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Melvin v. Anderson

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Alexandria Division

July 24, 2018

BRIAN ANDERSON, et al. Defendants


          Joseph H.L. Perez-Montes United States Magistrate Judge

         Before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 29) filed by Defendants Deputy Brian Anderson (“Anderson”), Deputy Scott Wyatt (“Wyatt”), and Unknown Sabine Parish Sheriff's Deputies (“SPSDs”) (collectively “Defendants”). Plaintiff Kendall E. Melvin (“Melvin”) alleges an unconstitutional search and seizure under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, along with state law claims of false arrest and malicious prosecution. Defendants assert qualified immunity. Defendants argue that because the execution of the warrant issued for Melvin was reasonable, summary judgment should be granted in their favor.

         Because Defendants were not objectively unreasonable in relying upon the arrest warrant, and Defendants' actions were not otherwise tortious or taken in bad faith, summary judgment should be granted.

         I. Background

         On September 30, 2015, Krystal Claybrook (“Claybrook”) and Rachel Cordova (“Cordova”) arrived at the home of Melvin and Chad Hiner (“Hiner”) on Quail Road in Sabine Parish to pick up Claybrook's 19-month-old daughter. (Doc. 29-2, p. 1). Hiner is the father of Claybrook's daughter. Claybrook knocked on the front door. (Doc. 29-2, p. 2). Melvin did not answer. (Doc. 29-2, p. 2). As Claybrook was returning to the vehicle, Melvin exited the house with Claybrook's daughter and her own children. (Doc. 29-2, p. 2). Melvin put all of the children in a vehicle and sped away. (Doc. 29-2, p. 2). Claybrook and Cordova followed. At some point during this “chase, ” Hiner appeared from bushes and jumped in Melvin's vehicle. (Doc. 29-2, p. 2). While in pursuit, Cordova called the Sabine Parish Sheriff's Office to report the incident. (Doc. 29-2, p. 2).

         Anderson was on duty at the time and responded. (Doc. 29-2, p. 2). When Anderson met with Claybrook and Cordova, he requested from dispatch any outstanding warrants on Hiner. (Doc. 29-2, p. 2-3). There were no active warrants for Hiner at the time. (Doc. 29-2, p. 3). Anderson requested Claybrook and Cordova fill out voluntary statements. (Doc. 29-2, p. 3). Anderson then called Detective Lowe (“Lowe”), who advised Anderson to tell Claybrook and Cordova to arrive at the CID at 9:00 a.m. the next morning to discuss the incident. (Doc. 29-2, p. 3). Anderson relayed this information to Claybrook and Cordova, and also informed them that he would be periodically checking Hiner's residence throughout the night and following day. (Doc. 29-2, p. 3). Anderson also advised Claybrook and Cordova to contact the Sheriff's Office if they found out Hiner and Melvin had returned to the area. (Doc. 29-2, p. 3). Anderson then returned to his patrol duties, taking no further action. (Doc. 29-2, p. 3).

         Claybrook met with Mike Tarver (“Tarver”), Justice of the Peace for Sabine Parish, on October 8, 2015. (Doc. 29-2, p. 3). She relayed the incident to Tarver and swore an affidavit for an arrest warrant for Melvin. (Doc. 29-2, p. 3). Tarver issued a warrant for Melvin's arrest (Doc. 29-2, p. 3-4), citing the offense of Interference with Child Custody under La. R.S. 14.45.1.

         On the same day, Wyatt received a radio call informing him of the active arrest warrant for Melvin. (Doc. 29-2, p. 4). Wyatt went to Melvin's residence on Quail Road to execute the warrant. (Doc. 29-2, p. 4). Several other deputies (presumably, the SPSDs included in this lawsuit) were present, as Melvin had called in an unrelated burglary. (Doc. 29-2, p. 4). Wyatt arrested Melvin and escorted her to the Sabine Detention Center for booking. (Doc. 29-2, p. 4). Wyatt was not involved in the events of September 30, 2015. (Doc. 29-2, p. 4). Neither Anderson nor Wyatt provided Tarver with any information regarding the incident. (Doc. 29-2, p. 4). Anderson was not involved in Melvin's October 8, 2015 arrest. (Doc. 29-2, p. 4).

         After Melvin was arrested, the warrant was found to be invalid. Specifically, the offense of Interference with Child Custody requires that the offender be a parent of the child, and that a custody order be in place. (Doc. 35-1, p. 2). Claybrook's affidavit clearly indicated that Melvin was not the child's mother, and did not indicate that there was a custody order in place. (Doc. 35-1, p. 3-4).

         Under 42 U.S.C. §1983, Melvin claims Defendants violated her right to be free from an unreasonable seizure pursuant to the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution. (Doc. 35-1, p. 6). Melvin further argues qualified immunity should be denied because Defendants did not act reasonably in executing an invalid arrest warrant. Finally, Melvin argues qualified immunity should be denied because Defendants “interjected themselves” into a civil matter.

         II. Law and Analysis A. Standards governing the motion for summary judgment.

         Under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a court must 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. Paragraph (e) of Rule 56 also provides the following:

If a party fails to properly support an assertion of fact or fails to properly address another party's assertion of fact as required by Rule 56(c), the court may:
(1) give an opportunity to properly support or address the fact;
(2) consider the fact undisputed for purposes of the motion;
(3) grant summary judgment if the motion and supporting materials--including the facts considered undisputed--show that the movant is entitled to it; or
(4) issue any other appropriate order. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 (e)

         Local Rule 56.2W (formerly 2.10W) provides that all material facts set forth in a statement of undisputed facts submitted by the moving party will be deemed admitted unless the opposing party controverts those facts. A dispute of material fact exists “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). “When a fact question controls the disposition of a summary judgment motion, we must ‘review the facts drawing all inferences most favorable to the party opposing the motion.'” Herrera v. Millsap, 862 F.2d 1157, 1159 (5th Cir. 1959) (quoting Reid v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 784 F.2d at 578). A mere scintilla of evidence is insufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment. See Stewart v. Murphy, 174 F.3d 530, 533 (5th Cir. 1999).

         The Supreme Court has held that “[w]here the defendant seeks qualified immunity, a ruling on the issue should be made early in the proceedings . . . where the defense is dispositive.” Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 200 (2001). “Qualified immunity is ‘an entitlement not to stand trial or face the other burdens of litigation.'” Credeur v. Martin, No. 06-0858, 2007 WL 1467087, *3 (W.D. La. May 17, 2007) (quoting Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 526 (1985)); see also Hunter v. Bryant, 502 U.S. 224, 227 (1991) (“[W]e repeatedly have stressed the importance of resolving immunity questions at the earliest possible stage in litigation.”).

         Moreover, a movant's assertion of qualified immunity has important ...

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