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Callahan v. Unified Government of Wyandotte County

United States District Court, D. Kansas

September 9, 2014

PATRICK E. CALLAHAN, Plaintiff,
v.
UNIFIED GOVERNMENT OF WYANDOTTE COUNTY/KANSAS CITY, KANSAS, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

KATHRYN H. VRATIL, District Judge.

On July 25, 2014, the Court overruled in part and struck in part Defendant Unified Government's Motion For Summary Judgment (Doc. #368) and Defendants Rick Armstrong, James Brown, Greg Lawson and Curtis Nicholson's Motion For Summary Judgment (Doc. #370) both filed December 20, 2013. See Order (Doc. #450). On August 8, 2014, defendants filed a Motion For Reconsideration Of Order Denying Their Motions For Summary Judgment (Doc. #457). To "prevent manifest injustice, " defendants ask the Court to reconsider its rulings on their summary judgment motions and "reach the merits of the issues raised, " because they are "entitled to a full analysis of qualified immunity before trial." Id. at 1, 2, 4, 7. They also imply that the Court abused its discretion by striking their briefs and failing to address purely legal arguments, maintaining that they had properly argued that they had probable cause to arrest or reasonable suspicion to detain plaintiff and that their summary judgment briefs did not violate D. Kan. Rule 56.1. See id. at 2-7. For the reasons set forth below, the Court overrules defendants' motion.

I. Jurisdiction

Before considering the merits of the motion, it is necessary to discuss jurisdiction. On August 22, 2014, defendants filed a notice of appeal on the issue of qualified immunity, which they believe divests this court of jurisdiction. See Defendants' Reply To Plaintiff's Memorandum In Opposition To Defendants' Motion For Reconsideration Of Order Denying Their Motions For Summary Judgment (Doc. #462) filed August 25, 2014 at 1.

Defendants seek reconsideration under D. Kan. R. 7.3(b), which governs non-dispositive orders. Defendants should have sought reconsideration of the Court's denial of qualified immunity, however, under Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e) and D. Kan. R. 7.3(a), which govern reconsideration of dispositive orders.

An "order rejecting the defense of qualified immunity at the summary judgment stage is a final judgment subject to immediate appeal." Springer v. Albin , 398 Fed.App'x 427, 432 (10th Cir. 2010) (unpublished) (quoting Behrens v. Pelletier , 516 U.S. 299, 307 (1996)) (internal quotation marks and ellipses omitted).[1] Such an order may be challenged by a Rule 59(e) motion. See id. (the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure define "judgment" as "any order from which an appeal lies"). The Court therefore construes defendants' motion as one to alter or amend the judgment under D. Kan. R. 7.3(a) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e).

Under Rule 4(a)(4) of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure, when a party files a notice of appeal challenging a final order before the district court disposes of a motion brought under Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e), the notice becomes effective after the district court rules on the motion. See Fed. R. App. P. 4(a)(4)(B)(i). The Court therefore retains jurisdiction to rule on defendants' motion for reconsideration.[2]

II. Legal Standards

A. Motion for Reconsideration

The Court has discretion whether to grant or deny a motion to reconsider. See Hancock v. City of Okla. City , 857 F.2d 1394, 1395 (10th Cir. 1988). The Court may recognize any one of three grounds justifying reconsideration on a Rule 59(e) motion: an intervening change in controlling law, the availability of new evidence or the need to correct clear error or prevent manifest injustice. Devon Energy Prod. Co., L.P. v. Mosaic Potash Carlsbad, Inc. , 693 F.3d 1195, 1212 (10th Cir. 2012); see also F.T.C. v. Chapman , 714 F.3d 1211, 1219 (10th Cir. 2013).

B. Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); accord Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986); Vitkus v. Beatrice Co. , 11 F.3d 1535, 1538-39 (10th Cir. 1993). The moving party bears the initial burden of showing the absence of any genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986); Hicks v. City of Watonga , 942 F.2d 737, 743 (10th Cir. 1991). Once the moving party meets its burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to demonstrate that genuine issues remain for trial as to those dispositive matters which he carries the burden of proof. See Applied Genetics Int'l, Inc. v. First Affiliated Sec., Inc. , 912 F.2d 1238, 1241 (10th Cir. 1990); see also Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp. , 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986); Bacchus Indus., Inc. v. Arvin Indus., Inc. , 939 F.2d 887, 891 (10th Cir. 1991).

C. Qualified Immunity

Government officials performing discretionary functions generally are shielded 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. Harlow v. Fitzgerald , 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982). Qualified immunity provides government officials immunity from suit as well as from liability for discretionary acts. See Mitchell v. Forsyth , 472 U.S. 511 (1985). When defendants assert a qualified immunity defense at the summary judgment stage, the burden shifts to plaintiff to show that defendants violated a constitutional right and the law was clearly established at the time of the alleged violation. Vondrak v. City of Las Cruces , 535 F.3d 1198, 1204 (10th Cir. 2008). To satisfy this burden, plaintiff must show that when viewed in the light most favorable to plaintiff, the record establishes that defendants violated a constitutional right and that the right was clearly established at the time of the alleged violation. See Olsen v. Layton Hills Mall , 312 F.3d 1304, 1312 (10th Cir. 2002) (citing Saucier v. Katz , 533 U.S. 194, 201 (2001)). If plaintiff does so, the burden ...


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