Timothy Hutten v. Lt. Ricky Knight, et al
OPINION filed : AFFIRMED, decision not for publication. Gilbert S. Merritt, Authoring Circuit Judge; Boyce F. Martin , Jr., Circuit Judge and Eric L. Clay, Circuit Judge.
NOT RECOMMENDED FOR PUBLICATION
File Name: 13a0334n.06
UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT
TIMOTHY SCOTT HUTTEN,
LT. RICKY KNIGHT; JOHN MAXWELL,
Apr 03, 2013
DEBORAH S. HUNT, Clerk
ON APPEAL FROM THE UNITED
STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF TENNESSEE
MERRITT, MARTIN, and CLAY, Circuit Judges.
MERRITT, Circuit Judge. This Section 1983 case appeals the denial of qualified
immunity to two Brentwood, Tennessee, police officers. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm
the judgment of the district court.
The facts in this case are clearly in dispute. While driving in Brentwood, Timothy Hutten
saw police standing in the middle of the road in an attempt to catch speeders. Hutten pulled over and
claims he said, “Someone’s liable to get shot or run over standing in the middle of the road.” The
Defendant officers in this case insist he mentioned a gun and stated that he was alarmed. Either way,
Hutten left and did not encounter the officers again until he came to the Brentwood Police
Department later that day to file a complaint. Before Hutten left the police department, he was
Timothy Hutten v. Lt. Ricky Knight et.al
informed that he would be charged with disorderly conduct. The Williamson County General
Sessions Court retired the charges, conditional upon Hutten not incurring any new charges within
the next 30 days and only calling law enforcement for emergency purposes. He complied and the
charges were retired.
Hutten filed the instant Section 1983 action against the Brentwood officers for a violation
of his Fourth Amendment right to be free from arrest absent probable cause and for a violation of
his First Amendment right to be free from retaliatory arrest for criticizing a police officer. The
officers asserted qualified immunity.
The district court, in a thorough, well-reasoned opinion, denied qualified immunity to the
officers on both claims because there are genuine issues of material fact as to whether the officers
had probable cause to arrest Hutten and both the Fourth and First Amendment rights were clearly
established. See Hutten v. Knight, No. 10-cv-105, 2012 WL 246302 (M.D. Tenn. Jan. 26, 2012).
We rely on the reasoning of the district court in affirming the denial of qualified immunity and will
only briefly address the issue of the retirement of charges as it relates to a finding of probable cause
because the issue is the central premise of the Defendants’ argument.
The officers contend that the retirement of charges by the General Sessions Court was an
admission of probable cause, thus preventing Hutten from contesting probable cause. This
contention is based on Tennessee malicious prosecution cases that hold that a “judgment in favor
of the original plaintiff is conclusive of probable cause, unless procured by fraud.” Christian v.
Lapidus, 833 S.W.2d 71, 74 (Tenn. 1992) (citing Sloan v. McCracken, 75 Tenn. 626, 627 (1881)).
Timothy Hutten v. Lt. Ricky Knight et.al
First, this is not a malicious prosecution case. Neither is this a case involving some type of
agreement, plea deal, or pre-trial diversion. See, e.g., Mitchem v. City of Johnson City, No. 2:08-CV238, 2010 WL 4363399, at *6 (E.D. Tenn. Oct. 27, 2010). The General Sessions Judge simply
retired the charges. Nothing more. There was no admission of guilt. There was no determination
on whether the officers had probable cause to arrest Hutten, see Anderson v. Wal-Mart Stores, No.
1:07-00024, 2008 WL 1994822, at *4, 6 (M.D. Tenn. May 2, 2008) (concluding that a “‘retirement’
or ‘diversion’ . . . did not reflect on the merits of the underlying action”), and Hutten is not now
precluded from arguing that there was no probable cause. See also Bowman v. Breeden, 1988 WL
136640, at *2 (Tenn. Ct. App. Dec. 20, 1988) (describing “a cause dismissed pursuant to a
compromise and/or settlement” as “an indecisive termination”). As a Section 1983 plaintiff, he does
not concede probable cause by agreeing to be a law-abiding citizen and not to bother the police for
any reason other than an emergency. The retirement of charges is not an admission of probable
cause. Because there are genuine disputes of material fact as to whether the officers had probable
cause to arrest Hutten, a jury must be the final arbiter in this case.
The officers are not entitled to qualified immunity. Accordingly, the judgment of the district
court is affirmed.
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