Scott v. Garrard County Fiscal Court et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER: (1) pltf's Fourth Amendment claim for the seizure of Lanham Lane is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE; (2) dfts' 46 MOTION to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction is DENIED, in accordance w/Court's MOO of 5/6/2011; ( 3) dfts' 42 MOTION to Withdraw or Amend Responses is GRANTED; (4) pltf's 44 MOTION for Extension of Time to Complete Discovery is DENIED WITHOUT PREJUDICE; (5) pltf shall submit to Court, OOB 3/9/2012, a memorandum, limited to sole issue of reasonableness of dfts' actions w/respect to her gate; (6) dft shall submit its response by 3/23/2012; (7) pltf shall submit reply by 3/30/2012. Signed by Judge Joseph M. Hood on 02/24/2012.(RJD)cc: COR
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF KENTUCKY
CENTRAL DIVISION at LEXINGTON
)Civil Action No. 5:08-CV-273-JMH
) MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
GARRARD COUNTY FISCAL COURT,
This matter is before the Court for consideration of various
issues. On January 20, 2012, the Court entered an Order, requiring
Plaintiff to show cause why her Fourth Amendment claim (with
respect to Lanham Lane) and her Equal Protection claim should not
be dismissed. [DE 56]. Plaintiff has responded, [DE 57], and upon
the Court’s order, Defendants have filed a reply.
Court will also consider Defendants’ motion seeking leave to
withdraw or amend responses to Plaintiff’s requests for admission,
[DE 42], and Plaintiff’s motion for an extension of time to
complete discovery, [DE 44].
The Court being adequately advised,
these matters are ripe for decision.
protections against unreasonable seizures extend to real property
under many circumstances.
See U.S. v. James Daniel Good Real
Property, 510 U.S. 43 (1993).
That protection, however, is not
The Fourth Amendment provides that “[t]he right of
the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and
effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be
violated . . . .”
U.S. CONST. amend. IV.
Courts have recognized
that the Fourth Amendment’s protection does not extend to real
property beyond a home and its surrounding curtilage.
Oliver v. U.S., 466 U.S. 170, 173 (1984)(recognizing that real
property such as “open fields” constitutes neither houses nor
effects and is, therefore, not encompassed in Fourth Amendment’s
Based on the record before the Court, it is clear
that Lanham Lane does not fall within the curtilage of Plaintiff’s
The factors to be considered in making this determination
(1) the proximity of the area claimed to be curtilage to
the home; (2) whether the area is included within an
enclosure surrounding the home; (3) the nature of the
uses to which the area is put; and (4) the steps taken by
the resident to protect the area from observation by
people passing by.
U.S. v. Jenkins, 124 F.3d 768, 772 (6th Cir. 2011)(quoting U.S. v.
Dunn, 480 U.S. 294, 301 (1987))(internal quotation marks omitted).
Plaintiff’s Complaint reveals that Lanham Lane is approximately 440
yards (1320 feet) from her residence.
There is no suggestion that
Lanham Lane is within an enclosure surrounding Plaintiff’s home.
Further, the nature of the uses to which Lanham Lane has been put
contrasts with the private nature of a residence and its curtilage.
Members of the community – including Plaintiff’s neighbors to whom
she offered gate keys – have a long history of utilizing the lane.
There is no indication that Plaintiff took steps to conceal the
Plaintiff’s decision to erect a gate across the lane, the gate’s
intended purpose was not to obscure the lane from observation, but
rather to keep members of the community off of the property.
Further, this action was taken only after a long history of public
use of Lanham Lane.
Based on the record, it is clear that Lanham
Lane was never an “extension” of Plaintiff’s home.
124 F.3d at 772.
Therefore, even if Lanham Lane is Plaintiff’s
private property, Defendants’ “seizure” of it does not fall within
the purview of the Fourth Amendment.
Her Fourth Amendment claim
with respect to Lanham Lane, therefore, must be dismissed.
On March 25, 2011, Defendants moved for leave to withdraw or
amend certain responses to Plaintiff’s requests for admission. [DE
The request at issue read:
“Admit that, even if now a part
of a county road as you contend, Lanham Lane originally belonged to
that tract of land now owned by Donna Scott.”
Defendants originally responded:
supplemented when the investigation is completed.”
supplemented their original responses as follows:
Two of the
“Admit that the
fee simple interest in a portion of Lanham Lane (formerly Road
District No. 37 and Scotts Fork Road) belongs to Donna Scott, but
such portion is subject to the rights of the public to use same as
a county road.”
For whatever reason, Defendant John Wilson served
Plaintiff with a “supplemented” response that read exactly as the
Defendants now seek to “conform all of the other
Defendants’ responses to that of Wilson,” thus, striking their
supplemental responses and returning them to their original state.
As a basis for their motion, Defendants contend that further
surveyor, revealed the supplemental responses of Garrard County and
Defendants’ motion will be granted.
Rule 36(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil provides:
Any matter admitted under this rule is conclusively
established unless the court on motion permits withdrawal
or amendment of the admission . . . . [T]he court may
permit withdrawal or amendment when the presentation of
the merits of the action will be subserved thereby and
the party who obtained the admission fails to satisfy the
court that withdrawal or amendment will prejudice the
party in maintaining the action or defense on the merits.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 36(b).
The first prong of Rule 36(b) is satisfied
when a request for admission “address[es] the core issues contested
by the parties,”
Lovejoy v. Owens, 86 F.3d 1156, *2 (6th Cir.
1996)(unpublished opinion)(table), or when upholding the admission
would “practically eliminate any presentation on the merits of the
1999)(unpublished opinion)(table)(quoting Hadley v. U.S., 45 F.3d
1345, 1348 (9th Cir. 1995)).
Here, the admission goes to a core
issue of the case – whether Plaintiff owns the property on which
she erected a gate.
Plaintiff’s ownership status with respect to
the real property is integral to a resolution of her remaining
Fourth Amendment claim.
The prejudice described under Rule 36(b) “relates to special
difficulties a party may face caused by a sudden need to obtain
evidence upon withdrawal or amendment of an admission.”
Steel, Inc. v. Paragon Indus., Inc., 106 F.3d 147, 154 (6th Cir.
1997)(quoting Am. Auto. Ass’n v. AAA Legal Clinic of Jefferson
Crooke, P.C., 930 F.2d 1117, 1120 (5th Cir. 1991)).
party who initially obtained the admission will now have to
convince the fact finder of its truth” is not the type of obstacle
that will bar withdrawal or amendment of an admission. Id. (citing
Brook Village N. Assoc. v. Gen. Elec. Co., 686 F.2d 66, 70 (1st
Were Defendants denied the opportunity to amend their
admissions, Plaintiff would still be obligated to proffer evidence
on this issue because her request did not specify what portion of
Lanham Lane belongs to her.
Further, given the stay that has been
placed on discovery up until this point, the Court is not persuaded
that Plaintiff would be prejudiced by having to conduct discovery
on this issue at this time.
Rule 36(b) underscores the importance
of resolving an action on the merits, while avoiding prejudice to
the requesting party. Fed. R. Civ. P. 36 advisory committee’s note
Because the risk of prejudice to Plaintiff is low and the
request at issue goes to the heart of the dispute, Defendants’
motion will be granted.
Finally, Plaintiff has moved the Court for an extension of
time to complete discovery, [DE 44], contingent upon the Court’s
granting Defendants’ motion to amend its responses to Plaintiff’s
requests for admission.
As an initial matter, the Court is
prepared to recognize that damage to property, such as Defendants’
removal of Plaintiff’s gate, may constitute a seizure for the
purposes of the Fourth Amendment.
See, e.g., Bonds v. Cox, 20 F.3d
697 (6th Cir. 1994)(despite having no reasonable expectation of
privacy with respect to certain property, owner could assert claim
under Fourth Amendment because officers’ damage rose to level of
“meaningful interference” with owner’s possessory interests in the
At this point, however, the Court takes note of what
purported seizure of Plaintiff’s gate.
In June of 2007, Plaintiff
installed a locking gate across Lanham Lane, which she contends is
her private property.
On August 13, 2007, the issue of the gate
was taken up at a meeting of the Garrard County Fiscal Court.
the meeting, a host of individuals, including Plaintiff, were given
time to speak.
Following the meeting, the Fiscal Court voted to
have the gate removed based on its interference with long-standing
public access to the lane.
According to Plaintiff, Defendant
Simpson and a non-party, acting at the direction of Defendant
Wilson, then came onto Plaintiff’s land without permission, cut
down the gate using a blowtorch, and tossed the gate aside.
undisputed that Defendants did not, at any point, take the gate
into their possession.
It is clear that the Fourth Amendment does not prohibit all
Rather, it prohibits only those seizures that are
See U.S. CONST. amend. IV.; Soldal v.
Cook Cnty., Ill., 506 U.S. 56, 71 (1992).
The Court is skeptical
of the proposition that damage to private property, done by public
employees at the direction of the governing body of a county,
following a hearing, constitutes an unreasonable seizure.
Jersey v. T.L.O., 469 U.S. 325, 341 (1985)(reasonableness inquiry
respect to Lanham Lane may be inconsequential to the disposition of
her remaining Fourth Amendment claim.
Rather than, at this time,
engaging in further discovery to resolve what appears to be a
purely legal issue, the Court directs the parties to submit briefs,
limited to a discussion of the reasonableness of Defendants’
actions with respect to Plaintiff’s gate.
Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED:
that Plaintiff’s Fourth Amendment claim for the seizure
of Lanham Lane is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE;
jurisdiction, [DE 46], is DENIED, in accordance with the Court’s
Memorandum Opinion and Order of May 6, 2011;
that Defendants’ motion to withdraw or amend responses,
[DE 42], is GRANTED;
(4) that Plaintiff’s motion for extension of time to complete
discovery, [DE 44], is DENIED WITHOUT PREJUDICE;
Plaintiff shall submit to the Court, on or before March
reasonableness of Defendants’ actions with respect to her gate;
Defendant shall submit to the Court its response on or
before March 23, 2012; and
Plaintiff shall submit her reply, if any, on or before
March 30, 2012.
This the 24th day of February, 2012.
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