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Crease v. City of Olathe

United States District Court, Tenth Circuit

September 20, 2013

CITY OF OLATHE, KANSAS, et al., Defendants.



Plaintiff Wendolyn Crease brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Kansas law, alleging that Defendants, City of Olathe Police Officers, stopped her vehicle and subjected her to sobriety tests in violation of the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments[1] and that she was racially profiled. This case is before the Court on Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 38) and Plaintiff’s cross-motion for summary judgment (Doc. 44). As explained in detail below, because Plaintiff cannot show that Defendants violated a clearly established constitutional right, the motion for summary judgment must be granted on the federal civil rights claims. The Court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state law claim.

I. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate if the moving party demonstrates that there is “no genuine issue as to any material fact” and that it is “entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”[2] In applying this standard, the court views the evidence and all reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.[3] “There is no genuine issue of material fact unless the evidence, construed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.”[4] A fact is “material” if, under the applicable substantive law, it is “essential to the proper disposition of the claim.”[5] An issue of fact is “genuine” if “‘the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party.’”[6]

The moving party initially must show the absence of a genuine issue of material fact and entitlement to judgment as a matter of law.[7] In attempting to meet this standard, a movant that does not bear the ultimate burden of persuasion at trial need not negate the other party’s claim; rather, the movant need simply point out to the court a lack of evidence for the other party on an essential element of that party’s claim.[8]

Once the movant has met this initial burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to “set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.”[9] The nonmoving party may not simply rest upon its pleadings to satisfy its burden.[10] Rather, the nonmoving party must “set forth specific facts that would be admissible in evidence in the event of trial from which a rational trier of fact could find for the nonmovant.”[11] To accomplish this, the facts “must be identified by reference to an affidavit, a deposition transcript, or a specific exhibit incorporated therein.”[12] Rule 56(c)(4) provides that opposing affidavits must be made on personal knowledge and shall set forth such facts as would be admissible in evidence.[13] The non-moving party cannot avoid summary judgment by repeating conclusory opinions, allegations unsupported by specific facts, or speculation.[14]

Finally, summary judgment is not a “disfavored procedural shortcut”; on the contrary, it is an important procedure “designed to secure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every action.”[15] In responding to a motion for summary judgment, “a party cannot rest on ignorance of facts, on speculation, or on suspicion and may not escape summary judgment in the mere hope that something will turn up at trial.”[16]

Plaintiff moves for summary judgment as part of her response to Defendants’ motion, filed on April 19, 2013. The dispositive motions deadline was March 15, 2013.[17] Plaintiff did not file her motion by this deadline, nor has she sought leave to file her motion for summary judgment out of time. Accordingly, Plaintiff’s motion was improvidently filed and may be denied on this basis alone. But even assuming the motion was properly filed, the Court would deny her motion on the merits for the reasons explained herein.

II. Facts

The following facts are either uncontroverted or stated in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.

Plaintiff Wendolyn Crease is an African-American woman. She was diagnosed with glaucoma in both eyes in the early 2000s, which causes her eye pain, blurred vision, and sensitivity to light. The glaucoma also causes a cloud over her vision in the center of her eyes. Defendants Justin Hays and Robert McKeirnan are members of the City of Olathe, Kansas Police Department, and were acting under the color of state law at the time of the incident forming the basis of this action.

Plaintiff spent the night at her sister’s house on South Walnut, in Olathe, Kansas the night of August 14, 2010. She was not feeling well that night and had recently had tubes inserted into the tear ducts of her eyes to produce moisture. Although she uses prescription glasses when driving, she left them at home that night. Plaintiff believes she went to bed around 10:30 or 11:00 p.m., and took sleep medication to help her sleep. She recalls waking up around 3:30 or 4:00 a.m. because she wanted to go home to eat something so she could take her morning medication. Plaintiff left her sister’s house around 4:15 a.m., and was driving a black Mazda 626.

At 4:35 a.m., Officers Hays and McKeirnan were dispatched following a 911 call from a citizen complaining of a vehicle driving slowly up and down a residential street in the area of Troost Circle and Prairie Street in Olathe, Kansas. The vehicle was described as a black, newer four-door passenger car with a Missouri license tag, possibly a Saab or Volkswagen. The citizen report did not identify the race or gender of the person operating the vehicle. While the officers were heading to the area, dispatch updated the vehicle description to say that it had Kansas tags, had loud music coming from it, and was last seen leaving the area on Prairie Street.

Plaintiff testified at her deposition that while she was getting into her car in front of her sister’s house, she saw two police vehicles turn off Santa Fe, heading northbound on Walnut. Her sister’s house is approximately three blocks south of Santa Fe. Plaintiff then got in her car and from her sister’s house drove north on Walnut, crossed over Santa Fe, and stopped at the stop sign at Spruce. Plaintiff testified that one of the police vehicles made a U-turn immediately north of the intersection of Walnut and Spruce, and stopped at the stop sign at the intersection, such that she was facing northbound and the police vehicle was facing southbound. Plaintiff testified that she and the police vehicle sat at the stop sign for twenty-five to thirty seconds facing each other, and that the officer “looked at me, ” and she was “pretty sure, he saw her.”

Plaintiff put on her turn signal and made a right-hand turn heading east on Spruce. Officer Hays followed Plaintiff’s vehicle for several blocks on Spruce. Hays avers that he observed the vehicle was a black Mazda four-door with a Kansas tag that generally matched the description of the vehicle identified in the citizen report. He further observed the vehicle driving at a speed of 10-20 mph, below the posted speed limit of 25 mph, and weaving slightly but steadily within its lane of traffic. Plaintiff turned left, heading north on Woodland, and Hays activated ...

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