: Sidney Ray Hill, III, LEAD ATTORNEY, CLAYTON O'DONNELL, PLLC, Oxford, MS.

For Tasha Fant, in her individual capacity, Defendant: William C. Murphree, LEAD ATTORNEY, MITCHELL, MCNUTT & SAMS, Tupelo, MS.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Sharion Aycock, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

Plaintiff Nicole Mabry initiated this action on behalf of her minor daughter T.M., against Lee County, Mississippi and the City of Tupelo, Mississippi, as well as Kristy Luse, Jon Bramble, and Tasha Fant, named in their individual capacities. Plaintiff alleges various constitutional violations arising out of T.M.'s arrest and strip search following a physical altercation between her and another student at Tupelo Middle School. The individual Defendants have filed Motions to Dismiss for Qualified Immunity [38, 42, 44]. Upon consideration of the motions, responses, rules, and authorities, the Court finds as follows:

Factual and Procedural History

In 2010, T.M. was a student at Tupelo Middle School, where she was a member of the marching band. One school day in November of that year, near the end of band class, T.M. became involved in a verbal quarrel with two other female band students, M.S. and Q.W. T.M. explained that after the bell signaling the end of class, she was one of the first students to leave the band hall in an effort to avoid further altercation. The other two girls allegedly followed her, and then one of the two purportedly pulled T.M.'s hair from behind. T.M. responded by pulling Q.W.'s hair, and a fight ensued between T.M. and Q.W., resulting in both girls sustaining varying degrees of injuries. After the fight had been broken up, T.M. was helped into a classroom and then to the school nurse's office. M.S. and Q.W. proceeded to their next class.

The Principal at Tupelo Middle School, Kristy Luse, conducted an investigation into the altercation. She collected statements from students who witnessed the event, and she reviewed a video of the fight. Because of the limited range of the security camera in the hall, the video failed to display the beginning of the altercation, and thus it was unclear from the footage who initiated the fight. Luse testified that, after her initial review of the statements and video, she suspected that a crime may have been committed and requested the assistance of Jon Bramble, a City of Tupelo police officer stationed at Tupelo High School.

After arriving and viewing the video, Officer Bramble determined that there was probable cause to arrest both T.M. and Q.W. and sought authorization from the Judge Designee at the Lee County Youth Court to arrest and transport the girls to the Lee County Juvenile Detention Center (" LCJDC" ). Based on Officer Bramble's description of the video, the Judge Designee determined that probable cause existed and granted verbal authorization. Officer Bramble then arrested T.M. and Q.W. and drove them to the LCJDC.

As part of the intake procedures upon arrival at the facility, Tasha Fant, a corrections officer stationed at LCJDC, searched T.M. with a metal detecting wand, performed a pat down, and conducted a private strip search to ensure T.M. did not possess contraband.[1] At some point after the search, T.M. was directed to a common area with other juvenile detainees, where she remained until being released from the LCJDC that evening.

All charges against T.M. were eventually dismissed, and Mabry initiated this lawsuit on T.M.'s behalf. Relevant to the pending motions, Plaintiff brings claims through Section 1983 and under the Fourth Amendment of false arrest against Luse and Officer Bramble and unreasonable search against Officer Fant. Defendants each assert qualified immunity. The Court addresses each claim in turn.

Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is warranted under Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure when the evidence reveals no genuine dispute regarding any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The rule " mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear ...


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