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Bradley v. Richardson

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Southern Division

November 14, 2019




         Plaintiff Jason Bruce Bradley, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 prisoner civil rights complaint alleging various constitutional violations in connection with an arrest that occurred on December 30, 2014. Plaintiff has sued Defendants Stephen Richardson and Jim Cazzell in their individual and official capacities. At the time of the incident, Defendants were officers in the Gautier Police Department. Plaintiff has alleged (1) illegal arrest and seizure; (2) excessive force; (3) due process violations; (4) Fifth Amendment violation; and (5) Double Jeopardy clause violation. By order dated April 12, 2018, the Court dismissed Plaintiff's claims against Defendants City of Gautier and the Gautier Police Department. Doc. [19]. These claims included alleged violations of the Double Jeopardy Clause, Plaintiff's right to counsel, and Plaintiff's right to an impartial jury. Plaintiff's only remaining claims against Officers Richardson and Cazzell are for illegal arrest/seizure and excessive force incident to the arrest.

         The Court conducted a screening hearing on October 18, 2018, at which time the parties consented to proceed before a United States Magistrate Judge. Defendants Richardson and Cazzell have filed two motions for summary judgment. Their first motion for summary judgment raises the defense of qualified immunity. Doc. [37]. The second motion for summary judgment requests dismissal of Plaintiff's complaint as to all claims. Doc. [39]. Plaintiff has not filed a response in opposition to either motion.

         Factual Background

         On December 30, 2014, the Gautier Police Department received a phone call requesting a welfare check at the residence of Hannah Pittman. The Police Department had been advised that Plaintiff was also at the residence. Officer Richardson was dispatched to conduct the welfare check. Prior to arriving, Officer Richardson had been advised that a warrant had issued for Plaintiff's arrest. Although Officer Richardson did not know the basis for the arrest warrant, the record demonstrates that Plaintiff had an outstanding arrest warrant for failure to appear in Gautier Municipal Court relating to a speeding ticket. At the screening hearing, Plaintiff admitted that he had received a ticket for speeding in a school zone and that he had been scheduled to appear in court prior to December 30, 2014. He further admitted that he missed the court date.

         When Officer Richardson arrived at the residence, he knocked on Ms. Pittman's front door. She answered the door and seemed distressed, according to Officer Richardson. She was crying and her hands were shaking. Officer Richardson questioned Ms. Pittman. Plaintiff was standing behind Ms. Pittman and, according to Officer Richardson, was clearly agitated. At one point, Plaintiff instructed Ms. Pittman to stop answering Officer Richardson's questions. According to Officer Richardson, Plaintiff moved towards the door in what appeared to be an attempt to shut it. Officer Richardson instructed Plaintiff to sit down on the couch. As Plaintiff walked towards the couch, Officer Richardson observed what appeared to be a wallet in Plaintiff's back pocket. Officer Richardson asked Plaintiff for his driver's license. Plaintiff refused and stated he did not have his driver's license or any identification on him. At the screening hearing, Plaintiff admitted that in fact he did have his driver's license on him at the time of the encounter with Officer Richardson but that he purposefully refused to comply with the request to produce it.

         Officer Richardson next asked Plaintiff for his name and social security number. At the screening hearing, Plaintiff admitted that he gave an incorrect name and social security number to Officer Richardson. Officer Richardson informed Plaintiff he knew his true identity. He further informed Plaintiff that a warrant had issued for his arrest. According to Officer Richardson, Plaintiff became agitated and aggressive and began to raise his voice.

         At about this time, Officer Jim Cazzell arrived at the residence. Officer Cazzell spoke with Ms. Pittman, who identified Plaintiff as Jason Bruce Bradley. The Officers observed Plaintiff sitting on the couch. They informed him a warrant had issued for his arrest and instructed him to place his hands behind his head. Plaintiff refused to comply. Plaintiff told the Officers he knew his rights, demanded an attorney, and instructed Ms. Pittman to call an attorney. At the screening hearing, Plaintiff testified “[t]he officers continued to keep pushing at me for them to find out who I was, and I really wasn't giving them no information. I told them I wanted a lawyer.”

         Officer Cazzell instructed Officer Richardson to draw his taser. After drawing his taser, Officer Richardson informed Plaintiff he would use the taser if Plaintiff remained noncompliant. Officer Richardson attempted to fire the taser, but it malfunctioned. The Officers then attempted to handcuff Plaintiff. Plaintiff resisted efforts to handcuff him. At the screening hearing, Plaintiff admitted he was not giving the Officers anything he had and that he “scuffled” with the Officers. The Officers eventually wrestled Plaintiff to the ground and placed him in handcuffs. Plaintiff stated the incident “all happened so quick”. Plaintiff further testified that officers put their knees in his back while they were handcuffing him. Plaintiff was transported to the Gautier Police Department for booking. While being booked, Plaintiff complained of back pain. He was transported by ambulance to Ocean Springs Hospital. At the screening hearing, Plaintiff testified he could not remember what the doctor told him about his back injury. According to the medical records, Plaintiff's back revealed mild tenderness, but he was in no acute distress. A chest x-ray proved unremarkable, and there was no indication of visible injuries. He was diagnosed with back pain “secondary to fighting”. He received a Toradol injection and a muscle relaxant pill. Plaintiff testified that he has problems off and on with his lower back to this day.

         After booking, Plaintiff was charged with resisting arrest and presenting false identifying information, in violation of Miss. Code Ann. §§ 97-9-73 and 97-9-79. On January 5, 2015, The Gautier Municipal Court found Plaintiff guilty of speeding in a school zone. On January 26, 2015, Plaintiff was tried and convicted of resisting arrest and presenting false identifying information. At the screening hearing, Plaintiff admitted to being convicted on these three charges. He also admitted he did not appeal the convictions for resisting arrest and presenting false identification. As a result of these convictions, the Jackson County Circuit Court revoked Plaintiff's supervised release and sentenced him to serve the balance of a 2004 conviction and sentence for sexual battery. Plaintiff was placed in custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC). MDOC medical records are silent regarding back pain related to the December 30, 2014, encounter with Officers Richardson and Cazzell. At the screening hearing, Plaintiff admitted that the only medical record referencing back pain associated with the incident would be from Ocean Springs Hospital. He further admitted that MDOC doctors did not attribute any of his back pain to the December 2014 incident.

         Law and Analysis

         Standard of Review

         Rule 56 provides that “[t]he 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); Sierra Club, Inc. v. Sandy Creek Energy Assocs., L.P., 627 F.3d 134, 138 (5th Cir. 2010). Where the summary judgment evidence establishes that one of the essential elements of the plaintiff's cause of action does not exist as a matter of law, all other contested issues of fact are rendered immaterial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986); Topalin v. Ehrman, 954 F.2d 1125, 1138 (5th Cir. 1992). In making its determinations of fact on a motion for summary judgment, the court must view the evidence submitted by the parties in a light most favorable to the non-moving party. McPherson v. Rankin, 736 F.2d 175, 178 (5th Cir. 1984).

         The moving party has the duty to demonstrate the lack of a genuine issue of a material fact and the appropriateness of judgment as a matter of law to prevail on its motion. Union Planters Nat'l Leasing v. Woods, 687 F.2d 117 (5th Cir. 1982). The movant accomplishes this by informing the court of the basis of its motion, and by identifying portions of the record which highlight the absence of genuine factual issues. Topalian, 954 F.2d at 1131. “Rule 56 contemplates a shifting burden: the nonmovant is under no obligation to respond unless the movant discharges [its] initial burden of demonstrating [entitlement to summary judgment].” John v. State of Louisiana, 757 F.3d 698, 708 (5th Cir. 1985). Once a properly supported ...

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