Chaney v. Wadsworth et al
ORDER ADOPTING FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS; granting in part and denying in part 42 Motion for Partial Summary Judgment; granting in part and denying in part 45 Motion for Summary Judgment; granting in part and denying in part 47 Motion for Partial Summary Judgment; granting in part and denying in part 48 Motion for Summary Judgment; denying 49 Motion for Partial Summary Judgment; granting 55 Motion to deny class certification with respect to Chaney's federal claims; adopting Findings and Recommendations re 89 Findings and Recommendations. Signed by Judge Donald W. Molloy on 7/1/2015. (dle)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MONTANA
ANTHONY CHANEY, on behalf of
himself and a class of persons similarly
DANIEL WADSWORTH, individually
and as RONAN POLICE CHIEF;
TREVOR WADSWORTH; KIM
AIPPERSPACH, individually and as
CITY OF RONAN MAYOR; CITY OF
RONAN; CITY OF RONAN POLICE
DEPARTMENT; and DOES 1-10,
Before the Court are the following motions: (1) the parties’ cross-motions
for partial summary judgment and (2) Defendants’ motion to deny class
certification.1 On May 19, 2015, United States Magistrate Judge Jeremiah Lynch
entered findings, recommending this Court grant-in-part Defendants’ motion for
partial summary judgment, deny Plaintiff Anthony Chaney’s (“Chaney”) motion
Defendant Kim Aipperspach filed a motion for partial summary judgment, (Doc.
42), in which all other Defendant joined, (Docs. 45, 47, & 48). Defendant Trevor Wadsworth
filed a motion to deny class certification, (Doc. 55), in which all other Defendants joined, (Docs.
66, 67, & 68).
for partial summary judgment, and grant Defendants’ motion to deny class
certification. (Doc. 89.) The Court agrees.
The parties are entitled to de novo review of the specified findings or
recommendations to which they object. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). Findings and
recommendations not specifically objected to are reviewed for clear error.
McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Commodore Bus. Mach., Inc., 656 F.2d 1309, 1313
(9th Cir. 1981). Clear error exists if the Court is left with a “definite and firm
conviction that a mistake has been committed.” Concrete Pipe & Prods. of Cal.,
Inc. v. Constr. Laborers Pension Trust for S. Cal., 508 U.S. 602, 623 (1993)
(internal quotation marks omitted). Chaney filed objections on June 1, 2015,
(Doc. 90), and Defendants filed responses on June 10, 2015, (Docs. 91, 92). As
the parties are familiar with the factual background, it will not be restated here.
Partial Motions for Summary Judgment
Chaney objects to the Findings as they discuss the partial motions for
summary judgment, insisting that Chaney’s § 1983 claims were not before the
Court, but rather a limited question of Montana law was to be decided. Chaney
primarily argues that the Court should decide the question of whether the peace
officer statutes were violated. Chaney also objects to Judge Lynch’s factual
characterization of the scene upon the officers’ arrival. Chaney’s objections are
Chaney’s § 1983 Claims
Judge Lynch correctly determined that Chaney’s § 1983 claims fail as a
matter of law to the extent they rely solely on violations of state law or the
Renewal Agreement. See Virginia v. Moore, 553 U.S. 164, 176 (2008); Ove v.
Gwinn, 264 F.3d 817, 824 (9th Cir. 2001). Partial summary judgment was
properly granted in favor of Defendants on this premise.2 Chaney’s objection is
overruled. No determination is made on the viability of Chaney’s § 1983 claims
that do not rely solely on violations of Montana law. To the extent these claims
may still have merit, they are not the subject of the present motions.
Montana’s Peace Officer Statutes
Chaney is correct that the parties’ briefing focuses primarily on the question
of whether or not Ronan allowed Defendant Trevor Wadsworth to act as a reserve
police officer in violation of Montana Code Annotated § 7-32-201. And, this
question was posed early on in the case. (See Scheduling Or., Doc. 34 at ¶ 1.)
Chaney argues that this § 1983 argument was not made until Defendants’ reply on
the Motion to Deny Certification. This is incorrect. Defendants’ brief in support of their Motion
for Partial Summary Judgment specifically referenced this contention, (Doc. 43 at 9), and Chaney
had an opportunity to respond.
However, through the parties’ briefing and consideration of the case as a whole, it
has become apparent that the answer to this question is not dispositive of Chaney’s
current class certification request and not solely determinative of any one cause of
action brought by Chaney. Cases are generally considered and addressed in the
context of the causes of action that have been brought. Notably, as argued by
Defendants, Chaney’s Amended Complaint does not request a declaration that
Ronan’s use of reserve officers is in violation of Montana law or include an
independent claim for violation of these statutes. Therefore, partial summary
judgment in favor of either party on this question alone would be premature and is
inappropriate. Antenor v. D & S Farms, 39 F. Supp. 2d 1372, 1375 n.4 (S.D. Fla.
1999); see also Joselyn Mfg. Co. v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 939 F. Supp. 603, 610
(N.D. Ill. 1996) (concluding summary judgment was not appropriate because
“[t]he findings that the parties request could not dispose of an entire claim”). This
determination does not preclude the parties from arguing the causes of action
plead in the Amended Complaint and, if appropriate, relying on or citing to those
arguments already briefed. Chaney’s objection is overruled.
In the Findings, Judge Lynch characterizes the officers’ arrival at the scene
in the following manner: “Upon arriving at the scene, the officers observed what
appeared to be two individuals engaged in a fight.” (F&R, Doc. 89 at 2.) Chaney
objects to this recital, insisting the officers did not view a “fight in progress” but
rather “one male holding down another male who was yelling that he was going to
kill somebody.” (Obj., Doc. 90 at 8.) However, because the record supports Judge
Lynch’s characterization of the situation, Chaney’s objection is overruled. (See
Defendants’ SUF, Doc. 44 at ¶¶ 26-30 (describing the progression of events,
noting the incident began with report of a “fight in progress”).).
Chaney also objects to the scope of Judge Lynch’s determination that class
certification is not appropriate and requests clarification of whether or not he may
seek certification of a negligence-based class unrelated to a § 1983 claim. Chaney
has since moved to certify a class on state law grounds, (Doc. 95), which Judge
Lynch will address in the first instance. As for Chaney’s federal class claims,
Judge Lynch is correct that class certification of these claims is not appropriate
under Rule 23.3 Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, 131 S. Ct. 2541, 2548 (2011).
Chaney’s objections on the motion to certify are overruled.
The Amended Complaint does not raise a class claim for Chaney’s § 1983
allegations that are not predicated on a violation of state law, i.e., an allegation of arrest without
probable cause or the use of excessive against putative class members. (Doc. 36 at ¶¶ 48-49; see
also Chaney’s Resp., Doc. 70 at 7-8 (stating that “the basis of the class claims is that the
uncertified Ronan officers had no authority to arrest the class members at all, irrespective of
whether probable cause existed to arrest each class member”).)
Finding no clear error for the remaining portions of the Findings and
Recommendation that were not specifically objected to, IT IS ORDERED that the
Findings and Recommendation (Doc. 89) are ADOPTED IN FULL.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Defendants’ motions for partial summary
judgment (Docs. 42, 45, 47, & 48) are GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN
PART. They are GRANTED insofar as that Defendants’ alleged violation of
Montana statutory law cannot, as a matter of law, serve as a predicate ground for
Chaney’s claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. They are DENIED in all other respects.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Chaney’s motion for partial summary
judgment (Doc. 49) is DENIED.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Defendant Trevor Wadsworth’s motion to
deny class certification (Doc. 55) is GRANTED with respect to Chaney’s federal
Dated this 1st day of July, 2015.
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