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Jones v. Lafferty

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington

February 12, 2018

AT LEXINGTON RONALD L. JONES, JR. PLAINTIFF
v.
TODD LAFFERTY DEFENDANT

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          Candace J. Smith Judge

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant Todd Lafferty's Motion for Summary Judgment. (R. 71). Plaintiff Ronald L. Jones, Jr., by counsel, filed a Response to the Motion on August 11, 2017. (R. 74). The record reflects that Defendant Lafferty did not file a Reply in Support of his Motion, and his time to do so has expired. See Rule 7.1(c) of the Joint Local Rules of Civil Practice (“LR 7.1(c)”). Defendant's Motion is now ripe for decision, and has been referred to the undersigned for preparation of a Report and Recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). (See R. 43). For the reasons set forth below, the undersigned recommends Plaintiff's claims against Defendant Lafferty be dismissed with prejudice.

         I. FACTS

         This civil action stems from the December 11, 2014 arrest of Plaintiff Ronald L. Jones, Jr. (“Plaintiff” or “Jones”) and the attendant search of his residence led by Defendant, Probation and Parole Officer Todd Lafferty (“Defendant” or “Lafferty”). It is undisputed that, at the time of the factual circumstances giving rise to this action, Plaintiff Jones was on probation pursuant to KRS § 439.265 following a conviction in the Circuit Court of Fayette County, Kentucky, and subject to the supervision of the Kentucky Division of Probation and Parole. (See R. 71-2; R. 74, at 2). Among the requirements imposed by the Fayette Circuit Court's Order granting probation, Plaintiff was ordered to “comply with the regulations of the Division of Probation and Parole and the directions of the Probation Officer” and to “[c]onsent to any search of your person or of places or property under your control when requested by your probation officer or police officer[.]” (R. 71-2, at 2).

         On December 10, 2014, the Fayette Circuit Court entered an Order of Contempt based upon Jones's failure to appear before that court for a probation revocation hearing. (R. 71-3). The Order of Contempt directed the Clerk of the Fayette Circuit Court to issue a warrant for Jones's arrest. (Id.). Defendant Lafferty attests that on December 11, 2014 at approximately 11:30 a.m., he accompanied other Probation and Parole officers as well as police officers to Jones's apartment complex to apprehend him pursuant to the Fayette Circuit Court's arrest warrant. (R. 71-4).

         Lafferty attests that upon arriving at the apartment complex, he consulted the leasing office and confirmed that Jones was the current, sole occupant of the apartment on file. (Id.). Lafferty further attests that based upon Jones's history of refusing home visits by not answering when officers knocked on his door, Lafferty asked if a key was available to allow the officers access to Jones's apartment in the event he refused to open the door. (Id.). The leasing office agreed to provide a key to grant access to the apartment. (Id.). The officers then approached Jones's apartment door and repeatedly attempted to make contact with him. Lafferty attests that he observed someone peer out of the peephole on the apartment's front door, and then heard sounds of a heavy object being placed in front of the door. (Id.). The officers continued knocking and announced their presence, but no one responded. (Id.).

         Based upon confirmation of Jones's active address and solo occupancy by the leasing office, combined with Lafferty's own observations at the front door of the apartment as well as his knowledge of Jones's history of noncompliance, Lafferty attests he concluded that Jones was engaging in efforts to prevent apprehension and did not intend to surrender. (Id.). Accordingly, Lafferty then used the key to unlock the door and pushed aside a chair that partially obstructed the entrance to gain entry to the apartment. (Id. at 2). Once inside, Defendant Lafferty observed Jones lying on the couch with his arms and hands underneath his body. (Id.).

         Lafferty attests that Jones ignored the officers' commands to stand up and present his hands in the air; consequently, the officers forcibly removed Jones from the couch to a handcuffing position, face-down on the floor. (Id.). Lafferty attests that Jones continued to ignore the officers' verbal commands. (Id.). Furthermore, Jones resisted the officers' attempts to place handcuffs on him, and attempted to push himself up off of the ground with his hands and feet. (Id.). After this physical struggle with the officers, Jones was placed in handcuffs and allowed to sit up; Lafferty attests that officers then noted two abrasions above Jones's left eye. (Id.). A subsequent search of the couch revealed a large black-handled butcher knife hidden inside. (Id.). Lafferty attests that the arrest proceeded without further incident and Jones was transported to the Fayette County Detention Center and processed for the probation violation. (Id. at 3). Medical records from the Fayette County Detention Center produced in discovery indicate that at 7:15 a.m. the following morning, Jones initiated a sick call visit from the facility nurse and requested antibiotic ointment for abrasions on his face and knee. (R. 71-5, at 2).

         Plaintiff Jones, proceeding without counsel, [1] subsequently filed this action on March 2, 2015. (R. 1). In his Amended Complaint, [2] Jones alleges that on December 11, 2014, he was sitting on the sofa in his apartment when Defendant Lafferty and several Lexington police officers used a key to open the door, and entered the premises without knocking, without announcing their presence, and without a warrant. (R. 17, at 3-4). Plaintiff's Amended Complaint asserts that Defendant Lafferty arrested him at that time because “violations of supervision were present in the residence.” (R. 1-1). Jones alleges that he “was assaulted by Todd Lafferty and others, ” that “Mr. Lafferty use[d] unnecessary force, ” and that as a result he had to be treated by medical staff at the Fayette County Detention Center and prescribed antibiotic ointment. (R. 17, at 7). Based upon these allegations, the Amended Complaint asserts that Lafferty violated Jones's Fourth Amendment rights by entering the apartment without a warrant, as well as Jones's Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights due to the use of excessive force during the arrest by Lafferty and the other officers.[3] (R. 17, at 3-4, 7).

         Following the close of discovery in this matter (see R. 67), Defendant Lafferty submitted the subject Motion for Summary Judgment on May 10, 2017. (R. 71). Defendant's Motion is accompanied by the affidavit of Lafferty and additional documents in support of his arguments that the December 11, 2014 search was reasonable under the Fourth Amendment and that the use of force during Plaintiff Jones's arrest was not excessive in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. (See R. 71-1). In his Response (R. 74) in opposition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, Jones expressly abandons his claim that the December 11, 2014 search of his home violated his Fourth Amendment rights. (R. 74, at 3). Jones concedes that “discovery has established that on December 10, 2014 that the Fayette Circuit Court issued a warrant of arrest of the Plaintiff [and] [t]herefore, the search of the Plaintiff's home on December 11, 2014 was pursuant to [a] validly issued warrant.” (Id. at 3). Thus, the only issue remaining in this case is Jones's claim that Lafferty used excessive force during the subject arrest. (Id.).

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Under the federal rules, summary judgment is appropriate if there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a).[4] In reviewing motions for summary judgment, the Court must view all facts and draw all reasonable inferences in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587-88 (1986); Dominguez v. Correctional Med. Servs., 555 F.3d 543, 549 (6th Cir. 2009). However, as Plaintiff's Response brief notes, “[a] principal purpose of the summary judgment rule is to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims or defenses.” (R. 74, at 2) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)). Accordingly, while the initial burden of showing there is no genuine issue of material fact is on the moving party, once the moving party has met its burden, the opposing party must demonstrate that there is sufficient evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the nonmoving party. Dominguez, 555 F.3d at 549.

         Furthermore, “the moving party need not support its motion with evidence disproving the nonmoving party's claim, but need only show-that is, point out to the district court-that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case.” Hartsel v. Keys, 87 F.3d 795, 799 (6th Cir. 1999) (quoting Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325) (internal quotations omitted). Once the moving party points out that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case, the trial court is not required to scour the entire record to establish that “it is bereft of a genuine issue of material fact.” Street v. J.C. Bradford & Co., 886 F.2d 1472, 1479-80 (6th Cir. 1989). Rather, the nonmoving party must affirmatively come forward with “specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587. Evidence that is “merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, ” is not sufficient to avoid summary judgment. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986)). To determine whether a genuine dispute of material fact exists, courts “must pierce the pleadings and assess the proof as presented in depositions, answers to interrogatories, admissions, and affidavits that are part of the record.” Brown v. Chapman, 814 F.3d 447, 464 (6th Cir. 2016) (citing Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 249). The trial court does not “weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but . . . determine[s] whether there is a genuine issue for trial.” Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 249. Summary judgment should be granted unless a court finds “there is sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party.” Brown, 814 F.3d at 464.

         III. ...


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