United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division
CARLTON W. REEVES, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
December 4, 2017, this Court granted summary judgment to the
Madison Defendants on all claims except for Plaintiff Joanne
Pitts' Fourteenth Amendment claim against Investigator
Terrell in his individual capacity. See Pitts v. City of
Madison, Miss., No. 3:15-CV-892-CWR-LRA, 2017 WL
6003645, at *9 (S.D.Miss. Dec. 4, 2017). The parties
submitted supplemental briefs and cross-motions for
reconsideration. For the reasons stated below, the Court
grants in part and denies in part the Defendants' motion
for reconsideration, and grants the Plaintiff's motion
for reconsideration serve a “narrow purpose.”
Nationalist Movement v. Town of Jena, 321 F.
App'x 359, 365 (5th Cir. 2009). “The court must
strike the proper balance between two competing imperatives:
(1) finality, and (2) the need to render just decisions on
the basis of all the facts.” Edward H. Bolin Co.,
Inc. v. Banning Co., Inc., 6 F.3d 350, 355 (5th Cir.
1993). “Whatever may be the purpose of [a motion for
reconsideration] it should not be supposed that it is
intended to give an unhappy litigant one additional chance to
sway the judge.” Atkins v. Marathon LeTourneau
Co., 130 F.R.D. 625, 626 (S.D.Miss. 1990).
Defendants' Motion for Reconsideration
Court previously held that a genuine dispute exists as to
whether Investigator Terrell intentionally undervalued
Pitts' car so that it would be subject to administrative
forfeiture rather than judicial forfeiture under Mississippi
law. See Pitts, 2017 WL 6003645, at *6. Terrell asks
the Court to reconsider this finding. He argues that the
Court improperly relied on an unsigned affidavit.
unsigned affidavits are not competent summary judgment
evidence. See Roy v. U.S. Dept. of Agric., 115 F.
App'x 198, 200 (5th Cir. 2004). But after reviewing the
audio recording of Terrell's deposition, the Court still
finds that a genuine dispute exists as to whether Terrell
intentionally undervalued Pitts' car so that it would
fall under the provisions of administrative forfeiture.
Pitts has evidence of a constitutional violation, the Court
must proceed to decide if Terrell's conduct was
objectively reasonable in light of clearly established law at
the time that the challenged conduct occurred. Glenn v.
City of Tyler, 242 F.3d 307, 312 (5th Cir. 2001).
“The touchstone of this inquiry is whether a reasonable
person would have believed that his conduct conformed to the
constitutional standard in light of the information available
to him and the clearly established law.” Goodson v.
City of Corpus Christi, 202 F.3d 730, 736 (5th Cir.
2000). Therefore, “[e]ven law enforcement officials who
reasonably but mistakenly commit a constitutional violation
are entitled to immunity.” Glenn, 242 F.3d at
312 (quotations marks and citation omitted).
right to be clearly established, “the contours of that
right must be sufficiently clear that a reasonable official
would understand that what he is doing violates that
right.” Bishop v. Arcuri, 674 F.3d 456, 466
(5th Cir. 2012) (quotation marks and citation omitted). The
Supreme Court has repeatedly instructed that clearly
established law must not be defined “at a high level of
generality.” White v. Pauly, 137 S.Ct. 548,
552 (2017) (admonishing a lower court for “fail[ing] to
identify a case where an officer acting under similar
circumstances . . . was held to have violated the Fourth
Amendment”); see Estate of Dunn Gray v.
Dalton, No. 1:15-CV-061-SA-DAS, 2017 WL 564035 (N.D.
Miss. Feb. 10, 2017). Instead, the plaintiff must identify
clearly established law that is “particularized”
to the facts of the case. Id. Although the Supreme
Court does not require a case directly on point, existing
precedent must have placed the statutory or constitutional
question “beyond debate.” White, 137
S.Ct. at 552.
Pitts has failed to provide any case law involving
sufficiently similar circumstances. As noted by the
Defendants, the “vast majority of cases involving due
process claims regarding civil forfeiture turn on whether the
property owner was provided proper notice of the
forfeiture.” Docket No. 90 at 11. Holladay v.
Roberts, the case on which Pitts relies, is no
different. 425 F.Supp. 61 (N.D. Miss. 1977). On a motion to
dismiss, the Holladay court held that the statute
providing for forfeiture to state agency violated due process
in failing to provide for any notice to the owner of the
seized vehicle prior to forfeiture. Id. at 65. But
it is undisputed that Pitts received proper notice. She has
not shown that her issue-being put to administrative instead
of judicial forfeiture-was clearly established as a due
lack of any particularized case law precludes the Court from
finding that Terrell's conduct was objectively
unreasonable in light of clearly established
Therefore, the Court grants summary judgment to Investigator
Terrell as to Pitts' Fourteenth Amendment claim.
Plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration
January 2, 2018, Pitts filed a cross-motion for
reconsideration asking this Court to reconsider her state law
claims against the City of Madison, specifically conversion
and a due process violation under the Mississippi
Constitution. The Court had dismissed these claims on the
ground that Pitts failed to meet the notice of claim
requirement in the Mississippi Tort Claims Act. See
Pitts, 2017 WL 6003645, at *8.
asserts that she did in fact provide written notice of her
claims, and that even if she failed to comply with the notice
requirement, Defendants' failure to raise the defense
would constitute a waiver of such a defense. See Stuart
v. Univ. of ...