United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Western Division
DAVID PROCTOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
case is before the court on Defendants' Motions for
Summary Judgment (Docs. # 52, 53). Plaintiff, who is
proceeding pro se, filed responses to the Motions.
(Docs. # 54, 55). Because Plaintiff's submissions proved
difficult to follow and were in parts incomplete, the court
entered an Order explaining potential deficiencies in his
filings, and directed Plaintiff to file additional responses
consistent with Rule 56 and this court's Appendix II.
(Doc. # 56). In accordance with the court's Order,
Plaintiff filed briefs in opposition of Defendants'
motion, and the motion is now fully briefed. (Doc. # 57, 58,
asserts various state and federal law claims stemming from
his March 8, 2014 arrest and subsequent detainment.
Plaintiff's claims against the Defendant
Officers arise from Plaintiff's arrest at his
home. Plaintiff's claims against the Defendant
Sheriffs arise from allegedly abusive conduct that
occurred during his subsequent detention at the Tuscaloosa
Relevant Undisputed Facts 
March 8, 2014, Defendants Steven Westbrook and Anthony Parker
received a call from dispatcher, Joyce Mayfield, directing
them to serve a writ of arrest on Tammie Smith Bey. (Doc. #
52 at pp. 19, 28, 39-40). Mayfield told Defendants that
Tammie Smith Bey was sitting on the front porch of her
residence, located at the corner of Martin Luther King
Boulevard and 17th Street in Northport, Alabama.
(Id. at p. 39). When Defendants Westbrook and Parker
arrived at the corner, they saw Tammie Smith Bey -- who they
knew from previous interactions -- on the front porch of the
house where they had each seen her before. (Id. at
pp. 19-20, 28-29). Plaintiff -- who Defendants Westbrook and
Parker did not recognize -- was also on the porch.
Defendants Westbrook and Parker got out of their car and
started walking towards the house, both Tammie Smith Bey and
Plaintiff got up and went into the house. (Id. at
pp. 20, 29). Defendant Parker knocked on the door, and
Plaintiff eventually answered the door. (Id.). After
Plaintiff opened the door, Defendant Parker could see Tammie
Smith Bey inside the home, and Defendant Westbrook could hear
her inside the home. (Id.). However, when they
sought to arrest Tammie Smith Bey, Plaintiff attempted to
close the door on Defendants Westbrook and Parker, and stated
that they had no authority to detain her. (Id.).
Defendant Parker stopped the door from closing, and grabbed
Plaintiff to put him into custody for interfering with Tammie
Smith Bey's arrest. (Doc. # 13, Exhibit B, Video of
Arrest; Doc. # 52 at pp. 20, 29). A struggle ensued.
(Id.). Defendant Conger responded to the corner of
Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and 17th Street after
Defendants Parker and Westbrook began their attempt to arrest
Plaintiff. (Doc. # 52 at p. 36). He arrived while Defendants
Parker and Westbrook were still attempting to arrest
Plaintiff on the porch, and he joined in their efforts to
attempt to restraint Plaintiff. (Doc. # 13, Exhibit B, Video
of Arrest; Doc. # 52 at p. 36). Eventually Defendants
restrained Plaintiff, put him under arrest, and transported
him to the Tuscaloosa County Jail. (Doc. # 13-4; Doc. # 52 at
pp. 20, 29).
writ of arrest listed Tammie Smith Bey's address as 1706
Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. (Doc. # 13-3). However, the
house where Defendants arrested Plaintiff was 1702 Martin
Luther King Jr. Boulevard - where Plaintiff was temporarily
living by permission of a friend. (Doc. # 13 at ¶ 19;
Doc. # 52 at p. 61). Defendants Parker and Westbrook did not
have the writ of arrest in their possession at the time of
their altercation with Plaintiff. (Doc. # 52 at pp. 20, 29).
However, Defendant Parker had observed Tammie Smith Bey on
the porch of 1702 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard
approximately five or six times before March 8, 2014. (Doc. #
52 at p. 28). Defendant Parker had also spoken to Tammie
Smith Bey in the front yard of 1702 Martin Luther King Jr.
Boulevard when he was called out to the house for an issue
with the water meter. (Id.). Defendant Westbrook had
seen Tammie Smith Bey on the porch of 1702 Martin Luther King
Jr. Boulevard approximately six times before March 8, 2014.
(Id. at p. 19). Indeed, approximately two months
prior to March 8, 2014, Defendant Westbrook responded to a
car accident at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr.
Boulevard and 17th Street, and took a witness statement from
Tammie Smith Bey on the porch of 1702 Martin Luther King Jr.
Boulevard. By contrast, neither Defendant Westbrook nor
Defendant Parker had ever seen Tammie Smith Bey at 1706
Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. (Id. at pp. 21,
30). The houses located at 1702 and 1706 Martin Luther King
Jr. Boulevard are next door to each other, and share a common
driveway. (Id. at pp. 24, 26). Moreover, neither of
the houses located at 1702 and 1706 Martin Luther King Jr.
Boulevard is marked with a street number. (Id.). At
no time prior to, or during, the arrests did Plaintiff or
Tammie Smith Bey tell Defendants that 1702 Martin Luther King
Jr. Boulevard was not Tammie Smith Bey's house. (Doc. #
13, Exhibit B, Video of Arrest; Doc. # 52 at pp. 21, 30).
Plaintiff arrived at Tuscaloosa County jail, he was put in
“the pink room.” (Doc. # 53-1, p. 304). Jail
Personnel asked Plaintiff his name, to which he replied
“I am here unlawfully and at this time I can't give
you my name.” (Id.). Plaintiff represented to
Defendants that he refused to provide his name, or allow
Defendants to take his fingerprints or picture for a
“mugshot.” (Id. at pp. 313-316).
Defendants tried to forcefully take Plaintiff's
fingerprints on two separate occasions. Defendants first
tried to take Plaintiff's fingerprints at around 7:30
a.m. (Id. at p. 317; Doc. # 58, Security Camera
Video, Video # 1 at 20:00). Plaintiff refused to provide his
fingerprints. (Id.). Accordingly,
Defendants grabbed Plaintiff and tried to force his hands
open. (Id.). A scuffle ensued. The video footage of
the incident shows jail personnel surrounding Plaintiff while
they try to physically force his hands onto the fingerprint
scanning machine. (Id.). At one point, Plaintiff
fell to the ground. Plaintiff claims that someone twisted his
arm, and put their knee in his side, during this fracas.
(Doc. # 53-1 at p. 314). When it became clear that Plaintiff
refused to give his fingerprints, Defendants returned him to
a one-man cell. (Id. at p. 318). Plaintiff claims
that Defendant Abrams told him “that's how we do
mother f'ers. We are going to let you rest up and then we
are going to ‘F' you up again.” (Doc. # 53-1
at p. 305).
that day, jail personnel brought Plaintiff back to the
“booking area” in an attempt to secure his
fingerprints and identifying information. (Id. at p.
80, pp. 318-19). When Plaintiff again refused to comply,
Defendants again struggled with Plaintiff in an attempt to
physically force him to place his fingers on the fingerprint
scanner. (Id.). Plaintiff stated that one of the
Defendant sheriffs hit him with a closed fist in his armpit.
(Id. at pp. 335, 337). Further, he testified that
one of the Defendants kicked him while he was on the ground,
while others twisted his arms, attempted to pry open his
hands (which were balled into fists), and struck him in the
side with a knee. (Id. at pp. 334-337). He also
alleges that Defendant Anderson tased him while he was on the
ground. (Id. at pp. 317, 337). It was this tasing,
he contends, that eventually caused him to comply, and submit
to having his fingerprints and mugshot taken. (Id.
at pp. 337-38). In total, this second scuffle lasted for
approximately two and a half minutes, before Plaintiff
relented, and allowed Defendants to take his fingerprints and
picture. (Doc. # 58, Security Camera Video, Video # 3 at
unclear whether Plaintiff alleges that a third incident of
physical force occurred at the jail. At one point in his
deposition, he alleges that “they did something”
to him behind a wall, and outside of the view of the security
cameras, before taking him to the booking area for the first
time. (Id. at p. 309). However, he stated that the
person who transported him from the pink room to the booking
area, and presumably was involved in this possible third
incident, was named “Stevens, ” and is not one of
the named Defendants in this action. (Id.). When
describing this incident, Plaintiff stated it was “real
quick. I know I just received punches, one guy grabbed me by
my face. I forgot his name.” (Id. at p. 312).
However, elsewhere in the same deposition, Plaintiff stated
that Defendants used physical force “[o]nly to get
[his] fingerprints.” (Id. at. p. 328).
Summary Judgment Standard
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c), summary judgment is
proper “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
judgment as a matter of law.” Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The party asking for
summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of
informing the court of the basis for its motion and
identifying those portions of the pleadings or filings which
it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of
material fact. Id. at 323. Once the moving party has
met its burden, Rule 56(c) requires the non-moving party to
go beyond the pleadings and -- by pointing to affidavits, or
depositions, answers to interrogatories, and/or admissions on
file -- designate specific facts showing that there is a
genuine issue for trial. See Id. at 324.
substantive law will identify which facts are material and
which are irrelevant. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). All reasonable doubts
about the facts and all justifiable inferences are resolved
in favor of the non-movant. See Allen v. Bd. of Pub.
Educ. For Bibb Cty., 495 F.3d 1306, 1314 (11th Cir.
2007); 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,
477 U.S. at 248. If the evidence is merely colorable, or is
not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted.
See Id. at 249.
faced with a “properly supported motion for summary
judgment, [the non-moving party] must come forward with
specific factual evidence, presenting more than mere
allegations.” Gargiulo v. G.M. Sales, Inc.,
131 F.3d 995, 999 (11th Cir. 1997). As Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., teaches, under Rule 56(c) a
plaintiff may not simply rest on her allegations made in the
complaint; instead, as the party bearing the burden of proof
at trial, she must come forward with at least some evidence
to support each element essential to her case at trial.
See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252. “[A] party
opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment
‘may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of
[her] pleading, but . . . must set forth specific facts
showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'”
Id. at 248 (citations omitted).
judgment is mandated “against a party who fails to make
a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element
essential to that party's case, and on which that party
will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex
Corp., 477 U.S. at 322. “Summary judgment may be
granted if the non-moving party's evidence is merely
colorable or is not significantly probative.”
Sawyer v. Southwest Airlines Co., 243 F.Supp.2d
1257, 1262 (D. Kan. 2003) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S.
the summary judgment stage the judge's function is not
himself to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the
matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for
trial.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249.
“Essentially, the inquiry is ‘whether the
evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require
submission to the jury or whether it is so one-sided that one
party must prevail as a matter of law.”
Sawyer, 243 F.Supp.2d at 1262 (quoting
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52); see also LaRoche
v. Denny's, Inc., 62 F.Supp.2d 1366, 1371 (S.D. Fla.
1999) (“The law is clear . . . that suspicion,
perception, opinion, and belief cannot be used to defeat a
motion for summary judgment.”).
Amended Complaint, Plaintiff has asserted eleven claims for
relief against Defendants. (See Doc. # 13). After
granting in part and denying in part Defendants' Motions
to Dismiss, the following counts remain against Defendant
Officers: Count One: state law false arrest and false
imprisonment claims; and Counts One and Two: Fourth Amendment
false arrest and false imprisonment claims. The following
counts remain against Defendant Sheriffs: Counts One and Two:
Fourth Amendment excessive force claims; and Count Six: state
law assault and battery claims.
Plaintiff's Individual Capacity Claims Against Defendant
mentioned above, the court previously granted Defendants'
Motion to Dismiss with respect to certain of Plaintiff's
claims implicating federal, individual capacity claims
against Defendant Officers. In their Motion for Summary
Judgment, Defendant Officers have asserted qualified immunity
as a defense to Plaintiff's remaining Fourth Amendment
false arrest and false imprisonment claims. (See
Doc. # 52 at p. 9).
immunity shields “government officials performing
discretionary functions . . . from liability for civil
damages insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly
established statutory or constitutional rights of which a
reasonable person would have known.” Harlow v.
Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982). Qualified immunity
utilizes an “objective reasonableness standard, giving
a government agent the benefit of the doubt unless her
actions were so obviously illegal in the light of
then-existing law that only an official who was incompetent
or who knowingly was violating the law would have committed
them.” GJR Investments, Inc. v. County of Escambia,
Fla., 132 F.3d 1359, 1366 (11th Cir. 1998). The Eleventh
Circuit has cautioned that, “[b]ecause qualified
immunity shields government actors in all but exceptional
cases, courts should think long and hard before stripping
defendants of immunity.” Lassiter v. Ala. A&M
Univ., Bd. of Trustees, 28 F.3d 1146, 1149 (11th Cir.
1994). “We generally accord . . . official conduct a
presumption of legitimacy.” U.S. Dep't of State
v. Ray, 502 U.S. 164, 179 (1991).
court determines whether a defendant is entitled to qualified
immunity by engaging in a three-step analysis. See Skop
v. City of Atlanta, 485 F.3d 1130, 1136-37 (11th Cir.
2007). The initial burden is on the official claiming
qualified immunity to establish that he was acting within his
discretionary authority. Id. Once that initial
showing is made, the burden shifts to the plaintiff to show
that the “defendant's conduct violated a statutory
or constitutional right.” Id. at 1136-37
(citing Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 201 (2001)).
Finally, “the plaintiff must show that the violation
was ‘clearly established.'” Id. at
1137; Snider v. Jefferson State Cmty. Coll., 344
F.3d 1325, 1328 (11th Cir. 2003) (“When case law is
needed to ‘clearly establish' the law applicable to
the pertinent circumstances, we look to decisions of the U.S.
Supreme Court, the United States Court of Appeals for the
Eleventh Circuit, and the highest court of the pertinent
state.” (citing Marsh v. Butler County, Ala.,
268 F.3d 1014, 1032-33 n.10 (11th Cir. 2001) (en banc))). If
Defendant Officers can establish that they are entitled to
qualified immunity, then Plaintiff's remaining federal,
individual capacity claims will be dismissed. See
Randall, 610 F.3d at 714.
Discretionary Function Analysis
government official proves that he acted within the purview
of his discretionary authority by showing objective
circumstances which would compel the conclusion that his
actions were undertaken pursuant to the performance of his
duties and within the scope of his authority.” Sims
v. Metro. Dade County, 972 F.2d 1230, 1236 (11th Cir.
1992) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). In
determining whether this test is met, the court does not
analyze whether the official actually acted lawfully. See
Id. Rather, the issue is whether “the act
complained of, if done for a proper purpose, would be within,
or reasonably related to, the outer perimeter of [the
governmental officer's] discretionary duties.”
Harbert Int'l, Inc. v. James, 157 F.3d 1271,
1282 (11th Cir. 1998); see also Godby v. Montgomery Cnty.
Bd. of Educ., 996 F.Supp. 1390, 1401 (M.D. Ala. 1998)
(“It is perfectly logical for a court to find that
someone who was acting illegally was acting within his
considered the summary judgment record and Rule 56 evidence,
the court concludes that Defendant Officers were acting
within the purview of their discretionary duties at the time
of Plaintiff's arrest. The video Plaintiff attached to
his Amended Complaint, in addition to Plaintiff's own
deposition testimony and the affidavits of Defendant
Officers, clearly establish that the Defendant Officers'
arrest of Plaintiff was undertaken pursuant to their official
duties stemming from the execution of the Tammie Smith Bey
arrest warrant. Defendant Officers were dispatched to the
corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and 17th Street to
arrest Tammie Smith Bey on an outstanding warrant. (Doc. # 52
at p. 19). Plaintiff testified that Defendant Officers pulled
up to the house in a Northport police car, and were clearly
wearing police uniforms. (Doc. # 53-1 at pp. 142-144).
Plaintiff further stated that when Defendant Officers arrived
at the front door of his house, they identified themselves as
Northport police officers, and stated that they had a warrant
for Tammie Bey Smith. (Id. at pp. 151-152). When
Plaintiff refused to allow Defendant Officers into the house
to arrest Tammie Bey Smith, they then arrested Plaintiff for
his alleged interference. (Id. at p. 195). Executing
an arrest warrant (in the manner indicated by the Rule 56
evidence) cannot plausibly be argued to be unrelated to, or
beyond the outer perimeter of, an officer's discretionary
the court concludes that Defendant Officers were, without
question, acting within the scope of their discretionary
authority. Therefore, the burden shifts to Plaintiff to show
that the officers' conduct violated a clearly established
statutory or constitutional right. See Skop, 485
F.3d at 1136-37.
Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment Claims
Plaintiff's False Arrest Claims
Fourth Amendment, which applies to the States through the
Fourteenth Amendment, guarantees the right against
unreasonable searches and seizures. U.S. Const. amend. IV;
see Von Stein v. Brescher, 904 F.2d 572, 578 (11th
Cir. 1990). Whether a warrantless arrest of a person, which
is a seizure, is reasonable depends on a finding of probable
cause. Kingsland v. City of Miami, 382 F.3d 1220,
1226 (11th Cir. 2004). That is, an arrest without a warrant
and lacking probable cause violates the Constitution and can
underpin a section 1983 claim. But the existence of probable
cause at the time of arrest is an absolute bar to a
subsequent constitutional challenge to the arrest. Brown
v. City of Huntsville, Ala., 608 F.3d 724, 734 (11th
Cir. 2010); Case v. Eslinger, 555 F.3d 1317, 1326-27
(11th Cir. 2009).
without probable cause, an arresting officer may still be
shielded from individual liability pursuant to the doctrine
of qualified immunity if his “actions did not violate
clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of
which a reasonable person would have known.”
Case, 555 F.3d at 1327 (emphasis added) (quoting
Hope v. Pelzer, 536 U.S. 730, 739 (2002)). In
wrongful arrest cases, the Eleventh Circuit has defined the
“clearly-established” prong as calling for an
“arguable probable cause” inquiry. Case,
555 F.3d at 1327 (“Absent probable cause, an officer is
still entitled to qualified immunity if arguable probable
cause existed.”) (quoting Lee v. Ferraro, 284
F.3d 1188, 1195 (11th Cir. 2002)). “Arguable probable
cause exists ‘where reasonable officers in the same
circumstances and possessing the same knowledge as the
Defendants could have believed that probable cause existed to
arrest.” Lee, 284 F.3d at 1195 (quoting
Scarbrough v. Myles, 245 F.3d 1299, 1302 (11th Cir.
the qualified immunity inquiry in the context of an arrest
focuses on whether or not the officer reasonably, although
perhaps mistakenly, believed that probable cause existed.
Id. The facts of the case and the elements of the
crime dictate whether there was probable cause, or arguable
probable cause. Skop, 485 F.3d at 1137-38;
Crosby v. Monroe County, 394 F.3d 1328, 1333 (11th
Cir. 2004) (“Whether a particular set of facts gives
rise to probable cause or arguable probable cause to justify
an arrest for a particular crime depends, of course, on the
elements of the crime.”).
the police had no warrant for Plaintiff's
arrest, Defendant Officers must show that Plaintiff's
arrest, at least, was based on arguable probable cause. Here,
Plaintiff was purportedly arrested because he acted in a
manner which interfered with law enforcement's attempts
to arrest Tammie Smith Bey. Under Alabama law, “[a]
person commits the crime of resisting arrest if he
intentionally prevents or attempts to prevent a peace officer
from affecting a lawful arrest of himself or of another
person.” Ala. Code § 13A-10-41(a) (emphasis
under the Fourth Amendment, police with a valid arrest
warrant for a suspect are permitted to enter the
suspect's home to arrest her absent a search warrant, so
long as the police have a reasonable belief that she will be
there. Payton v. New York, 445 U.S. 573, 603 (1980)
(“[F]or Fourth Amendment purposes, an arrest warrant
founded on probable cause implicitly carries with it the
limited authority to enter a dwelling in which the suspect
lives when there is reason to believe the suspect is
within.”); see also Steagald v. United States,
451 U.S. 204, 214-15, n.7 (1981) (“Because an arrest
warrant authorizes the police to deprive a person of his
liberty, it necessarily also authorizes a limited invasion of
that person's privacy interest when it is necessary to
arrest him in his ...