Southall v. Thibodaux City et al
ORDER denying 21 Motion for Summary Judgment. Signed by Judge Jay C. Zainey. (jrc)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
CITY OF THIBODAUX, ET AL.
SECTION: "A" (5)
ORDER AND REASONS
Before the Court is a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment
(Rec. Doc. 21) filed by plaintiff Jonathan Southall.
City of Thibodaux, Shawn Snow, Scott Silverii, and unknown City of
Thibodaux police officers oppose the motion. The motion, scheduled
for submission on April 23, 2014, is before the Court on the briefs
without oral argument.
For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff’s
motion is DENIED.
On May 7, 2012, Jonathan Johnson, Plaintiff's son, was driving
Plaintiff's vehicle in Thibodaux, Louisiana, when Thibodaux police
officers attempted to initiate a traffic stop for a speed limit
Johnson refused to stop the vehicle and proceeded to
lead the officers on a high-speed chase.
abandoned the vehicle and continued to flee on foot.
apprehended him shortly thereafter and placed him under arrest.
After placing Johnson under arrest, the officers called in a
K9 unit to perform a sniff from the exterior of Plaintiff's
Plaintiff's attorney, who was present at the scene,
contends that "he did not see the dog give any indication of
However, Defendants contend that the K9 indicated a
positive alert for narcotics near the passenger's side door.
officers performed a search of the interior of the vehicle, but
nothing was recovered.
Plaintiff filed this civil rights lawsuit as a result of the
officers' search of his vehicle.
Plaintiff alleges that the
officers conducted an unlawful search of his person and property,
in violation of his Constitutional rights.
In the instant motion,
Plaintiff seeks partial summary judgment on Defendants' liability
for violating his Fourth Amendment rights by searching his vehicle
on the premises of a private residence without first obtaining a
Summary judgment is appropriate only if, "the pleadings,
depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file,
together with affidavits, if any," when viewed in the light most
favorable to the non-movant, "show that there is no genuine issue
Rec. Doc. 1, at pg. 4.
as to any material fact."2
A dispute about a material fact is
"genuine" if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could
return a verdict for the non-moving party.3
Once the moving party
has initially shown "that there is an absence of evidence to
support the non-moving party's cause,"4 the non-movant must come
forward with "specific facts" showing a genuine factual issue for
improbable inferences, unsubstantiated assertions, and legalistic
argumentation do not adequately substitute for specific facts
showing a genuine issue for trial.6
Plaintiff's motion revolves around the fact that the officers
conducted a search of his vehicle without first obtaining a
However, the Supreme Court recognizes an "automobile
exception" to the Fourth Amendment's general requirement that
TIG Ins. Co. v. Sedgwick James, 276 F.3d 754, 759 (5th Cir.
2002) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 447 U.S. 242,
Id. (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255).
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986).
Id. (citing Fed. R. Civ. P 56(e); Matsushita Elec. Indus.
Co. v. Zenith Radio, 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)).
Id. (citing SEC v. Recile, 10 F.3d 1093, 1097 (1993)).
police secure a warrant before conducting a search.7
exception, when "there [i]s probable cause to search a vehicle 'a
search is not unreasonable if based on facts that would justify the
issuance of a warrant, even though a warrant has not been actually
The Supreme Court has gone further to state that
“[i]f a car is readily mobile and probable cause exists to believe
it contains contraband, the Fourth Amendment ... permits police to
search the vehicle without more.”9
In opposition to Plaintiff's motion, Defendants contend the
officers had probable cause to conduct the search of Plaintiff's
vehicle, making the search legal under the automobile exception.
In support, Defendants submit the affidavit of Officer Noble
Clement, who attests that after placing Johnson under arrest,
Plaintiff's vehicle indicated a positive alert for the presence of
Maryland v. Dyson, 527 U.S. 465, 466 (1999) (citing
California v. Carney, 471 U.S. 386, 390-391 (1985); Carroll v.
United States, 267 U.S. 132, 153 (1925)).
Id. at 467 (quoting United States v. Ross, 456 U.S. 798,
Id. (quoting Pennsylvania v. Labron, 518 U.S. 938, 940
narcotics before officers conducted the search.
that under these circumstances, there was reason to believe the
vehicle contained narcotics which provided them probable cause to
conduct the warrantless search.
Plaintiff's vehicle presents a genuine issue for trial as to
determining whether Defendants are liable for violating Plaintiff's
Fourth Amendment rights.
As such, Plaintiff is not entitled to
summary judgment in this regard.
Accordingly, and for the foregoing reasons;
IT IS ORDERED that Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary
Judgment (Rec. Doc. 21) is DENIED.
April 28, 2014
JAY C. ZAINEY
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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