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Mack v. Maddox

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

March 21, 2018

WILLIE LOUIS MACK, Plaintiff,
v.
WALTER MADDOX, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OF OPINION

          L. Scott Coogler United States District Judge

         Before the Court is Defendant Deputy M. T. Larkin's (“Larkin”) Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 33.) Plaintiff, Willie Louis Mack (“Mack”), brought this case alleging federal constitutional violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and comparable state-constitutional claims (Doc. 1.) For the reasons stated below, Larkin's Motion for Summary Judgment is due to be granted.

         I. Background [1]

         In the fall of 2014, the West Alabama Narcotics Task Force (“WANTF”) received information that an individual by the name of Anthony Carl Benson (“Benson”) was involved in the trafficking of marijuana in the Tuscaloosa area. A Confidential Information (“C.I.”) informed Larkin, a sheriff's deputy working with WANTF, that he had seen a quantity of marijuana in the possession of an individual named Anthony Carl Benson (“Benson”) at the location 10 Juanita Drive. (Doc. 33-3 at 2.) After a preliminary records search, Larkin could not verify that Benson had an interest in the property, but saw that it was a rental property.

         “In order to verify the information from the C.I., ” Larkin asked the C.I. to make a drug buy at 10 Juanita Drive. (Id.; see also Doc. 45 at 33 “Q: . . . you did the controlled drug buy in order to corroborate [the C.I.'s] information that he had previously given to you that he had been inside 10 Juanita Drive and observed . . . Benson with a quantity of marijuana in that home? Larkin: That's correct.”).) On November 17, 2014, Larkin equipped the C.I. with a video and audio recording device and purchase money. The C.I. then recorded his drug purchase from Benson.

         According to Larkin, “the recording describe[d] [the C.I.] approaching the residence at 10 Juanita Drive when [he] encountered the suspect.” (Doc. 33-3 at 3.) Benson was not in the 10 Juanita Drive residence, but in a car parked either at the residence or at one of the nearby residences. After the C.I. stopped his car and got out, the video recording momentarily showed a lightly colored house as the C.I. turned towards Benson's car. The C.I. then entered the car to buy drugs from Benson. After the purchase, the C.I. returned to his car and drove away.

         Following the buy, the C.I. turned the substance bought over to Larkin. (Doc. 33-3 at 3.) “The substance was positively identified as marijuana.” (Id.) The next morning, Larkin returned to where he approximately thought the drug buy occurred to obtain information on the house located at 10 Juanita Drive. (Doc. 45 at 27-28 (“I verified 10 Juanita Drive by visually seeing it myself and also observing the distance that [the C.I.] pulled down to 10 Juanita Drive the night before, or whatever date it was he did the buy. I did research like that to verify the address.”).)

         On November 18, 2014, the day after the controlled drug buy, Tuscaloosa County Circuit Judge Brad Almond issued a warrant authorizing the search of Mack's address, 10 Juanita Drive, which was described in the warrant as “a tan residence with a red roof, ” for controlled substances. (Doc. 33-2 at 75.) The subject of the warrant was an individual named Benson, “a black male in his mid[-]twenties [who is] approximately 6'05” tall and weighs approximately 252 pounds.” (Id.) Larkin had prepared the warrant application, which asserted that he “received information from a reliable confidential informant that [the confidential informant] ha[d] personally observed a quantity of marijuana in the possession of a black male known as . . . Benson while at his residence of 10 Juanita Drive.” (Id.) Notably, the warrant application did not include reference to the purchase of marijuana by the C.I. from Benson that occurred on November 17, 2014. (See id.)

         WANTF officers then executed the search warrant at the 10 Juanita Drive location. Mack, who was present at 10 Juanita Drive at the time, objected to the search of the residence on the assertion that Benson never lived there nor visited Mack's house. Regardless, the officers conducted the search. During the search of the home, the officers discovered “a pack of rolling papers and a single partially smoked marijuana cigarette.”

         As a result of the search, Mack, proceeding pro se, filed this action against Defendants Walter Maddox, in his official capacity as the Mayor of the City of Tuscaloosa, WANTF, and several WANTF agents and criminal investigators in their individual and official capacities alleging federal and state constitutional violations. After the Defendants filed motions to dismiss, this Court dismissed the claims against all Defendants except Larkin. (See Doc. 23.) This Court granted Larkin's motion in part and denied it in part dismissing the claims against Larkin in his official capacity, but holding that Larkin was not entitled to qualified immunity at the motion-to-dismiss stage for Mack's individual capacity claims. (Id.) Following discovery, Larkin filed his Motion for Summary Judgment seeking dismissal of the remaining individual capacity claims.

         II. Standard of Review

         Summary judgment is appropriate “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). A fact is “material” if it “might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). There is a “genuine dispute” as to a material fact “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id. The trial judge should not weigh the evidence but simply determine whether there are any genuine issues that should be resolved at trial. Id. at 249.

         In considering a motion for summary judgment, trial courts must “consider[] all of the evidence and the inferences it may yield in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.” McGee v. Sentinel Offender Servs., LLC, 719 F.3d 1236, 1242 (11th Cir. 2013) (citations omitted). Although “pro se complaints are entitled to a liberal interpretation by the courts, . . . a pro se litigant does not escape the essential burden under summary judgment standards of establishing that there is a genuine issue as to a fact material to his case in order to avert summary judgment.” Brown v. Crawford, 906 F.2d 667, 670 (11th Cir. 1990) (emphasis added). In making a motion for summary judgment, “the moving party has the burden of either negating an essential element of the nonmoving party's case or showing that there is no evidence to prove a fact necessary to the nonmoving party's case.” Id. Although the trial courts must use caution when granting motions for summary judgment, “[s]ummary judgment procedure is properly regarded not as a disfavored procedural shortcut, but rather as an integral part of the Federal Rules as a whole.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 327 (1986).

         III. ...


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