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Thompson v. Hamp

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

February 17, 2017

MICHAEL THOMPSON PLAINTIFF
v.
CALVIN HAMP, in his individual capacity, JAMES JONES, in his individual capacity, and UNKNOWN DEFENDANTS “A”, “B”, and “C” DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          NEAL B. BIGGERS, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Presently before the court is the defendants' motion for summary judgment. Upon due consideration of the motion, response, exhibits, and supporting and opposing authority, the court is ready to rule.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         In December of 2013, the Board of Supervisors for Tunica County, Mississippi, hired the plaintiff, Michael Thompson, to be the new County Administrator. Thompson took office in January of 2014 and immediately implemented a spending freeze and recommended budget cuts for all county departments and subdivisions.

         Thompson's budgetary actions were not well-received by Sheriff Calvin Hamp. Hamp visited Thompson's office on two occasions. During the last visit, on February 10, 2014, Hamp questioned Thompson's authority to take any action regarding his department's budget. Because Thompson believed the tone of their discussion had become hostile, he asked the Sheriff to leave.

         Tunica County has a fleet management safety policy in effect which requires a regular check on the driver's licenses of all county employees who operate county vehicles. Pursuant to this policy, Thompson's license was run soon after he took office. It was then discovered that his license had been suspended due to an unpaid traffic ticket from Montgomery County, Mississippi. Both Hamp and Deputy Sheriff James Jones were privy to this discovery.

         On February 12, 2014, two days after the last meeting between Thompson and Hamp, Deputy Jones witnessed a car swerving in and out of lanes. Jones initiated a stop and learned that Alex Wiley, the County Comptroller, was the driver and that Thompson was Wiley's passenger. Jones ran Wiley's license and it came back “Eligible for Reinstatement.” Jones then asked Wiley about the status of his license, to which Wiley responded he was unsure but that he had recently received a traffic ticket while in Washington, D.C.

         Thereafter, Deputy Jones decided that he was not going to allow Wiley to continue driving. He then asked Thompson, a passenger at the time, if he had a driver's license, and if so, whether it was valid. Thompson replied “yes” to both inquiries. Although Deputy Jones knew prior to this stop that Thompson's license had in fact been suspended, he nonetheless instructed him to drive the car. Jones initiated a second stop a few minutes later. He then ran Thompson's license, confirmed that it was suspended, and took Thompson into custody.

         The Tunica County Justice Court later found Thompson guilty of driving with a suspended license. Thompson, however, appealed to the Tunica County Circuit Court, and, on November 10, 2014, he was found not guilty based on an entrapment defense.

         Thompson filed the instant suit on December 24, 2014, against Sheriff Hamp and Deputy Jones. He asserts various constitutional claims including a claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged unlawful stop and seizure and unlawful arrest. Thompson also brings a claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1985 for an alleged conspiracy to violate his constitutional right to be free from an unlawful arrest. His final constitutional claim is one for a retaliatory arrest in violation of the First Amendment. Thompson also asserts state law claims for abuse of process, false arrest, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and civil conspiracy. The defendants now move for summary judgment and argue that Thompson has failed to demonstrate the existence of a genuine issue of material fact and that they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

         Standard of Review

         “The court shall grant summary judgment if 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). On a motion for summary judgment, the movant has the initial burden of showing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). If the movant makes such a showing, the burden then shifts to the non-movant to “go beyond the pleadings and . . . designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Id. at 324. A genuine issue exists “if 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). Before finding that no genuine issue for trial exists, the court must first be satisfied that no rational trier of fact could find for the non-movant. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).

         When deciding a motion for summary judgment, the court must view the underlying facts in the “light most favorable to the party opposing the motion.” United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962). As such, all reasonable inferences must be drawn in favor of the non-movant. Id. The Supreme Court has made it clear that “at the summary judgment stage, the trial judge's function is not himself to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. Instead, the inquiry performed by the trial judge is merely a “threshold inquiry” of whether a trial is needed. Id. at 250. ‚ÄúSummary ...


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