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Gordon v. Culpepper

United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Northern Division

April 7, 2015

BRANDON CULPEPPER, in his individual capacity, and CITY OF SELMA, ALABAMA, a municipal corporation, Defendants.


KRISTI K. DuBOSE, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Defendants' motion for summary judgment (Docs. 19-20), Plaintiff's response (Doc. 25), and the Defendants' reply. (Doc. 26). For the reasons discussed herein, the motion is GRANTED on all claims.

I. Procedural History

On May 8, 2014, Plaintiff Michael Gordon ("Gordon") commenced this action by filing suit against Officer Brandon Culpepper ("Officer Culpepper")[1] and the City of Selma ("the City"). On June 5, 2014, the Defendants answered the complaint. On February 20, 2015, the Defendants timely filed this motion for summary judgment. (Docs. 19-20). On March 27, 2015, the Plaintiff responded (Doc. 25) and the Defendants replied on April 3, 2015. (Doc. 26). The matter is now ripe for consideration.

II. Standard of Review

"The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a) (Dec. 2010). Amended Rule 56(c) governs Procedures, and provides as follows:

(1) Supporting Factual Positions. A party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must support the assertion by:
(A) citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials; or
(B) showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact.
(2) Objection That a Fact Is Not Supported by Admissible Evidence. A party may object that the material cited to support or dispute a fact cannot be presented in a form that would be admissible in evidence.
(3) Materials Not Cited. The court need consider only the cited materials, but it may consider other materials in the record.
(4) Affidavits or Declarations. An affidavit or declaration used to support or oppose a motion must be made on personal knowledge, set out facts that would be admissible in evidence, and show that the affiant or declarant is competent to testify on the matters stated.

FED.R.CIV.P. Rule 56(c). Defendants, as the parties seeking summary judgment, bear the "initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, ' which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Clark v. Coats & Clark, Inc., 929 F.2d 604, 608 (11th Cir. 1991) (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)). If the nonmoving party fails to make "a sufficient showing on an essential element of her case with respect to which she has the burden of proof, " the moving party is entitled to summary judgment. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. "In reviewing whether the nonmoving party has met its burden, the court must stop short of weighing the evidence and making credibility determinations of the truth of the matter. Instead, the evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor." Tipton v. Bergrohr GMBH-Siegen, 965 F.2d 994, 998-999 (11th Cir. 1992) (internal citations and quotations omitted).

III. Factual Background[2]

This case concerns Plaintiff Michael Gordon ("Gordon") and the events surrounding his 2013 arrest for driving under the influence ("DUI") in Selma, Alabama. In the early morning hours of December 23, 2013, Gordon and his uncle, William Gordon ("William") travelled to the Woodrow East apartment complex on Fox Hollow Avenue in Selma, Alabama in a truck ("the truck"). Gordon and Judy McCreary ("McCreary") had recently ended a romantic relationship and the purpose of the trip was to retrieve a 2010 Ford Fusion ("the Fusion") they shared, which was located at the apartment complex. With William at the wheel, he and Gordon travelled to the complex together in the truck. Gordon had consumed alcoholic beverages prior to their trip to Woodrow East. (Doc.19-1 at 2; Dep. Gordon at 21-24).

Gordon and William arrived at the apartment complex and William parked the truck some distance from where the Fusion was parked. Thereafter, Gordon remained with the truck and William walked to the Fusion. William got into the Fusion and began driving to exit the complex with it. The operation of the truck after the pair arrived is in dispute.

At the time of these events, former Selma Police Officer Brandon Culpepper resided at the Woodrow East apartments. While on duty, he stopped by his apartment to pick up something to eat. McCreary was his neighbor's mother. (Doc. 19-2 at 7; Dep. Culpepper at 14). At some point McCreary knocked on Culpepper's door in order to obtain his assistance with regaining possession of the Fusion. Culpepper returned to his patrol vehicle and initiated a stop when he saw William leaving the complex in the Fusion.

Beyond this point, the facts of this case are in dispute. With specific respect to the resolution of a motion for summary judgment based on qualified immunity and Section 1983 - as is the case here - the Eleventh Circuit has declared:

.... we approach the facts from the plaintiff's perspective... "[t]he issues appealed here concern... whether or not certain given facts showed a violation of clearly established law.".... the "facts, as accepted at the summary judgment... may not be the actual facts[]".... for summary judgment purposes, our analysis must begin with a description of the facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff....

McCullough v. Antolini, 559 F.3d 1201, 1202 (11th Cir. 2009). "At this juncture, we outline the [plaintiff's] version of the events." Hawkins v. Carmean, 562 Fed.Appx. 740 (11th Cir. 2014). Gordon's version follows.

When Gordon and William arrived at the Woodrow East apartments, "William parked the truck alongside an entrance road within that area near the parked Fusion. [Gordon] stood outside next to the truck while William walked to get the Fusion." (Doc. 25-1 at 2). According to Gordon, he had called his nephew, Kourtney Gordon, and asked him to pick up the truck from the apartment complex. (Docs. 25-1 and 25-3). "Officer Culpepper stopped William as he was leaving and just before he approached where [Gordon] was standing beside the truck. [Gordon] walked the distance to where Officer Culpepper had stopped the Fusion." (Doc. 25-1 at 1-2; Aff. Gordon at 1-2). After a conversation between Culpepper and Gordon, Culpepper told Gordon to return the Fusion to McCreary. (Id. at 2). "Officer Culpepper told [Gordon] that if he did not return the car to [McCreary], he would arrest [Gordon] for DUI." (Id.). Gordon was arrested for DUI and taken to the city jail. (Id.). Culpepper was the arresting officer and he transported Gordon to the jail in his patrol vehicle. (Doc. 19-2 at 6; Dep. Culpepper at 24).

Gordon admits that he was under the influence of alcohol on the evening of December 23, 2013. (Doc. 19-1 at 2; Dep. Gordon at 21-24). Prior to his arrest, Gordon participated in a field sobriety test. The results of a breath test revealed that his blood alcohol level was 0.14 g/120 L. (Doc. 19-1 at 2; Dep. Gordon at 23; Doc. 19-4). However, Gordon states that he "did not drive to, within or from the residential area that evening" and "was not driving during that evening." (Doc. 25-1 at 1-2; Aff. Gordon at 1-2).

Following his arrest, Gordon remained in jail for several hours before he was able to post bond. The Alabama Uniform Traffic Ticket and Complaint completed by Culpepper states that Gordon "[d]id unlawfully operate a motor vehicle or other vehicle at or near FAWN ST. within the city limits of SELMA at or near WOODROW E AVE. in violation of Municipal Ordinance Number 17-1 duly adopted and in force at the time the offense was committed adopting 32-5A-191(A)2." (Doc. 25-1 at 2; Aff. Gordon 2).

Following Gordon's arrest and subsequent release from jail, Gordon appeared at a proceeding before the Selma Municipal Court on April 3, 2014. (Doc. 25-6 at 8). Officer Culpepper was not present. No plea was entered, Gordon's charges were ...

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