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Smith v. Peyman

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division

March 18, 2015

WILLIAM O. SMITH, Plaintiff,
v.
DENNY PEYMAN, Individually and in His Official Capacity as Sheriff of Jackson County, Kentucky, Defendant

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For William O. Smith, Plaintiff: Ned Pillersdorf, LEAD ATTORNEY, Pillersdorf, DeRossett & Lane - Mount Sterling, Mount Sterling, KY.

For Denny Peyman Individually, Defendant: Jonathan C. Shaw, LEAD ATTORNEY, Porter, Schmitt, Banks & Baldwin, Paintsville, KY.

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MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Danny C. Reeves, United States District Judge.

On April 7, 2014, Plaintiff William Smith filed this case under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging the deprivation of his rights under the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, as well as related state claims. [Record No. 1] The matter is pending for consideration of Defendant Denny Peyman's motion for summary judgment filed pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. [Record No. 30] For the reasons set forth below, the defendant's motion will be denied, in part, and granted, in part.

I.

This case involves an ongoing political quarrel between the Jackson County Judge Executive, William Smith, and Jackson County Sheriff Denny Peyman. Although the parties do not agree on the relevant facts, the record reflects that, several years prior to the matters in question, problems developed between the two. Within Peyman's first year as sheriff in 2011, the officials were at odds over the Jackson County payroll system. [Record No. 30-1, p. 4] According to Peyman, although the Jackson County Fiscal Court typically paid for court security, in March of 2011 he was advised that the Sheriff's office would be responsible for these payments. [ Id., p. 7] In addition, the Fiscal Court reduced the Sheriff's yearly budget allocation for deputy payroll. [ Id.] The plaintiff counters that the changes were

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made because Kentucky law allocates courthouse security funding to the Sheriff. [Record No. 31, p. 2]

In August 2012, the Kentucky State Auditor conducted an audit of the Sheriff's office, reporting irregularities in expenditures. [Record No. 31, p. 4] Debate erupted between Smith and Peyman regarding the amount of money the Sheriff's office owed to the county. [Record No. 30-1, p. 9] The plaintiff cites " low revenue that year, changes in how grant monies and coal severance money could be used, and the lack of reimbursement from the Sheriff" for the Fiscal Court's decision to suspend advanced payroll funding to the Sheriff's office. [Record No. 31, p. 4] Courthouse security " seemed to be in jeopardy to the point that a Circuit Judge threatened to close the courthouse" unless security personnel were paid. [Record No. 27, p. 113]

By October of the same year, Judge Executive Smith had eliminated the positions for the Sheriff's deputies and created the Jackson County Police Force by emergency order. [Record No. 31, p. 4] The newly-formed police force took the place of the deputies in providing courthouse security under the supervision of the Jackson County Judge Executive. [ Id., p. 6] In addition, grant money from the Appalachian High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (" HIDTA" ) that had previously funded the Sheriff's office began flowing directly to the Jackson County Police Department instead. [Record No. 27, pp. 32-33] On November 5, 2013, the Jackson Fiscal Court, spearheaded by Smith, filed a lawsuit against Sheriff Peyman, seeking repayment of payroll funds. [ Id.]

Meanwhile, the record suggests that the Jackson County Fiscal Court was encountering financial troubles of its own. Two Jackson County audit reports for 2011 and 2012 found inconsistent monthly bank reconciliations by the Fiscal Court and inaccurate account balances attributed to " an attempt to circumvent controls and manipulate the financial statement amounts." [Record No. 30-1, p. 21]

According to Peyman, in the fall of 2013, assets belonging to the Sheriff's office -- including " vehicles, weapons, leathers, [and] uniforms" -- were taken from a storage facility by Smith under threat of arrest and appropriated to the newly-formed county police force. [Record No. 30-1, p. 14] Smith, on the other hand, argues that the property belonged to Jackson County and not to the Sheriff's office. [Record No. 19, p. 34] Peyman made a series of demands for the return of this property. [Record No. 30-1, p. 15] On January 14, 2014, after his demands went unanswered, Peyman arrested Executive Judge Smith, charging him with organized crime, falsifying business records, forgery, criminal facilitation, tampering with public records, and abuse of public trust. [Record No. 20, pp. 5, 11] Smith alleges that, intending to embarrass and humiliate the Judge Executive, Peyman made the arrest " in the presence of a media contingent [Peyman] had previously notified to be present." [Record No. 1, p. 2] Peyman did not obtain a warrant before the arrest, but the parties dispute whether he sought legal advice. [Record No. 31, p. 8] On February 6, 2014, the charges against Smith were dismissed. [ Id.]

Smith then filed this suit against Peyman, individually and in his official capacity as Jackson County Sheriff. [Record No. 1] Smith claims violations of the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution for false arrest and retaliation under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Additionally, he raises state law claims of malicious prosecution and false imprisonment, seeking damages, including $5,000,000.00 in punitive damages. [Record No. 1, p. 4] Defendant Peyman now

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moves the Court for summary judgment in his favor on the merits of the claims.

II.

Summary judgment is appropriate when there are no genuine disputes regarding any material facts and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986); Chao v. Hall Holding Co., 285 F.3d 415, 424 (6th Cir. 2002). A dispute over a material fact is not " genuine" unless a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. That is, the determination must be " whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); see Harrison v. Ash, 539 F.3d 510, 516 (6th Cir. 2008).

The party moving for summary judgment bears the burden of showing conclusively that no genuine issue of material fact exists. CenTra, Inc. v. Estrin, 538 F.3d 402, 412 (6th Cir. 2008). Once the moving party has met its burden of production, the nonmoving party must present " significant probative evidence" of a genuine dispute in order to defeat the motion for summary judgment. Chao, 285 F.3d at 424. The nonmoving party cannot rely upon the assertions in its pleadings; rather, it must come forward with probative evidence, such as sworn affidavits, to support its claims. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324. In deciding whether to grant summary judgment, the Court views all the facts and inferences drawn from the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986).

When the question is one of qualified immunity, however, the analysis is somewhat altered. In ruling on a motion for summary judgment based on the defense of qualified immunity, the existence of a disputed, material fact does not necessarily preclude summary judgment. Even if there is a material fact in dispute, summary judgment is appropriate if the Court finds that -- viewing the facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff -- the plaintiff has failed to establish a violation of clearly established constitutional law. Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 201, 121 S.Ct. 2151, 150 L.Ed.2d 272 (2001); Dickerson v. McClellan, 101 F.3d 1151, 1158 (6th Cir. 1996).

III.

A. Individual Capacity Federal Claims

In reviewing the § 1983 claims, the Court must determine whether the plaintiff has established that: " (1) he was deprived of a right secured by the Constitution or the laws of the United States, and (2) the deprivation as caused by a person acting under the color of state law." Redding v. St. Eward, 241 F.3d 530, 532 (6th Cir. 2001). If a plaintiff " fails to make a showing on any essential element of a § 1983 claim," the claim must fail. Id. There is no dispute that Peyman, as Sheriff, acted under color of state law. [Record No. 30-1, p. 4] Therefore, the relevant question to both of Smith's ...


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