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Paulk v. Lester

June 22, 2010

MARTIN PAULK, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PARENT AND GUARDIAN OF "JOHN DOE," A MINOR, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CHARLES LESTER; SHAWN MEHLEK; AND FREDERIC BROUGH, DEFENDANTS,



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Glenn T. Suddaby, United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM DECISION and ORDER

Currently before the Court in this civil rights action filed by Martin Paulk, Sr., individually and as a parent and guardian of "John Doe," a minor ("Plaintiff"), is a motion for summary judgment filed by Charles Lester, Shawn Mehlek, and Frederic Brough ("Defendants"). (Dkt. No. 31.) For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion is granted in part and denied in part.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Plaintiff's Claims

Generally, liberally construed, Plaintiff's Amended Complaint alleges that, on February 11, 2006, in Syracuse, New York, John Doe's civil rights were violated when he was taken into physical custody by Defendants (Syracuse Police Officers). (See generally Dkt. No. 24 [Plf.'s Am. Compl.].) More specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants unlawfully arrested John Doe, and that, during his arrest, he was assaulted. (Id.) Based on these allegations, Plaintiff's Amended Complaint asserts the following claims, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and/or New York State law: (1) assault and battery; (2) excessive force; (3) unlawful search and seizure; (4) false arrest; and (5) false imprisonment.*fn1 (Id.) Familiarity with the remaining factual allegations supporting these claims is assumed in this Decision and Order, which is intended primarily for review by the parties. (Id.)

B. Undisputed Material Facts

The following is a general summary of material facts that are undisputed by the parties.(Compare Dkt. No. 31, Attach. 14 [Defs.' Rule 7.1 Statement] with Dkt. No. 35 [Plf.'s Rule 7.1 Response].)

On February 11, 2006, at approximately 11:30 p.m., Plaintiff Martin Paulk, Sr., and his then-fifteen-year-old child, John Doe, were moving from their apartment at 106 Jasper Place in the City of Syracuse. Plaintiff had left 106 Jasper Place to get a truck to transport their belongings to their new residence. John Doe remained at 106 Jasper Place to watch their belongings. The residence at 106 Jasper Place was owned by an individual named Mia Bullock.

At some point in time on February 11, 2006, before Plaintiff returned with the truck, Mia Bullock directed John Doe to leave residence. When John Doe refused to leave, Mia Bullock called the police. Police officers, including Defendants Charles Lester, Shawn Mehlek and Frederic Brough, arrived at 106 Jasper Place.

At some point after their arrival, one or more of the police officers ordered John Doe to leave the residence. John Doe left the residence, followed by Defendants Lester and Brough. Once outside the residence, an altercation took place involving John Doe and Defendants Lester and Brough.*fn2 As a result of the altercation, John Doe was taken into custody and placed under arrest. John Doe was then transported to the Youth Division at the Public Safety Building.

Familiarity with the remaining disputed material facts, as set forth in the parties' Rule 7.1 Statement and Rule 7.1 Response is assumed in this Decision and Order, which (again) is intended primarily for review by the parties. (Id.)

C. Defendants' Motion

Generally, in support of their motion for summary judgment, Defendants argue as follows: (1) Plaintiff has failed to adduce admissible record evidence from which a rational factfinder could conclude that John Doe suffered a violation of any of his rights; (2) Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity on Plaintiff's search and seizure claim (which Defendants construe as a claim for false arrest); (3) Defendants Lester and Brough are entitled to qualified immunity on Plaintiff's excessive force claim, as a matter of law; and (4) Plaintiff's claims against Defendant Mehlek should be dismissed because Plaintiff has failed to adduce admissible record evidence from which a rational factfinder could conclude that Defendant Mehlek was personally involved in the alleged constitutional violations. (See generally Dkt. No. 31, Attach. 15 [Defs.' Memo. of Law].)

In Plaintiff's response to Defendants' motion for summary judgment, he argues that he has adduced admissible record evidence from which a rational factfinder could conclude that Defendants (1) used excessive force during John Doe's arrest, (2) falsely arrested John Doe, and (3) are not entitled to qualified immunity. (See generally Dkt. No. 36 [Plf.'s Response Memo. of Law].)

In their reply, Defendants reiterate previously advanced arguments regarding qualified immunity and Defendant Mehlek's lack of personal involvement. (See generally Dkt. No. 38 [Defs.' Reply Memo. of Law].)

II. RELEVANT LEGAL STANDARDS

A. Legal Standard Governing Motions for Summary Judgment

Under Fed. R. Civ. P. 56, summary judgment is warranted if "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). In determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, the Court must resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences against the moving party. In addition, "[the moving party] bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the . . . [record] which it believes demonstrate[s] the absence of any genuine issue of material fact." Celotex v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). ...


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