Bash et al v. Patrick et al

Filing 43

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER that defendants' 23 Motion for Summary Judgment is granted. All claims against defendants are dismissed with prejudice, except that plaintiffs' state law claims are dismissed without prejudice. Signed by Hon. Chief Judge Mark E. Fuller on 4/9/09. (sl, )

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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR T H E MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA N O R T H E R N DIVISION A N D R E W BASH and JOYCE BASH, P la in tif f s , v. MICHAEL PATRICK, et al., D e f e n d a n ts. ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) C A S E NO. 2:08-cv-240-MEF (W O P U B L IS H ) M E M O R A N D U M OPINION AND ORDER I . INTRODUCTION O n May 28, 2007, what began as a routine encounter between a citizen and local law e n f o rc e m e n t culminated with the Chief of Police of the Town of Mosses "tasing" Andrew B a sh while Joyce Bash brandished both a barstool and a kitchen knife in his defense. In an in s ta n t, a reserve police officer who began this encounter unarmed found himself standing w ith gun-in-hand while the Chief of Police, who was the town's only full time officer, was lo c k e d out of the scene. All the while, four children who were inside the house where this a ll occurred screamed and cried, and thirty or so neighbors congregated to witness the goings o n . This climactic scene and the events preceding it resulted in the action presently before th e Court. Plaintiff Andrew Bash claims the acts of the Chief of Police constitute u n c o n stitu tio n a lly excessive force and involved an unconstitutional seizure of him in his 1 home. He also claims these acts are torts under the common law of the State of Alabama. Plaintiff Joyce Bash claims the Chief of Police maliciously prosecuted her after she reported h is conduct to the Mayor. Finally, they claim that the Town of Mosses is responsible for th e s e alleged wrongs because the principle officer involved is the Chief of Police. Defendants moved for summary judgment on Plaintiffs' claims, and the Motion is u n d e r submission and ripe for disposition. Because the defendants are entitled to qualified im m u n ity, and because the conduct alleged was not the result of a policy, practice, or custom o f the City of Mosses, their Motion is due to be granted. The Court declines to exercise s u p p le m e n ta l jurisdiction over Plaintiffs' state law claims. II. JURISDICTION AND VENUE This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1331, 1343 & 1367 because P la in tif f s ' claims are pursuant to the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States C o n s titu tio n , 42 U.S.C. 1983, and the state common law torts of assault, battery, and tre sp a s s . The parties do not contest venue and personal jurisdiction, and the Court finds a s u f f ic ie n t basis for each. III. STANDARD OF REVIEW U n d e r Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment is a p p ro p ria te "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, to g e th e r with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact a n d that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Celotex Corp. v. 2 Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). "An issue of fact is `genuine' if the record as a whole c o u ld lead a reasonable trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party. An issue is `material' if it might affect the outcome of the case under the governing law." Redwing Carriers, Inc. v . Saraland Apartments, 94 F.3d 1489, 1496 (11th Cir. 1996) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty L o b b y , Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). The party asking for summary judgment "always bears the initial responsibility of in f o rm in g the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of `the p le a d in g s, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the a f f id a v its , if any,' which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material f a c t." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. The movant can meet this burden by presenting evidence s h o w in g there is no dispute of material fact, or by showing the nonmoving party has failed to present evidence in support of some element of its case on which it bears the ultimate b u r d e n of proof. Id. at 322-23. Once the moving party has met its burden, Rule 56(e) " re q u ire s the nonmoving party to go beyond the pleadings and by her own affidavits, or by th e `depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file,' designate `specific facts s h o w in g that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Id. at 324. To avoid summary judgment, the n o n m o v in g party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1 9 8 6 ). On the other hand, a court ruling on a motion for summary judgment must believe th e evidence of the nonmovant and must draw all justifiable inferences from the evidence in 3 the nonmoving party's favor. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. After the nonmoving party has re s p o n d e d to the motion for summary judgment, the Court must grant summary judgment if th e re is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a m a tte r of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). I V . FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY T h e Court has carefully considered all documents submitted in support of and in o p p o sitio n to the Motion. The submissions of the parties, viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, establish the following relevant facts: O n May 28, 2007, Andrew Bash ("Andrew"), who receives medical treatment for p a ra n o id schizophrenia, depression, and borderline mental functioning, drove to downtown M o s s e s to shop in the Big Store, which is owned by Rebecca Young ("Young"). He left his c a r door open while he was in the store, and people in nearby businesses could hear music c o m in g from his car stereo. Andrew and Young talked while they did business and decided it would not be wise for Andrew to play his music too loudly, as they knew the Chief of P o lic e , Michael Patrick ("Officer Patrick"), was in the area. Andrew bid Young farewell and re tu rn e d to his car to begin the short drive home. A b o u t the same time, Officer Patrick and Darryl Taunton ("Officer Taunton"), a re s e rv e Mosses police officer, were patrolling Main Street. They observed Andrew or his c a r and noted what they perceived to be a violation of the city's noise ordinance. They circled around and activated their siren and lights. Instead of stopping immediately, Andrew 4 proceeded the approximately one mile to his house at 1780 Main Street and pulled into his d riv e w a y. He did not exceed the posted speed limit during the pursuit. Things went awry a f te r Andrew stopped the car and exited it. Accounts differ about exactly what Andrew said when he exited the car. Andrew c la im s that he jumped out of the car and told Officer Patrick to hold on, he was coming to ta lk to him, but first he was going to give his wife, who was inside the house, the keys. Joyce B a sh ("Joyce"), who is married to Andrew, corroborates Andrew's version of events and a d d s that she heard Andrew asking Officer Patrick why he stopped him. Officer Patrick c la im s that when Andrew exited the car he told Andrew that he needed to see his driver's lic e n s e . Andrew replied that he was not going to give Officer Patrick a damn thing and d a s h e d for the house. Officer Taunton corroborates Officer Patrick's version of events. Other onlookers claim the first thing Officer Patrick said to Andrew was "you're going to ja il" and that in response Andrew asked why that was so. Regardless of exactly what was said, after the brief exchange, Officers Patrick and T a u n to n pursued Andrew into the house. Once inside the house, Officer Patrick immediately p o u n c e d upon Andrew and began beating him with his fists and attempting to restrain him. Officer Patrick then drew his Taser and "tased" Andrew. In response, Joyce raised a barstool a n d threatened Officer Patrick with it while pleading with him to not tase Andrew again. When Officer Patrick responded that he was, in fact, going to tase Andrew again, Joyce set d o w n the stool and picked up a kitchen knife. Officer Patrick responded by laying the Taser 5 on the kitchen counter and drawing his service weapon. At this point, Andrew bit Officer P a tric k 's thumb, distracting him and providing an opportunity for Joyce to throw the Taser th ro u g h the open door. Officer Patrick handed his service weapon to Officer Taunton and w e n t to retrieve the Taser. Once he was outside, Joyce locked the door so that she, Andrew, a n d Officer Taunton were inside the house with the four children Joyce had been watching a n d Officer Patrick was outside the house with the crowd that had gathered. Officer Patrick c o n s id e re d this to be a potentially deadly situation and radioed for backup from the Lowndes C o u n ty Sheriff's Department. Meanwhile, the situation inside was becoming more calm as O f f ic e r Taunton managed to talk Andrew into being handcuffed and helped him put on socks a n d shoes. Officer Patrick, still fearing the situation, re-entered the house by breaking the g la s s in the door Joyce had locked behind him and unlocking it from the outside. The O f f ic e rs placed Andrew under arrest. While he was walking to the Police cruiser, Officer P a tric k called Andrew "boy" and "nigger" and started laughing.1 O f f ic e rs Patrick and Taunton transported Andrew to the Lowndes County Detention F a c ility, but officials there refused to place him in custody because he was injured, frantic, a n d delusional. Officer Patrick then called an ambulance, which reported to the scene but w o u ld not take Andrew because he was dangerous unless placed in a straight jacket and leg Andrew is African-American and Officer Patrick is Caucasian. These statements were in keeping with Officer Patrick's reputation among African-Americans in Mosses for "tasing . . . black people." 6 1 irons, which the Officers were unable to do.2 Officer Patrick decided to release Andrew to th e custody of his family. W h ile these events were unfolding at the Lowndes County Detention Facility, Officer P a tric k approached Santauisha McGuire, who is Andrew's sister, with an offer. Officer P a tric k told her that he would replace the door that he kicked in and destroyed and that, b e c a u s e he had some time before he had to file charges, if the Bashes did not complain about h is conduct he would not charge them with a crime. The portion of this alleged proposal re g a rd in g the door is corroborated by the testimony of Mary Hester, the City Clerk. All of th is occurred on May 28, 2007. O n June 4, 2007, Joyce filed a letter of complaint with the mayor of Mosses. On June 12, 2007, Officer Patrick filed criminal complaints against Andrew for a s s a u lt and resisting arrest. On June 19, 2007, Officer Taunton swore out a warrant against J o yc e for menacing. On July 3, 2007, Officer Patrick issued traffic citations to Andrew for d riv in g without a license, violating a noise ordinance, and eluding police. The District Court o f Lowndes County subsequently dismissed the charges when Officer Patrick failed to a p p e a r. P la in tif f s subsequently filed the complaint in this case on April 1, 2008. (Doc. # 1.) In it, they set out many of the facts above and state their claims in six counts. The first three s e e k vindication of rights remediable through that well-worn guardian against government The officers had neither a straight jacket nor leg irons. Officials at the Lowndes County Detention Facility would not loan them leg irons, and no straight jacket was available. 7 2 malfeasance, 28 U.S.C. 1983. These three counts seek redress for "illegal entry," excessive f o rc e , and false arrest/malicious prosecution of Joyce, all in violation of the Fourth A m e n d m e n t to the United States Constitution. Counts four through six assert state law c la im s of trespass, assault and battery, and municipal liability.3 Each count names Officers P a tric k and Taunton in their individual capacities. The City of Mosses is also a defendant to each count. Defendants in their answer denied that the rights of Plaintiffs were violated. They f ile d a Motion for Summary Judgment on January 8, 2009 (Doc. # 23), which is now under s u b m iss io n and ripe for disposition. For the reasons set forth in this Memorandum and O rd e r, Defendants' Motion is due to be granted. V. DISCUSSION A . Constitutional Claims 1 . Qualified Immunity: General Principles Q u a lif ie d immunity protects government officers sued in their individual capacities f ro m liability for civil damages so long as their conduct "does not violate clearly established s ta tu to ry or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known." Vinyard v . Wilson, 311 F.3d 1340, 1346 (11th Cir. 2002) (quoting Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 8 0 0 , 818 (1982)). "The purpose of this immunity is to allow government officials to carry Both the assault and battery and municipal liability claims are denominated "Count V" in the complaint, but they are clearly intended to be separate counts and the Court considers their labeling in this fashion to be a typographical error. The municipal liability claim will for all purposes be treated as Count VI. 8 3 out their discretionary duties without the fear of personal liability or harassing litigation, p ro te c tin g from suit all but the plainly incompetent or one who is knowingly violating the f e d e ra l law." Lee v. Ferraro, 284 F.3d 1188, 1194 (11th Cir. 2002) (internal quotation marks a n d citations omitted). The inquiry turns on the "objective legal reasonableness of the action, a s s e s se d in light of the legal rules that were clearly established at the time it was taken." W ils o n v. Layne, 526 U.S. 603, 614 (1999) (internal quotation marks omitted); see Hope v. P e lz e r , 536 U.S. 730, 739 (2002) ("[Q]ualified immunity operates to ensure that before they a re subjected to suit, officers are on notice their conduct is unlawful." (internal quotation m a rk s omitted)). To receive qualified immunity, the public official "must first prove that he was acting w ith in the scope of his discretionary authority when the allegedly wrongful acts occurred." L e e , 284 F.3d at 1194 (internal quotation marks omitted). In making this determination, in s te a d of focusing on whether the acts in question involved the exercise of actual discretion, a court should assess whether they are of a type that fell within the employee's job re s p o n s ib ilitie s . O'Rourke v. Hayes, 378 F.3d 1201, 1206 (11th Cir. 2004). A court should a s k "whether the government employee was (a) performing a legitimate job-related function (th a t is, pursuing a job-related goal), (b) through means that were within his power to utilize . . . ." Id. Here, it is clear that the Officers were acting within the course and scope of their discretionary authority when they attempted to pull Andrew over, when they pursued him in to the house, and when they attempted to arrest him. Plaintiffs admit as much. (Doc. # 29 9 16) ("It is undisputed that the defendants were acting within the scope of their discretionary a u th o rity in their conduct toward plaintiffs."); see also Lee, 284 F.3d at 1194 (holding that th e re was "no doubt" that an officer who pulled over a suspect for a traffic offense and then a rre s te d her was acting within the scope of his discretionary authority); Vinyard, 311 F.3d a t 1346-47 (holding that an officer was acting within the scope of his discretionary authority w h e n he arrested a subject and transported him to jail); Adams v. St. Lucie County Sheriff's D e p t., 962 F.2d 1563, 1568 (11th Cir. 1992) vacated on other grounds, 982 F.2d 472 (11th C ir. 1993) ("It is axiomatic that a law enforcement officer has the discretionary authority to p u rs u e and apprehend a fleeing suspected offender."); see also Denmark v. Lee County, 931 F . Supp. 2d 831, 835 (M.D. Fla. 1996) (same); Edge v. Ferrell, No. 06-0710-WS-C, 2008 W L 942038, * 6 (S.D. Ala. April 7, 2008) (same). "Once the defendant establishes that he was acting within his discretionary authority, th e burden shifts to the plaintiff to show that qualified immunity is not appropriate." Vinyard, 3 1 1 F.3d at 1346. It was the case until very recently that at this point the court should follow th e so-called Saucier procedure. See Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 201 (2001), overruled in part by Pearson v. Callahan, 129 S. Ct. 808, 818 (2009). Saucier mandated a two-step s e q u e n c e for resolving government officials' qualified immunity claims. Courts were to first d e te rm in e "whether the plaintiff's allegations, if true, establish[ed] a constitutional v io la tio n ." Hope, 536 U.S. at 736 (citing Saucier, 533 U.S. at 201). Only if the allegations s a tis f ie d this first step did the court decide whether the right at issue was "clearly 10 established" at the time of defendant's alleged misconduct. Saucier, 533 U.S. at 201. 4 Q u a lif ie d immunity is applicable unless the officials conduct violated a clearly established c o n s titu tio n a l right. Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 640 (1987). A unanimous Supreme Court effected a paradigm shift in the law of qualified im m u n ity in 2009 when it decided Pearson v. Callahan, which held that the Saucier procedure was no longer mandatory. 129 S. Ct. at 818 ("On reconsidering the procedure re q u ire d in Saucier, we conclude that, while the sequence set forth there is often appropriate, it should no longer be regarded as mandatory."). This decision allows the judges of the d is tric t courts and courts of appeal to "exercise their sound discretion in deciding which of th e two prongs of the qualified immunity analysis should be addressed first in light of the c irc u m s ta n c e s of the particular case at hand." Id. Although Saucier is no longer mandatory, it is still often beneficial. Pearson, 129 S. C t. at 818. There are cases in which restricting decision to the clearly established prong w o u ld not meaningfully conserve judicial resources. Id. For example, in some cases "a d is c u s sio n of why the relevant facts do not violate clearly established law may make it a p p a re n t that in fact the relevant facts to not make out a constitutional violation at all." Id. The Supreme Court noted, however, that for all its value, Saucier carries a price. Specifically, parties are forced to litigate, and busy district courts are required to decide, 4 Prior to Saucier, the Supreme Court's cases held that "the better approach to resolving cases in which the defense of qualified immunity is raised is to determine first whether the plaintiff has alleged a deprivation of a constitutional right at all." County of Sacramento v. Lewis, 523 U.S. 833, 841, n.5 (1998). Saucier made this "better approach" the only approach. 11 sometimes difficult constitutional questions when doing so is unnecessary. Id. For example, " th e re are cases in which the constitutional right is not clearly established but far from o b v io u s whether in fact there is such a right." Id. at 818. Similar considerations arise when a n issue is soon to be resolved by a higher court. Id. The Supreme Court also described n u m e ro u s other reasons to allow district courts to opt out of the Saucier procedure, including (1 ) the dubious value of some decisions under the first prong for resolving difficult c o n s titu tio n a l questions, (2) the presence in the case of uncertain questions of state law that m a y affect the resolution of constitutional issues, (3) an insufficiently developed factual re c o rd at the motion to dismiss stage, when qualified immunity is often raised, (4) and the risk of bad decisionmaking in the lower courts where constitutional questions are often not w e ll-b rie f e d . Id. at 819-20. In these and other cases "in which a court will rather quickly and e a s ily decide that there was no violation of clearly established law before turning to the more d if f ic u lt question whether the relevant facts make out a constitutional question at all," courts a re now free to do what is natural and decide the case on the easier basis. See id. (noting that o f t e n tim e s this is the order in which Judges reason to a conclusion about a case and that S a u c ie r should not artificially obstruct decisionmaking). The Supreme Court dismissed arguments that this additional point of decision would le a d to additional litigation on the issue of whether a particular case justifies reaching the m e rits . In this case, at least, the Court finds the decision easy: it will not apply the S a u c ie r procedure. Plaintiffs' constitutional claims fall into one of two categories: "ones in 12 which the constitutional right is not clearly established but far from obvious whether in fact th e re is such a right as far as the constitutional issues are concerned," or ones in which "a d is c u s sio n of why the relevant facts do not violate clearly established law . . . make it a p p a re n t that in fact the relevant facts to not make out a constitutional violation at all." Id. at 8 1 9 -2 0 . In order to avoid the risk of "bad decisionmaking" or an opinion of "dubious value" th e Court will not follow the Saucier procedure in this case. Id. Therefore, the Court will b e g in by deciding whether each of Plaintiffs' claims and the evidence offered to support th e m make out a violation of a clearly established constitutional right. 2. Clearly Established Rights In order to determine whether an officer's conduct violates a clearly established c o n s titu tio n a l right, a court must do more than just compare the facts of the instant case to p rio r cases to determine if a right is clearly established; it must also assess whether the facts o f the instant case fall within statements of general principle found in appropriate precedent. See, e.g., Hope, 536 U.S. at 741 ("[O]fficials can still be on notice that their conduct violates la w even in novel factual circumstances. Indeed, in [United States v.] Lanier [, 520 U.S. 259 (1 9 9 7 )], we expressly rejected a requirement that previous cases be `fundamentally s im ila r.'" ); Holloman, 370 F.3d 1252, 1278 (11th Cir. 2004); Vinyard, 311 F.3d at 1351. The " s a lie n t question . . . is whether the state of the law...gave [the officers] fair warning that th e ir alleged treatment [of the plaintiff] was unconstitutional." Hope, 536 U.S. at 741. Officials sued pursuant to 1983 thus have a right to fair notice. Id. at 739. This 13 notice can be given in three ways. Vinyard, 311 F.3d at 1350-53. First, the words of the f e d e ra l statute or constitutional provision may in themselves be specific enough to establish c le a rly the law applicable to particular conduct and circumstances to overcome qualified im m u n ity, even in the total absence of case law. Id. at 1350. Second, preexisting case law m a y serve to provide fair notice. Id. at 1351. Case law need not arise out of factually id e n tic a l situations to clearly establish law for purposes of the qualified immunity analysis. Id. at 1351. Broad legal principles established in case law may serve to clearly establish the la w even for cases arising out of factually different situations. Id. Third, in the absence of c a s e law with a broad holding sufficient to provide fair notice, fact specific precedents may s e rv e to clearly establish the law arising out of martially similar factual circumstances. Id. a t 1351-52. a. Excessive Force T h e Eleventh Circuit has previously found in some cases that the Fourth Amendment its e lf is sufficiently clear to establish that certain conduct violates the protections of that p ro v is io n . Specifically, it has sometimes found violations of the Fourth Amendment in e x c e s s iv e force cases involving conduct "far beyond the hazy border between excessive and a c c e p ta b le force" even in the absence of prior case law. Vinyard, 311 F.3d at 1350 n.18. Cases in which the language of the Fourth Amendment itself has been sufficient to put the o f f ic e r on notice that his conduct was in violation of the law appear to be cases involving th e use of significant force after an arrestee has been subdued. Id. For example, beating a 14 suspect, kicking a suspect, or slamming the head of a suspect the ground is conduct which d e p riv e s the law enforcement officers of qualified immunity when the suspect was h a n d c u f f e d and did not struggle or resist the officers in any way and did not attempt to flee. Slicker v. Jackson, 215 F.3d 1225, 1232-33 (11th Cir. 2000). The conduct in this case is not s o egregious that the text of the Amendment itself clearly establishes its unconstitutionality a n d the proposition that persons are to be free from "unreasonable searches and seizures" is n o t sufficient to put the officers on notice that their conduct in this case was unconstitutional. The Court therefore turns to case law interpreting the amendment to determine whether they c le a rly establish the unconstitutionality of the conduct in this case. Plaintiffs cite no binding Fourth Amendment case, and this court has located none, in which conduct "materially similar" that in issue here was held unconstitutional. See W il l i n g h a m v. Loughnan, 321 F.3d 1299, 1303 (11th Cir. 2003) (discussing "materially s im i l a r " concept). In fact, the closest cases stand for the opposite proposition, though the f o rc e in those cases resulted from more provocative acts by the plaintiffs than occurred here. See, e.g., Zivojinovich v. Barner, 525 F.3d 1059, 1073 (11th Cir. 2008) (holding that "in a `d if f ic u lt, tense and uncertain situation,' the use of a taser gun to subdue a subject who has re p e a te d ly ignored police instructions and continues to act belligerently toward police is not e x c e s s iv e force."); Draper v. Reynolds, 369 F.3d 1270, 1278 (11th Cir. 2004) (same). Plaintiffs must therefore show that the broad legal principles set out in prior cases s e rv e to clearly establish the law in this case, even though it arises from facts different from th o s e prior cases. This requires the Court to draw upon the general principles applicable to 15 excessive force claims to determine whether every reasonable officer would conclude that th e conduct of which Plaintiffs complain was unconstitutional. When a plaintiff claims that a law enforcement officer has used excessive force, w h e th e r deadly or not, in the course of an arrest, investigatory stop, or other seizure of a free c itiz e n , courts must analyze those claims under the Fourth Amendment and its " re a s o n a b le n e s s " standard. Grahm v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 395 (1989); Handley v. G u itie rr e z , 526 F.3d 1324, 1329 (11th Cir. 2008). The "reasonableness" of a particular use o f force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than w ith the 20/20 vision of hindsight. Id. "Not every push or shove, even if it may later seem u n n e c e s s a ry in the peace of a judge's chambers," violates the Fourth Amendment. Id. The c a lc u lu s of reasonableness must embody an allowance for the fact that police officers are o f te n forced to make split-second judgments--in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and ra p id ly evolving--about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation. Thus, th e "reasonableness" inquiry in an excessive force case is an objective one: the question is w h e th e r the officers' actions are "objectively reasonable" in light of the facts and c irc u m s ta n c e s confronting them, without regard to their underlying intent or motivation. Id . (citing Scott v. U.S., 436 U.S. 128, 137-139 (1978)); Zivojinovich, 525 F.3d at 1072. Determining whether the force used to effect a particular seizure is reasonable under th e Fourth Amendment requires a careful balancing of "the nature and quality of the intrusion o n the individual's Fourth Amendment interests" against the countervailing governmental in te re s ts at stake. Id. Because "[t]he test of reasonableness under the Fourth Amendment is 16 not capable of precise definition or mechanical application," Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 5 5 9 (1979), its proper application requires careful attention to the facts and circumstances o f each particular case. See Grahm, 490 U.S. 395. A court in the Eleventh Circuit d e te rm in in g whether an officer's use of force was reasonable, thereby entitling the officer to qualified immunity, should consider "(1) the need for the application of force, (2) the re la tio n s h ip between the need and the amount of force used, (3) the extent of the injury in f lic te d and, (4) whether the force was applied in good faith or maliciously and sadistically." Hadley v. Guitierrez, 526 F.3d 1324, 1329 (11th Cir. 2008) (quoting Slicker v. Jackson, 215 F .3 d 1225, 1233 (11th Cir. 2000)); Moore v. Gwinnett County, 967 F.2d 1495, 1498 (11th C ir. 1992) (quoting Leslie v. Ingram, 786 F.2d 1533, 1536 (11th Cir. 1986)). A court should a ls o consider "the severity of the crime, whether the suspect pose[d] an immediate threat, and w h e th e r the suspect [was] resisting or fleeing." Post v. City of Fort Lauderdale, 7 F.3d 1552, 1 5 5 9 (11th Cir. 1993) (citation omitted). F irs t, the severity of the crime at issue is slight. In fact, the only crimes that were in p la y before the kitchen melee were a possible noise ordinance violation and failure to yield to law enforcement. Second, however, from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the s c e n e , Andrew plausibly posed an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others. Initially, the subject's decision to enter the house in contravention to the officer's orders c a rrie d the potential that the subject would retrieve a weapon or would hold up in the house. Once the officers entered the residence the situation inside the house was undeniably tense a n d potentially dangerous. Everyone in the residence, including the four children, were in 17 a highly agitated state, Joyce was wielding a barstool then a kitchen knife, and Andrew at the v e ry least needed to be calmed down, according to Joyce's testimony. Third, though he d e n ie s nefarious intent, from the perspective of the pursuing officers it reasonably appeared th a t Andrew was attempting to evade arrest by flight when he refused to pull over despite O f f ic e r Patrick's sirens and blue lights. Therefore, given the speed with which this situation e s c a la te d from a routine traffic stop to an in-home two-on-two brawl involving a barstool, a knife, a taser, a service weapon, four children, and a crowd of onlookers, it cannot be said th a t the force employed by Officer Patrick was so outside of what the constitution allows in s u c h circumstances that it should have been readily apparent to him that his acts were u n c o n stitu tio n a l or that every reasonable officer would determine that the amount of force h e employed was unconstitutional.5 Even in the peace and relative solitude of this Court's c h a m b e rs , this conduct is at most of questionable constitutionality. See Post, 7 F.3d at 1559. F u rth e rm o re , a reasonable officer considering the four numbered factors above could h a v e concluded that the force applied was not unconstitutionally excessive. First, a re a s o n a b le officer could have determined that force was needed. Andrew fled into the house in apparent defiance of an officer's orders after failing to stop when prompted by siren and The Court is aware that gratuitous use of force when a criminal suspect is not resisting arrest constitutes excessive force. See Hadley, 526 F.3d at 1329. For example, in Slicker, 215 F.3d at 1233, the Eleventh Circuit held that, where a Plaintiff had not struggled or resisted in any way and was handcuffed but officers kicked him and beat his head on the ground anyway, the beating was constitutionally excessive force. This case is different, though. The force began after the subject refused to stop and then fled into a house and Andrew admits Officer Patrick did not hit him once he was restrained. These cases do not clearly establish a constitutional right that was violated here. 18 5 lights. Second, a reasonable officer could think the amount of force that caused these injuries w a s proportionate to the need for force under the circumstances. Third, the extent of the in ju ry was slight. Andrew testified that he was not hurt badly enough to need medical tre a tm e n t on the day of the incident and only went to the hospital at the urging of his mental h e a lth worker. The only injuries he complained of were at the site of the taser shock and a s o re ankle. Finally, there is some indication that the application of force was done m a lic io u s ly or sadistically because of Officer Patrick's use of the terms "boy" and "nigger" a n d Andrew's claim that Officer Patrick had a reputation for "tasing us black people." In lig h t of the totality of the circumstances, and because ultimately the question is whether the o f f ic e rs ' actions are "objectively reasonable" without regard to their underlying intent or m o tiv a tio n , Handley, 526 F.3d at 1329, the Court cannot say that every reasonable officer w o u ld determine the force applied in this case to be unconstitutionally excessive. Because Officer Patrick did not violate the clearly established constitutional rights of A n d re w , the officers are entitled to qualified immunity and their Motion is due to be granted a s to Count II.6 Today is not the "rare" day that qualified immunity will fail to shield a law e n f o rc e m e n t officer from liability for claims of excessive force when there is no binding c a s e la w on point. See Rowe v. City of Fort Lauderdale, 279 F.3d 1271, 1280 n.10 (11th Cir. Plaintiffs argue that it is clearly established that "[p]olice use of excessive force is a constructional violation under th Fourth Amendment." (Doc. # 29 10.) This argument is without merit because "a reasonable officer's awareness of the existence of an abstract right, such as a right to be free from excessive force . . . , does not equate to knowledge that his conduct infringes the right." Jackson v. Sauls, 206 F.3d 156, 1165 (11th Cir. 2000). 19 6 2002);7 see also Willingham, 321 F.3d at 1303 ("preexisting, factually similar cases are--not a lw a ys , but (in our experience) usually--needed to demonstrate that officials were fairly w a rn e d that their application of force violated the victim's constitutional rights."). b . Unlawful Entry T h e Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides: T h e right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and e f f e c ts against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and n o Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or a f f irm a ti o n , and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the p e rs o n s or things to be seized. U .S . Const. amend. IV. This amendment protects the sanctity of one's person, house, papers, a n d effects against uninvited and warrantless intrusions by government actors, but "the p h ys ic a l entry of the home is the chief evil against which the wording of the Fourth A m e n d m e n t is directed." U.S. v. U.S. Dist. Court for the E. Dist. of Mich., So. Division, 407 U .S . 297, 313 (1972); see also Silverman v. U.S., 365 U.S. 505 (1961) ("At the very core [of th e Fourth Amendment] stands the right of a man to retreat into his own home and there be f re e from unreasonable governmental intrusion."); but see U.S. v. Santana, 427 U.S. 38, 43 (1 9 7 6 ) (holding that the act of retreating into the home could not thwart an otherwise proper 7 Plaintiffs argue that Officer Taunton had an obligation to protect Andrew from Officer Patrick's use of excessive force. See Fundiller v. City of Cooper City, 777 F.2d 1436, 1441-42 (11th Cir. 1985) ("It is not necessary that a police officer actually participate in the use of excessive force in order to be held liable under Section 1983. Rather, an officer who is present at the scene and who fails to take reasonable steps to protect the victim of another officer's use of excessive force, can be held liable for his nonfeasance.") Though this provision for nonfeasance liability is narrower than Plaintiffs urge, this derivative theory cannot support liability when there was no underlying use of excessive force. See id. Therefore, Defendants' Motion is due to be granted to the extent it seeks dismissal of the excessive force claims against Officer Taunton. 20 arrest when the arresting officers in hot pursuit had probable cause to believe the subject c o m m itte d a crime and entered the house). The most operative word in the amendment is, h o w e v e r, "unreasonable." Only those home entries that are constitutionally unreasonable v io la te the amendment, and so the amendment does not proscribe constitutionally reasonable e n trie s into the home. This truth has led to a rich body of caselaw that delineates the border b e tw e e n reasonable and unreasonable. Because of the special concern for the sanctity of the home embodied by the a m e n d m e n t, "It is a `basic principle of Fourth Amendment law' that searches and seizures in s id e a home without a warrant are presumptively unreasonable." Payton v. New York, 445 U .S . 573, 586 (1980). The Supreme Court has crafted a few carefully drawn exceptions to th e warrant requirement to cover situations where "the public interest require[s] some f le x ib ility in the application of the general rule that a valid warrant is a prerequisite for a s e a rc h ." U.S. v. Holloway, 290 F.3d 1331, 1334 (11th Cir. 2002) (quoting Arkansas v. S a n d e rs , 442 U.S. 753, 759 (1979)). One such exception is that the police may enter a private p re m ise s and conduct a search if "exigent circumstances" mandate immediate action. Id. This exception encompass situations when a warrant is not feasible or advisable, "such a s hot pursuit of a subject, risk of removal or destruction of evidence, and danger to the a rre s tin g officers or the public." Id.; U.S. v. Edmondson, 791 F.2d 1512, 1515 (11th Cir. 1 9 8 6 ).8 Even when exigent circumstances exist, a warrantless search generally must be supported by probable cause. New Jersey v. T.L.O., 469 U.S. 325, 340 (1985); U.S. v. Santa, 236 21 8 The entry by Officers Patrick and Taunton into the Bash home was not a violation of a clearly established constitutional right because a reasonable officer on the scene could have th o u g h t the entry fell within the hot pursuit exception described above. Hot pursuit describes a situation in which police are pursuing a suspect who is in the process of fleeing from a re c e n tly committed crime. See Warden v. Hayden, 387 U.S. 294, 294-310 (1967) (e s ta b lis h in g the hot pursuit exception). Officers Patrick and Taunton were quite clearly in h o t pursuit, but Plaintiffs offer several arguments why the fact of hot pursuit, together with p ro b a b le cause of the noise ordinance and attempting to evade police, do not suffice to render th e entry reasonable.9 F irs t, Plaintiffs argue that the pursuit here occurred within the posted speed limits and w a s over a relatively short distance. The law of hot pursuit, however, provides that hot F.3d 662, 668-69 (11th Cir. 2000) ("A warrantless search is allowed, however, where both probable cause and exigent circumstances exist."). However, "[a]ll that is required for qualified immunity to be applicable to an arresting officer is arguable probable cause to believe that a person is committing a particular public offense." Scarbrough v. Myles, 245 F.3d 1299, 1302 (11th Cir. 2001) (per curiam) (citations and quotations omitted) (emphasis added). Arguable probable cause exists where "`reasonable officers in the same circumstances and possessing the same knowledge as the Defendants could have believed that probable cause existed to arrest' the plaintiffs." Id. The Court is satisfied that, at the very least, arguable probable cause was present here. In addition to the two primary arguments addressed in the two following paragraphs by the Court, Plaintiffs argue that there was no evidence that Andrew was a danger to the public or to the pursuing officers because the underlying offense for which he was being pursued was nonviolent. Plaintiffs also argue that there was no reason for the officers to believe that Andrew would destroy evidence. If these were the reasons offered for the warrantless entry these arguments might hold water. However, hot pursuit is the most obvious explanation and the one in fact offered by Defendants. This fact renders these arguments unpersuasive. See Edmondson, 7 9 1 F.2d at 1515 (holding that "hot pursuit of a subject, risk of removal or destruction of evidence, and danger to the arresting officers or the public" can each alone create exigent circumstances). 22 9 pursuit simply means "some sort of chase" and that it "need not be an extended hue and cry `in and about the public streets'" Santana, 427 U.S. at 42; see also U.S. v. Ramos, 933 F.2d 9 6 8 (11th Cir. 1991) (noting that, even though a chase ended almost as soon as it began, it w a s nonetheless properly characterized as a hot pursuit). Second, they argue that the underlying crime for which there was probable cause was re la tiv e ly minor. The Court is mindful that the exigent circumstances exception should be u s e d with great caution when the effect is to validate a warrantless entry into a person's home w h e n , in cases like this one, the underlying offense is minor (a misdemeanor). See Welsh v. W is c o n s in , 466 U.S. 740 (1984). There are few cases that decide whether the entry of a re s id e n c e incident to a hot pursuit of a subject the pursuing officers have probable cause to b e lie v e committed a minor or traffic violation, such as is the case here. What few cases there a re predominantly support the constitutionality of the home entry in this case. See Griffin v. C ity of Clanton, Ala., 932 F. Supp. 1359 (M.D. Ala. 1996) (Albritton, J.) (holding that police d id not violate a suspect's Fourth Amendment rights when search of home followed foot p u rs u it of suspect of traffic-related offenses); St. Laurent v. Town of Sturbridge, Civ. A. No. 8 9 -3 0 0 0 5 -F , 1990 WL 92470 (D. Mass. June 18, 1990) (holding that warrantless search of re s id e n c e was justified when a police officer attempted to pull over a subject because he was d riv in g erratically but the plaintiff did not stop until he was at the entrance to his own d riv e w a y, and when the officer approached the plaintiff's parked truck and instructed him to get out, telling him that he was under arrest for driving under the influence, the plaintiff " s a id something" to the policeman, rolled up his window, drove up his driveway to his house 23 and went inside, leaving the officer standing at the end of the driveway). The Court has c o n s id e re d this in light of all of the circumstances and found it to be insufficient to render th e search or seizure a violation of a clearly established constitutional right. The Court is cognizant of the function of the exigent circumstances exception: to a llo w searches and seizures "when there is a compelling need for official action and no time to secure a warrant." Holloway, 290 F.3d at 1334. Nevertheless, the Court has determined th a t the pursuit of Andrew across the threshold of his home was not a violation of a clearly e s ta b lis h e d constitutional right sufficient to overcome qualified immunity.1 0 Therefore, D e f e n d a n ts ' Motion is due to be granted insofar as it seeks dismissal of Count I. c. Malicious Prosecution C o u n t III of the Complaint seeks redress for the false arrest or malicious prosecution o f Joyce Bash.1 1 Specifically, the Count alleges that Officers Patrick and Taunton initiated 10 The Court expresses no opinion on the ultimate constitutionality of such a search or seizure. There is some ambiguity in whether Count III attempts to make out a state law tort claim for malicious prosecution or a 1983 claim for malicious prosecution in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The heading of that Count reads: "42 U.S.C. 1983 False Arrest / Malicious Prosecution Joyce." (Doc. # 1 6.) There is no specific allegation in this Count, however, that Joyce Bash was subjected to a constitutionally unreasonable seizure, as is necessary to make out a claim for malicious prosecution in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Wood v. Kesler, 323 F.3d 872, 881-82 (11th Cir. 2003) (noting that malicious prosecution claims brought pursuant to the Fourth Amendment require the plaintiff prove "a violation of h[er] right to be free from unreasonable seizures, in addition to the common law tort of malicious prosecution."). Moreover, Plaintiffs in their response to Defendants' Motion treat the claim as one for malicious prosecution in violation of state common law (Defendants in their Motion treat the claim as a constitutional one). As detailed above, a plaintiff seeking to prove a malicious prosecution in violation of the Fourth Amendment must prove the elements of the state common law tort of malicious prosecution. Joyce Bash's claim does not satisfy the elements of the state common law tort of 24 11 a criminal proceeding against Joyce in retaliation for Joyce's filing of a letter of complaint a n d absent probable cause. The malicious prosecution claim is brought pursuant to the F o u rth Amendment, in which case the plaintiff must prove "a violation of h[er] right to be f re e from unreasonable seizures, in addition to the common law tort of malicious p ro s e c u tio n ." Wood v. Kesler, 323 F.3d 872, 881-82 (11th Cir. 2003). The elements of the c o m m o n law tort of malicious prosecution in Alabama are "(1) a criminal prosecution in s titu te d or continued by the present defendant; (2) with malice and without probable cause; (3 ) that terminated in the plaintiff accused's favor; and (4) caused damage to the plaintiff a c c u s e d ." Id. at 882 (citing Delchamps, Inc. v. Bryant, 738 So.2d 824, 831-32 (Ala. 1999)). B e c a u se the facts, when viewed in the light most favorable to the Plaintiffs, do not establish a b s e n c e of probable cause, Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity and their Motion is due to be granted with respect to Count III. P la in tif f s ' malicious prosecution claim fails for two reasons. First, the facts to not e v in c e an unconstitutional seizure of Joyce by Officers Patrick and Taunton. As stated a b o v e , a claim for malicious prosecution in violation of the Fourth Amendment under 1983 re q u ire s proof of a violation of the Plaintiffs' right to be free from unreasonable seizures. W o o d , 323 F.3d at 881-82. Second--and this would be a problem for a state law claim for m a lic io u s prosecution as well--Defendants unquestionably had probable cause to swear out malicious prosecution because there was probable cause. Therefore, to the extent Count III is one for the state common law tort of malicious prosecution, it is due to be dismissed. 25 a warrant for Plaintiff Joyce Bash's arrest for menacing.1 2 A person commits the crime of m e n a c in g in Alabama "if, if, by physical action, he intentionally places or attempts to place a n o th e r person in fear of imminent serious physical injury." Ala. Code 13A-6-23(a). Alabama law defines probable cause as a reasonable ground for suspicion, supported by c irc u m s ta n c e s sufficiently strong in themselves to warrant a cautious man in the belief that a person accused is guilty fo the offense charged. S.S. Kresge Co. v. Ruby, 348 So. 2d 484, 4 8 8 (Ala. 1977); see also Wood, 323 F.3d at 878. By Joyce Bash's own testimony she th re a te n e d Officer Patrick with a barstool before brandishing a kitchen knife and threatening th e officers with it. Threatening another first with a blunt object and then a with sharp one is a paradigmatic example of placing or attempting to place another person in fear of i m m i n e n t serious physical injury.1 3 Because Officers Patrick and Taunton had actual "All that is required for qualified immunity to be applicable to an arresting officer is arguable probable cause to believe that a person is committing a particular public offense." Scarbrough v. Myles, 245 F.3d 1299, 1302 (11th Cir. 2001) (per curiam) (citations and quotations omitted). Arguable probable cause exists where `reasonable officers in the same circumstances and possessing the same knowledge as the Defendants could have believed that probable cause existed to arrest' the plaintiffs." Id. After examining the undisputed facts, the Court finds that Officers Patrick and Taunton has actual probable cause, which would also cause a state law claim for malicious prosecution to fail. See supra note 10. The Court also notes that arguable probable cause would afford the officers discretionary function immunity under Borders v. City of Huntsville, 875 So. 2d 1168 (Ala. 2003), which would shield them from liability for the state common law tort of malicious prosecution. Plaintiffs point primarily to the quid pro quo allegedly proposed to Andrew's sister by Officer Patrick. If true, this would certainly support the proposition that the prosecution of Joyce was "with malice." However, a successful malicious prosecution claim in Alabama requires that the prosecution be "with malice and without probable cause." Wood, 323 F.3d at 882. Hence, even where there is malice, if there is also probable cause a plaintiff has no claim f o r malicious prosecution. Even taking Plaintiffs' evidence of malice as true, the plain e x is te n c e of probable cause causes the malicious prosecution claim to fail. 26 13 12 probable cause, Plaintiffs have shown a violation of neither state tort law nor the Fourth A m e n d m e n t, and the officers are entitled to qualified immunity. Their Motion is therefore d u e to be granted to the extent it seeks dismissal of Count III. B. Municipal Liability P la in tif f s also named the City of Mosses as a Defendant to this action, but Defendants a rg u e that there is no custom, policy, or practice that caused the alleged violations. As the S u p re m e Court held in Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 691-92 ( 1 9 7 8 ), "a municipality cannot be held liable solely because it employs a tortfeasor. . . . In s te a d , it is when execution of a government's policy or custom . . . inflicts the injury that th e government as an entity is responsible under 1983." Id. at 691, 694. The City of Mosses is not liable for Plaintiffs' injuries for two reasons. First, and m o s t principally, as detailed in the preceding sections, Plaintiffs have presented no injuries re m e d ia b le through 1983 so there is no violation caused by any policy or custom. Second, th e record is completely devoid of evidence regarding the customs or policies of the City of M o s s e s . Plaintiffs argue that, because Officer Patrick is the Chief of Police, he is one " w h o s e edicts or acts may fairly be said to represent official policy." Monell, 436 U.S. at 694; s e e also Sewell v. Town of Lake Hamilton, 117 F.3d 488, 489 (11th Cir. 1997) (defining " p o lic y" as a "decision that is officially adopted by the municipality, or created by an official o f such rank that he or she could be said to be acting on behalf of the municipality"). However, as the Supreme Court has made clear "[p]roof of a single incident of u n c o n stitu tio n a l activity is not sufficient to impose liability under Monell." City of Oklahoma 27 City v. Tuttle, 471 U.S. 808, 823 (1985); Grech v. Clayton County, Ga., 335 F.3d 1326, 1330 n .6 (11th Cir. 2003) (en banc). Here, even assuming the facts make out a constitutional v io la tio n , there is but proof of this one incident, which cannot, by itself, establish a custom, p o lic y, or practice. Therefore, the City of Mosses would not be liable for the alleged injuries e v e n if they were remediable. As such, Defendants' Motion is due to be granted to the extent is seeks dismissal of all claims against the City of Mosses. C. State Law Claims P la in tif f s bring a number of claims pursuant to Alabama law in addition to their claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983. This Court has supplemental subject matter jurisdiction o v e r these claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1367. The statutory provision addressing s u p p le m e n ta l jurisdiction provides that (a) Except as provided in subsections (b) and (c) or as expressly p ro v id e d otherwise by Federal statute, in any civil action of which the d is tric t courts have original jurisdiction, the district courts shall have s u p p le m e n ta l jurisdiction over all other claims that are so related to c la im s in the action within such original jurisdiction that they form part o f the same case or controversy under Article III of the United States C o n s titu tio n . 28 U.S.C. 1367(a). Thus, 1367(a) provides a basis for this Court to exercise jurisdiction o v e r Plaintiffs' claims pursuant to Alabama law because it has jurisdiction over their claims p u rs u a n t to 42 U.S.C. 1983. However, the requirement contained in 1367(a) that this C o u rt exercise its supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiffs' state law claims is subject to c e rta in enumerated instances in which it is appropriate for a federal court to decline to 28 exercise its supplemental jurisdiction over a case. Those circumstances are set forth in 1 3 6 7 (c ), which provides that T h e district courts may decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction o v e r a claim under subsection (a) if (1 ) the claim raises a novel or complex issue of State law, (2) the claim substantially predominates over the claim or claims over w h ic h the district court has original jurisdiction, (3) the district court has dismissed all claims over which it has original ju ris d ic tio n , or (4 ) in exceptional circumstances, there are other compelling reasons for d e c lin in g jurisdiction. 2 8 U.S.C. 1367(c). The federal claims over which this Court had original jurisdiction have n o w been resolved against Plaintiffs. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1367(c)(3), the Court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiffs' claims pursuant to Alabama law. All o f Plaintiffs' claims pursuant to Alabama law are accordingly due to be dismissed without p re ju d ic e . This dismissal should not work to Plaintiffs' disadvantage should they elect to b rin g suit in state court because the period of limitations for any of these claims is tolled d u rin g the pendency of this action. See 28 U.S.C. 1367(d). VI. CONCLUSION T h e Court is not unsympathetic to the claims of Andrew and Joyce Bash. The law, h o w e v e r, provides broad immunity to law enforcement officers in order to protect their a b ility to carry out their law enforcement duties free from fear of personal liability except in c a s e s of plain incompetence and willful constitutional violations. Therefore, for the reasons s e t forth above, it is hereby 29 ORDERED that Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. # 23) is G R A N T E D . All claims against Defendants are DISMISSED with prejudice, except that P la in tif f s ' state law claims are DISMISSED without prejudice. Done this the 9 th day of April, 2009. /s/ Mark E. Fuller CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 30

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