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K.J.C. v. City of Montgomery

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

October 7, 2019

K.J.C., by and through her Guardian and Next Friend, ANN PETTAWAY, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF MONTGOMERY, ERNEST N. FINLEY, JR., W.B. GASKIN, and MORRIS LEON WILLIAMS, JR., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          ANDREW L. BRASHER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendants City of Montgomery, Ernest N. Finley, Jr., and W.B. Gaskin's (collectively, “the City”) Motion for Summary Judgment, (Doc. 48), and on Plaintiff K.J.C.'s Motion to Stay/Defer Consideration of Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment and Extend the Discovery Deadline, (Doc. 54). Because K.J.C. did not oppose the Defendants' motion for summary judgment, the Court independently investigated the record to address the merits of the motion. Upon consideration, K.J.C.'s motion is DENIED and the City's motion is GRANTED. This case is also set for a hearing on K.J.C.'s anticipated motion for default against Defendant Morris Williams.

         BACKGROUND

         This case began with K.J.C.'s 911 call to report a missing medical device. An on-duty officer, Defendant Morris Williams, responded to the call and spoke with K.J.C. and her husband about the missing medical device until K.J.C.'s husband left for work. When K.J.C.'s husband returned later that night, K.J.C. told him that Williams had raped her. Together, they went to the hospital and then the family justice center, where it was determined she had been sexually assaulted and sodomized, suffering trauma to her anal area.

         Once K.J.C. was at the hospital, the Montgomery Police Department was advised of the situation. Similar to situations involving other officer misconduct such as fleeing a crash scene or officer-involved shootings, the City placed the officer on administrative leave and ordered an investigation. (Doc. 1-4 at 2, 6; Doc. 48-1). This investigation fell on Officer S.B. Edwards, who was also the officer who responded to the hospital and then interviewed K.J.C., K.J.C.'s husband, and Williams. (Doc. 48-2 at 9).

         As part of a criminal inquiry into Williams, Edwards testified under oath at a probable cause hearing. Edwards recounted her conversation with K.J.C. at the hospital.[1] Williams responded to K.J.C.'s 911 call at approximately 1:00 pm. (Doc. 15-3 at 3). When K.J.C.'s husband returned about 11:00 pm, they decided to call K.J.C.'s mom who told them to report the assault and seek medical treatment. (Doc. 15-3 at 3). The hospital staff checked K.J.C.'s vitals but did not perform a rape exam. (Doc. 15-3 at 3). Then at the family justice center, officials made a preliminary finding that K.J.C. had suffered “trauma to the anal area.” (Doc. 15-3 at 3).

         From speaking with K.J.C., Edwards determined that she had an intellectual impairment, in part because Edwards would have to “reword” her questions for K.J.C. to understand them. (Doc. 15-3 at 3, 8). Neither K.J.C. nor her husband nor her family could identify K.J.C.'s intellectual disability. K.J.C. testified that she is just “a little slow, ” and her family said that she operates at the level of a 12-year-old. (Doc. 15-3 at 4, 9). Edwards made further observations about K.J.C.'s intellectual abilities relevant to her ability to consent: she believed K.J.C. was the leaseholder for her apartment and that K.J.C. may have a driver's license. (Doc. 15-3 at 4). However, the judge prevented Edwards from answering further questions about whether K.J.C. and her husband were able to consent to sexual relations as a married couple because it was outside the scope of the probable cause hearing and counsel had not provided notice of the question. (Doc. 15-3 at 5).

         There were differences between K.J.C.'s and Williams' versions of the incident. Williams claimed that he engaged in consensual intercourse with K.J.C., and Williams claimed K.J.C. gave him a condom that she took from a brown paper bag in her house. (Doc. 15-3 at 4, 8). K.J.C. denied Williams' version of events and told Edwards that Williams brought a condom to the encounter. (Doc. 15-3 at 7-8). But, when Edwards went to K.J.C.'s apartment as part of her investigation, she found a brown bag full of condoms, “the exact same bag that [Williams] described … in a dresser drawer; hidden under some clothes.” (Doc. 15-3 at 8).

         Based on the investigation, the State filed a second-degree felony sodomy charge against Williams for engaging in “sexual intercourse with a person who is incapable of consent by reason of being mentally defective.” Ala. Code § 13A-6-64. After a hearing, the judge found probable cause to send the case to a grand jury (Doc. 15-3 at 9). But the grand jury no-billed. (Doc. 48-2 at 22).

         Although the criminal case ended, K.J.C. pursued this civil case against Williams; the City; Ernest N. Finley, Jr., Chief of the Montgomery Police Department; and W.B. Gaskin, Bureau Commander of the Training and Recruiting Division of the Montgomery Police Department.

         The Court entered a scheduling order that gave the parties approximately one year to conduct discovery until April 4, 2019. (Doc. 35).

         Nothing much happened in the case during the discovery period. Williams did not appear in the case to defend himself. The other parties sent each other a series of emails about various discovery disagreements and misunderstandings. The City did not include in its initial disclosures Williams' criminal case file, the indictment documents, or the rape kit results. (Doc. 55-1). But K.J.C. obtained these materials two weeks before the close of discovery. (Doc. 54 at 6). The City acknowledges that its response to K.J.C.'s interrogatories was delayed, but claims that it was part of a misunderstanding, not malicious. (Doc. 55 at 3-4). And K.J.C. did not follow up on the missing answers until three and a half months after asking the questions. (Doc. 55 at 4).

         On March 20, 2019, lawyers for the City emailed K.J.C.'s lawyer, Alicia Haynes, to ask for possible dates to depose K.J.C. and her guardian by the discovery deadline, April 8. (Doc. 54 at 39). Haynes responded, “Really, this is laughable. Do you actually believe that in the next two weeks I have any time, much less ‘several dates' available for depositions? 1st available is July.” (Doc. 54 at 38). The City's counsel responded, “so glad I could give you a good laugh. I'm preparing a motion to extend the discovery deadline to August 1, 2019 based on your assertion that you have no availability until July. Can I state in the motion you have no objection?” (Doc. 54 at 37). Haynes responded, “I assume your motion is not based on my limited availability when you are first asking for deposition dates two weeks prior to the cut-off? I need to see your motion before I sign on. If worded that we both have conflicts I would be agreeable to a joint motion.” The City ultimately decided not to file a motion to extend the discovery deadline or otherwise take the depositions it had requested.

         Because Williams did not make an appearance to defend himself, K.J.C. filed a motion for default shortly before the discovery period ended, and the Clerk later entered default against him. (See Doc. 45; Doc. 50; Doc. 57).

         At the close of discovery, as established by the scheduling order, the City filed a motion for summary judgment.

         Approximately one month later, K.J.C. filed a motion to reopen discovery as an answer to the City's motion for summary judgment.

         STANDARD

         The court will grant summary judgment when there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Chapman v. AI Transport, 229 F.3d 1012, 1023 (11th Cir. 2000) (en banc). The moving party need not produce evidence disproving the opponent's claim; instead, the moving party must demonstrate the absence of any genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). In turn, the nonmoving party must go beyond mere allegations to offer specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial exists. Id. at 324. When no genuine issue of material fact exists, the court determines whether the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c).

         “If a party fails to properly support an assertion of fact or fails to properly address another party's assertion of fact as required by Rule 56(c), the court may … grant summary judgment if the motion and supporting materials-including the facts considered undisputed-show that the movant is entitled to it ….” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). The Court cannot enter summary judgment based solely on a motion being unopposed; rather, the Court must consider the motion's merits. United States v. One Piece of Real Property Located at 5800 SW 74th Ave., Miami, Fla., 363 F.3d 1099, 1101 (11th Cir. 2004). In doing so, the Court ...


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