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Allen v. Horn Lake Police Dept.

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

September 13, 2017

CAMERON ALLEN PLAINTIFF
v.
HORN LAKE POLICE DEPT., UNKNOWN OFFICERS, BENJAMIN SWAN, ELVIS ALLEN DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          SHARION AYCOCK U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the court on the pro se prisoner complaint of Cameron Allen, who challenges the conditions of his confinement under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. For the purposes of the Prison Litigation Reform Act, the court notes that the plaintiff was incarcerated when he filed this suit. The plaintiff has brought the instant case under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which provides a federal cause of action against “[e]very person” who under color of state authority causes the “deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws.” 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiff alleges that the defendants arrested and prosecuted him without probable cause. He also alleges that he lost personal property as a result of the arrest and prosecution and that a defendant defamed him by releasing information to the newspaper. The defendants have moved for summary judgment, and the plaintiff has responded. The matter is ripe for resolution. For the reasons set forth below, the motion by the defendants for summary judgment will be granted, and judgment will be entered for the defendants in all respects.

         Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate if the “materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials” show 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) and (c)(1). “The moving party must show that if the evidentiary material of record were reduced to admissible evidence in court, it would be insufficient to permit the nonmoving party to carry its burden.” Beck v. Texas State Bd. of Dental Examiners, 204 F.3d 629, 633 (5th Cir. 2000) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 (1986), cert. denied, 484 U.S. 1066 (1988)). After a proper motion for summary judgment is made, the burden shifts to the non-movant to set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2511, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); Beck, 204 F.3d at 633; Allen v. Rapides Parish School Bd., 204 F.3d 619, 621 (5th Cir. 2000); Ragas v. Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company, 136 F.3d 455, 458 (5th Cir. 1998). Substantive law determines what is material. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. “Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.

         Factual disputes that are irrelevant or unnecessary will not be counted.” Id., at 248. If the non-movant sets forth specific facts in support of allegations essential to his claim, a genuine issue is presented. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 327. “Where the record, taken as a whole, could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no genuine issue for trial.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986); Federal Savings and Loan, Inc. v. Krajl, 968 F.2d 500, 503 (5th Cir. 1992). The facts are reviewed drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Allen, 204 F.3d at 621; PYCA Industries, Inc. v. Harrison County Waste Water Management Dist., 177 F.3d 351, 161 (5th Cir. 1999); Banc One Capital Partners Corp. v. Kneipper, 67 F.3d 1187, 1198 (5th Cir. 1995). However, this is so only when there is “an actual controversy, that is, when both parties have submitted evidence of contradictory facts.” Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994); see Edwards v. Your Credit, Inc., 148 F.3d 427, 432 (5th Cir. 1998). In the absence of proof, the court does not “assume that the nonmoving party could or would prove the necessary facts.” Little, 37 F.3d at 1075 (emphasis omitted).

         The very purpose of summary judgment is to “pierce the pleadings and assess the proof in order to see whether there is a genuine issue for trial.” Advisory Committee Note to the 1963 Amendments to Rule 56. Indeed, “[t]he amendment is not intended to derogate from the solemnity of the pleadings[;] [r]ather, it recognizes that despite the best efforts of counsel to make his pleadings accurate, they may be overwhelmingly contradicted by the proof available to his adversary.” Id. The non-moving party (the plaintiff in this case), must come forward with proof to support each element of his claim. The plaintiff cannot meet this burden with “some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts, ” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 1356 (1986), “conclusory allegations, ” Lujan v. National Wildlife Federation, 497 U.S. 871, 871-73, 110 S.Ct. 3177, 3180 (1990), “unsubstantiated assertions, ” Hopper v. Frank, 16 F.3d 92 (5th Cir. 1994), or by a mere “scintilla” of evidence, Davis v. Chevron U.S.A., Inc., 14 F.3d 1082 (5th Cir. 1994). It would undermine the purposes of summary judgment if a party could defeat such a motion simply by “replac[ing] conclusory allegations of the complaint or answer with conclusory allegations of an affidavit.” Lujan v. National Wildlife Federation, 497 U.S. 871, 888, 110 S.Ct. 3177, 3188 (1990). In considering a motion for summary judgment, a court must determine whether the non-moving party's allegations are plausible. Matsushita, supra. (emphasis added). “[D]etermining whether a complaint states a plausible claim is context-specific, requiring the reviewing court to draw on its experience and common sense.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (2009) (discussing plausibility of claim as a requirement to survive a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6)).

         In considering a motion for summary judgment, once the court “has determined the relevant set of facts and drawn all inferences in favor of the nonmoving party to the extent supportable by the record, [the ultimate decision becomes] purely a question of law.” Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 381 (2007) (emphasis in original). “When opposing parties tell two different stories, one of which is blatantly contradicted by the record, so that no reasonable jury could believe it, a court should not adopt that version of the facts for purposes of ruling on the motion for summary judgment.” Id. at 380.

         Undisputed Material Facts

         A complete summary of the events which led to Cameron Allen's arrest may be found in the Horn Lake Police Department's Investigative Report, summarized below:

On or about December 20, 2014, Elvis Allen (a defendant in this case) was the victim of an attempted assault and robbery at R&E Hot Wings in Horn Lake. The Horn Lake Police Department began to investigate the allegations, ultimately identifying Plaintiff as a possible suspect.
Later, on December 31, 2014, Defendant Elvis Allen picked Plaintiff out of a picture lineup, identifying plaintiff Cameron Allen as the person who attempted to steal his necklace and who also struck him with a rock at R&E Hot Wings.
Based upon this positive identification, Defendant Swan prepared a warrant for robbery on plaintiff Cameron Allen. Judge James Holland signed the warrant, setting a $100, 000 bond on the warrant.
Approximately two weeks later, on January 15, 2015, Defendant Swan obtained information that Cameron Allen was in custody with the Memphis Police Department for unrelated domestic related charges as well as being a felon in possession of ammunition.
Then, on January 26, 2015, the plaintiff's case was sent for review by the Detective Division Commander before being sent to the District Attorney's office for possible indictment.
On March 3, 2015, Plaintiff appeared before Judge Holland and was bound over to the DeSoto County Grand Jury on the charge of robbery under Miss. Code Ann. § 97-3-79. His bond remained at $100, 000 (or $15, 000 with GPS monitoring).
On March 19, 2015, in Cause no. CR2015-0213, Plaintiff was indicted by a DeSoto County Grand Jury for the charge.

         The italicized portion above would, at first blush, appear to be in dispute, because the plaintiff, Cameron Allen, alleges that the victim, Elvis Allen, actually did not pick him from a lineup - and filled out the lineup sheet to that effect. He states that defendant Swan then altered the form to show that Elvis Allen did identify the plaintiff as his attacker. The plaintiff also alleges that, in a recorded telephone call placed by Bernard Jackson on August 15, 2014, at approximately 3:03 p.m., victim Elvis Allen acknowledged that he never picked plaintiff Cameron Allen out of a lineup, never accused him of anything, and had never known or met him. The court notes that the alleged telephone call took place some four months before the lineup regarding the robbery at issue in this case. The plaintiff's criminal defense attorney set forth that date and time in a subpoena, and the plaintiff repeated date and time in his response [24] to the instant motion for summary judgment, as ...


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