United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Northern Division
ORDER & MEMORANDUM
V. S. GRANADE SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on Plaintiff Stacey Tillis's
(“Tillis”) and Defendants Ray S. Blanks
(“Blanks”) and the City of Selma's (the
“City”) cross-motions for summary judgment. A
hearing being unnecessary, the Court considers the motions on
the basis of Defendants' motion and memorandum (Doc. 13),
Plaintiff's response (Doc. 26), and Defendants' reply
(Doc. 29), and of Plaintiff's motion and supporting
documents (Docs. 14-16), Defendants' response (Doc. 25),
and Plaintiff's reply (Doc. 30). After due consideration,
the Court finds it proper to GRANT Plaintiff's motion in
part and to DENY Plaintiff's motion in part; the Court
further GRANTS Defendants' motion in part and DENIES
Defendants' motion in part.
Summary Judgment Standard
Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) instructs, “[t]he 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.” The trial
court's mission is to “determine whether there is a
genuine issue for trial” and not to “weigh the
evidence.” See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986).
burden is on the moving party to show that there is no
genuine dispute as to any material fact. Id. at 256.
In conducting its summary judgment analysis, the Court must
construe all evidence “in the light most favorable to
the party opposing the motion.” United States v.
Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962).
the movant meets its burden, the burden shifts to the
nonmoving party “to make a showing sufficient to
establish the existence of an element essential to that
party's case.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). If the nonmoving party fails to do
so, the “complete failure of proof concerning an
essential element of the nonmoving party's case
necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.”
Id. at 323. Further, Rule 56 “requires the
nonmoving party to go beyond the pleadings and by [his] own
affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, designate specific
facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.”
Id. at 324 (internal quotation marks omitted). There
is no genuine issue for trial “[w]here the record taken
as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find
for the non-moving party.” Matsushita Elec. Indus.
Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).
specific respect to the resolution of a summary judgment
motion based on qualified immunity, the Eleventh Circuit has
[W]e approach the facts from the plaintiff's perspective
because “[t]he issues appealed here concern not which
facts the parties might be able to prove, but, rather,
whether or not certain given facts showed a violation of
clearly established law.” Sheth v. Webster,
145 F.3d 1231, 1236 (11th Cir. 1998). As this Court has
repeatedly stressed, the “facts, as accepted at the
summary judgment stage of the proceedings, may not be the
actual facts of the case.” Priester v. City of
Riviera Beach, 208 F.3d 919, 925 n.3 (11th Cir. 2000).
Nevertheless, for summary judgment purposes, our analysis
must begin with a description of the facts in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff. See Skrtich v. Thornton,
280 F.3d 1295, 1299 (11th Cir. 2002).
McCullough v. Antolini, 559 F.3d 1201, 1202 (11th
filed a complaint in the Circuit Court of Dallas County
against Blanks and the City, alleging violations of her
Fourth Amendment rights through 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
(See Doc. 1). Defendants removed the case to this
Court on the basis of federal question jurisdiction.
Id. In her First Amended Complaint, Tillis expanded
her claims to include a claim against the City for failing to
adequately train or supervise Blanks in his practice of
executing warrants and failing to discipline Blanks for
violating Tillis's constitutional rights; she also
asserted two state law claims against Blanks and the City.
(See Doc. 8). The Court exercises jurisdiction over
the federal claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441 and over
the related state law claims through supplemental
jurisdiction granted in 28 U.S.C. § 1367.
the close of discovery, the parties submitted cross motions
for summary judgment, along with the appropriate responses
and replies thereto. Defendants seek summary judgment in
their favor as to all four counts, and Plaintiff asks this
Court to grant summary judgment as to her two § 1983
claims (Counts I-II). (See Docs. 13, 14).
Court has reviewed the parties' submissions and the
evidence submitted in favor of and against their respective
positions and considers the following facts, viewed in a
light most favorable to the non-moving party.
The Burglaries in January 2014
January 16, 2014, Mr. Eric Kelly of Selma, Alabama, reported
his home had been burglarized. (Doc. 14-3). The Selma Police
Department (“SPD”) responded and prepared Uniform
Incident/Offense Report number 2014-1472. Id. Mr.
Kelly stated a 50-inch flat screen television was missing but
did not provide any manufacturing information or a serial
number. Id. SPD Lieutenant Curtis Muhannad assigned
the case to Detective Ray S. Blanks,  a seven-year veteran of the
SPD, on January 21, 2014; Blanks began investigating the case
that same day. (Doc. 13-9, p. 1; Doc. 13-5).
January 21, Blanks met with Mr. Kelly, his then-girlfriend
Ms. Asheemeka Howard, and a witness to the crime, Ms. Temeka
Morgan. (Doc. 13-9, p. 1). Ms. Howard indicated Mr. Sylvester
Lewis visited Mr. Kelly's house around 1:50
P.M., but it is unclear whether they engaged in any
conversation. Id.; see also Doc. 14-5, pp.
25, 34-36. After Ms. Howard heard a knocking sound on Mr.
Kelly's front door, she opened the door to see Lewis, who
quickly left Mr. Kelly's property. (Doc. 13-9, p. 1). In
his meeting with Blanks, Mr. Kelly stated he was at work on
the afternoon of the burglary when Lewis visited him and
inquired about any job openings. Id. Mr. Kelly
indicated the business was not hiring, and Lewis left around
2:20 P.M. Id. Mr. Kelly told Blanks Ms. Howard
called him shortly after 2:20 P.M. to tell Mr. Kelly that
Lewis had stopped by his home. Id. In her interview,
Ms. Morgan told Blanks she was driving down Water Avenue,
where Mr. Kelly's home is located, at approximately 2:30
P.M. on the afternoon of January 16, 2014 and observed an
African-American male at Mr. Kelly's front door.
Id.; see also Doc. 14-4, pp. 47-48. Ms.
Morgan further stated she recognized the man as Lewis, and
she later positively identified him from a “six pack
photo lineup.” (Doc. 13-9, p. 1).
upon this information, Blanks suspected Lewis was involved in
the burglary of Mr. Kelly's home. (Doc. 13-9, p. 2).
Blanks obtained an arrest warrant for Lewis on January 24,
2014 from Judge Joseph Hagood. Id. Blanks testified
he followed routine practice in obtaining this arrest
warrant, including having the District Attorney's office
review the warrant. (See Doc. 14-5, p. 51).
second burglary occurred on January 19, 2014 at the home of
Mr. John Grayson. (Doc. 13-10). Mr. Grayson reported the
incident to SPD, and officers were dispatched to his home and
prepared Uniform Incident/Offense Report number 2014-1732.
Id. Mr. Grayson stated the following items were
missing from his home: (a) 33-inch flat screen television,
possibly manufactured by Vizeo; (b) three [Dell] laptop
computers; (c) one Compaq computer; (d) one Playstation 3
gaming console; (e) one 270-caliber rifle, possibly
manufactured by Remington; and (f) one .22- caliber rifle,
possibly manufactured by Remington. Id. at 1. The
police were unable to find a point of entry, and Mr. Grayson
suggested the burglar might have gained access by using the
spare key. Id. at 2. The police collected no other
evidence or information from the scene. Id. at 2-3.
Blanks testified Mr. Grayson later told him he “had got
knowledge that a white SUV was seen in his yard during the
time of the burglary, ” and Blanks believed Lewis was
involved due to the vehicle description.(Doc. 14-5, p.
his investigation, Blanks learned Lewis lived with
Tillis at the residence she rented, located at
215 Lawrence Street, Selma, Alabama. (See Doc. 13-9,
p. 1; Doc. 14-4, p. 1). The case report does not include
details of how he obtained this knowledge. Id.
Tillis owned a 2006 white Ford Explorer at the time and
allowed Lewis to use the vehicle while she was at work.
(See Doc. 13-11; Doc. 13-1, p. 8).
Blanks's Search Warrant Affidavit and the Search
his investigation Blanks prepared a search warrant
application and affidavit to obtain a search warrant for the
stolen items on February 6, 2014. (Doc.13-9, p. 12). In his
application and affidavit, he stated:
On January 21, 2014, I, Detective Blanks, started
investigating a burglary that occurred on January 16, 2014 at
3011 Water Avenue located in Selma, Alabama. A 50” flat
screen television was taken during the burglary. During this
investigation, I developed a suspect in this case who is
identified as B/M Sylvester Lewis Jr. I further learned that
Sylvester Lewis Jr. resides at 215 Lawrence Street in Selma,
AL. At this time, I have an active warrant on Sylvester Lewis
for Burglary 3rdDegree. At this time, I Detective
Blanks is [sic] requesting permission to search for and seize
any or all televisions, computers, laptops, tablets, and all
or any electronics devices or stolen merchandise that is
located at 215 Lawrence Street in Selma, Alabama.
Affiant shows that based on the above and foregoing
information, Affiant has probable cause to believe that,
(Wanted Person (Sylvester Lewis Jr.), and any or all
televisions, computers, laptops, tablets and all or any
electronics devices or stolen merchandise} is being,
concealed, used and/or possessed upon the aforesaid
premises/persons/vehicle. Due to the Affiant's experience
with such locations/operations the following items may also
be present: (Wanted Person (Sylvester Lewis Jr.}, and any or
all televisions, computers, laptops, tablets and all or any
electronics devices or stolen merchandise} and is subject to
seizure and makes this Affidavit so that a warrant may be
issued to search said premises/person/property.
(Doc. 14-6) (hereinafter the
“Affidavit”). Before presenting the Affidavit to
Judge Hagood, Blanks submitted it to his superior officer Lt.
Muhannad for review, as is customary practice in the SPD.
(Doc. 14-5, p. 23; Doc. 14-9, p. 16). Because the District
Attorney's office had previously reviewed Blanks's
application and affidavit for Lewis's arrest warrant, he
did not take it to that office for further review. (Doc.
14-5, p. 29). The City's corporate representative,
Sergeant Evelyn Ghant of the SPD, testified it is customary
practice for the District Attorney's office to review
applications for arrest and search warrants. (Doc. 14-9, pp.
receiving approval from Lt. Muhannad, Blanks presented the
Affidavit before Judge Hagood. (Doc. 14-5, p. 23; Doc. 13-9,
p. 1). Judge Hagood signed the Affidavit on February 6, 2014
at 9:33 A.M. (Affidavit). At that time, Judge Hagood issued a
search warrant (the “Search Warrant”) authorizing
the search of Tillis's home, located at 215 Lawrence
Street, for numerous items. (See Doc. 14-7). The
Search Warrant authorized the search and seizure of the
The residence at (215 Lawrence Street, Selma, A) . . . The
residence is to include any and all rooms, closets, drawers,
cabinets and items that could be used to conceal illegal
narcotics. Any illegal paraphernalia, weapons[, ] any
documents, all cell phones and electronic devises [sic] with
the permission to download any or all media and photos that
is needed for court purposes, or stolen merchandise.
*** For the following: (Wanted Person (Sylvester Lewis Jr.),
and any or all televisions, computers, laptops, tablets and
all or any electronics devices or stolen merchandise) and any
and all other stolen merchandise.
(Search Warrant, Doc. 14-7) (emphasis in the original).
Notably, the Search Warrant does not incorporate by reference
any other document relating to Blanks's investigation,
including his Affidavit or the arrest warrant for Lewis.
Id. After receiving the Search Warrant, Blanks and
other members of the SPD proceeded to Tillis's residence,
where they arrested Lewis and executed the Search Warrant.
(Doc. 13-9, p. 2).
Search of Tillis's Home
executed the Search Warrant at approximately 9:45 A.M. on
February 6, 2014 for approximately thirty to forty minutes.
(Doc. 13-9, p. 2; Doc. 14-5, p. 132). Tillis had been at work
when the search began but unexpectedly came home early; when
she arrived, she found members of the SPD, including Blanks,
at her home. (Doc. 13-1, pp. 3, 5). In his case report
summary, Blanks stated, “I also executed a search
warrant at the residence [in] which all electronic devices
were confiscated from the residence.” (Doc. 13-9, p.
2). The Evidence Property Receipts indicate the following
items were seized from Tillis's home:
1. black nylon bag containing De-Icer, Bengal fireant killer,
bolt cutter, hammer, debit card with Christopher Grayson,
coins, cologne, knife, and lotion
2. black nylon bag containing Xbox 360 s/n: 127920713305,
notebook, box of .22 cal[iber] bullets, flashlight, black
leather belt[, ] blue belt, and chords
3. Insignia Television s/n: 217LE24MS76AH015859
4. JVC Television s/n: 067R0882
5. Xbox 360 S/N: 314870594705
6. Panasonic Blue Ray DVD Player S/N: VA0LB003008
7. RCA Tablet without serial number
8. RCA Tablet s/n: TA161CL1A0256
9. RCA Tablet without serial number
10. RCA Tablet without serial number
11. HP destop [sic] monitor s/n: CND8082881
12. HP hard drive s/n: 2UA9451FMX
13. Verizon cellphone
14. Empty RCA Tablet boxes
15. Busted laptop w/ no serial number found in lot next to
16. Red Child Four Wheeler
(Compare Doc. 14-8 with Doc. 13-7). The two
evidence logs prepared by SPD evidence technician(s)
submitted into evidence at this time do not reflect the same
information. One evidence log omits the “red child four
wheeler, ” and the other omits the “busted
laptop” which was found on the property adjacent to
Tillis's home. Id. Blanks indicates one form was
given to Tillis at her home when SPD finished the search and
seizure and that the second report was given to him from
Evidence Tech as a part of the record of his investigation.
(Doc. 14-5, p. 79).
testified Blanks and the SPD removed all the electronics from
her home, including her personal cell phone, all televisions,
her children's tablets, a gaming console, a Blu Ray/DVD
player, and their four-wheeler. (Doc. 13-1, p. 13-14; Doc.
13-9, p. 4). Blanks characterized the children's
four-wheeler as an “electronic device” because it
“runs off spark plugs.” (Doc. 14-5, p. 58). After
further investigation, Blanks determined only a nylon bag
containing Mr. Grayson's debit card was stolen property;
none of the electronics seized from Tillis's home had
been reported stolen. Id. at 131.
states he advised Tillis before leaving her residence,
“any [seized] property that did not compare [to stolen
property] would be released back to her.” (Doc. 14-5,
p. 56). Tillis claims Blanks told her she would have to go to
the police station to determine what items had been seized
from her home during the search. (Doc. 13-1, pp. 5-6). She
further alleges Blanks was “real ugly about the
situation” when she questioned him at her home.
Id. at 8. The City's policy is to require proof
of ownership of seized property before it will be released
back to the claiming party. (Doc. 14-5, p. 95). Tillis states
Blanks told her several times she would be able to retrieve
her items if she brought documents establishing ownership.
(Doc. 13-1, p. 8).
his deposition, Blanks recounted his reasoning for believing
Lewis had committed the Kelly burglary (see Doc.
14-5, p. 45). He further admitted he made a
“mistake” by leaving out any information relating
to the Grayson burglary in his Affidavit but affirmatively
asserted that he considered the Grayson burglary when he was
preparing the Affidavit and the Search Warrant. Id.
at 55, 75. Blanks further stated, “my probable cause
and the search warrant [for Tillis's home] are pretty
much referenced from the information from the affidavit for
the arrest.” Id. at 28, 41-42. Blanks stated
he “had a reasonable suspicion” that Lewis had
committed the burglaries and revealed “the probable
cause was developed by the DA's [District ...