Covington v. White et al
ORDER: The City's 97 Motion for Summary Judgment is granted on the conditions claims and denied on the first-appearance claims. Signed by Judge D. P. Marshall Jr. on 10/15/2014. (jak)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
GARY COVINGTON, on behalf of
himself and all others similarly situated
ULESS WALLACE, HERMAN HALL, and
NEAL BYRD, all in their official capacities
1. The City of Helena-West Helena-which is the real party in
Covington's official-capacity claims against Chief Wallace and Officer
Hall- seeks summary judgment. Covington and Phillips County resist. A
preliminary point: the City renews its arguments about Covington's thin
pleading. But the case has moved beyond the pleadings, which the Court
deemed adequate, and now includes proof. It's time for a ruling on the trialworthiness of the record presented.
2. The City's motion is granted on Covington's conditions claims. As the
City argues, the County and its sheriff run and control the jail. ARK. CODE.
ANN.§ 12-41-502. There's simply no proof that some City policy or custom
was the moving force behind the allegedly unconstitutional conditions at the
jail. Springdale Education Association v. Springdale School District, 133 F.3d 649,
651 (8th Cir. 1998).
3. The City's motion for summary judgment on the first-appearance
claims is denied. Genuinely disputed material facts exist. The testimony of
Judges King and Porter makes plain their view that the City was either solely
or jointly responsible with the County for making sure that city arrestees got
to court for a first appearance. The City disputes this, of course, and that's an
issue for trial. Covington is not asserting claims against various City officials
who were part of this machinery. His argument, instead, is that various City
hands were on the jail keys, just like County hands were. A jury must decide
where the truth is about the alleged will-call policy and the County/ City roles
in all this.
The Court is not persuaded by the City's argument from Tilson v. Forrest
City Police Department, 28 F.3d 802 (8th Cir. 1994), Hayes v. Faulkner County,
Arkansas, 388 F.3d 669 (8th Cir. 2004), and Pledger v. Reece, 04-3084,2005 WL
3783430 (W.D. Ark. 9 November 2005). Covington and the County have the
better reading of this precedent as applied to this record. There was no
evidence in those cases that the non-jail public entity had a role or some
responsibility in getting folks to court promptly. This record is different. Here
again, the district judges' deposition testimony is central. They place
responsibility on the City, either primarily or jointly. They outline how the
process worked, including much involvement by City employees.
Importantly, the City was responsible for getting its citations to the district
court, so the City's staff could enter the citation on the City's docket and
trigger a first appearance. NQ 104-1 at 17-22 (deposition pagination). The
City's custom and practice they outline, a reasonable juror could conclude,
was the moving force behind the alleged delays. Springdale Education
Association, 133 F.3d at 651. Covington's testimony that he thought the County
was responsible for his delayed first appearance doesn't change the legal
analysis. It makes the point, first, that material facts are disputed. Second, the
Court is skeptical about the evidentiary value of this layman's view, on
incomplete information, about the mixed question of law and fact presented.
If both the County and the City held the keys for City pretrial detainees, then
both had to follow the Constitution's commands. And the legal analysis is the
same on all Covington's state-law claims about delayed first appearances.
The City's motion, NQ 9 7, is granted on the conditions claims and denied
on the first-appearance claims.
D.P. Marshall Jr.
United States District Judge
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