BUNKLEY v. CITY OF DETROIT et al
OPINION and ORDER Granting in Part and Denying in Part Defendants' 70 MOTION for Summary Judgment. Signed by District Judge Bernard A. Friedman. (TMcg)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
Civil Action No. 16-CV-11593
HON. BERNARD A. FRIEDMAN
CITY OF DETROIT, et al.,
OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN
PART DEFENDANTS’ MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
This matter is before the Court on defendants’ motion for summary judgment
[docket entry 70]. Plaintiff has responded and defendants have replied. Pursuant to E.D. Mich.
LR 7.1(f)(2), the Court shall decide this motion without a hearing.
On May 3, 2014, at approximately 11:30 p.m., two men accosted and shot Paris
Ainsworth as she exited her vehicle outside her Detroit home. Pulling her own gun, she returned
fire. Her attackers fled. Unsure if she had hit them, she ran across the street to her neighbor’s
house, where she called 911. An ambulance arrived shortly thereafter and transported her to Sinai
That same night at approximately 11:15 p.m., plaintiff arrived at his mother’s
house, 4.5 miles away from Ainsworth’s house. For the next few hours, he ate, chatted on his
phone, played video games, and dressed for bed. He also took pictures with his phone and posted
them on Facebook. At 1:30 a.m. on May 4, plaintiff received a call that his father, Charles Knox,
had been shot by three armed men near Knox’s apartment, which is seven miles away from
Ainsworth’s house. Plaintiff immediately went to Sinai Grace Hospital, where Knox was taken.
He saw Knox around 2:00 a.m.
The Detroit Police Department’s (DPD’s) response team for both crimes consisited
of detectives Calvin Washington, Jade Tanguay, and Marshall Dennis. They inspected the scenes
immediately after dispatch received the 911 calls, and by 1:45 a.m. they were at the hospital to talk
to Ainsworth and Knox. Ainsworth described her attackers as two black males in their twenties
wearing dark clothing. She described one as dark-skinned, 5'7'', and 200 lbs.; the other was lightskinned, 5'4'', and had a medium build. Ainsworth told the officers she may have shot one of them.
The officers then visited Knox. Knox, who was forty-seven years old at the time,
told them where he was when he was shot, but the officers thought he was lying. In fact, they
began to suspect that Knox and plaintiff were actually Ainsworth’s assailants and that Knox had
been shot while he and plaintiff—two black men in dark clothes—were holding her up.
Consequently, shortly after 2:00 a.m., the detectives trooped into the waiting room
and began to question plaintiff. They left, but returned a few minutes later and—with the
permission of their supervisor, Sergeant Lucas, whom they called in the interim—arrested plaintiff,
citing a fictional1 probation violation as the reason for the arrest. By 3:00 a.m., they had arrested
plaintiff, and Officers Wesley and Moreau took him to the Detroit Detention Center (“DDC”).
Later that morning, around 11:00 a.m., Investigator Latonya Moses was assigned
plaintiff’s case. This was Moses’s first investigation as lead investigator. At 2:30 p.m., she and
Investigator Glenda Fisher conducted with Ainsworth a photo lineup of both plaintiff and Knox.
A show-up attorney attended the photo lineup and found nothing suggestive. Ainsworth chose
During the initial conversation, plaintiff told the arresting officers that he had resolved the referenced probation
issues. He later testified that a DDC guard told him he was arrested for felonious assault, not on a warrant. In their
interrogatory answers, defendants concede that they arrested plaintiff for felonious assault.
plaintiff in thirty seconds, confidently exclaiming, “That’s him, that’s him. Yes, I’ll never forget.”
Pl.’s Br. p. 7. But when Moses showed her Knox’s lineup, she said, “[N]o, he was younger.”2 Id.
Around 5:00 p.m., Moses went to the DDC and took plaintiff’s statement. Plaintiff
told Moses that he was at his mom’s house during the shooting. His alibi was proved, he told her,
by his posted Facebook pictures. He gave Moses his login information so she could corroborate
The following day, Moses presented a warrant packet to assistant prosecutor
Matthew Penney. The packet wrongly stated that (1) plaintiff and Knox came into the hospital
together; (2) Knox had refused to turn over the bullets that injured him; and (3) hospital security
detained plaintiff.3 Moses failed to mention plaintiff’s exculpatory Facebook posts or that Knox
was picked up by the ambulance seven miles from Ainsworth’s house.
During trial, Moses sat at counsel table and assisted Penney. The jury found
plaintiff guilty of assault with intent to commit murder, and he was sentenced to fifteen to thirty
years imprisonment. Plaintiff filed a petition for post-conviction relief. Forensic testing of his
phone in October 2015 verified his alibi: an investigator found that the Facebook photos were
“taken between 11:40 and 11:44 p.m. on May 3, 2014.” Id. at Ex. 36.
In February 2016, the prosecutor dismissed all charges. Three months later,
plaintiff filed the instant case. Now, defendants have filed a motion for summary judgment.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) states that any party moving for summary
judgment must identify “each claim or defense . . . on which summary judgment is sought. The
Notably, this photo lineup cannot be found.
All parties agree that these facts are objectively false.
court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any
material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” A party must support its
(A) citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including
depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits
or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of
the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other
(B) showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or
presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot
produce admissible evidence to support the fact.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1). “The court need consider only the cited materials, but it may consider
other materials in the record.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(3). If the moving party satisfies this burden,
the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to show that there is a genuine issue of material fact for
trial. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). “[T]he mere
existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the [nonmoving party’s] position will be
insufficient [to defeat a motion for summary judgment]; there must be evidence on which the jury
could reasonably find for the [nonmoving party].” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242,
Plaintiff’s Voluntary Dismissals
Plaintiff has agreed to voluntarily dismiss “Defendants Wesley and Moreau from
all claims. Plaintiff also voluntarily dismisses his Fourteenth Amendment Brady violation and
suggestive identification claims and his state law claim for intentional infliction of emotional
distress.” Pl.’s Resp. p. 50 n.16. Investigator Fisher’s only connection with this case was her work
on the photo lineup—i.e., plaintiff’s suggestive identification claim. Accordingly, the Court
dismisses the Brady, suggestive identification, and IIED claims, as well as all claims against
defendants Wesley, Moreau, and Fisher.
Moses’s Misrepresentations at Trial
Defendants correctly note that plaintiff cannot use Moses’s witness testimony to
establish the existence of a tort or constitutional violation, as witnesses are absolutely immune
from suit. Briscoe v. LaHue, 460 U.S. 325, 335–36, 342 (1983). Consequently, the Court will
disregard Moses’s testimony in making its findings.4
Federal Law Claims
A. False Arrest
Plaintiff asserts a false arrest claim against defendants Washington, Tanguay, and
Dennis under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Defendants argue that there was probable cause for the arrest.
“[T]he existence of probable cause in a § 1983 action presents a jury question,
unless there is only one reasonable determination possible.” Wilson v. Morgan, 477 F.3d 326, 334
(6th Cir. 2007) (quoting Gardenhire v. Schubert, 205 F.3d 303, 315 (6th Cir. 2000)). “[P]robable
cause exists only when the police officer discovers reasonably reliable information that the suspect
has committed a crime.” Courtright v. City of Battle Creek, 839 F.3d 513, 521 (6th Cir. 2016)
(quotation marks omitted). The facts and circumstances must “warrant a prudent man in believing
that” plaintiff committed a crime. Id. The Court considers the totality of the circumstances and
both inculpatory and exculpatory facts known to the arresting officer. Wesley v. Campbell, 779
F.3d 421, 429 (6th Cir. 2015). “Thus, if the officer discovers information or evidence favorable
The Court notes that plaintiff supports his claims against Moses with far more than merely her trial testimony. For
example, in support of his claims against Moses, plaintiff cites her deposition, Ainsworth’s deposition, Penney’s
deposition, plaintiff’s deposition, and plaintiff’s statement given to Moses. The Court may use these in its analysis.
to the accused in the course of an investigation, the officer cannot simply turn a blind eye.”
Courtright, 839 F.3d at 521 (quotation marks omitted).
Here, the Court, viewing the facts in the light most favorable to plaintiff, finds that
there is a genuine issue of material fact as to probable cause. A reasonable jury could find that the
arresting officers lacked probable cause to arrest plaintiff. The Court considers the facts known to
the arresting officers at the moment of arrest. See Crockett v. Cumberland Coll., 316 F.3d 571,
580 (6th Cir. 2003). Notably, plaintiff was arrested between 2:00 a.m. and 3:00 a.m.—i.e., before
Moses conducted the photo lineup and learned of plaintiff’s Facebook alibi.
What facts did the officers know at the moment of arrest? On the one hand,
Ainsworth told the officers that she may have shot one of her assailants, and Knox had been shot.
Also, both Knox and plaintiff were black males wearing dark clothing. On the other hand, Knox
was much older and had a lighter complexion than Ainsworth’s second assailant. Knox was shot
several miles away from Ainsworth’s house. Plaintiff and Knox did not enter the hospital together.
And the description “black males in twenties in dark clothing” is vague. How many thousands of
black men in their twenties live in and around Detroit? And how many of those wear dark clothes?
Too many for summary judgment. There is a genuine issue of material fact as to probable cause.
B. Malicious Prosecution5
Malicious prosecution includes “wrongful investigation, prosecution, conviction,
and incarceration.” Barnes v. Wright, 449 F.3d 709, 725-16 (6th Cir. 2006). To state a claim for
The Court notes that the only defendant defendants’ request for summary judgment as to this count names is Moses.
In plaintiff’s response, however, he states, “[S]ufficient evidence exists for the jury to find that not only Defendant
Moses, but also Defendants Tanguay, Washington and Dennis all participated and influenced the criminal prosecution
of Plaintiff to support a claim for malicious prosecution.” This confusion about who the claim is against arises because
of the complaint’s format. Rather than specifying the individual officers against whom the malicious prosecution
claim is asserted, the complaint simply states that “Defendant Officers . . . caused Plaintiff to be maliciously
prosecuted.” Compl. ¶ 64. This problem of ambiguity recurs throughout the complaint. The Court will grant summary
judgment as to any malicious prosecution claim against Sergeant Lucas and the arresting officers because plaintiff
fails to allege evidence sufficient for a reasonable jury to find that they initiated a criminal prosecution against plaintiff.
malicious prosecution, plaintiff must show that: (1) defendant “made, influenced, or participated
in the decision to prosecute” the criminal action initiated against plaintiff; (2) the criminal
prosecution lacked probable cause; (3) because of the prosecution, plaintiff suffered a deprivation
of liberty apart from the initial seizure; and (4) the criminal proceeding was resolved in plaintiff’s
favor. Trakhtenberg v. Cty. of Oakland, 661 F. App’x 413, 420–21 (6th Cir. 2016) (quoting Sykes
v. Anderson, 625 F.3d 294, 308–09 (6th Cir. 2010)). That an officer “did not make the decision to
prosecute does not absolve [her] of liability.” Sykes, 625 F.3d at 311.
Only elements (1) and (2) are at issue. Defendants argue that probable cause existed
to arrest plaintiff and that Moses did not participate in or influence the decision to prosecute.
A reasonable jury could find that Moses participated in or influenced the decision
to prosecute. Moses was the lead investigator. She sent a warrant packet to the prosecutor. She
took the stand. She personally assisted the prosecutor during trial. Perhaps Moses did not make
the ultimate decision to prosecute, but a reasonable jury could find that she influenced it.
Conversely, no reasonable jury could find that Sergeant Lucas or the arresting
officers influenced or participated in the decision to prosecute. Plaintiff fails to allege facts
showing that any of them were involved in the case beyond the initial arrest. Consequently, the
malicious prosecution complaint against every defendant but Moses is dismissed.
Further, there is a genuine dispute as to whether probable cause existed sufficient
to prosecute plaintiff. As outlined above, there is a genuine issue of material fact as to probable
cause sufficient to arrest plaintiff. Whether there existed probable cause sufficient to prosecute
plaintiff is a different question. By its very nature, probable cause to prosecute may wax and wane
during the course of an investigation as law enforcement discovers new information.
There were several conflicting pieces of information Moses discovered post-arrest.
For example, the morning after the shooting Ainsworth gave a strong, positive identification of
plaintiff. But she also concurrently gave a strong, negative identification of Knox—the arresting
officers’ only link from Ainsworth to plaintiff. Moses also discovered the exculpatory Facebook
evidence. Viewing this evidence in a light most favorable to plaintiff, a reasonable jury could find
that the prosecution lacked probable cause. Consequently, this claim survives summary judgment.
C. Failure to Intervene
To survive summary judgment on this claim, plaintiff must sufficiently allege “that
the officers ‘(1) observed or had reason to know that [the constitutional harm was occurring], and
(2) had both the opportunity and the means to prevent the harm from occurring.’” Holloran v.
Duncan, 92 F. Supp. 3d 774, 793 (W.D. Tenn. 2015) (quoting Sheffey v. City of Covington, 564 F.
App’x 783, 793 (6th Cir. 2014)). In Jacobs v. Village of Ottawa Hills, 5 Fed. App’x 390, 395 (6th
Cir. 2001), the Sixth Circuit held that “officers must affirmatively intervene to prevent other
officers from violating an individual’s constitutional rights.” These constitutional rights include
the right to be free from unlawful arrest. Holloran, 92 F. Supp. 3d at 795 (holding that in the Sixth
Circuit, failure-to-intervene claims can lie for failure to prevent an unlawful arrest).
Here, all four of the allegedly offending officers were present for or explicitly
assented to plaintiff’s arrest. If the arrest was unlawful, they observed it and/or had an opportunity
to prevent it. Further, the constitutional harm element—i.e., false arrest—is already going to the
jury. Therefore, this claim survives summary judgment
Plaintiff does not allege one fact—even circumstantial—showing a conspiratorial
agreement. Therefore, summary judgment is granted as to this claim.
E. Monell Claim
To succeed on a Monell claim, a “plaintiff must prove that a policy or custom of
the governmental entity was the ‘moving force’ behind the alleged constitutional violation.”
Monell v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978). The policy or custom may consist of “(1)
the municipality’s legislative enactments or official agency policies; (2) actions taken by officials
with final decision making authority; (3) a policy of inadequate training or supervision; or (4) a
custom of tolerance or acquiescence of federal rights violations.” Thomas v. City of Chattanooga,
398 F.3d 426, 429 (6th Cir. 2005). The Supreme Court in City of Oklahoma City v. Tuttle, 471
U.S. 808 (1985), and City of Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378 (1989), held that the Court cannot
reasonably infer a failure to train or supervise based on allegations of a single incident, even if the
offending officer was unsatisfactorily trained or supervised.
Only element (3), inadequate supervision, is at issue here. The Court must consider
whether a reasonable jury could find that the specific policy or custom of inadequate supervision
plaintiff alleges was the moving force behind plaintiff’s four surviving federal claims: unlawful
detention, false arrest, malicious prosecution, and failure to intervene.
Plaintiff fails to allege facts sufficient to show that a policy or custom of inadequate
supervision was the driving force behind the alleged constitutional violation. To successfully
prosecute a Monell claim for inadequate supervision, plaintiff must allege more than one instance
of wrongdoing. Here, however, plaintiff alleges only one incident, focusing almost solely on the
facts of his case.6 A custom or practice is a widely accepted way of conducting police business,
not a once-off mistake. Without more, this claim cannot survive summary judgment.
For example, plaintiff says, “A jury could reasonably conclude that the inadequate review of the Ainsworth
Investigation by both precinct-level supervisors and, more fundamentally, the policymakers, was the moving force
behind Plaintiff’s wrongful conviction.” Pl.’s Br. p. 45 (emphasis added).
Plaintiff’s only other proof of a broader policy or custom is the Department of
Justice’s Quarterly report, but that does not help him either. The report lists several DPD policies
and analyzes a sampling of random cases to determine whether DPD complies with its own
policies. The report includes percentages of compliance for most policies.
Included in the report’s Arrest Policies section was DPD Policy U43, which states:
The DPD shall review all arrests for probable cause at the time the
arrestee is presented at the precinct or specialized unit. This review
shall be memorialized in writing within 12 hours of the arrest. For
any arrest unsupported by probable cause or in which an
arraignment warrant was not sought, the DPD shall document the
circumstances of the arrest and/or the reasons the arraignment
warrant was not sought on an auditable form within 12 hours of the
Pl.’s Br. Ex. 41, p. 55. In other words, the DPD requires supervisors to complete a post-arrest
probable cause assessment. Out of the 101 random cases sampled, only one arrest lacked probable
cause, and in every case a supervisor examined a case file within 12 hours of the arrest. DPD is
97% compliant with this policy, and in all previous reports its status was “In Compliance.” Id.
Even so, plaintiff believes the report contains a smoking gun. He argues that it
shows that DPD’s “ability to document and timely prepare warrant submittals to the prosecutor
has been problematic, and that the failure to do so causes other violations of the policy. (See U50,
U51, and U53.)’”7 Id. at 54. The cryptic “other violations of the policy” sounds ominous, and
potentially relevant, but none of the named policies—U50, U51, and U53—are relevant to
plaintiff’s claims. All three policies are located in the Prompt Judicial Review section, which lists
DPD policies requiring warrant requests for arraignments to be made no more than forty-eight
hours after an arrest. Additionally, DPD is, respectively, 99%, 95%, and 97% compliant with these
three policies. See id. at 61–65.
Each policy is given its own “U number”—e.g., U43, U50, etc.
In sum, as to the issue of supervisors screening arrests for a lack of probable cause,
the DOJ report gives DPD a solid A+, 100%. No reasonable jury could use this report as evidence
of inadequate screening. In fact, the report shows exactly the opposite. Even the “Other
violations” plaintiff cites are exceedingly rare.
Finally, the Court notes that here, when the arresting officers called their supervisor,
Sergeant Lucas, he immediately responded to their question—i.e., he supervised them.
Plaintiff fails to show that an unconstitutional departmental policy or custom exists
that was a moving force behind the alleged violation. Therefore, summary judgment is granted
for defendants as to his Monell claim.
F. Qualified Immunity
Defendants assert a qualified immunity defense to all of plaintiff’s federal claims.
The Sixth Circuit recently articulated the applicable,
well-established two-prong test: (1) whether the facts, when taken
in the light most favorable to the party asserting the injury, show the
officer’s conduct violated a constitutional right; and (2) whether the
right violated was clearly established such “that a reasonable official
would understand that what he is doing violates that right.” See
Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 201–02, 121 S.Ct. 2151, 150 L.Ed.2d
272 (2001) (citation omitted).
Mullins v. Cyranek, 805 F.3d 760, 765 (6th Cir. 2015). If the “legal question of qualified immunity
turns upon which version of the facts one accepts, the jury, not the judge, must determine liability.”
McKenna v. Edgell, 617 F.3d 432, 437 (6th Cir. 2010). For example, in Green v. Throckmorton,
an officer arrested a woman after she failed a sobriety test, but her failure was not clear—the court
called the results “ambiguous.” 681 F.3d 853, 865 (6th Cir. 2012). The court held that the officer
was not entitled to qualified immunity because a reasonable jury could have found that he acted
reasonably or unreasonably. Id. at 864. It reasoned that the issue of probable cause was unclear,
so determining qualified immunity was inappropriate. Id. at 866.
1. Unlawful Detention, False Arrest, and Malicious Prosecution
As defendants admit, an individual’s right to be arrested only when probable cause
exists is clearly established. Thus, the question is whether, viewing the facts in the light most
favorable to plaintiff, the arresting officers and Sergeant Lucas violated plaintiff’s clearlyconstitutional rights.
Here, as in Green, the question of qualified immunity “turns upon which version of
the facts one accepts.” Id. at 864. As noted above, there are disputed issues of material fact,
specifically whether there was probable cause to arrest and prosecute plaintiff. Arguments can be
made on both sides. For example, the jury could find that the officers were justified in their arrest
of plaintiff because he and Knox matched Ainsworth’s description. Or, it could find that the
description was too general and insufficient to support probable cause. Because the reasonableness
of the officers’ conduct is going to the jury, granting defendants’ motion for qualified immunity is
not appropriate. See Kennedy v. City of Cincinnati, 595 F.3d 327, 336–38, n.7 (6th Cir. 2010).
2. Failure to Intervene
Plaintiff asserts a failure to intervene claim against the officers, alleging that they
could have stopped his wrongful arrest but chose not to do so.8 Defendants’ strongest response is
that the duty to intervene in false arrest/unlawful detention cases is not clearly established. The
court in Braswell v. McCamman, No. 1:15-CV-1336, 2017 WL 2666449, at *6–7 (W.D. Mich.
June 21, 2017), detailed the standard the Court uses to determine whether a constitutional right is
To the extent plaintiff states a claim against Moses for failure to intervene, it is dismissed. Moses was not present
when plaintiff was arrested and detained. Therefore, she could not have intervened.
In determining whether a law is clearly established, ordinarily this
Court looks to decisions of the Supreme Court and the Sixth Circuit.
Carver v. City of Cincinnati, 474 F.3d 283, 287 (6th Cir. 2007); see
Andrews v. Hickman Cty., Tenn., 700 F.3d 845, 853 (6th Cir. 2012)
(“When determining whether a constitutional right is clearly
established, we look first to the decisions of the Supreme Court, then
to our own decisions and those of other courts within the circuit, and
then to decisions of other Courts of Appeals.”); see also Wilson v.
Layne, 526 U.S. 603, 617, 119 S. Ct. 1692, 143 L.Ed.2d 818 (1999).
“[E]xisting precedent must have placed the statutory or
constitutional question beyond debate.” al–Kidd, 563 U.S. at 741,
131 S. Ct. 2074.
The clearly established prong will depend “substantially” on the
level of generality at which the legal rule is identified. Anderson v.
Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 639, 107 S. Ct. 3034, 97 L.Ed.2d 523
(1987). Ordinarily, the right must be clearly established in a
particularized sense, and not at a general or abstract sense. Id. at 640,
107 S. Ct. 3034. Ordinarily, “[t]his standard requires the courts to
examine the asserted right at a relatively high level of specificity and
on a fact-specific, case-by-case basis.” Cope v. Heltsley, 128 F.3d
452, 458–59 (6th Cir. 1997)).
However, on the other hand, the Sixth Circuit recently affirmed that
“reading the cases together, the Supreme Court has made clear that
the sine qua non of the ‘clearly established’ inquiry is ‘fair
warning.’” Baynes v. Cleland, 799 F.3d 600, 612–13 (6th Cir. 2015).
Thus, “[w]hile it is apparent that courts should not define clearly
established law at a high level of generality, it is equally apparent
that this does not mean that ‘a case directly on point’ is required”;
the question is, again, whether “precedent [has] placed the statutory
or constitutional question beyond debate.” Id. (citing al–Kidd, 563
U.S. at 741, 131 S. Ct. 2074).
In short, the question is whether plaintiff had a clearly established right to
intervention by officers to prevent his unlawful arrest. Clearly, § 1983 protects individuals against
unlawful arrest and detention. And every circuit has recognized officers’ duty to intervene at least
in excessive force cases. See Abrahante v. Johnson, No. CIV. 07-5701JBS/KMW, 2009 WL
2152249 at *12 (D.N.J. July 14, 2009) (collecting cases from eleven circuits). Thus, the Court
must determine whether those protections overlap—i.e., whether there is a clearly established right
to intervention in cases of unlawful arrest.
Unequivocally, yes. When officers make an arresting decision as a unit and with
the permission of their supervising sergeant, applicable case law puts them on notice that their
respective failures to intervene to stop an unlawful arrest—i.e., one lacking probable cause—is a
constitutional violation. In determining whether a constitutional right is clearly established, the
Court need not cite a perfectly apposite case; it need only answer the broader question—whether
existing case law puts the constitutional question at issue beyond debate and, therefore, the officers
Supreme Court precedent. Neither the Court nor the parties are aware of Supreme
Court cases discussing the failure to intervene in unlawful arrests. See Holloran, 92 F. Supp. 3d
at 795. But in Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982), the Supreme Court held that §
1983 protects “constitutional rights.” Critically, the Supreme Court did not modify or qualify the
phrase, “constitutional rights.” Consequently, in the Court’s view, according to Harlow’s clear,
unambiguous language, § 1983 protects against failures to intervene in all deprivations of
constitutional rights, including the right to be from unlawful arrest and detention.
Sixth Circuit precedent. Like Harlow, Jacobs announced an unqualified duty of
officers to “affirmatively intervene to prevent other officers from violating an individual’s
constitutional rights.” Jacobs, 5 F. App’x at 395 (emphasis added). The Sixth Circuit has also
implicitly found that officers may be liable under § 1983 specifically for the failure to intervene in
unlawful arrests. See, e.g., Simmons v. Napier, 626 F. App’x 129, 139 (6th Cir. 2015) (discussing
jury instructions for a failure to intervene in a false arrest); Turner v. City of Taylor, 412 F.3d 629,
652 (6th Cir. 2005) (“[D]uring Plaintiff’s four day incarceration, all three Defendants were directly
responsible for ensuring that inmates were expeditiously presented to a magistrate for arraignment,
and there is a genuine issue of material fact as to whether these Defendants knew that Plaintiff was
being unlawfully detained, but failed to act.”). In such cases, the Sixth Circuit assumes, even as
far back as 2005, that officers may be liable for failure to intervene to prevent false arrests.
Other Sixth Circuit district courts. As quoted above, in Holloran, the court detailed
for several paragraphs the evolution of the right at issue. It concluded: “As for whether the right
to intervention by officers to prevent unlawful arrest was clearly established in 2012, the Court
finds in the affirmative.” Holloran, 92 F. Supp. 3d at 794. The court also noted that other district
courts within the Sixth Circuit have adopted this theory of liability. Id. at 795. Holloran’s analysis
on this issue is thorough, and the Court fully agrees with it.
Contrarily, at least one other district court has held that a failure to intervene in an
unlawful arrest is not a clearly established constitutional violation. Williams v. Crosby, 43 F. Supp.
3d 794, 802 (N.D. Ohio 2014). But the Court disagrees. Williams did not include reasoning to
support its holding, and the Court is persuaded by the case law pointing the other way.
Other circuits. Like Harlow and Jacobs, other circuits have stated unqualifiedly
an officer’s duty to intervene to prevent violations of constitutional rights. See, e.g., U.S. v.
Koon, 34 F.3d 1416, 1446–47 n.25 (9th Cir. 1994, (rev’d on other grounds) (stating that “police
officers have a duty to intercede when their fellow officers violate the constitutional rights of a
suspect or other citizen”). More specifically, other circuits agree that officers may be held liable
for failure to intervene to prevent an unlawful arrest. See, e.g., Wilkerson v. Seymour, 736 F.3d
974, 979 (11th Cir. 2013) (holding “that where an officer was present during an arrest and knew
that the arresting officer had no reasonable basis for arguable probable cause, the non-arresting
officer could be liable under § 1983 if he was sufficiently involved in the arrest”); Yang v. Hardin,
37 F.3d 282, 285 (7th Cir. 1994) (citing Anderson v. Branen, 17 F.3d 552, 557 (2d Cir. 1994)
(same)9; Jennings v. Davis, 476 F.2d 1271, 1275 n.3 (8th Cir. 1973) (same).
Finally, defendants argue that because the vast majority of failure-to-intervene
claims are made in the context of excessive force violations, the right to intervention in the context
of unlawful arrests and detentions cannot be clearly established. This argument is fatally flawed.
Perhaps plaintiff’s claims are asserted infrequently, but that does not per se make the rights at issue
less clearly established. The officers here were on notice that they had a duty to intervene to
prevent violations of plaintiff’s constitutional rights, and the case law shows that this duty clearly
extends to unlawful arrests and detentions. For these reasons, defendants are not entitled to
State Law Claims
A. False Arrest
Under Michigan law, a “false arrest is an illegal or unjustified arrest.” Lewis v.
Farmer Jack Div., Inc., 327 N.W.2d 893, 894 (Mich. 1982). An arrest without probable cause is
illegal and unjustified. As explained above, there is a genuine issue of material facts as to whether
the arresting officers had probable cause. Therefore, this question must go to a jury.
B. Malicious Prosecution
Under Michigan law, to successfully assert a malicious prosecution claim, a
plaintiff must prove
(1) that the defendant has initiated a criminal prosecution against
him, (2) that the criminal proceedings terminated in his favor, (3)
that the private person who instituted or maintained the prosecution
lacked probable cause for his actions, and (4) that the action was
undertaken with malice or a purpose in instituting the criminal claim
other than bringing the offender to justice.
The Court notes that the Sixth Circuit approvingly cited Anderson’s statement of the law, which held, like Harlow
and Jacobs, that officers have a duty to intervene to prevent deprivations of any constitutional violation.
Matthews v. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mich., 572 N.W.2d 603, 609–10 (Mich. 1998). The only
difference between these elements and the elements of a malicious prosecution claim under § 1983
is element (4), malice or some other purpose.
Given our malicious-prosecution-claim analysis above, the only remaining
question is whether Moses acted with malice or for a purpose besides justice. Sergeant Ball
testified: “We have a competition, see who can close the most cases.” Pl.’s Br. Ex. 16 p. 19.10
Moses failed to include the exculpatory Facebook evidence and negative Knox identification in
her warrant packet. Plaintiff has also shown that several of the statements in Moses’s warrant
request were not accurate. Perhaps these omissions and misstatements were innocent. But a
reasonable jury viewing them in the light most favorable to plaintiff could find that Moses was not
motivated by the desire to do justice, but to close more cases—i.e., win Sergeant Ball’s
C. Intentional Torts Claims Against Individual Officers, Qualified Immunity
Plaintiff asserts intentional tort claims against Sergeant Lucas, the arresting
officers, and Moses. Defendants argue that they are qualifiedly immune from intentional tort
The Michigan Supreme Court articulated qualified immunity for governmental
employees against state law intentional tort claims:
[G]overnmental employees enjoy qualified immunity for intentional
torts. A governmental employee must raise governmental immunity
as an affirmative defense and establish that (1) the employee’s
challenged acts were undertaken during the course of employment
and that the employee was acting, or reasonably believed he was
acting, within the scope of his authority, (2) the acts were undertaken
in good faith, and (3) the acts were discretionary, rather than
ministerial, in nature. . . .
Sergeant Ball clarified that this was to reward good officers for good work. Id.
Odom v. Wayne County, 760 N.W.2d 217, 218 (Mich. 2008). Regarding element (1), the Michigan
Supreme Court explained that “governmental employee[s] will not be afforded immunity when
committing ultra vires acts, as these are outside the scope of the employee’s authority.” Id. at 224.
And regarding element (2), good faith, “there is no immunity where the inferior officer [acts] for
an improper purpose.” Id.
The individual defendants are not entitled to qualified immunity. Arresting people
without probable cause is outside the scope of officers’ authority. Therefore, viewing the facts in
the light most favorable to plaintiff, because a jury will decide both whether there was probable
cause and whether defendants acted reasonably, the Court cannot at this stage find that Sergeant
Lucas and the arresting officers are qualifiedly immune. As for Moses, the question of whether
she acted with an improper purpose is already going to a jury. Consequently, viewing the facts in
the light most favorable to plaintiff, the Court cannot find her qualifiedly immune either.
a. All State Law Claims Against the City of Detroit
Defendants argue that under Ross v Consumers Power Co., 362 N.W.2d 641 (Mich.
1984), the City of Detroit is absolutely immune from intentional tort claims. Because plaintiff’s
response does not address this issue, he concedes it, and summary judgment is granted as to all
claims against the City of Detroit.
IT IS ORDERED that defendants’ motion for summary judgment is denied in part
and granted in part as set forth above; all claims against the City of Detroit and Officers Fisher,
Wesley, and Moreau are dismissed. The only remaining claims are: a federal failure to intervene
and federal and state false arrest claims against Officers Washington, Tanguay, and Dennis and
Sergeant Lucas; and federal and state malicious prosecution claims against Investigator Moses.
s/Bernard A. Friedman
BERNARD A. FRIEDMAN
SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Dated: September 12, 2017
CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE
The undersigned certifies that the foregoing document was served upon counsel of record
and any unrepresented parties via the Court’s ECF System to their respective email or First Class
U.S Mail addresses disclosed on the Notice of Electronic filing on September 12, 2017.
Case Manager Generalist
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