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McCoy v. Smith

United States District Court, Tenth Circuit

December 17, 2013

TREVOR A. MCCOY, Plaintiff,



This case comes before the court on defendant's motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 9). The motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for decision. (Docs. 10, 15, 19) . Defendant's motion is granted for the reasons herein.

I. Facts

On May 31, 2010, Trevor J. McCoy was arrested for embezzling from his employer, Banana Republic. On March 4, 2011, Trevor J. was charged with the crime and a warrant for his arrest was issued. The warrant correctly listed the name Trevor J. McCoy, Trevor J.'s year of birth, driver's license number and the last four digits of his social security number. Despite the correct information in the warrant, an unknown individual inputted information identifying plaintiff, Trevor A, into an I/LEADS computer program. This information appeared on a warrant worksheet, a document utilized by sheriff's deputies and accessed through a computer system. The warrant worksheet listed information for plaintiff, including his age, date of birth and last known address.

Defendant Jeffrey Smith, a deputy with the Sedgwick County Sheriff's office, is one of six deputies who search for suspects with outstanding arrest warrants on a day to day basis. At the time the warrant was issued for Trevor J., Sedgwick County did not provide the arresting deputies, including defendant, with the actual arrest warrants issued by the court.[1] Instead, defendant retrieved the warrant worksheets from the I/LEADS computer system and would then search for the suspects and arrest them. On May 16, 2011, defendant logged onto his computer and retrieved the warrant worksheet for plaintiff. Defendant did not review the actual warrant and was unable to access the warrant from his computer.

Defendant left the sheriff's office and went searching for plaintiff. Defendant arrived at plaintiff's father's home and informed plaintiff's father of the outstanding warrant for his son. Plaintiff's father had no knowledge of the criminal acts and insisted his son was studying in Oklahoma. Plaintiff's father called plaintiff who denied the criminal activities and stated that he had never worked at Banana Republic. Defendant suggested that plaintiff retain an attorney to take care of the warrant and left his business card with the criminal case number. Defendant did not instruct plaintiff to travel to Wichita. Defendant did not take any further action concerning plaintiff or Trevor J. McCoy.

On May 18, plaintiff drove to Sedgwick County Jail and turned himself in. Plaintiff began the booking process at 8:15 p.m. and was released on a $5, 000 bond at 9:58 p.m. On June 22, the court entered an order excusing plaintiff from any further obligation in Trevor J.'s criminal case.

Plaintiff brought this action alleging defendant violated his rights by arresting him without probable cause and causing him to be unlawfully detained. Defendant moves for summary judgment on the basis of qualified immunity.

II. Summary Judgment Standards

The rules applicable to the resolution of this case, now at the summary judgment stage, are well-known and are only briefly outlined here. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c) directs the entry of summary judgment in favor of a party who "show[s] that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). An issue is "genuine" if sufficient evidence exists so that a rational trier of fact could resolve the issue either way and an issue is "material" if under the substantive law it is essential to the proper disposition of the claim. Adamson v. Multi Community Diversified Svcs., Inc., 514 F.3d 1136, 1145 (10th Cir. 2008). When confronted with a fully briefed motion for summary judgment, the court must ultimately determine "whether there is the need for a trial-whether, in other words, there are any genuine factual issues that properly can be resolved only by a finder of fact because they may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986) . If so, the court cannot grant summary judgment. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986).

III. Analysis

Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. section 1983, any person who "under color of . . . [law] . . . subjects, or causes to be subjected, . . . any [person] ... to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured." Section 1983 was enacted to provide protections to those persons wronged by the misuse of power. While the statute itself creates no substantive civil rights, it does provide an avenue through which civil rights can be redeemed. See Wilson v. Meeks, 52 F.3d 1547, 1552 (10th Cir. 1995). To state a claim for relief in a section 1983 action, plaintiff must establish that he was (1) deprived of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States and (2) that the alleged deprivation was committed under color of state law. See American Mfr's. Mut. Ins. Co. v. Sullivan, 526 U.S. 40, 49-50 (1999).

A. Fourth Amendment

Plaintiff argues that defendant did not have probable cause to arrest him and, therefore, the arrest was unlawful. Defendant responds that he did not arrest plaintiff or, in the alternative, that mere ...

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