Klemetti v. Foster (MAG+)
ORDER that the Recommendation 23 is ADOPTED, Plaintiffs Objection 24 is OVERRULED, and Defendant Foster's Motion for Summary Judgment 18 is GRANTED on all claims. An appropriate final judgment will be entered. Signed by Honorable Judge Mark E. Fuller on 3/8/2012. (jg, )
IN THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
CASE NO. 3:11-cv-137-MEF
This case is before the Court on a Recommendation of the Magistrate Judge (Doc. #
23) that Defendant Nathaniel Foster’s (“Foster”) Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. # 18)
be granted in full, and that Plaintiff’s Motion for Leave to Amend (Doc. # 14) be denied.
Plaintiff has filed a timely Objection. (Doc. # 24.) Subject to this Court’s observations
below related to Foster’s qualified immunity defense on Plaintiff’s § 1983 unlawful seizure
claim, the Recommendation of the Magistrate Judge is due to be ADOPTED and Plaintiff’s
Plaintiff’s federal cause of action is a § 1983 unlawful arrest claim. Because the
Complaint only seeks monetary damages, Plaintiff necessarily brings this claim against
Foster in his individual capacity. See Will v. Mich. Dep’t of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 70-71
(1989) (individual defendants sued in their official capacities are not “persons” for purposes
of § 1983 monetary relief); see also Jackson v. Ga. Dep’t of Transp., 16 F.3d 1573, 1575
(11th Cir. 1994) (“Under the Eleventh Amendment, state officials sued for damages in their
official capacity are immune from suit in federal court.”); see also Kentucky v. Graham, 473
U.S. 159, 166 (1985) (stating that “an official-capacity suit is, in all respects other than name,
to be treated as a suit against the entity”). Foster raised the defense of qualified immunity
in his motion for summary judgment. (Doc. # 18, at 15.)
“Qualified immunity offers complete protection for government officials sued in their
individual capacities as long as their conduct violates no clearly established statutory or
constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.” Lee v. Ferraro, 284
F.3d 1188, 1193-94 (11th Cir. 2002). The doctrine aims to focus government officials on
“‘their discretionary duties without the fear of personal liability or harassing litigation,
protecting from suit all but the plainly incompetent or one who is knowingly violating the
federal law.’” Hoyt v. Cooks, No. 11-10771, 2012 WL 603033, at *3 (11th Cir. Feb. 27,
The examination of a qualified immunity defense involves a three-part analysis. First,
the officer must establish that he was acting within his discretionary authority, which is
undisputed in this case. At this point, the court must grant the defendant officer qualified
immunity unless the facts taken in a light most favorable to the plaintiff show (1) that there
was a violation of the Constitution or federal law and (2) that the illegality of the officer’s
actions was clearly established at the time of the incident. In Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S.
223, 236 (2009), the Supreme Court instructed the lower federal courts to use sound
discretion to decide which of these two prongs to address first.
With regard to the clearly established part of the qualified immunity analysis in the
context of an unlawful arrest claim, the touchstone inquiry is “arguable probable cause.”
“While an officer who arrests an individual without probable cause violates the Fourth
Amendment, this does not inevitably remove the shield of qualified immunity.” Skop v. City
of Atlanta, 485 F.3d 1130, 1137 (11th Cir. 2007). Rather, in examining a law enforcement
encounter that implicates the Fourth Amendment in a § 1983 action where the officer has
invoked qualified immunity, the officer need not prove that probable cause existed as a
matter of fact. Holmes v. Kucynda, 321 F.3d 1069, 1079 (11th Cir. 2003). Rather, the
officer need only have an arguable basis for the seizure, or arrest. The Eleventh Circuit
defines an arguable basis as when “reasonable officers in the same circumstances and
possessing the same knowledge as the [d]efendant[ ] could have believed that probable cause
existed to arrest [the] [p]laintiff.” Kingsland v. City of Miami, 382 F.3d 1220, 1232 (11th
Cir. 2004). For the reasons set forth in the Magistrate Judge’s Recommendation, at pages
9-12, not only did Foster have actual probable cause to arrest Plaintiff for the state crime of
public lewdness, Foster also necessarily had arguable probable cause, which is sufficient to
grant him qualified immunity on Plaintiff’s § 1983 unlawful arrest claim. Accordingly,
Foster also is entitled to qualified immunity on Plaintiff’s § 1983 unlawful arrest claim.
After a full review of the Recommendation and the Objection, including de novo
review over the portions to which Plaintiff objected, 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), it is ORDERED
that the Recommendation (Doc. # 23) is ADOPTED, Plaintiff’s Objection (Doc. # 24) is
OVERRULED, and Defendant Foster’s Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. # 18) is
GRANTED on all claims. An appropriate final judgment will be entered.
DONE this 8th day of March, 2012.
/s/ Mark E. Fuller
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?