Morales v City of Sugarland
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER granting 20 MOTION for Summary Judgment (Signed by Judge Sim Lake) Parties notified. (aboyd, 4)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS
ARMANDO DELGADO MORALES,
THE CITY OF SUGAR LAND AND
JEFFREY GLASS IN HIS OFFICIAL
CAPACITY AS A POLICE OFFICER
FOR THE CITY OF SUGAR LAND,
CIVIL ACTION NO. H-13-3575
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff, Armando Delgado Morales - an individual of Hispanic
brings this action against the City of Sugar Land,
police officer for the City of Sugar Land, for claims arising from
Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Docket Entry No. 20).
the reasons explained below, the motion will be granted.
Factual and Legal
Plaintiff alleges that on or about January 22, 2012, he was
Officer Glass negligently used equipment provided by the City to
erroneously determine that a warrant was active for him, when in
Docket Entry No. 16.
First Amended Complaint
truth and fact, the subject of the warrant was an individual with
plaintiff's drivers license and his social security number,
Plaintiff alleges that after confirming with is superiors
that arresting plaintiff was within guidelines used by the Sugar
Land Police Department, Officer Glass arrested him in the presence
of his wife and three minor children, and that the arrest caused
him financial harm. 2
violated as a result of a policy of the City of Sugar Land whereby
it permits the arrest of individuals without adequate verification
the fact that he is a Hispanic male was the primary
reason why the officer in question assumed that he had
commi tted a crime.
Plaintiff would show that he was
subjected to disparate treatment and that he was arrested
due to his race.
Plaintiff would also show that the
Defendants knew that Plaintiff was a member of a
protected class. 4
Plaintiff brings this action under 42 U. S. C.
asserting that his allegedly illegal arrest violated his
at 3-4 en 6.
at en 7.
civil rights guaranteed by the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to
the United States Constitution. s
Alleging that "GLASS used his
radio contained in his police vehicle to communicate with officials
employed by the City of Sugar Land in order to determine whether or
not Plaintiff MORALES should be arrested,"6 plaintiff also asserts
claims for violation of the Texas Tort Claims Act
Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code
101.021 et seg. 7
II. Standard of Review
Summary judgment is authorized if the movant establishes that
there is no genuine dispute about any material fact and the law
entitles it to judgment.
verdict for the nonmovant.
2505, 2510 (1986).
See also Celotex
jury could return
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 106 S. Ct.
In reviewing the evidence, the court must draw
all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party,
avoid credibility determinations and weighing of the evidence.
Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Products, Inc., 120 S. Ct. 2097, 2110
SId. at 1.
6Id. at q[ 8.
III. Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment
Defendants argue that they are entitled to summary judgment on
all of plaintiff's claims because plaintiff is unable to present
evidence capable of supporting a claim under federal or state law. 8
Over three months have passed since defendants filed the pending
motion for summary judgment on January 7,
More than two
months have passed since plaintiff's response to the pending motion
But plaintiff has not responded to defendants' motion.
Local Rule 7.3 provides that: "Opposed motions will be submitted to
the judge twenty days from filing without notice from the clerk and
without appearance by counsel."
S.D. Tex. R.
Rule 7.4 provides:
Failure to respond will be taken as a representation of
no opposition. Responses to motions
Must be filed by the submission day;
Must be written;
Must include or be accompanied by authority; and
Must be accompanied by a separate form order
denying the relief sought.
S.D. Tex. R. 7.4
In accordance with Local Rule 7.4, the
motion for summary judgment as a representation of no opposition to
defendants' summary judgment evidence.
Although a district court may not grant summary judgment by
default simply because there is no opposition to the motion, the
8Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, Docket Entry No. 20.
court may accept as undisputed the movant's version of the facts
and grant a motion for summary judgment when the movant has made a
prima facie showing of entitlement thereto.
See John v. State of
Universities), 757 F.2d 698,708 (5th Cir. 1985)
(when the movant's
summary judgment evidence establishes its right to judgment as a
matter of law,
the district court is entitled to grant summary
Dallas, 843 F.2d 172, 174 (5th Cir. 1988) (when the nonmovant fails
to respond to a motion for summary judgment, the court does not err
by granting the motion when the movant's submittals make a prima
facie showing of entitlement to judgment as a matter of law).
violated his civil rights by arresting him because of his Hispanic
race, plaintiff asserts federal law claims against the defendants
under 42 U.S.C.
arrested him without probable cause in violation of the
Amendment and violated his right to equal protection under the law
as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.
A governmental entity can be sued and subjected to monetary
damages and injunctive relief under § 1983 only if its official
policy or custom causes a person to be deprived of a federally
Monell v. Department of Social Services of City
of New York, 98 S.
ct. 2018, 2037-38 (1978)
In Jett v.
Dallas Independent School District, 109 S. Ct. 2702, 2722 (1989),
the Supreme Court held that "Section 1983 provides an explicit
liability, Congress thought 'suitable to carry .
municipality may not be held liable under
respondeat superior or vicarious liability.
Municipal liability under
1983 on the basis of
Monell, 98 S. Ct. at
1983 requires proof of (1) a
an official policy;
a violation of a
constitutional right whose moving force is the policy or custom.
See also Cox v. City of Dallas, Texas, 430 F.3d 734,
("Municipal liability under both
proof of three elements in addition to the underlying claim of a
violation of rights:
an official policy;
violation of constitutional rights whose "moving force"
attorneys' fees to prevailing parties in civil rights actions.
Farrar v. Hobby, 113 S.Ct. 566, 571 (1992).
Application of the Law to the Undisputed Facts
Claims Asserted Against Officer Glass
capacity is in essence an action against the City of Sugar Land.
See Brandon v.
liabili ty on the entity that he represents");
County, 571 F.3d 388, 396 (5th Cir. 2009), cert. denied, 130 S. Ct.
1143 and 1146
( "official capacity suits are really suits
against the governmental entity").
Plaintiff has neither alleged
nor produced any evidence capable of showing that Officer Glass is
a final policymaker whose actions may be directly imputed to the
Mississippi, 84 F.3d 157, 165 (5th Cir. 1996)
(noting that "even a
single decision may create municipal liability i f that decision
were made by a final policymaker responsible for that activity")
(emphasis in original)
(quotation marks and citations omitted).
Accordingly, under Monell, 98 S. Ct. at 2018, and Jett, 109 S. Ct.
at 2702, Officer Glass's actions alone cannot form the basis for a
Defendants are therefore entitled to summary judgment on the claims
asserted against Officer Glass in his official capacity because
those claims are actually claims against the City of Sugar Land,
which is also a defendant in this action.
Claims Asserted Against the City of Sugar Land
Plaintiff Has Failed to Raise a Fact Issue as
to a Cla~ for Violation of the Fourth
Plaintiff's allegations that Officer Glass wrongfully arrested
him raises a
claim for violation of the
Fourth Amendment prohibits arrests made without probable cause.
Blackwell v. Barton, 34 F.3d 298, 303 (5th Cir. 1994).
566 F.3d 490,
(citing Ker v. California,
83 S. Ct.
"The Supreme Court has defined probable cause as the
'facts and circumstances within the officer's knowledge that are
caution, in believing, in the circumstances shown, that the suspect
has committed, is committing, or is about to commit an offense.'"
217 F.3d 239,
Michigan v. DeFillippo, 99 S. Ct. 2627, 2632 (1979)).
This is an
objective standard based only on the facts known by the officer at
the time of the arrest.
181, 204 (5th Cir. 2009).
Generally, an arrest made pursuant to a
properly issued warrant does not violated rights guaranteed by the
Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments.
McCollan, 99 S. Ct. 2689, 2695 (1979)
City of Abilene,
("The Constitution does not
guarantee that only the guilty will be arrested.")).
Amendment is not violated by an arrest based on probable cause,
even if the wrong person is arrested, if the arresting officer had
a reasonable, good faith belief that he was arresting the correct
Blackwell, 34 F.3d at 303 (citing Hill v. California, 91
S. Ct. 1106 (1971)).
However, in certain limited circumstances, an
arrest made pursuant to a warrant can violate the Fourth Amendment.
(suggesting that an arrest made pursuant to a valid warrant may be
evidence of arrestee's innocence of the crime for which the warrant
568 F. 3d at 205 n.
(when the arresting
consider the warrant's validity).
The City of Sugar Land argues that it is entitled to summary
judgment on plaintiff's false arrest claim because plaintiff is
unable to cite evidence capable of establishing that he suffered a
violation of his right to be free
from arrest without probable
cause in violation of the Fourth Amendment.
In support of this
argument the City of Sugar Land has presented evidence that the
arresting officer -
Officer Glass -
the plaintiff on January 22, 2012.
had probable cause to arrest
As evidence that Officer Glass
had probable cause to arrest the plaintiff on January 22, 2102, the
City of Sugar Land points to the offense and arrest report in which
Officer Glass wrote:
On 01/22/2012 at approximately 2114 hours I Officer Glass
was in service and on duty working as a one man patrol
unit for the city of Sugar Land Police Department.
that time I observed a silver Mazda 3 SUV Texas LP
TXN[***] traveling southbound on State Highway 6, in the
2800 blk, Sugar Land, Ft. Bend County, Texas, moving at
a high rate of speed. I initiated my unit's front moving
radar and observed the vehicle was traveling at 56MPH in
a posted 45MPH speed zone.
I determined to make a traffic stop for the observed
violation. As I approached Settlers Way on south bound
SH 6, the vehicle was in the left inner lane, and I
initiated my units (343) overhead flashing red/blue
lights and front wig-wags.
The driver of the vehicle
turned left and pulled over to the right curb on Old Mill
Rd in the 3700 blk of SH 6.
I approached the driver and asked for his diver's license
and proof of financial responsibility.
himself by his Texas DL# .
Armando Morales W/M 10/24/1979
I had dispatch run his information through TCIC/NCIC.
Mr. Morales was found to have an outstanding TCIC/NCIC
warrant out of Bexar County as follows:
#1003927 Fail to Stop and Give
The warrant was confirmed by Bexar County Scott Gresham
and confirmation sent at 2125 hours.
At approximately 2129 hours I
custody for the warrant.
declaration in which he stated:
9Docket Entry No. 20-3, pp. 2 and 3.
On January 22, 2012, while performing my duties as
a City of Sugar Land, Texas, police officer, I
observed Plaintiff Armando Morales driving a Mazda
suv traveling at a rate of speed of 56 miles per
hour on a roadway with a maximum speed limit of 45
miles per hour.
Upon observing this violation of
the Texas Traffic Code, I stopped the speeding
vehicle and asked Plaintiff Morales to produce his
driver license. Plaintiff Morales provided a Texas
identification number *****227, a name Armando
Morales, and the date of birth of 10/24/1979.
arrested Armando Morales because a police
verified State law enforcement computer records
showed that a warrant was outstanding for his
The information I
provided to the
identity came directly from the Texas driver
license he handed to me.
telecommunications operator and asked her to check
statewide law enforcement computer records to
determine the registered owner of the vehicle he
had been driving, the validity of the driver
warranted existed for his arrest.
With my arrest report, I submitted a copy of the
telecommunications operator performed.
checked the license plate number TXN****.
she checked Morales'
individual Texas driver
license number *****227.
Third, she checked
records included in my report to establish that the
police computer showed a warrant outstanding for
Additionally, before I arrested Morales, Bexar
County sent a teletype to the Sugar Land police
telecommunications operator which confirmed the
existence of an outstanding arrest warrant for
Armando Morales, date of birth 10.24.1979.
confirming communication is also included in my
report. After the communications operator informed
me that Bexar County confirmed the validity of the
arrest warrant, I arrested Morales based upon the
reasonable belief that he
identified in the warrant. 10
Plaintiff has not cited any evidence capable of supporting a
claim that he was arrested on January 22, 2012, without probable
cause in violation of the Fourth Amendment.
Plaintiff has not
cited any evidence capable of showing that Officer Glass did not
reasonably believe that plaintiff was the individual identified in
a Bexar County warrant, or that Officer Glass knew that plaintiff
was innocent of the crime for which a Bexar County warrant had been
Moreover, plaintiff testified at his deposition that he
and the person for whom the warrant had been issued had different
middle names but shared the same first and last names and the same
date of birth.
In relevant part plaintiff testified:
And you now know that the person that they were
looking for, his name was -- let's see --
Armando Silverio Morales.
And so the difference would be the middle
name was different between you and the guy they
were looking for; is that right?
But your birth date and the guy that they were
looking for, you have the identical birth date; is
I believe so. They wouldn't tell me much about his
-- about that warrant or anything like that so
Well, tell me your birth date.
lODeclaration of Officer Jeffrey Glass, Docket Entry No. 20-4,
pp. 1-2 '1I'1I 3-5.
So if the guy they were looking for had the birth
date of 10-24-79, then you and he share the same
birth date and shared the same first and last name.
But what was
Correct, and our socials.
Do you know whether or not the Social Security
number was on the warrant that they had for the
I do not.
that. l l
They didn't show me any information like
reasonable infer that the Bexar County warrant pursuant to which he
was arrested was not valid.
Accordingly, the court concludes that
the City of Sugar Land is entitled to summary judgment on any claim
that plaintiff has asserted or attempted to assert for false arrest
in violation of the Fourth Amendment because plaintiff has failed
to cite any evidence capable of establishing that his arrest on
January 22, 2012, was not made pursuant to a valid warrant or that
the arresting officer did not have a reasonable, good faith belief
that he was arresting the correct person.
Alternatively, the court
concludes that defendants are entitled to summary judgment on any
claim that plaintiff has asserted for claim for wrongful arrest
llDeposition of Armando Delgado Morales, Docket Entry No. 20-6,
without probable cause because plaintiff has failed to allege or
cite any evidence capable of establishing that defendants violated
rights guaranteed by the
Fourth Amendment based on an official
policy or a decision made by a final policy maker.
See Monell, 98
S. Ct. at 2037-38.
Plaintiff Has Failed to Raise a Fact Issue as
to an Equal Protection Claim for Violation of
the Fourteenth Amendment
Plaintiff's allegations that defendants discriminated against
him on the basis of his Hispanic race, raises an equal protection
claim in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.
For his race-based
equal protection claim, plaintiff must demonstrate that defendants
intentionally discriminated against him on the basis of his race.
543 F.3d 221,
u. S. C.
officer was motivated by discriminatory intent); Green v. State Bar
of Texas, 27 F.3d 1083, 1086 (5th Cir. 1994)
("To establish a claim
the plaintiff is
in support of the
(2) an intent to discriminate on the basis of race by the
defendant; and (3) the discrimination concerns one or more of the
activities enumerated in the statute.").
Defendants have presented evidence that the arresting officer
Officer Glass -
was not aware of plaintiff's Hispanic heritage
and did not arrest him because of his race.
Defendants point to
the offense and arrest report,
in which Officer Glass identified
plaintiff as a
Defendants also point to Officer
white male. 12
Glass's declaration in which he stated
I had no intention of discriminating against Morales
because he is a racial minority.
I did not arrest him
based upon his race.
I arrested him only because I
believed a warrant existed for his arrest after the
telecommunications operator represented to me that police
computer records confirmed a valid warrant existed.
Based upon that information, I exercised legitimate law
enforcement discretion and arrested Morales in accordance
with training I had previously been provided that was
approved by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement
Plaintiff has not cited any evidence in support his claim of
unequal treatment based on race, i.e., plaintiff has not pointed to
any evidence that he was treated differently because of his race.
Nor has plaintiff set forth any other evidence from which a jury
could reasonably infer that his arrest was not motivated by Officer
good faith belief that plaintiff he was the
subject of a valid arrest warrant from Bexar County but, instead,
that his arrest was motivated by discriminatory intent because
12Docket Entry No. 20-3, pp. 2 and 3.
13Declaration of Officer Jeffrey Glass, Docket Entry No. 20-4,
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