Walker v. Village of Baldwinsville, Police, ect.
MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER granting 30 Motion for Summary Judgment: The Court hereby ORDERS that Defendants' motion for summary judgment (Dkt. No. 30) is GRANTED in its entirety; and the Court further ORDERS that the Clerk of the Court s hall enter judgment in Defendants' favor and close this case; and the Court further ORDERS that the Clerk of the Court shall serve a copy of this Memorandum-Decision and Order on the parties in accordance with the Local Rules. Signed by U.S. District Judge Mae A. D'Agostino on 11/14/23. (Copy served via regular and certified mail upon plaintiff)(ban)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
MICHAEL S. WALKER,
SGT. THIBAULT and SGT. MCCALEB,
MICHAEL S. WALKER
4975 Surrey Lane
Liverpool, New York 13088
Plaintiff pro se
MURPHY BURNS LLP
407 Albany Shaker Road
Loudonville, New York 12211
Attorneys for Defendants
THOMAS K. MURPHY, ESQ.
Mae A. D'Agostino, U.S. District Judge:
MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER
Plaintiff commenced this action in Onondaga County Supreme Court on September 27,
2022, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that he was subjected to excessive force during a
traffic stop in violation of his constitutional rights. The case was removed to this Court on
October 20, 2022. See Dkt. No. 1. Plaintiff filed an amended complaint on January 5, 2023,
which is the operative pleading in this matter. See Dkt. No. 16.
Currently before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment. See Dkt. No.
On September 12, 2022, at approximately 9:30 p.m., Village of Baldwinsville Police
Sergeant Robert Thibault ("Defendant Thibault") was parked in his marked patrol unit when he
observed a grey Honda traveling toward his location that was tailgating another vehicle and that
had only one working headlight. See Dkt. No. 30-9 at ¶ 1.1 At the time, Defendant Thibault did
not know the operator of the grey Honda but now knows that person to be Plaintiff. See id. at ¶ 2.
As Plaintiff and the other vehicle approached Defendant Thibault's location, Plaintiff made an
illegal pass to the left of the other vehicle utilizing the turn only center lane. See id. at ¶ 3.
In his deposition, Plaintiff testified that when he was observed by Defendant Thibault, he
was making a delivery in his position as a driver for GrubHub. See Dkt. No. 30-5 at 7-12.
Plaintiff testified that he was driving his vehicle through the village when he came upon another
vehicle that was traveling under the posted speed limit, which prompted him to use the turning
lane to pass the vehicle. See Dkt. No. 30-9 at ¶ 6. Plaintiff knew at the time that he had a "busted
headlight" and had a replacement that he had not yet installed, and further admitted that he was
"having trouble seeing on the road." Id. at ¶ 7.
The Court notes that Plaintiff has not filed a response to Defendants' statement of
material facts. Instead, he has filed a nineteen page document in which he alternates between
claiming that Defendants violated his rights and quoting scripture and other historical documents.
See Dkt. No. 33. Where, as in this case, a party has failed to respond to the movant's statement of
material facts in the manner required under Local Rule 56.1(b) (formerly Local Rule 7.1(a)(3)),
the facts in the movant's statement will be accepted as true (1) to the extent they are supported by
evidence in the record, and (2) the nonmovant, if proceeding pro se, has been specifically advised
of the possible consequences of failing to respond to the motion. See Vermont Teddy Bear Co.,
Inc. v. 1-800 Beargram Co., 373 F.3d 241, 244 (2d Cir. 2004); Champion v. Artuz, 76 F.3d 483,
486 (2d Cir. 1996). Here, Defendants provided Plaintiff with the Northern District of New York's
standard notification of the consequences of failing to respond to a summary judgment motion.
See Dkt. No. 30-1. Accordingly, to the extent that the facts set forth in Defendants' statement of
material facts are supported by the record, they will be accepted as true. While "not required to
consider what the parties fail to point out," in deference to Plaintiff's pro se status and out of an
abundance of caution, the Court has nevertheless conducted "an assiduous review of the record"
to determine whether there is evidence that might support Plaintiff's claims. See Holtz v.
Rockefeller & Co., 258 F.3d 62, 73 (2d Cir. 2001).
After Plaintiff passed Defendant Thibault's location and after Defendant Thibault observed
Plaintiff commit the above traffic violations, Defendant Thibault pulled out and followed
Plaintiff's vehicle. See id. at ¶ 8. After Plaintiff turned left on Oswego Street, Defendant Thibault
activated his emergency lights to conduct a traffic stop of Plaintiff's vehicle. See id. at ¶ 9. At
this time, Plaintiff did not yield to Defendant Thibault's emergency lights and pull over to the side
of the road, and instead kept driving. See id. at ¶ 10. As Plaintiff continued driving, Defendant
Thibault, in addition to his emergency lights, activated his siren. See id. at ¶ 11. In his
deposition, Plaintiff testified that he was aware that he was being followed by law enforcement
and that he saw the emergency lights and heard the siren. See Dkt. No. 30-5 at 14-15. Plaintiff
acknowledged that he was supposed to pull over to the side of the road, but he made the decision
to continue driving because he needed to "complete my task" and he was "right in the middle of
worship." Id. Plaintiff further testified that he chose not to pull over because he was honoring his
religious beliefs because "my religion is more important to me than my relationship with other
human beings besides Jesus." Id. at 18.
While Defendant Thibault was pursuing Plaintiff's vehicle, Defendant McCaleb arrived on
scene and followed Defendant Thibault's vehicle and all three vehicles eventually ended up in
front of 433 Tuscany Lane. See Dkt. No. 30-9 at ¶ 15. Defendant Thibault parked his patrol
vehicle behind Plaintiff's vehicle and Defendant McCaleb stopped his patrol vehicle to the left
and Defendant Thibault's and both officers got out and approached Plaintiff's vehicle. See id. at ¶
16. While Plaintiff was seated in his vehicle, Defendant McCaleb gave a loud verbal command to
Plaintiff to show his hands and Defendant Thibault, when he arrived at the driver's door, ordered
Plaintiff out of the vehicle. See id. at ¶ 17.2 Plaintiff did not show the officers his hands and did
not get out of the vehicle and instead leaned over and started to grab something from the
passenger area of the vehicle. See id. at ¶ 18.
In his deposition, Plaintiff testified that he had no intention of stopping his vehicle and
had no intention of speaking to the police until after he arrived at his customer's home and
delivered their food. See id. at ¶ 19; see also Dkt. No. 30-5 at 23-25 (testifying that his intention
was to complete the delivery, "turn my app off and then the police can have my undivided
attention"). Plaintiff further testified that after he came to a stop and was seated in his vehicle, he
began reaching over trying to get his phone and food while at the same time he heard the police
officers "shouting at me," including the command to "get out of the vehicle." Dkt. No. 30-5 at 2527.
After Plaintiff refused the officers orders to show his hands and get out of the vehicle,
Defendant McCaleb grabbed Plaintiff's left arm while Defendant Thibault grabbed Plaintiff's legs
and together the officers pulled Plaintiff out of the vehicle and onto the pavement. See Dkt. No.
30-9 at ¶ 24. Plaintiff was on his side on the pavement and was struggling with the officers who
were trying to take him into custody. See id. at ¶ 25. Defendants repeatedly ordered Plaintiff to
stop resisting, put his hands behind his back, and comply with their orders, which Plaintiff failed
to do. See id. at ¶ 26. Plaintiff was face down on the pavement with Defendant Thibault holding
down his legs and Defendant McCaleb straddling across his back attempting to get Plaintiff's
arms behind him in order to place him in handcuffs, but Plaintiff was resisting and struggling
against the officers attempts to do so. See id. at ¶ 27. In addition to struggling against the
In support of their motion for summary judgment, Defendants included the dashcam
videos from both patrol vehicles, as well as Defendant McCaleb's body-worn camera video. See
Dkt. No. 30-7.
officers, Plaintiff tucked his hands underneath his chest in an attempt to prevent Defendant
McCaleb from applying handcuffs and contrary to Defendant McCaleb's orders to give the officer
his hands to be handcuffed. See id. at ¶ 28. Defendant McCaleb used a compliance technique
applying pressure to a point on Plaintiff's face using his hand and forearm which caused Plaintiff
to bring his right arm out from under his chest into a pushup position thereby enabling Defendant
McCaleb to grab hold of Plaintiff's right arm and eventually place it in a handcuff. See id. at ¶ 29.
Defendant McCaleb, similarly, was then able to grab Plaintiff's left arm and secure it in the
handcuffs. See id.
During his deposition, Plaintiff testified that he was told by the officers that he was
"resisting arrest" while he was on the ground, but he was telling the officers "I am trying to
practice my religious beliefs. I am trying to make a delivery." Dkt. No. 30-5 at 30. Plaintiff
further testified that he knew the officers were yelling for him to get to the ground, he did not do
so because he wanted to "practice my religious beliefs and complete my worship," which
involved making the food delivery. See id. at 30-31. Plaintiff admitted that while the officers
were trying to force him down onto the pavement, he was resisting that effort and trying to get up
to complete his food delivery. See id. at 31. Plaintiff further testified that he was holding his
arms underneath his body rather than giving them to the officers to be handcuffed and
acknowledged that this was done in an attempt to resist being arrested. See id. at 33-34.
Once the officers gained control of Plaintiff and placed him in handcuffs, he was raised to
a standing position and placed in a patrol vehicle for transport to the police station. See Dkt. No.
30-9 at ¶ 36. As a result of the incident, Plaintiff was charged with violations of the following
sections of the Vehicle and Traffic Law: (1) Section 3752(a)(1) inadequate headlights; (2) Section
1126(a) driving left of pavement markings; (3) Section 1144(a) failure to yield right of way to an
emergency vehicle; and (4) Section 1129(a) following too closely. See id. at ¶ 37. Plaintiff was
convicted after trial of all four traffic violations in Baldwinsville Village Court. See id. at ¶ 38.
Plaintiff received the court notice setting his total fine including surcharge for the four
convictions at $724.00 and returned it to the Baldwinsville Village Court having written on the
same that it was unconstitutional and violated his First and Eighth Amendment rights. See id. at ¶
Standard of Review
A court may grant a motion for summary judgment only if it determines that there is no
genuine issue of material fact to be tried and that the facts as to which there is no such issue
warrant judgment for the movant as a matter of law. See Chambers v. TRM Copy Ctrs. Corp., 43
F.3d 29, 36 (2d Cir. 1994) (citations omitted). When analyzing a summary judgment motion, the
court "'cannot try issues of fact; it can only determine whether there are issues to be tried.'" Id. at
36-37 (quotation and other citation omitted). Substantive law determines which facts are
material; that is, which facts might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. See
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 258 (1986). In assessing the record to determine
whether any such issues of material fact exist, the court is required to resolve all ambiguities and
draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. See Chambers, 43 F.3d at 36
(citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255) (other citations omitted). Irrelevant or unnecessary facts do
not preclude summary judgment, even when they are in dispute. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 258.
The moving party bears the initial burden of establishing that there is no genuine issue of
material fact to be decided. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). With respect
to any issue on which the moving party does not bear the burden of proof, it may meet its burden
on summary judgment by showing that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving
party's case. See id. at 325. Once the movant meets this initial burden, the nonmoving party must
demonstrate that there is a genuine unresolved issue for trial. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). A
genuine issue of material fact exists if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).
"[I]n a pro se case, the court must view the submissions by a more lenient standard than
that accorded to 'formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'" Govan v. Campbell, 289 F. Supp. 2d 289,
295 (N.D.N.Y. 2007) (quoting Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972)) (other citations
omitted). The Second Circuit has held that the court is obligated to "make reasonable allowances
to protect pro se litigants" from inadvertently forfeiting legal rights merely because they lack a
legal education. Id. (quoting Traguth v. Zuck, 710 F.2d 90, 95 (2d Cir. 1983)). "However, this
does not mean that a pro se litigant is excused from following the procedural requirements of
summary judgment." Kotler v. Fischer, No. 9:09-CV-01443, 2012 WL 929823, *12 (N.D.N.Y.
Mar. 19, 2012) (citations omitted). Specifically, "a pro se party's 'bald assertion,' completely
unsupported by evidence is not sufficient to overcome a motion for summary judgment." Lee v.
Coughlin, 902 F. Supp. 424, 429 (S.D.N.Y. 1995) (citing Cary v. Crescenzi, 923 F.2d 18, 21 (2d
In his amended complaint, Plaintiff alleges that he was subjected to excessive force when
Defendants Thibault and McCaleb removed him from his vehicle onto the ground and placed him
"The Fourth Amendment prohibits the use of excessive force in making an arrest, and
whether the force used is excessive is to be analyzed under that Amendment's 'reasonableness
standard.'" Outlaw v. City of Hartford, 884 F.3d 351, 366 (2d Cir. 2018) (quoting Brown v. City of
New York, 798 F.3d 94, 100 (2d Cir. 2015)). The reasonableness determination must include
consideration of the fact that law enforcement officers often are forced to make quick decisions
under stressful and rapidly evolving circumstances rendering the calculation of what amount of
force is reasonable difficult. See Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 396-97 (1989). Relevant
factors include the severity of the crime at issue, whether the suspect posed an immediate threat to
the safety of the officers or others, and whether the suspect was actively resisting arrest. See
Brown, 798 F.3d at 100 (citing Graham, 490 U.S. at 396). As to the third factor, "[t]he fact that a
person whom a police officer attempts to arrest resists, threatens, or assaults the officer no doubt
justifies the officer's use of some degree of force, but it does not give the officer license to use
force without limit. The force used by the officer must be reasonably related to the nature of the
resistance and the force used, threatened, or reasonably perceived to be threatened, against the
officer." Sullivan v. Gagnier, 225 F.3d 161, 165-66 (2d Cir. 2000) (emphasis in original).
Further, "'reasonable force does not become unconstitutional merely because it caused the
plaintiff serious injury.'" Otero v. Town of Southampton, 194 F. Supp. 2d 167, 180 (E.D.N.Y.
2002) (quoting Gonzalez v. City of New York, No. 98-CV-3084, 2000 WL 516682, *4 (E.D.N.Y.
Mar. 7, 2000)), aff'd, 59 Fed. Appx. 409 (2d Cir. 2003). Moreover, to support an excessive force
claim, the plaintiff must establish that the defendant used more than de minimis force. See
Feliciano v. Thomann, 747 Fed. Appx. 885, 887 (2d Cir. 2019).
In the present matter, as set forth in more detail above, Defendant Thibault was sitting in
his patrol unit at approximately 9:30 p.m. when he observed Plaintiff's vehicle, which only had
one working headlight, illegally pass another vehicle using the middle turning lane and proceed
away from his location. Defendant Thibault followed Plaintiff's vehicle intending to make a
traffic stop. Defendant Thibault activated his emergency lights, but Plaintiff failed to comply and
pull over to the side of the road. Instead, Plaintiff kept driving for several minutes, turning down
Once Plaintiff stopped his vehicle in a residential neighborhood, Defendants pulled up
behind and beside Plaintiff's vehicle and got out. It is widely recognized that traffic stops present
a heightened risk to the safety of police officers when they are approaching a motorist seated in
his or her vehicle. See Michigan v. Long, 463 U.S. 1032, 1047 (1983); Pennsylvania v. Mimms,
434 U.S. 106, 110 (1977). Given the unusual events that had thus far transpired and the
uncertainties and unknown possible risks to Defendants as they approached Plaintiff, Defendants
had every right to protect themselves by taking control of the situation. Defendants shouted
orders to Plaintiff to show his hands and to get out of the vehicle. Plaintiff failed to comply with
those orders and instead reached over into the passenger seat area of the vehicle. At this point, it
was objectively reasonable for the officers to forcibly remove Plaintiff from his vehicle.
As depicted in the videos attached to Defendants' motion, Defendant McCaleb takes hold
of Plaintiff's upper body while Defendant Thibault grabs his legs, and they pull him out onto the
road surface. See Dkt. No. 30-7. Defendants then engage in efforts to get Plaintiff over onto his
stomach so that they may pull his hands behind his back and place him in handcuffs. As is seen
in the video and as detailed in their affidavits, Defendants employed their training and use of
force tactics to accomplish this. Defendant Thibault crossed Plaintiff's legs and then kneeled on
the same so that Plaintiff could not easily get back up off the ground. Because Plaintiff would not
voluntarily give Defendant McCaleb his hands for handcuffing, and instead held them underneath
his body, Defendant McCaleb was forced to use a tactic intended to compel Plaintiff to bring his
arms out. As shown on the videos, the technique worked and Defendant McCaleb was able to
then grab Plaintiff's right and left arms and place him in handcuffs.
An objective viewing of the video demonstrates that Plaintiff was actively resisting
Defendants' efforts to get him out of the vehicle, get him on the ground, and gain custody of him
by placing him in handcuffs. In his deposition, Plaintiff admits that he was in the throws of a
personal religious experience that was compelling him to complete a food delivery and not
cooperate with the police. He testified that the reason he did not stop when Defendant Thibault
activated his emergency lights was because he believed he was properly exercising his religious
rights. Plaintiff testified that he attempted to pull away from Defendants to get up off the ground,
to get to the food in his car, and deliver the food in order to complete his act "of worship."
Moreover, a review of the video reveals that Plaintiff was not punched, kicked, beaten, or
struck in any manner by Defendants. Once Plaintiff was in custody, he was subjected to no
further force. Rather, once in custody, Plaintiff was placed in the patrol vehicle, and the audio
demonstrates that Defendants were respectful to Plaintiff and conducted themselves in a
professional manner (even when Plaintiff told the officers that his name was "Lucifer").3
Based on the foregoing, the Court finds that the force used by Defendants was necessary,
reasonable, and proper under the circumstances, and Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment excessive
force claim must be dismissed.
The Traffic Stop
In fact, after Plaintiff was in custody, Defendant Thibault confirmed with Plaintiff that he
worked for GrubHub and that he was supposed to be deliver the food in his vehicle to the
residents at 433 Tuscany Lane. See Dkt. No. 30-3 at ¶ 16. Defendant Thibault then completed
the food delivery for Plaintiff. See id.
Liberally construed, Plaintiff's amended complaint alleges that he was subjected to an
illegal traffic stop. See Dkt. No. 16 at 3.
The Fourth Amendment protects the "right of the people to be secure in their persons ...
against unreasonable searches and seizures." U.S. Const. amend. IV. This protection extends to
vehicle stops. See Whren v. United States, 517 U.S. 806, 809-10 (1996). "'[T]he Fourth
Amendment requires that an officer making a traffic stop have probable cause or reasonable
suspicion that the person stopped has committed a traffic violation or is otherwise engaged in or
about to be engaged in criminal activity.'" United States v. Wilson, 699 F.3d 235, 242 (2d Cir.
2012) (quotation omitted). "Probable cause to make a stop exists when an officer 'has knowledge
or reasonably trustworthy information of facts and circumstances that are sufficient to warrant a
person of reasonable caution in the belief that the [suspect] has committed or is committing a
crime.'" Id. (quoting United States v. Delossantos, 536 F.3d 155, 158-59 (2d Cir. 2008)).
In the present matter, on the night at issue, the undisputed facts demonstrate that Plaintiff
was operating his motor with one broken headlight, while tailgating another vehicle, which he
then illegally passed, and finally failed to pull over once he became aware that Defendant
Thibault activated his emergency lights and siren. Plaintiff was subsequently charged with four
violations of the Vehicle and Traffic Law and was found guilty over those charges at trial. Upon
his conviction, probable cause for those traffic citations was established as a matter of law. See
Carruthers v. Colton, No. 6:20-cv-399, 2021 WL 5585798, *3 (N.D.N.Y. Nov. 29, 2021)
("'Probable cause for [a traffic] stop is established as a matter of law when the driver pleads guilty
to a traffic violation, and neither the passenger [n]or the driver can thereafter bring a claim of
false arrest'") (quotation omitted); see also Annan v. City of New York Police Dep't, No. 12-cv2702, 2014 WL 10416919, *13 (E.D.N.Y. Sept. 9, 2014) (citations omitted).
Because Plaintiff was found guilty at trial of the traffic violations, the Court finds that
there was probable cause for the stop and grants Defendants' motion for summary judgment on
Without providing any relevant facts, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants illegally searched
his vehicle upon his arrest. See Dkt. No. 16 at 3.
"An officer is entitled to conduct a search of a vehicle incident to arrest to satisfy both
security and evidentiary concerns, whether the suspect was arrested in or next to the vehicle."
Lyman v. City of Albany, 597 F. Supp. 2d 301, 306 (N.D.N.Y. 2009) (citing United States v.
Thornton, 541 U.S. 615, 620-21 (2004)). "Therefore, 'so long as an arrestee is the sort of "recent
occupant" of a vehicle ... officers may search that vehicle incident to the arrest.'" Id. (quoting
Thornton, 541 U.S. at 623-24).
In the present matter, the undisputed facts establish that Plaintiff's vehicle was searched
upon his lawful arrest and prior to the vehicle being towed. See Dkt. No. 30-10 at ¶ 18; Dkt. No.
30-4 at ¶ 15. This was a permissible inventory search and, therefore, this claim must be
Freedom of Religion
Plaintiff appears to be attempting to allege that his arrest violated his religious freedoms
protected by the First Amendment. Indeed, Plaintiff's complaint, deposition transcript, and his
submissions in response to Defendants' motion for summary judgment are riddled with references
to religious scripture and he makes passing reference to the First Amendment.
To the extent that Plaintiff is alleging that his arrest and subsequent prosecution violated
his right to religious exercise, the claim must be dismissed pursuant to Heck v. Humphrey, 512
U.S. 477 (1994) because he was convicted of the charges brought against him and any judgment
in his favor would necessarily call into question the validity of his convictions. Alternatively, the
claim is subject to dismissal because Plaintiff has failed to put forth any evidence (or even
allegations) that he was selectively prosecuted because of his religious beliefs or that the statutes
he was charged with violating somehow imposed a substantial burden on his religious beliefs.
See United States v. Manneh, 645 F. Supp. 2d 98, 11-14 (E.D.N.Y. 2008). Moreover, the Second
Circuit has held that "[i]t is not a violation of the Free Exercise Clause to enforce a generally
applicable rule, policy, or statute that burdens a religious practice, provided the burden is not the
object of the law but merely the 'incidental effect' of an otherwise neutral provision." Seabrook v.
City of New York, 210 F.3d 355, *1 (2d Cir. 2000) (quotation omitted). "Where the government
seeks to enforce a law that is neutral and of general applicability ... then it need only demonstrate
a rational basis for its enforcement, even if enforcement of the law incidentally burdens religious
practices." Fifth Ave. Presbyterian Church v. City of New York, 293 F.3d 570, 574 (2d Cir. 2002).
Here, the provisions of the Vehicle and Traffic Law are neutral and of general applicability, and
there is clearly a rational basis for their enforcement. Finally, as Defendants note, there is no
evidence to support a finding that Defendants knew of Plaintiff's religious beliefs prior to the
traffic stop and arrest.
Accordingly, the Court dismisses Plaintiff's First Amendment claim.
"Section 1983 establishes a private right of action for money damages against state
officials, acting 'under color' of law, who violate a constitutional or statutory right." Edrei v.
Maguire, 892 F.3d 525, 532 (2d Cir. 2018) (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 1983). "This 'deter[s]
governmental abuse and remed[ies] unlawful governmental transgressions.'" Id. (quotation
omitted). "At the same time, 'permitting damages suits against government officials can entail
substantial social costs, including the risk that fear of personal monetary liability and harassing
litigation will unduly inhibit officials in the discharge of their duties.'" Id. (quoting Anderson v.
Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 638 (1987)). "To balance the need for accountability and the potential
chilling effect, 'the Supreme Court established qualified immunity as an affirmative defense to §
1983 claims.'" Id. (quotation omitted). "This defense is designed to 'reduce[ ] the general costs of
subjecting officials to the risks of trial' by immunizing them from monetary liability 'based on
unsettled rights.'" Id. (quoting Connell v. Signoracci, 153 F.3d 74, 79 (2d Cir. 1998)).
"The doctrine of qualified immunity protects government officials 'from liability for civil
damages insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional
rights of which a reasonable person would have known.'" Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 231
(2009) (quoting Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982)). A court may determine
whether a defendant is entitled to qualified immunity without determining whether there was a
deprivation of a constitutional right. See id. at 236. "Qualified immunity shields an officer from
suit when she makes a decision that, even if constitutionally deficient, reasonably misapprehends
the law governing the circumstances she confronted." Brosseau v. Haugen, 543 U.S. 194, 198
(2004). "[I]f officers of reasonable competence could disagree on [whether the conduct is
constitutional], immunity should be recognized." Malley v. Briggs, 475 U.S. 335, 341 (1986).
As "'existing precedent must have placed the statutory or constitutional question beyond
debate[,]' ... '[qualified] immunity protects all but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly
violate the law.'" Kisela v. Hughes, 584 U.S. ___, 138 S. Ct. 1148, 1152 (2018) (quoting White v.
Pauly, 580 U.S. 73, 79 (2017)). Thus, an officer is entitled to qualified immunity unless "existing
precedent 'squarely governs' the specific facts at issue." Id. at 1153 (citing Mullenix v. Luna, 577
U.S. 7, 13 (2015)). As the Supreme Court has emphasized, clearly established law should not be
defined at a high level of generality. See id. at 1152. Rather, "the general rules set forth in
Garner and Graham do not by themselves create clearly established law outside an 'obvious
case.'" Id. at 1153 (quoting White, 580 U.S. at 80). "Where constitutional guidelines seem
inapplicable or too remote, it does not suffice for a court simply to state that an officer may not
use unreasonable and excessive force, deny qualified immunity, and then remit the case for a trial
on the question of reasonableness." Id.
In the alternative, the Court finds that Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity
because officers of reasonable competence could disagree on the legality of the actions at issue in
this case. Specifically, Defendants were confronted with an individual who refused to pull over
to the side of the road when Defendant Thibault activated his emergency lights and siren, who
repeatedly refused commands to show his hands and exit his vehicle, and then physically resisted
arrest when Defendants forced him from the vehicle. Based on the undisputed evidence as set
forth in more detail above, even if this conduct was excessive, Defendants are entitled to qualified
immunity. See Francis v. Vill. of Potsdam, No. 8:20-cv-1097, 2023 WL 2655677, *5 (N.D.N.Y.
Mar. 27, 2023).
Accordingly, the Court grants Defendants' motion for summary judgment on this
After carefully reviewing the entire record in this matter, the parties' submissions and the
applicable law, and for the reasons set forth above, the Court hereby
ORDERS that Defendants' motion for summary judgment (Dkt. No. 30) is GRANTED in
its entirety; and the Court further
ORDERS that the Clerk of the Court shall enter judgment in Defendants' favor and close
this case; and the Court further
ORDERS that the Clerk of the Court shall serve a copy of this Memorandum-Decision
and Order on the parties in accordance with the Local Rules.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Dated: November 14, 2023
Albany, New York
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