Martin v. City of Fort Wayne et al
OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING IN PART and DENYING IN PART 59 MOTION for Reconsideration re 58 Opinion and Order by Plaintiff MarQuayle Martin. The Motion is GRANTED as to the Plaintiff's claims for excessive force and battery against Defendant Barry Pruser and Plaintiff may proceed on those claims. The Motion is DENIED as to the Plaintiff's claim for illegal search and seizure of his vehicle and that claim remains pending. Signed by Judge William C Lee on 4/18/17. (cer)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
FORT WAYNE DIVISION
CITY OF FORT WAYNE, BARRY
PRUSER, MICHAEL LONG,
MARTIN P. GROOMS, DERRICK
DEMOREST, and TODD HUGHES,
Cause No. 1:15-CV-274
OPINION AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court on the Plaintiff’s Rule 54(b) Motion to Reconsider and
Amend Judgment (DE 59). The Defendants, the City of Fort Wayne and six of its police officers,
filed a response in opposition to the motion (DE 60) and Martin filed a reply (DE 61). For the
reasons discussed below, the motion is GRANTED as to the Plaintiff’s claims for excessive force
and battery against Defendant Barry Pruser and Martin may proceed on those claims. The motion
is DENIED as to the Plaintiff’s claim for illegal search and seizure of his vehicle and that claim
The underlying facts of this case were recounted in great detail in this Court’s Opinion
and Order entered on January 12, 2017 (DE 58) and in the parties’ briefs that were the subjects of
that Order.1 In that opinion, which addressed several issues raised by the parties’ previous cross
See, e.g., Defendants’ Memorandum in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment (DE
27); Plaintiff’s Brief in Opposition (DE 28); Plaintiff’s Memorandum in Support of Motion for
Partial Summary Judgment (DE 41); Defendants’ Brief in Opposition (DE 45).
motions for summary judgment, the Court granted summary judgment in favor of the Defendant
officers on Martin’s Fourth Amendment claims against them for excessive force, and denied
Martin’s motion for partial summary judgment and the Defendants’ motion for summary
judgment on his Fourth Amendment illegal search and seizure claim. Martin is asking the Court
to revisit both of those conclusions.2 More specifically, Martin presents the following arguments:
1) The Court should “reconsider and amend its Order . . . concerning his excessive force and
battery claims against Defendant Officer Barry Pruser. . . . [T]he Court erred in concluding that
the primary events underlying these particular claims were captured on video and, hence,
appropriate for summary disposition. Rather, these events were not captured on video and
evidence presented concerning these claims creates genuinely disputed issues of material fact that
necessitate trial by jury.” Plaintiff’s motion to reconsider, p. 1;
2) The Court should reconsider its conclusion denying Plaintiff’s motion for partial summary
judgment on his illegal search and seizure claim because “while the Court properly determined
that United States v. Duguay, 93 F.3d 346 (7th Cir. 1996) is the law, the Court wrongly
determined that there were genuine issues of material fact that foreclosed the full application of
Duguay.” Id., p. 5.
The Defendants respond by arguing that “the fact that this Court considered and rejected
Martin’s evidence and arguments does not provide a basis for this Court to use its limited
discretionary power to reconsider its prior determination” on this issue. Defendants’ Response,
In its Opinion and Order, the Court also granted summary judgment in favor of the
Defendants on Martin’s “claims against the City of Fort Wayne under Monell v. Dept. of Soc.
Svcs. and under respondeat superior[,]” and denied the Defendants’ motion “as to the issue of
qualified immunity and . . . as to the Plaintiff’s claim for punitive damages.” Opinion and Order
(DE 58), p. 1. Those rulings are not challenged in the present motion.
p. 2. They argue that Martin is relying solely on “his self-serving affidavit [to] show that the
force used was unreasonable under the circumstances[,]” and that that is an insufficient reason to
seek reconsideration. Id. As to Martin’s search and seizure claims, the Defendants argue that
“[t]his Court thoroughly addressed the summary judgment evidence in the context of Duguay and
held that it is for a jury to determine if the vehicle seizure was reasonable under the
circumstances . . . . Martin provides no sound basis for the Court to change its reasoning.” Id.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Under Rule 54(b), an order adjudicating “fewer than all the claims or rights and liabilities
of fewer than all the parties . . . may be revised at any time before the entry of a judgment
adjudicating all the claims and all the parties’ rights and liabilities.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b). As a
sister court explained recently:
Courts have the inherent power to reconsider non-final orders, as justice requires,
before entry of judgment. See Moses H. Cone Mem’l Hosp. v. Mercury Constr.
Corp., 460 U.S. 1, 12, 103 S.Ct. 927, 74 L.Ed.2d 765 (1983); Sims v. EGA Prods.,
Inc., 475 F.3d 865, 870 (7th Cir. 2007). Motions to reconsider interlocutory orders
“serve a limited function: to correct manifest errors of law or fact or to present
newly discovered evidence.” Caisse Nationale de Credit Agricole v. CBI Indus.,
Inc., 90 F.3d 1264, 1269 (7th Cir. 1996). “A manifest error is not demonstrated by
the disappointment of the losing party. It is the wholesale disregard,
misapplication, or failure to recognize controlling precedent.” Oto v. Metro. Life
Ins. Co., 224 F.3d 601, 606 (7th Cir. 2000) (internal citations omitted). Because
the standards for reconsideration are exacting, the Seventh Circuit has stressed
that appropriate issues for reconsideration “rarely arise and the motion to
reconsider should be equally rare.” Bank of Waunakee v. Rochester Cheese Sales,
Inc., 906 F.2d 1185, 1191 (7th Cir. 1990).
Bd. of Trustees of Univ. of Illinois v. Micron Tech., Inc., —F.Supp.3d—, 2017 WL 1164483, at
*5 (C.D.Ill. Mar. 28, 2017). Motions to reconsider are disfavored since “‘the court’s orders are
not mere first drafts, subject to revision and reconsideration at a litigant’s pleasure.’” Lock Realty
Corp. IX v. U.S. Health LP, 2010 WL 148296, at *1 (N.D.Ind. Jan. 13, 2010) (quoting United
States Securities and Exch. Comm’n v. National Presto Indus., Inc., 2004 WL 1093390, at *2
(N.D.Ill. Apr.28, 2004)). “A party seeking reconsideration can’t introduce new evidence or legal
theories that could have been presented earlier or simply rehash previously rejected arguments.”
Id.; see also, Katz-Crank v. Haskett, 2014 WL 3507298, at *2 (S.D.Ind. July 14, 2014) (“A court
may grant a motion to reconsider where a movant demonstrates a manifest error of law or fact;
however, a motion to reconsider is not an occasion to make new arguments.). The Defendants
oppose Martin’s motion because they claim he is merely trying to get a second bite at the apple,
and that’s partly correct. But Martin also argues, correctly the Court concludes, that a credibility
issue exists regarding his claims against Pruser and the Court should vacate its previous order
and permit him to go forward with those claims.
I. Excessive force and battery claims against Officer Pruser.
In his Second Amended Complaint (DE 22) Martin asserted Fourth Amendment
excessive force claims and state law battery claims against the Defendant officers, alleging that
they used unreasonable physical force when they arrested him on June 27, 2014. The Court
dismissed all of those claims in its previous order. Martin challenges this ruling only as to Officer
Barry Pruser, the officer who handcuffed him and who, according to Martin, used excessive force
when doing so. In his Second Amended Complaint, Martin describes the incident this way:
As Plaintiff was on his knees and handcuffed, Officer Pruser then stuck his foot
onto Plaintiff’s right calf muscle and pressed it down into the gravel/rocks for no
reason. Plaintiff protested as to Officer Pruser’s use of excessive force and asked
why he was pressing his foot onto his leg. Officer Pruser became more angry, and
grabbed Plaintiff by the neck in a bear hug grip and began choking the Plaintiff,
even though he was handcuffed and on his knees. Plaintiff protested again and
asked why Pruser was choking him when he did nothing wrong. Officer Pruser
told Plaintiff to shut up again.
Second Amended Complaint, p. 3. Martin contends that these actions by Pruser were sufficiently
severe to constitute a violation of his Fourth Amendment right to be free from excessive force.
The Court concluded differently the first time around, determining that none of the officers’
actions were objectively unreasonable under the circumstances. Opinion and Order, pp. 11-12.
The Court, after recounting the circumstances of Martin’s arrest in great detail, concluded that
“[g]iven the totality of the circumstances that existed during Martin’s encounter with the
Defendant officers, virtually off of which is captured on the video and audio recordings in
evidence in this case, and even drawing all reasonable inferences in his favor, no reasonable juror
could find that the use of force to effectuate Martin’s arrest was unconstitutionally excessive.”
Id., p. 19. This is where Martin claims the Court got it wrong–and he has a point, especially in
the context of summary judgment. While it is true that almost all of the encounter between
Martin and the Defendant officers was captured on videotape by three cameras in two separate
police patrol cars, Martin focuses now only on his encounter with Pruser, which was not captured
on video. Martin contends that the evidence pertaining to this encounter is inconclusive and gives
rise to a material fact issue that can only be resolved by a jury.
As the Court noted in its previous order, “‘[i]n order to establish an excessive force claim
under § 1983, plaintiffs must demonstrate that a state actor’s use of force was ‘objectively
unreasonable’ under the circumstances.’” Jones v. Philips, et al., 2016 WL 3255022, at *3 (E.D.
Wis. June 13, 2016) (quoting Thomas v. City of Chicago, 472 F.3d 444, 454 (7th Cir. 2006)).
“An officer’s use of force is unreasonable from a constitutional point of view only if, ‘judging
from the totality of the circumstances at the time of the arrest, the officer used force greater than
necessary to make the arrest.’” Id. (quoting Gonzalez v. City of Elgin, 578 F.3d 526, 539 (7th Cir.
2009)). Applying that standard and its analytical framework (see id., p. 15), this Court concluded
that the actions of the Defendant officers on the day Martin was arrested were objectively
reasonable and that his evidence was insufficient to raise a genuine issue of fact in that regard.
Martin does not argue that the Court applied the wrong legal standard or analytical
framework in its previous order. What he is arguing now is that the Court was not in a position to
conclude on summary judgment that Pruser’s actions were objectively reasonable, since the
actions on which he bases his excessive force claim against Pruser were not caught on camera,
and therefore the evidence on this issue is (at least) inconclusive and must go to a jury. While he
does so very politely, Martin is really arguing that this Court either jumped over a credibility
issue or engaged in an improper weighing of the evidence when it concluded that his excessive
force claim against Pruser did not survive summary judgment. To focus in even more, Martin’s
contention is that he alleged specific acts of excessive force by Pruser–including forcing him to
kneel in gravel, stepping on his calf, pulling on his handcuffs, and choking him–that Pruser
denied in his affidavit, thereby raising a credibility issue that precludes summary judgment.
The Court did consider the videotape evidence, of course, since it was submitted without
objection and is relevant (crucial, in fact) to all the issues in this case. That said, the Court’s
decision to dismiss Martin’s excessive force claims, including the one against Pruser, was based
on much more than just the video evidence. See Opinion and Order, pp. 11-19. Still, Martin’s
present motion does an excellent job of sharpening the focus and demonstrating that
notwithstanding the evidence, and most of the inferences the Court drew from it, there remains a
“he said, he said” issue that must go to a jury. Here’s how Martin states it:
The primary evidence concerning [Martin’s excessive force and battery claims] . .
. is, one, an affidavit from Defendant Pruser (DE 26-1) and, two, an affidavit from
Mr. Martin (DE 28, Eh. A). In these two pieces of evidence, Defendant Pruser
states that he believed it was necessary to handcuff Mr. Martin, step on Mr.
Martin, and wrap his arm around Mr. Martin’s neck when he had Mr. Martin
kneeling before him on the side of the road. Mr. Martin testifies that, based on the
totality of the circumstances, such actions were not necessary.
Plaintiff’s Motion to Reconsider, p. 4. Martin’s argument is that this credibility issue, in essence,
got lost in the shuffle when the Court analyzed (and dismissed) his excessive force and battery
claims against all the Defendant officers, but that it precludes summary judgment when
examined exclusively in the context of Martin’s altercation with Pruser. As Martin correctly
pointed out in his brief in opposition to the motion for summary judgment, “even ‘one violent
push and poke’ will constitute excessive force when there is no provocation.’” Plaintiff’s Brief in
Opposition (DE 28), p. 17 (quoting DuFour-Dowell v. Cogger, 969 F.Supp. 1107, 1120 (N.D.Ill.
1997) (quoting, in turn, Lanigan v. Vill. of East Hazel Crest, 110 F.3d 467, 475-76 (7th Cir.
1997)); see also, Howell v. Smith, —F3d.— , 2017 WL 1314935 (7th Cir. 2017) (“We have held
that ‘[a] person has the right to be free from an officer’s knowing use of handcuffs in a way that
would inflict unnecessary pain or injury, if that person presents little or no risk of flight or threat
of injury.’”) (quoting Rooni v. Biser, 742 F.3d 737, 742 (7th Cir. 2014)). Martin has argued from
the outset of this case that he was cooperative with police and that Pruser had no reason to use
the degree of force he did when arresting and handcuffing him. He maintains that since those
specific acts were not visible on the videotapes, the Court did not have the “totality of the
circumstances” before it when it concluded that Pruser’s actions were reasonable. That is the key
to Martin’s argument–that only he and Pruser really know what level of force Pruser used and
only a jury, after making credibility determinations, can determine whether it was reasonable.
The Defendants respond by pointing out that “[m]otions for reconsideration are not
‘appropriate vehicles to again advance arguments already rejected by the court.’” Defendants’
Response (DE 60), p. 3 (quoting In re August 1993 Regular Grand Jury (Medical Corp.
Subpoena I), 854 F.Supp. 1403, 1407 (S.D.Ind. 1994)). They contend that “[a]ll of the arguments
supporting Martin’s request for reconsideration of this Court’s grant of summary judgment to
Officer Pruser . . . are repetitive of the arguments previously made to and rejected by this Court
on summary judgment. This Court has not misapprehended any of Martin’s arguments on these
claims.” Id., p. 5. Martin replies first by noting that he “does not dispute that the necessity for a
motion to reconsider will be rare and should be sued sparingly to correct only manifest errors of
law or fact.” Plaintiff’s Reply (DE 61), p. 1 (citations omitted). Still, he insists that this “Court’s
Order made a manifest error in fact” regarding his physical encounter with Pruser by assuming
that the evidence submitted constituted the “totality of the circumstances” when in fact the
totality cannot be determined until a jury resolves the credibility issue created by the “battle of
affidavits” between Martin and Pruser. Martin’s argument is well taken since, as stated above,
“summary judgment is not . . . a vehicle for resolving factual disputes.” Waldridge v. Am.
Hoechst, 24 F.3d at 920.
For these reasons, Martin’s motion for reconsideration is GRANTED as to his Fourth
Amendment excessive force claim and his state law battery claim3 against Defendant Officer
Since Martin’s Fourth Amendment excessive force claim against Pruser is revived, so
too is his state law battery claim. In Indiana, the elements of a state law battery claim against a
police officer mirror those of a federal excessive force claim. Under Indiana law, “[a] law
enforcement officer is justified in using reasonable force if the officer reasonably believes that
the force is necessary to effect a lawful arrest.” I.C. § 35-41-3-3. But in keeping with federal
Barry Pruser. The Court’s previous order granting summary judgment in favor of Pruser is
vacated as to these two claims.
II. Illegal search and seizure claims.
Martin also argues in his motion for reconsideration that the “Defendants failed to
identify any genuine issues of material fact” that precluded granting his request for partial
summary judgment on his claim for the alleged illegal search and seizure of his vehicle. As stated
above, the Court in its previous order denied both parties’ motions for summary judgment on this
claim, finding that credibility issues and the need to weigh the evidence precluded judgment as a
matter of law for either side. Opinion and Order, pp. 21-41.
As the Court discussed and analyzed at length in its previous order, Martin’s illegal
search and seizure claim finds its legal footing in United States v. Duguay, 93 F.3d 346 (7th Cir.
1996). In Duguay, the Seventh Circuit held that warrantless automobile inventory searches, as
well as warrantless impoundments of vehicles, are unreasonable in the absence of probable cause
and where the arrestee or another person is available and able to remove the vehicle from the
scene. The court explained as follows:
The touchstone of Fourth Amendment analysis is “reasonableness.” . . . . The
policy of impounding the car without regard to whether the defendant can provide
for its removal is patently unreasonable if the ostensible purpose for impoundment
is for the “caretaking” of the streets. While it is eminently sensible not to release
an automobile to the compatriots of a suspected criminal in the course of a
criminal investigation, if the purpose of impoundment is not investigative, and in
the absence of probable cause, we do not see what purpose denying possession of
the car to a passenger, a girlfriend, or a family member could possibly serve.
Fourth Amendment jurisprudence, Indiana law also mandates that “a police officer may use only
the force that is reasonable and necessary for effecting an arrest. . . . If a police officer uses
unnecessary or excessive force, the officer may commit the torts of assault and battery.” Fidler v.
City of Indianapolis, 428 F.Supp.2d 857, 866 (S.D.Ind. 2006) (citations omitted).
Duguay, 93 F.3d at 353 (citations omitted). Martin argued that his cousin Je’Carri Martin, who
was riding with him on the day he was arrested and who was a licensed driver, should have been
permitted to drive his vehicle from the scene and that the Defendants’ decision (actually made by
Defendant Michael Long) to search and impound his vehicle was in contravention of Duguay.
Long argued that he decided to impound the vehicle since it was used in a “road rage” incident
with another vehicle and he feared the situation might resume or escalate if he allowed Martin’s
vehicle to be driven from the scene.4 Martin argued, as he does now, that the search and seizure
of his vehicle was so clearly in violation of the holding in Duguay that the Court should find in
his favor on the issue as a matter of law. He contends that Long’s explanation (or excuse) for
seizing his vehicle was based on “rank speculation,” was “purely speculative,” and “not based
upon admissible evidence.” Motion for Reconsideration, p. 6. He argues that “[y]et, the Court
construed [this] non-existent evidence in favor of the Defendants and ruled that there were
genuine issues of material fact.” Id., pp. 6-7. He contends that “[r]espectfully, the Court went too
far in imaging scenarios which were based upon pure speculation, hunches, or over-exaggerated
imaginations.” Id., p. 7. This is another way of arguing that the Court should not have put any
credence in Long’s explanation because it is bogus and based on nothing more than Long’s
speculation about what might happen if he did not seize Martin’s car (or, as Martin puts it,
Long’s “quantum leaps-of-logic as justification for seizing Plaintiff’s automobile[,]” id., p. 6).
Whether Long’s concerns about the potential for renewed danger were warranted is for a
jury to decide. As the Seventh Circuit acknowledged just recently (in an order addressing only
the issue of qualified immunity), “[r]esidual anger and, indeed, irrationality often accompany
such [road rage] episodes, and Officer Smith had to protect himself and the public from such a
contingency.” Howell v. Smith, 2016 WL 1314935, at *4.
Martin characterizes Long’s assertions as “pure speculation” and “hunches” while the
Defendants characterize them as observations by an experienced police officer that explain why
his decision to impound Martin’s vehicle was reasonable even in light of Duguay. To put it all
more bluntly, Martin is arguing that Long’s defense is such bull manure under the circumstances
of this case that the Court should pay it no heed, and certainly should not conclude that it gives
rise to a material fact issue. But the Court discussed Long’s assertions at length in its previous
order and even went so far as to expressly question whether they were reasonable under the
circumstances. See Opinion and Order, p. 25. The Court concluded then, and reaffirms now, that
credibility issues and a weighing of the evidence are necessary before the reasonableness of the
Defendants’ decision to search and seize Martin’s vehicle can be determined. A jury must hear
testimony from the witnesses, make credibility determinations, and then weigh all the evidence
concerning what happened on June 27, 2014, before the reasonableness of the search and seizure
can be determined.
Here is how the Court concluded its analysis of this issue in its previous order:
The Court cannot conclude as a matter of law that the officers’ actions were
reasonable under the circumstances, and the Defendants’ motion for summary
judgment must therefore be denied as to Martin’s search and seizure claims. At
the same time, the Court also cannot conclude that the Defendants’ actions were
unreasonable as a matter of law. While the facts of this case appear to invoke the
rule of Duguay, the fact that a licensed driver was present and able to remove
Martin’s vehicle does not automatically mean that the Defendants acted in
contravention of Duguay. A seizure might still be constitutional even if another
licensed driver is present at the arrest of the owner/driver. As Judge Springmann
pointed out in her order in Martin’s proposed class action suit, even if the FWPD
policy “was determined to be unconstitutional, that policy would not cause a
deprivation in all circumstances. See, e.g., Cartwright, 630 F.3d at 616 (holding
that car was not lawfully operable because it did not have functional license plate
lamp as required by Indiana law).” Martin v. City of Fort Wayne, 2016 WL
5110465, at *3. While the facts of this case do not indicate that any such
mechanical or other problem prevented Ms. Martin from driving her cousin’s
vehicle from the scene, a jury could conclude that Long’s explanation for his
decision was reasonable under the circumstances even in light of Duguay, after
assessing the evidence and judging the credibility of the witnesses. For all of these
reasons, the Court denies both the Defendants’ motion for summary judgment and
the Plaintiff’s motion for partial summary judgment as to Martin’s Fourth and
Fourteenth Amendment claims based on the search and seizure of his vehicle.
Id., pp. 40-41. Martin’s challenge on this issue is really a rehash of his argument on summary
judgment–that Long’s explanations are so “desperate,” “absurd” and “ridiculous” (see Plaintiff’s
Reply (DE 55), p. 7) that the Court shouldn’t be hoodwinked by them. But that is a credibility
determination and the Court declines Martin’s invitation to jump over it. Plus, assuming a jury
finds Long’s explanations credible, it must then weigh all of the evidence in the case to
determine whether those explanations resulted in a decision that was reasonable under the totality
of the circumstances as they existed on the day these events took place. For these reasons, the
Court reaffirms its previous holding and denies Martin’s request to reverse, vacate or amend that
holding as to his illegal search and seizure claim.
For the reasons discussed above, the Plaintiff’s Rule 54(b) Motion to Reconsider and
Amend Judgment (DE 59) is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part. The motion is GRANTED
as to the Plaintiff’s claims for excessive force and battery against Defendant Barry Pruser and
Martin may proceed on those claims. The motion is DENIED as to the Plaintiff’s claim for illegal
search and seizure of his vehicle and that claim remains pending.
Date: April 18 , 2017.
/s/ William C. Lee
William C. Lee, Judge
United States District Court
Northern District of Indiana
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