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Billingsley v. Orr

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

January 13, 2015

KRISTOPHER BILLINGSLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
WILLIE ORR, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

VIRGINIA EMERSON HOPKINS, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff Kristopher Billingsley ("Mr. Billingsley") initiated this civil rights case on July 18, 2013, against Defendant Willie Orr ("Officer Orr"). (Doc. 1). Mr. Billingsley complains about how Officer Orr treated him during a law enforcement incident which occurred on or about June 1, 2012. (Doc. 1 at 3 ¶ 10). Mr. Billingsley's complaint contains one federal count and three other counts arising under Alabama law, all of which appear to be brought against Officer Orr solely in his individual capacity.[1]

Count One is for deprivation of civil rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. More specifically, Mr. Billingsley contends that Officer Orr subjected him to "an unreasonable search and seizure as there existed no valid and supportable probable cause or reasonable suspicion that [he] had committed a crime" and violated his rights to due process. (Doc. 1 at 3-4 ¶ 13).

Count Two is for assault and battery. Count Three is for false imprisonment. Finally, Court Four is for the tort of outrage.

Pending before the court is a Motion for Summary Judgment (the "Motion") (Doc. 20) filed by Officer Orr on November 26, 2014. Officer Orr filed his supporting brief and evidentiary materials on this same date. (Doc. 21). Mr. Billingsley opposed the Motion on December 17, 2014. (Doc. 22). Officer Orr followed with his reply (Doc. 24) on December 31, 2014. Accordingly, the Motion is under submission and, for the reasons explained below, is GRANTED IN PART and otherwise is DENIED.

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND[2]

Officer Orr is a member of the Talladega Drug Task Force and was part of an anti-drug operation conducted on June 1, 2012. At 9:00 a.m. on that date, another agent, Jarred Tomlin ("Officer Tomlin"), received a tip by telephone call that James Pointer ("Mr. Pointer"), a known drug dealer, was selling drugs out of a white Dodge Durango near the corner of East Sloan Avenue and 19th Street in Talladega.

Officers Tomlin and Orr proceeded to the vicinity of 19th Street and spotted the white Durango with a couple of guys standing outside of it. Officers Tomlin and Orr tried to set up a surveillance spot, but lost sight of Mr. Pointer after they had circled the block in their vehicle.

Later on that same day, Officers Tomlin and Orr came across one of their informants who stated that she was supposed to buy some crack from Mr. Pointer who reportedly was getting the drugs ready for her at the Sunrise Apartments. Based upon this tip, Officers Tomlin and Orr went to the Sunrise Apartments and saw Mr. Pointer pull out from that residential area in the white Durango.

Officers Tomlin and Orr then ran Mr. Pointer's tag and name and learned that he had either a suspended or revoked driver's license. They decided to stop him for this offense, but when they turned on the blue lights to their vehicle, Mr. Pointer did not stop and, instead, drove away from them. An involved and dangerous vehicle chase ensued until Mr. Pointer crashed into two other cars and collided with a power pole.

Mr. Pointer then exited his vehicle and started running on foot. Eventually, Mr. Pointer caught up to Mr. Billingsley's vehicle at the intersection of East Street and Sloan Avenue. Mr. Pointer opened the rear driver-side door and got into Mr. Billingsley's car. Mr. Billingsley immediately put his car in park and exited the vehicle with his hands up above his head.

After raising his hands, Mr. Billingsley walked towards Officer Orr declaring that he did not know Mr. Pointer. As soon as Mr. Billingsley heard Officer Orr say "get on the ground, " he adhered by lowering himself towards the ground. As Mr. Billingsley was moving his body to the ground in compliance with Officer Orr's command, Officer Orr struck him multiple times in the face and left side of the head. After being hit multiple times by Officer Orr, Mr. Billingsley fell to the ground and Officer Orr put him in handcuffs.

Mr. Billingsley suffered a bloody nose. Mr. Billingsley and his brother (who had been a passenger in Mr. Billingsley's car at the time Mr. Pointer entered it) were handcuffed and detained for approximately two hours without any explanation as to why they were in handcuffs.

After being released at the scene, Mr. Billingsley went to the Emergency Room at the Citizens Baptist Medical Center. The findings from the x-ray of his facial bones showed that his septum was mildly deviated to the left, but that his sinuses were clear and that he did not have any fractures or bony destruction. Dr. Fred A. McLeod operated on Mr. Billingsley's nose on June 7, 2012.

III. STANDARDS

A. Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is proper only when there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). All reasonable doubts about the facts and all justifiable inferences are resolved in favor of the nonmovant. See Fitzpatrick v. City of Atlanta, 2 F.3d 1112, 1115 (11th Cir. 1993). A dispute is genuine "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). "Once the moving party has properly supported its motion for summary judgment, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" International Stamp Art, Inc. v. U.S. Postal Service, 456 F.3d 1270, 1274 (11th Cir. 2006) (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 1356, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986)).

Finally "[i]f the movant bears the burden of proof on an issue, because, as a defendant, it is asserting an affirmative defense, it must establish that there is no genuine issue of material fact as to any element of that defense." International Stamp, 456 F.3d at 1274 (citing Martin v. Alamo Community College Dist., 353 F.3d 409, 412 (5th Cir. 2003)).

B. Qualified Immunity

Officer Orr claims that qualified immunity bars Mr. Billingsley's federal constitutional claims brought against him in his personal capacity pursuant to § 1983 in Count One. (Doc. 21 at 27). "The defense of qualified immunity completely protects government officials performing discretionary functions from suit in their individual capacities unless their conduct violates clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.'" Cottone v. Jenne, 326 F.3d 1352, 1357 (11th Cir. 2003) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Gonzalez v. Reno, 325 F.3d 1228, 1233 (11th Cir. 2003)). "To receive qualified immunity, a government official first must prove that he was acting within his discretionary authority." Id.

This is a two-part test. Under the first step, "the defendant must [prove that he or she was] performing a function that, but for the alleged constitutional infirmity, would have fallen within his legitimate job description." Holloman ex rel. Holloman v. Harland, 370 F.3d 1252, 1266 (11th Cir. 2004). Next, the defendant must prove that he or she was "executing that job-related function." Id. at 1267. "Once a defendant establishes that he was acting within his discretionary authority, the ...


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