United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
ZAINEY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment (Rec. Doc.
70) filed by Defendants Scott Silverii, Shawn Snow,
Thibodaux City, and Unidentified Parties. Plaintiff Jonathan
Southall opposes the Motion. (Rec. Doc. 78). The Motion, set
for submission on July 12, 2017, is before the Court on the
briefs without oral argument.
7, 2012, Jonathan Johnson, Plaintiff's son, was driving
Plaintiff's vehicle in Thibodaux, Louisiana, when
Thibodaux police officers attempted to initiate a traffic
stop for a speed limit violation. Johnson refused to stop the
vehicle and proceeded to lead the officers on a high-speed
chase. Johnson eventually abandoned the vehicle and continued
to flee on foot. The officers apprehended him shortly
thereafter and placed him under arrest. After placing Johnson
under arrest, the officers called in a K9 unit to perform a
sniff from the exterior of Plaintiff's vehicle. Although
Plaintiff's attorney, who was present at the scene,
contends that he did not see the dog give any indication,
Defendants contend that the K9 indicated a positive alert for
narcotics near the passenger's side door. The officers
performed a search of the interior of the vehicle, but
nothing was recovered.
filed this civil rights lawsuit as a result of the
officers' search of his vehicle. Plaintiff alleges that
the officers conducted an unlawful search of his person and
property, in violation of his Constitutional rights. In the
instant motion, Defendants seek summary judgment in their
favor on Plaintiff's claims against them for
seek summary judgment in their favor arguing 1) Plaintiff had
no reasonable expectation of privacy necessary to allege an
unconstitutional search, 2) Plaintiff's alleged injury
does not arise from a municipal custom or policy, 3)
individual liability claims are barred by qualified immunity,
4) Plaintiff cannot state a valid claim for punitive damages,
and 5) Plaintiff cannot state a valid claim for illegal
search of his person.
judgment is appropriate only if “the pleadings,
depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on
file, together with the affidavits, if any, ” when
viewed in the light most favorable to the non-movant,
“show that there is no genuine issue as to any material
fact.” TIG Ins. Co. v. Sedgwick
James, 276 F.3d 754, 759 (5th Cir. 2002) (citing
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242,
249-50 (1986)). A dispute about a material fact is
“genuine” if the evidence is such that a
reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving
party. Id. (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at
248). The court must draw all justifiable inferences in favor
of the non-moving party. Id. (citing
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255).
the moving party has initially shown “that there is an
absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's
cause, ” the non-movant must come forward with
“specific facts” showing a genuine factual issue
for trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317,
325 (1986) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); Matsushita Elec.
Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio, 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)).
Conclusional allegations and denials, speculation, improbable
inferences, unsubstantiated assertions, and legalistic
argumentation do not adequately substitute for specific facts
showing a genuine issue for trial. Id. (citing
SEC v. Recile, 10 F.3d 1093, 1097 (5th Cir. 1993)).
Expectation of Privacy
first argue that Plaintiff lacked an objectively reasonable
expectation of privacy in his vehicle when officers conducted
a search. In his response, Plaintiff asserts that the issue
is whether Defendants' search of Plaintiff's vehicle
fell under the automobile exception, which requires probable
cause to search a vehicle without a warrant. Plaintiff
maintains that Defendants did not have probable cause to
search his vehicle under the circumstances.
Fourth Amendment of the United States
Constitution protects individuals from unreasonable
searches and seizures. Soldal v. Cook County, III,
506 U.S. 56, 63 (1992). However, “the extent to which
the Fourth Amendment protects people may depend upon where
those people are.” Minnesota v. Carter, 525
.U. 83, 88 (1998). The Supreme Court of the United States has
recognized “that the ready mobility of the automobile
justifies a lesser degree of protection of” privacy
interests. California v. Carney, 471 U.S. 386, 390
(1985). This “lesser expectation of privacy [which] has
historically been applied to motor vehicles” has come
to be known as the automobile exception to the requirement
that officers obtain a search warrant. United States v.
Hernandez, 647 F.3d 216, 220 (5th Cir. 2011).
automobile exception provides that officers may conduct a
warrantless search of an automobile if “(1) the officer
conducting the search had probable cause to believe that the
vehicle in question contain[ed] property that the government
may properly seize; and (2) exigent circumstances justified
the search.” United States v. Castelo, 415
F.3d 407, 412 (5th Cir. 2005). This exception is justified by
a reduced expectation of privacy while ...