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Swift v. Mauro

January 24, 2008

LEWIS SWIFT, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JOSEPH MAURO, DAVID BURGESS, STEVE BEAR AND JOHN HAMBLIN, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Norman A. Mordue, Chief U.S. District Judge

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

The present case arises from plaintiff's arrest on April 28, 2004, in the City of Syracuse for a number of traffic offenses and resisting arrest. Plaintiff sues under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 arguing that the defendants, all police officers employed by the City of Syracuse, used excessive force in executing his arrest in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Plaintiff also asserts state law claims for assault and battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Defendants move for summary judgment dismissing the complaint.

II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

The facts in this case - as gleaned from the parties' moving and opposing papers are as follows:

In the early morning hours of April 26, 2006, plaintiff was just "driving around" with a female companion in his sister's car when, according to defendant Mauro, he failed to stop at a red traffic control light at the intersection of Brighton Avenue and South Salina Street. Defendant Mauro then observed plaintiff pass through another red light at the intersection of South Salina Street and West Seneca Turnpike without stopping. Officer Mauro then activated the emergency lights on his patrol car and began pursuing plaintiff. According to defendant Mauro, plaintiff's vehicle did not stop when he activated his emergency lights. Instead, plaintiff kept driving and traveled at a high rate of speed through two more red lights. After failing to stop at a stop sign on Midland Avenue, plaintiff stopped the car in the middle of the street, exited the vehicle and ran to a rear entrance of a residence at 1815 Midland Avenue.

Plaintiff has not submitted an affidavit in opposition to defendants' motion. Upon review of the transcript of his 50-h earing and deposition in this case, however, it appears that plaintiff does not know why the police were chasing him on the night in question. Although he admits that he failed to obey a stop sign on Midland Avenue, he testified that he did not know the police were following or chasing him until that point. Moreover, he denied that he was speeding or driving erratically. He knew he was being followed by police and failed to stop his vehicle. Plaintiff knew police were outside his home waiting for him and he nevertheless tried to evade law enforcement officers by attempting to enter his apartment building before they could confront him. The heart of the dispute in this case centers on what occurred next. Plaintiff alleges that the defendant police officers used excessive physical force in arresting him. To wit, plaintiff alleges that the defendant officers beat him with their fists even though he did not resist arrest and attempted only to defend himself from defendants' unwarranted attack. Defendants assert that while lawfully attempting to arrest plaintiff for his refusal to stop after police pursued him for violating the traffic law, plaintiff violently resisted. Defendants contend that they were required to use reasonable force to restrain and finally arrest plaintiff, but that the force used was not excessive.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate where there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). Substantive law determines which facts are material; that is, which facts might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 258 (1986).

Irrelevant or unnecessary facts do not preclude summary judgment, even when they are in dispute. See id. The moving party bears the initial burden of establishing that there is no genuine issue of material fact to be decided. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). With respect to any issue on which the moving party does not bear the burden of proof, it may meet its burden on summary judgment by showing that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case. See id. at 325. Once the movant meets this initial burden, the nonmoving party must demonstrate that there is a genuine unresolved issue for trial. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). It is with these considerations in mind that the Court addresses defendants' motion for summary judgment.

B. Substantive Legal Standard

Plaintiff bases his federal claims on 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which reads in part:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom or usage of any State ..., subjects or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States ... to the deprivation of any rights, privileges or immunities secured by the ...


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