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Meadows v. City of Oklahoma City

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

March 29, 2019

CITY OF OKLAHOMA CITY et al., Defendants.



         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant City of Oklahoma City's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 66). Plaintiff has responded[1] in opposition to the Motion (Doc. Nos. 83, 88-1), and Defendant City has replied (Doc. No. 85). Having considered the parties' arguments, the relevant record, and the governing law, the Court grants Defendant City's Motion.


         This civil rights action arises out of Plaintiff's arrest and subsequent twenty-hour detention for allegedly driving under the influence of alcohol. Plaintiff filed his suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, asserting violations of his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, as well as pendant state-law claims. See Compl. (Doc. No. 1). Plaintiff brings these claims against Defendant City of Oklahoma City (the “City”) and Oklahoma City Police Department (“OCPD”) officer Kristopher Gellenbeck in both his individual and official capacities. See Id. at 2. On June 6, 2017, the Court granted Defendant City's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's official-capacity claims against Defendant Gellenbeck and all state-law claims against Defendant City insofar as they were alleged solely under the Oklahoma Constitution rather than pursuant to the Oklahoma Governmental Tort Claims Act (“GTCA”). See Order of June 6, 2017 (Doc. No. 18) (Miles-LaGrange, J.).

         Standard of Review

         Summary judgment is a means of testing in advance of trial whether the available evidence would permit a reasonable jury to find in favor of the party asserting a claim. The Court must grant summary judgment when “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “An issue is ‘genuine' if there is sufficient evidence on each side so that a rational trier of fact could resolve the issue either way.” Adler v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 144 F.3d 664, 670 (10th Cir. 1998). “An issue of fact is ‘material' if under the substantive law it is essential to the proper disposition of the claim.” Id.

         A party that moves for summary judgment has the burden of showing that the undisputed material facts require judgment as a matter of law in its favor. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). If the movant carries this initial burden, the nonmovant must then “go beyond the pleadings and ‘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.” Adler, 144 F.3d at 671 (citation omitted). The Court must then determine “whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986). Parties may establish the existence or nonexistence of a material disputed fact by:

• citing to “depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations . . ., admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials” in the record; or
• demonstrating “that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact.”

Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1)(A)-(B). While the Court views the evidence and the inferences drawn from the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, see Pepsi-Cola Bottling Co. of Pittsburg, Inc. v. PepsiCo, Inc., 431 F.3d 1241, 1255 (10th Cir. 2005), “[t]he mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the [nonmovant's] position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the [trier of fact] could reasonably find for the [nonmovant].” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252.

         Undisputed Facts[2]

         In its Motion, Defendant City set out the following eleven material facts related to Plaintiff's arrest and three material facts related to OCPD officer training. See Mot. Summ. J. (Doc. No. 66) at 1-5.[3] Plaintiff did not present any additional facts that he contends are preclusive of judgment as a matter of law. See LCvR 56(c).

         On March 26, 2016, the OCPD 911 call center received a call that a female was being held against her will in a hotel room by a male with a gun. See Mot. Summ. J. at 1-2 (citing Doc No. 32-7). At approximately the same time, the OCPD 911 call center received a call that a male carrying an AK-47 had left the hotel with a woman and that they had gotten into a red Honda Accord with tag number 352LFO or 352LFD. See Id. at 2 (citing Doc. No. 47-2). Plaintiff does not dispute that the 911 call center received these two calls but objects that the Court should disregard the calls as inadmissible in evidence. See Pl.'s Resp. at 1-4; Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(2) (“A party may object that the material cited to support or dispute a fact cannot be presented in a form that would be admissible in evidence.”). Plaintiff also disputes that the second caller saw Plaintiff leave the hotel with a gun. See Pl.'s Resp. at 4.

         OCPD Officer Maldonado observed the vehicle on the highway and made a traffic stop. See id.; Doc. No. 47-3 at 4. Defendant Gellenbeck arrived as Plaintiff was being “called” from the driver's seat.[4] See Id. Defendant Gellenbeck observed that Plaintiff's eyes were bloodshot and watery and that Plaintiff's speech was slow and slurred. See Id. (citing Doc. No. 47-3 at 2). Defendant Gellenbeck also observed that Plaintiff was very unsteady on his feet when he stood and walked. See Id. Defendant Gellenbeck initiated a field sobriety test but did not complete the test due to the cold and very windy weather.[5]See Id. at 3. Defendant Gellenbeck placed Plaintiff under arrest on state charges of driving under the influence of alcohol in violation of Okla. Stat. tit. 47, § 11-902, as well as possession of a firearm while intoxicated, see Okla. Stat. tit. 21, § 1289.9, transporting an open container of beer, see Okla. Stat. tit. 21, § 1220, and driving with a revoked and suspended license, see Okla. Stat. tit. 47, § 6-303.B.[6] See Mot. Summ. J. at 3; Doc. No. 47-3 at 1.

         Defendant Gellenbeck prepared an affidavit of probable cause for Plaintiff's arrest, in accordance with OCPD Procedure, which was approved and signed by an Oklahoma County District Court judge. See Mot. Summ. J. at 3 (citing Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 10 (Doc. No. 66-2)). Defendant City notes that this procedure is Defendant City's attempt to comply with the requirements prescribed in Gerstein v. Pugh, 420 U.S. 103 (1975), and County of Riverside v. McLaughlin, 500 U.S. 44 (1991), for the extended detention of individuals arrested without a warrant. See Id. While the Oklahoma County District Attorney's Office filed charges against Plaintiff, the charges were subsequently dismissed. See Id. at 3-4 (citing Doc. No. 47-1).

         Regarding OCPD officer training and Defendant Gellenbeck's training pursuant to OCPD policies, Defendant City states that Defendant Gellenbeck attended the OCPD Recruit Training Academy from September 27, 2013, to April 23, 2014. See Id. at 4-5. This training included the areas of “laws of arrest” and the requirement of probable cause. See Id. (citing Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 12 (Doc. No. 66-4)). After completion of the training program, Defendant Gellenback was placed in OCPD's Field Training and Evaluation Program for four months, as are all OCPD recruits pursuant to OCPD policy. See Id. at 5. Finally, OCDP policy requires officers to face a Probation Review Board at the end of ten months of employment. See Id. The purpose of the Probation Review Board is to evaluate the performance of new hire recruits nearing the end of their probationary period to determine whether the recruit should be granted permanent status, given an extended probationary period, or terminated from employment. See id.; id. Ex. 15 (Doc. No. 66-7).


         A. Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment Claim Against Defendant City

         In his Complaint, Plaintiff states that he was “wrongfully seized and imprisoned for 20 hours without probable cause” in violation of both the Fourth and Fourteen Amendments. Compl. at 1. Because Plaintiff's claims are predicated solely on his arrest and his subsequent twenty-hour detention, which occurred prior to a judge's probable cause determination, see Compl. at 1, 4, they implicate the Fourth Amendment, which “establishes the minimum standards and procedures not just for arrest but also for ensuing detention” and “governs a claim for unlawful pretrial detention even beyond the start of legal process.” Manuel v. City of Joliet, 137 S.Ct. 911, 917, 920 (2017) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Gerstein, 420 U.S. at 111); see also Gadd v. Campbell, 712 Fed.Appx. 796, 799-800 (10th Cir. 2017); Young v. Davis, 554 F.3d 1254, 1257 (10th Cir. 2009) (explaining that an individual arrested without a warrant becomes held “pursuant to legal process” upon the probable cause determination by a judicial officer).[7]

         Municipal liability requires two distinct findings: that the plaintiff's federal rights were violated and that the municipality “is responsible for that violation.” Collins v. City of Harker Heights, 503 U.S. 115, 120 (1992). A municipality cannot be held liable for the unconstitutional conduct of its employees under a theory of respondeat superior. Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 691 (1978); Brammer-Hoelter v. Twin Peaks Charter Acad., 602 F.3d 1175, 1188 (10th Cir. 2010). Rather, a municipality is liable under § 1983 only where the employee's unconstitutional conduct occurred while he was carrying out a policy or custom established by the municipality, and there is a direct causal link between the policy or custom and the injury alleged. See Bryson v. City of Okla. City, 627 F.3d 784, 788 (10th Cir. 2010) (citing Hinton v. City of Elwood, 997 F.2d 774, 782 (10th Cir. 1993)).

         A municipal policy or custom required to support § 1983 municipal liability may take the form of one of the following:

(1) a formal regulation or policy statement; (2) an informal custom amounting to a widespread practice that, although not authorized by written law or express municipal policy, is so permanent and well settled as to constitute a custom or usage with the force of law; (3) the decisions of employees with final policymaking authority; (4) the ratification by such final policymakers of the decisions-and the basis for them-of subordinates to whom authority was delegated subject to these policymakers' review and approval; or (5) the failure to adequately ...

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