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DECKER v. CAMPUS

November 7, 1997

WILLIAM DECKER, Plaintiff, against GREGORY CAMPUS, individually and as DEPUTY OF THE DUTCHESS COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT, Defendant.

William C. Conner, Senior United States District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: CONNER

Conner, Senior D. J.

 Plaintiff William Decker ("Decker") brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violation of his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights under the United States Constitution against defendant Gregory Campus ("Deputy Campus"), individually, and as Deputy of the Dutchess County Sheriff's Department (the "Sheriff's Department"). Plaintiff's claims arise from his arrest on June 5, 1992 for second degree obstruction of governmental administration and disorderly conduct. Plaintiff asserts four claims, each in violation of his constitutional rights: (1) false arrest; (2) false imprisonment; (3) malicious prosecution and (4) excessive force. Defendant now moves for summary judgment on plaintiff's first three claims pursuant to FED. R. CIV. PRO. 56. For the reasons that follow, defendant's motion is granted.

 BACKGROUND

 On June 5, 1992, plaintiff and his wife were involved in a car accident in Dutchess County, as a result of which, plaintiff's wife was seriously injured and required the assistance of rescue and medical personnel. Defendant was one of many municipal officers who responded to the call. Sometime after 4 p.m., plaintiff was directed by various rescue personnel to step back from the vicinity of the accident, as they attempted to extricate Mrs. Decker from the driver side of plaintiff's Chrysler TC Mazarati convertible. More than once, plaintiff moved away from the car, but at other times, moved towards the car, in apparent disobedience of these directions. According to plaintiff, he remained by the car, in order to instruct the workers how to unhook, fold and remove its roof. *fn1" some point, plaintiff approached Peter Wawrzonek, a firefighter, who was carrying a piece of heavy, hydraulic equipment, known as the "jaws of life," to the car. *fn2" Shortly thereafter, plaintiff was approached by Deputy Campus, due to "some communication between the rescue personnel and [Deputy Campus]." Decker Dep. at 53, PP 22-24. Deputy Campus ordered plaintiff to step back from the car, at least once, and led him away from the car. Dep. of Gregory Campus ("Campus Dep."), at 29, PP 3-8. Plaintiff refused, stating, "damn it, let go, I want to be with my wife." Decker Dep. at 59, PP 17-18. When plaintiff continued to resist Deputy Campus, Campus grabbed the back of plaintiff's "shirt or neck," kicked plaintiff's foot, and pushed plaintiff to the ground. Campus Dep. at 30, PP 11-20. Deputy Campus then handcuffed plaintiff, "picked him up by the arms, and placed him" in the back of a patrol car. Id. at 32, PP 19-20. Plaintiff was arrested for second degree obstruction of governmental administration and disorderly conduct, in violation of N.Y. Penal Law, sections 195.05 and 240.20. Plaintiff was then issued an appearance ticket by Deputy Campus, arraigned by a town justice and tried before a jury on both counts. On June 4, 1993, plaintiff was found not guilty of these crimes.

 DISCUSSION

 I. Summary Judgment Standard and the Qualified Immunity Defense

 Summary judgment is appropriate where "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show 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). A material fact is genuinely disputed only if, based on that fact, a reasonable jury could find in favor of the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986). Thus, on a motion for summary judgment, all evidence must be viewed, and all inferences drawn, in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. City of Yonkers v. Otis Elevator Co., 844 F.2d 42, 45 (2d Cir. 1988).

 The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of "informing the district court of the basis for its motion" and identifying the matter "it believes demonstrate[s] the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986). Upon the movant's satisfaction of that burden, the onus shifts to the nonmoving party to "set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250. The nonmoving party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 89 L. Ed. 2d 538, 106 S. Ct. 1348 (1986), "[It] must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue of fact for trial." First Nat'l Bank of Arizona v. Cities Serv. Co., 391 U.S. 253, 288, 20 L. Ed. 2d 569, 88 S. Ct. 1575 (1968).

 The defense of qualified immunity acts to shield government agents from personal liability under section 1983 "insofar as their conduct [did] not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known," Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818, 102 S. Ct. 2727, 2738, 73 L. Ed. 2d 396 (1982), or "insofar as it was objectively reasonable for them to believe that their [conduct] did not violate those rights." Golino v. City of New Haven, 950 F.2d 864, 870 (2d Cir. 1991). In other words, the defense is available when "'a reasonable officer could have believed'" his conduct "'to be lawful, in light of clearly established law and the information [he] possessed.'" Marshall v. Sullivan, 105 F.3d 47, 53 (2d Cir. 1996) (quoting Hunter v. Bryant, 502 U.S. 224, 227, 112 S. Ct. 534, 536, 116 L. Ed. 2d 589 (1991) (per curiam)).

 In Robinson v. Via, the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that a government defendant would be entitled to summary judgment on qualified immunity grounds when

 821 F.2d 913, 921 (2d Cir. 1987)(quoting Halperin v. Kissinger, 257 U.S. App. D.C. 35, 807 F.2d 180, 189 (D.C. Cir. 1986)). Thus, the defendant is not entitled to summary judgment if any reasonable trier of fact could find the defendant's judgment objectively unreasonable. Lennon v. Miller, 66 F.3d 416, 420 (2d Cir. 1995). For example, a police officer's judgment would be objectively unreasonable as a matter of law if no officer of reasonable competence could have made an arrest under similar circumstances. Id. at 420-21. It is undisputed that freedom from false arrest, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution are clearly established rights. Accord Lowth v. Town of Cheektowaga, 82 F.3d 563, 569 (2d Cir. 1996). Summary judgment therefore turns on whether Deputy Campus's actions were objectively reasonable under the circumstances.

 II. Action Against Deputy Campus in His Individual Capacity

 Section 1983 permits, among other things, a person to sue any other "person" acting under color of state law for violating his or her constitutional rights. 42 U.S.C. § 1983. A person may be sued in either his or her individual capacity, official capacity or both. See Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 165-66, 87 L. Ed. 2d 114, 105 S. Ct. 3099 (1985). In this case, plaintiff has sued Deputy Campus in both his individual and official capacities. See Cplt. at 1. By suing defendant in his individual capacity, plaintiff seeks to impose personal ...


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