Phillips v. Pike et al
ORDER granting 73 motion for summary judgment. Signed on 9/7/2021 by District Judge M. Douglas Harpool. (Maerz, Mary)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE
WESTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
JESSIE S. PHILLIPS,
ANDY PIKE, et al.,
Case No. 3:20-CV-05015-MDH
Before the Court is Defendants Andy Pikes’, Trevor Williams’, and Wanda Williams’
Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 73). For the reasons set forth herein, the Motion is
Pro se Plaintiff Jessie Phillips (“Plaintiff”), filed this lawsuit against Defendants Lieutenant
Andy Pike (“Pike”), Lieutenant Trevor Williams (“T. Williams”), and Detective Wanda Williams
(“W. Williams”) (“Moving Defendants”) in their individual capacity. Defendants are members of
the Newton County Sheriff’s Department. It appears Plaintiff attempts to bring claims against
Moving Defendants for § 1983 civil conspiracy arising from an alleged unlawful arrest, unlawful
search and seizure, and unlawful use of excessive force and imprisonment and excessive bail.
Defendants deny all claims.
The Complaint arises out of events beginning on August 4, 2017, at the residence Plaintiff
owned with her then-husband, Jeremey Phillips at 11088 Molly Drive in Newton County, Missouri
(the “residence”). On that day Defendant Deputy Childers responded to the residence on a civil
standby and with an Ex Parte Order of Protection which barred Plaintiff from being present.
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Plaintiff was at the residence but retreated inside upon seeing Childers arrive. She then barricaded
herself inside a bathroom closet. After repeated attempts to have her voluntarily leave were
unsuccessful, the law enforcement officers present at the scene forced open the locked door leading
into the bathroom and placed Plaintiff under arrest and handcuffs were applied to her wrists. She
was transported by Childers to the Newton County Jail and processed inside by Defendant Pooler.
Deputy Childers prepared and submitted a Statement of Probable Cause and a Newton County
Judge issued an arrest warrant. Several days later Plaintiff was released from custody.
With respect to Moving Defendants, Plaintiff alleges that her injuries involve Defendants’
conspiracy to commit constitutional rights violations against Plaintiff through alleged acts and
omissions by engaging in collusion with that of special, correlative and pretentious friend Jeremy
Phillips, and for their personal retaliation, knowingly used domination and authority as (NSCO)
law enforcement officials, with all means, extorted and executed unlawful conducts.
Summary judgment is proper where, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to
the non-moving party, there are no genuine issues of material fact and the moving party is entitled
to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a); Reich v. ConAgra, Inc., 987 F.2d 1357, 1359
(8th Cir. 1993). “Where there is no dispute of material fact and reasonable fact finders could not
find in favor of the nonmoving party, summary judgment is appropriate.” Quinn v. St. Louis
County, 653 F.3d 745, 750 (8th Cir. 2011). Initially, the moving party bears the burden of
demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S.
317, 323 (1986). If the movant meets the initial step, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to
“set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). To satisfy this burden, the nonmoving party must “do more than
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simply show there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Matsushita Elec. Indus.
Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986).
A question of material fact is not required to be resolved conclusively in favor of the party
asserting its existence. Rather, all that is required is sufficient evidence supporting the factual
dispute that would require a jury to resolve the differing versions of truth at trial. Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 248-249. Further, determinations of credibility and the weight to
give evidence are the functions of the jury, not the judge. Wierman v. Casey’s General Stores, et
al., 638 F.3d 984, 993 (8th Cir. 2011).
The Court will analyze Plaintiff’s claims as to each Moving Defendant. However, all of
Plaintiff’s claims are barred by the doctrine of qualified immunity or are inapplicable to individual
Government officials are entitled to qualified immunity in a § 1983 claim unless the
official’s conduct violated a clearly established constitutional or statutory right of which a
reasonable official would have known. Peterson v. Kopp, 754 F.3d 594, 598 (8th Cir. 2014).
Officials are not liable for bad guesses in gray areas; they are liable for transgressing bright lines.
Avalos v. City of Glenwood, 382 F.3d 792, 798 (8th Cir. 2004). Qualified immunity “is an
immunity from suit rather than a mere defense to liability, which is effectively lost if a case is
erroneously permitted to go to trial.” Id. Application of qualified immunity to each defendant
should be analyzed separately. S.M. v. Krigbaum, 808 F.3d 335, 340 (8th Cir. 2016) (“[t]he
doctrine of qualified immunity requires an individualized analysis of each officer’s alleged
conduct’”) quoting Walton v. Dawson, 752 F.3d 1109, 1125 (8th Cir. 2014) (emphasis in original).
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Qualified immunity involves a two-step analysis: “(1) whether the facts that a plaintiff has
alleged or shown make out a violation of a constitutional right, and (2) whether the right at issue
was ‘clearly established’ at the time of defendant's alleged misconduct.” Morris v. Zefferi, 601 F.
3d 805, 809 (8th Cir. 2010) (internal quotation marks omitted). A court considering the qualified
immunity defense has discretion to consider the two-step qualified immunity analysis in the order
it deems fit. Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 242 (2009). However, if the first prong of the
analysis is answered in the negative, a court “need not proceed further with the qualified immunity
analysis.” Brockinton v. City of Sherwood, 503 F.3d 667, 672 (8th Cir. 2007). If the second prong
of the analysis is reached, it is important to bear in mind the law is “clearly established if it gives
the defendant official ‘fair warning’ that his conduct violated an individual’s rights when the
official acted.” McCoy v. City of Monticello, 342 F.3d 842, 846 (8th Cir. 2003).
The Supreme Court has repeatedly emphasized that the “clearly established” prong of the
analysis “should not be defined ‘at a high level of generality.’” White v. Pauly, 137 S.Ct. 548, 552
(2017). See also Mullenix v. Luna, 577 U.S. 7, 11-12 (2015). “A clearly established right is one
that is sufficiently clear that every reasonable official would have understood that what he is doing
violates that right.” Mullenix, 577 U.S. at 11. While there does not need to be a case directly on
point, “existing precedent must have placed the statutory or constitutional question beyond
debate.” Id. at 12. “The ‘clearly established’ standard also requires that the legal principle clearly
prohibit the officer’s conduct in the particular circumstances before him. The rule’s contours must
be so well defined that it is clear to a reasonable officer that his conduct was unlawful in the
situation he confronted. This requires a high degree of specificity.” Dist. of Columbia v. Wesby,
138 S.Ct. 577, 590 (2018) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Additionally, “plaintiff
bears the burden of proving that the law was clearly established.” Hess v. Ables, 714 F.3d 1048,
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1051 (8th Cir. 2013). In this case, Plaintiff cannot show that any constitutional violation occurred,
as discussed below. Therefore, the first prong of the qualified immunity test cannot be met for any
A. Unlawful arrest claim
Plaintiff alleges her arrest was without sufficient justification in violation of her
constitutional rights. Unlawful arrest claims are analyzed under the Fourth Amendment. Baker v.
McCollan, 443 U.S. 137 (1979). The record shows Plaintiff was arrested on August 4, 2017 by Joe
Childers’ for violation of a valid Ex Parte Order. Plaintiff’s August 4, 2017 arrest was made
without a warrant, though an arrest warrant was signed the next day. However, the Fourth
Amendment does not prohibit warrantless arrests. “It is not disputed that the Constitution permits
an officer to arrest a suspect without a warrant if there is probable cause to believe that the suspect
has committed or is committing an offense.” Michigan v. DeFillippo, 443 U.S. 31, 36 (1979). See
also Clay v. Conlee, 815 F.2d 1164, 1169 (8th Cir. 1987) (stating if probable cause for arrest exists,
plaintiff’s “arrest did not deprive him of any federal constitutional right, and he thus has no cause
of action against [defendants] under § 1983.”); Brodnicki v. City of Omaha, 75 F.3d 1261, 1266
(8th Cir. 1996) (concluding that because “the officers had probable cause to arrest [plaintiff], he
has no basis for his § 1983 claim against them [defendants].”).
a. Andy Pike
The uncontroverted record demonstrates that Defendant Pike was not present at, did not
participate in, or otherwise have any role in Plaintiff’s arrest. He arrived on the scene after Plaintiff
had already been legally detained and placed in the police vehicle. Because he was not involved
in Plaintiff’s arrest, summary judgement on this claim in his favor is warranted. Ashcroft v. Iqbal,
556 U.S. 662, 676-77 (2009) (because vicarious liability is inapplicable in § 1983 litigation, “each
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Government official, his or her title notwithstanding, is only liable for his or her own
misconduct.”). See also Gordon v. Hansen, 168 F.3d 1109, 1113 (8th Cir. 1999). (“Section 1983,
of course, requires a causal relationship between a defendant’s conduct and a plaintiff’s
constitutional injury. Absent such a relationship, the defendant is entitled to dismissal”).
b. Trevor Williams
Defendant T. Williams was present for the arrest of Plaintiff; however, he was not the
arresting officer as he did not physically place the handcuffs on Plaintiff. In any event, the record
demonstrates that Defendants Childers and Trevor Williams had probable cause to arrest Plaintiff
on August 4, 2017. “Probable cause exists if ‘the totality of facts based on reasonably trustworthy
information would justify a prudent person in believing the individual arrested had committed an
offense at the time of the arrest.” Brodnicki, 75 F.3d at 1264, quoting Hannah v. City of Overland
Park, 795 F.2d 1385, 1389 (8th Cir. 1986). See also Amrine v. Brooks, 522 F.3d. 823, 832 (8th
Cir. 2008). (“As probable cause is determined at the moment the arrest was made, any later
developed facts are irrelevant to the probable cause analysis for an arrest.”).
Here, the record demonstrates that Childers attempted to serve upon Plaintiff a valid Ex
Parte Order which she refused to accept. As the record shows, this Ex Parte Order was signed by
Judge Stremel on August 4, 2017 and ordered Plaintiff to leave the residence on Molly Lane. [Ex
Parte Order]. Plaintiff’s arrest is a direct result of her refusal to comply with the valid Ex Parte
Order and Childers’ and T. Williams’ commands to do so. Paragraphs 2-13 of this Motion’s
Statement of Uncontroverted facts demonstrate Plaintiff’s refusal to comply and support sufficient
probable cause for Childers and T. Williams to arrest Plaintiff. The totality of circumstances show
that multiple refusals to comply with the Order contained in the valid Ex Parte Order by Plaintiff
constituted sufficient probable cause that Plaintiff had committed an offense. Because Plaintiff’s
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arrest was made with probable cause, Defendant T. Williams in entitled to summary judgment on
this claim as there was no constitutional violation.
c. Wanda Williams
The uncontroverted record also demonstrates that Defendant W. Williams was not present
at, did not participate in, or otherwise have any role in Plaintiff’s arrest. She arrived on the scene
after Plaintiff had already been legally detained and placed in the police vehicle. Because she was
not involved in Plaintiff’s arrest, summary judgement on this claim in her favor is warranted.
Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 676-77.
B. Excessive force claim
“The question whether an officer has used excessive force requires careful attention to the
facts and circumstances of each particular case, including the severity of the crime at issue, whether
the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others, and whether he is
actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight.” Kisela v. Hughes, U.S. 138 S. Ct.
1148, 1152, 200 L.Ed.2d 449 (2018). “The reasonableness of a particular use of force must be
judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision
of hindsight,” and “[t]he calculus of reasonableness must embody allowance for the fact that police
officers are often forced to make split-second judgments - in circumstances that are tense,
uncertain, and rapidly evolving - about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular
situation.” Id. (quoting Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 396, 109 S.Ct. 1865, 104 L.Ed.2d 443
(1989)). In other words, courts do not sit in second-guessing judgment of moment-to-moment
police conduct but review the conduct for objective reasonableness in view of the facts as a whole,
“without regard to [the officers'] underlying intent or motivation.” Graham, 490 U.S. at 396, 109
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S.Ct. 1865 (“Not every push or shove, even if it may later seem unnecessary in the peace of a
judge’s chambers, violates the Fourth Amendment.”) (internal citations omitted).
a. Andy Pike
Defendant Pike was not present and did not participate in or have anything to do with
Plaintiff’s arrest. Therefore, he is entitled to summary judgment on Plaintiff’s excessive force
b. Trevor Williams
Plaintiff alleged that T. Williams arrested her with his gun drawn. As mentioned, “The
reasonableness of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable
officer on the scene.” Kisela, U.S. 138 S. Ct. at 1153. The undisputed facts show it was reasonable
for T. Williams and Childers to arrest Plaintiff with guns drawn because there was serious concern
for their own health and safety and the safety of others.
Prior to entering the home, Childers was warned that Plaintiff’s vehicle contained a shotgun
earlier in the day and that there was a missing gun. At the time of the arrest, the officers were not
aware of the location of the missing guns, and Plaintiff had now barricaded herself in multiple
locations of the home while failing to comply. Plaintiff took deliberate steps to evade and fail to
comply with the Order and commands from T. Williams and Childers to come out. Plaintiff fled
into her home through the interior garage door and locked the door behind her. She then fled into
the master bedroom and again locked the door behind her. She then retreated into the bathroom of
the master bedroom and locked it once again. And finally, Plaintiff barricaded herself into a closet
in the bathroom of the master bedroom and locked it.
As mentioned in Kisela, a determining factor when considering if an officer has used
excessive force is “whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officer or
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others.” Here, without knowing where the missing guns were and Plaintiff’s erratic conduct,
Defendant T. Williams reasonably thought that Plaintiff posed an immediate threat to safety. The
undisputed facts of this case fall squarely within the reasonableness standard of Kisela and
therefore, T. Williams’ actions were reasonable. Because there was no constitutional violation,
Defendant T. Williams is entitled to summary judgment on this claim.
c. Wanda Williams
Defendant Wanda Williams was not present for the arrest of Plaintiff but did arrive on
scene after Plaintiff was arrested to complete a pat-down search of Plaintiff. Plaintiff admits her
only allegation against W. Williams is that she kneed her in the side of her thigh, which W.
Williams categorically denies. W. Williams allegedly kneed Plaintiff in the thigh during the course
of W. Williams placing Plaintiff back into the police vehicle. Plaintiff alleged that she suffered a
small bruise to her right thigh.
The Eighth Circuit has, “considered whether a plaintiff's showing of ‘only de minimis
injury necessarily forecloses a claim of excessive force under the Fourth Amendment[,]’ and
concluded that it did not.” LaCross v. City of Duluth, 713 F.3d 1155, 1158 (8th Cir. 2013) (internal
citation omitted). It determined that “[t]he appropriate inquiry is ‘whether the force used to effect
a particular seizure is ‘reasonable.’” Id. (quoting Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 396, 109 S.Ct.
1865, 104 L.Ed.2d 443 (1989)) (emphasis omitted). So although a de minimis use of force is
insufficient to support a claim, a de minimis injury does not necessarily foreclose a claim. See id.
There are no facts in the record that indicate that W. Williams used unreasonable force in
her pat down of Plaintiff or in placing Plaintiff into the police vehicle and instead the record
supports that if W. Williams used any force, it was de minimis. Accordingly, W. Williams is
entitled to summary judgment on this claim.
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C. Conspiracy claim
Plaintiff also complains Defendants were involved in a conspiracy. This theory fails for
several independent reasons. First, “[t]o create a genuine issue of conspiracy, [plaintiff must] point
to at least some facts which would suggest that [defendants] ‘reached an understanding’ to violate
[his] rights.” Nelson v. City of McGehee, 876 F.2d 56, 59 (1989). “To advance past the summary
judgment stage, [plaintiff] must allege with particularity and specifically demonstrate material
facts that the defendants reached an agreement.” Reasonover v. St. Louis County, 447 F.3d 569,
582 (8th Cir. 2006). There are no facts in the record that any of the Moving Defendants had a
sufficient “meeting of the minds” to violate a constitutional right of Plaintiff.
Second, to present a viable § 1983 conspiracy claim, Plaintiff must demonstrate the
violation of a constitutional right. Askew v. Millerd, 191 F.3d 953, 957 (8th Cir. 1999). Here, as
discussed above, the record establishes plaintiff did not suffer a constitutional deprivation.
Accordingly, Plaintiff’s conspiracy claim fails.
D. Excessive bail claim
Bail set at a figure higher than an amount reasonably calculated to fulfill this purpose is
“excessive” under the Eighth Amendment. Madewell v. Roberts, 909 F.2d 1203, 1208 (8th Cir.
1990). However, where defendants do not set the bail, they cannot be liable for allegations of
excessive bail. See Kohl v. Casson, 5 F.3d 1141, 1149 (8th Cir. 1993) (dismissing plaintiff’s
excessive bail claims because none of the defendants set plaintiff’s bail, and therefore, “there can
be no causal connection between any action on the part of the defendants and any alleged
deprivation” of plaintiff’s rights).
Neither Defendants Pike, Trevor Williams, nor Wanda Williams set Plaintiff’s bond
amount. The undisputed facts show that Childers set Plaintiff’s bond amount. Because a defendant
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cannot be liable for a bond they did not set, neither Pike, Trevor Williams, nor Wanda Williams
violated Plaintiff’s Eight Amendment rights and all three Defendants are entitled to summary
judgment on this claim.
For the foregoing reasons, Defendants Pike’s, T. Williams’, and W. Williams’ Motion for
Summary Judgment (Doc. 73) is GRANTED.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Dated: September 7, 2021
/s/ Douglas Harpool______
United States District Judge
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