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Roberts v. Midfield Police Dep't

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division

November 10, 2014

CEDRIC ALONZO ROBERTS, Plaintiff,
v.
MIDFIELD POLICE DEPARTMENT and OFFICER T. YEARWOOD, Defendants

Cedric Alonzo Roberts, Plaintiff, Pro se, Clio, AL.

MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

T. MICHAEL PUTNAM, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

The plaintiff, Cedric Alonzo Roberts, has filed a pro se complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that rights, privileges, or immunities afforded him under the Constitution or laws of the United States have been abridged. The plaintiff is currently incarcerated at Easterling Correctional Facility in Clio, Alabama. The plaintiff names as defendant Midfield Police Officer Timothy Yearwood.[1] The plaintiff seeks monetary relief.

In accordance with the usual practices of this court and 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), the complaint was referred to the undersigned magistrate judge for a preliminary report and recommendation. See McCarthy v. Bronson, 500 U.S. 136, 111 S.Ct. 1737, 114 L.Ed.2d 194 (1991).

I. Procedural History

On December 17, 2013, the court entered an Order for Special Report, directing that a copy of the complaint in this action be forwarded to the defendant and requesting that he file a Special Report addressing the factual allegations of the plaintiff's complaint. (Doc. 9). The court advised the defendant that the Special Report should be accompanied by sworn statements and, if appropriate, would be considered as a motion for summary judgment, filed pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Id.). By the same order, the court advised the plaintiff that after he received a copy of the Special Report submitted by the defendant, he should file counter-affidavits if he wished to rebut the matters presented by the defendant in the Special Report. (Id.).

On April 14, 2014, Defendant Yearwood filed a Special Report accompanied by affidavits and other documents. (Docs. 20 & 21). The court notified the plaintiff that Defendant Yearwood's Special Report would be construed as a motion for summary judgment and he would have twenty (20) days to respond by filing affidavits and other material if he chose. (Doc. 22). The court also advised the plaintiff of the consequences of any default or failure to comply with Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. Griffith v. Wainwright, 772 F.2d 822, 825 (11th Cir. 1985). The plaintiff filed responses to the defendant's motion for summary judgment on May 27, 2014, and June 2, 2014. (Docs. 24 & 25).

II. Summary Judgment Standard

In considering a motion for summary judgment, the court must determine whether the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Summary judgment may be granted only if there are no genuine issues of material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. In making that assessment, the court must view the evidence in a light most favorable to the non-moving party and must draw all reasonable inferences against the moving party. See Chapman v. AI Transp., 229 F.3d 1012, 1023 (11th Cir. 2000). The burden of proof is upon the moving party to establish his prima facie entitlement to summary judgment by showing the absence of genuine issues and that he is due to prevail as a matter of law. See Clark v. Coats & Clark, Inc., 929 F.2d 604, 608 (11th Cir. 1989). Unless the plaintiff, who carries the ultimate burden of proving his action, is able to show some evidence with respect to each element of his claim, all other issues of fact become immaterial and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986); Bennett v. Parker, 898 F.2d 1530, 1532-33 (11th Cir. 1990).

As the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has explained:

Facts in dispute cease to be " material" facts when the plaintiff fails to establish a prime facie case. " In such a situation, there can be 'no genuine issue as to any material fact, ' since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the non-moving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Thus, under such circumstances, the public official is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, because the plaintiff has failed to carry the burden of proof. This rule facilitates the dismissal of factually unsupported claims prior to trial.

Bennett v. Parker, 898 F.2d at 1532 (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986)). However, any " specific facts" pled in a pro se plaintiff's sworn complaint must be considered in opposition to summary judgment. See Perry v. Thompson, 786 F.2d 1093, 1095 (11th Cir. 1986).

III. Summary Judgment Facts

Based on the foregoing summary judgment standard, the following facts are undisputed or, if disputed, taken in a light most favorable to the plaintiff.

On April 22, 2011, at approximately 12:00 a.m., Jesse Bell was working night duty as a patrol officer for the Midfield Police Department (" MPD"). (Doc. 20-1, Bell Aff. ¶ 3) MPD received a call regarding a person breaking into or tampering with a Bestway box truck located in a parking lot at 18-C Phillips Drive, Midfield, Alabama. (Doc. 20-1, Bell Aff. ¶ 3; Doc. 25, Roberts Aff. at 1) Officer Bell was dispatched to the location to investigate. (Doc. 20-1, Bell Aff. ¶ 3)

Officer Bell drove to the location in his patrol vehicle through a private drive that exits through the rear of the MPD's parking lot. (Id.) The plaintiff had drained fuel from the Bestway truck's gas tank into a handheld gas can. (Doc. 20-1, Bell Aff. ¶ 3; Doc. 25, Roberts Aff. ar 1). The plaintiff was sitting on the tailgate of his truck when Officer Bell activated the blue light bar on his patrol vehicle. (Doc. 25, Roberts Aff. at 1-2). The plaintiff began to run across the parking lot.[2] (Id.)

When MPD received a call regarding the plaintiff breaking into or tampering with a vehicle, Officer Timothy Yearwood, a patrol officer with MPD, also was dispatched to the scene. (Doc. 20-10, Yearwood Aff. ΒΆ 3). Defendant Yearwood drove to the location in his patrol vehicle via 9th Avenue ...


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