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Jackson v. Lawson

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division

May 30, 2018

THOMAS LAWSON, in his individual capacity DEFENDANT


          Joseph H. McKinley, Jr., Chief Judge

         This matter is before the Court on a motion for summary judgment by defendant Thomas Lawson. (DN 98.) Plaintiff James A. Jackson has responded with a brief that also includes a cross-motion for summary judgment and a motion in limine to exclude certain evidence. (DN 102.) Fully briefed, these matters are ripe for decision.

         I. Background

         On August 22, 2011, Grant County Circuit Court entered a default judgment against an individual named James A. Jackson, adjudging him to be the natural father of a child whose custodian was receiving state assistance and ordering him to pay child support. (Support Order [DN 34-2] at 1.) The support order identifies Jackson as having a social security No. (“SSN”) that ends in 6503. (Id.) This support order was never challenged, and as of September 9, 2015, an arrearage of $12, 043.91 had accumulated. (Grand Jury Referral [DN 34-3] at 1.) Due to this arrearage, the office of Julie Scott Jernigan of the Grant County Attorney Child Support Division faxed a grand jury referral to Commonwealth's Attorney James Crawford, seeking to indict Jackson for felony non-support. (Id.) The grand jury referral identifies Jackson as being born in 1983 and having a SSN that ends in 6503.[1] (Id.) An indictment was returned by the grand jury, which also identified Jackson as being born in 1983 and having a SSN that ends in 6503. (Indictment [DN 34-4] at 1.) A warrant was then issued for the arrest of James A. Jackson. (Warrant [DN 34-5] at 1.) The warrant indicates that Jackson was born in 1983, is five feet seven inches tall, and has an address of 4720 Cynthiana. (Id.) It states that his race is unknown, and it lists no information for his city, state, zip code, gender, weight, and operator license number. (Id.)

         On December 16, 2015, Louisville Metro Police Department (“LMPD”) Officer Lawson was dispatched to an alley behind Garvin Place in Louisville after receiving a report of drug activity. (Arrest Citation [DN 98-8] at 1.) Upon arriving, Officer Lawson found a man sitting in the alley with an uncapped needle and a brown substance with suspected heroin nearby. (Id.) Lawson received consent to search the individual, conducted a search, and recovered a paper identification card. (Dep. Lawson I [DN 102-1] at 20:9-19.) This identification card had a name and SSN listed. (Id.) Through this card, Officer Lawson was able to confirm the identity of the suspect as James A. Jackson. While still on the scene behind Garvin Place, Lawson used the SSN on Jackson's identification card to search for active warrants in the National Crime Information Center and eWarrants databases. (Id. at 20:1-8.) This search indicated that Jackson had possible active warrants out against him. (Id.) Officer Lawson charged Jackson with possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia, arrested him, and took him to Louisville Metro Department of Corrections. (Arrest Citation [DN 98-8] at 1; Dep. Lawson II [102-2] at 1:17-2:1.)

         Once at the Department of Corrections, Officer Lawson again searched for warrants against Jackson. (Dep. Lawson II [DN 102-2] at 1:17-2:1.) Jackson had multiple warrants against him from Jefferson County and one from Grant County. (Id. at 1:13-16.) Officer Lawson told Jackson that he had active warrants, including one from Grant County, and updated the eWarrants database to show that he had served the warrants. (Id. at 2:5-3:10.) When he told Jackson that one of the warrants was for felony non-support out of Grant County, Officer Lawson testified that Jackson “said he didn't think it was him.” (Id. at 3:23.) Jackson testified that he does not remember if Lawson ever told him that he had active warrants while in custody, but he indicated that he protested the Grant County warrant before his hearing on the drug charges when his lawyer informed him that he would continue to be held because of the Grant County charges. (Dep. Jackson [DN 98-3] at 69:9-70:22.)[2] While the warrant listed Jackson's height as five feet seven inches, Jackson is actually six feet one inch tall. (Dep. Lawson II [DN 102-2] at 13:22-14:2.) Jackson's address also did not match the address listed in the Grant County warrant. (Id. at 14:3-6.) But it did list a name and birthday identical to those of Jackson. Officer Lawson testified that once Jackson told him that he didn't think he was the person sought by Grant County, he “went through [his] steps” to confirm that Jackson was the correct person, although the only specific step he mentioned was verifying that the date of birth given to him by Jackson matched the date on the warrant. (Dep. Lawson II [DN 102-2] at 4:4-11.)

         Jackson's drug charges were resolved on December 28, 2015. (Order of Release [DN 98-15] at 1.) But because of the Grant County warrant, he was taken to Grant County Detention Center on December 29, 2015, where he remained until February 24, 2016, when his bond was reduced to an amount he could post. (Pl.'s Compl. [DN 1] at ¶ 28.) After securing an agreed order for genetic testing, the results of the test were filed on March 4, 2016, which revealed a zero percent probability that Jackson was the father of the child who was owed support. (Paternity Test [DN 1-1] at 1.) An order dismissing the charges was entered on March 15, 2016. (Dismissal Order [DN 1-7] at 1.)

         Jackson initiated this action on November 29, 2016, making claims against nine defendants.[3] (Id. at ¶ 1-2.) He asserted various state-law and constitutional claims against three groups of defendants: the “Grant County Defendants, ” which includes Jernigan of the Grant County Attorney Child Support Division, Grant County Attorney Lescal Joe Taylor, and Grant County; the “Louisville Defendants, ” which includes Officer Lawson, LMPD, and the Louisville/Jefferson County Metro Government; and the “Commonwealth Defendants, ” which includes Commonwealth's Attorney James Crawford and the Commonwealth of Kentucky. (Id.) All defendants filed motions to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). (See DN 23, 25, 26, 34.) The Court granted those motions as to all defendants except Officer Lawson, as the Court found that Jackson had adequately alleged a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for deprivation of liberty without due process against Officer Lawson under Gray v. Cuyahoga Cty. Sheriff's Dept., 150 F.3d 579 (6th Cir. 1998) (as amended, 160 F.3d 276 (memorandum)). (DN 67, at 27-28.) The Court also allowed Jackson's federal § 1983 claim for denial of equal protection and state-law claim for false imprisonment to proceed, as Officer Lawson had not specifically argued that those claims should be dismissed.

         Officer Lawson now moves for summary judgment as to all remaining claims against him. (DN 98.) He argues that he is entitled to summary judgment both on the merits of all claims and on qualified immunity grounds. In Jackson's opposition to the motion, he states that he is cross-moving for summary judgment and moves to exclude three categories of evidence on relevancy grounds: “evidence regarding police conduct in Grant County, which led to the issuance of a warrant for the arrest of another man who happened to be named James Jackson;” “information about any other outstanding warrants for Plaintiff James Jackson on the night of his arrest(s) by Lawson;” and “information about the arrest of plaintiff James Jackson on drug charges in the alley on the night of December 16, 2015[.]” (DN 102 at 2, 12.) Officer Lawson states in his reply that the cross-motion for summary judgment should be struck as untimely, and he argues that the motions in limine are improper at this early stage and otherwise lack merit since the evidence at issue is relevant. (DN 104.)

         II. Standard of Review

         Before the Court may grant a motion for summary judgment, it must find that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party bears the initial burden of specifying the basis for its motion and identifying the portion of the record that demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). If the moving party satisfies this burden, the non-moving party must produce specific facts demonstrating a genuine issue of fact for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986).

         Although the Court must review the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, the non-moving party must do more than merely show that there is some “metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Instead, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require the non-moving party to show that a genuine factual issue exists by “citing to particular parts of materials in the record” or by “showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence . . . of a genuine dispute[.]” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). “The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the [non-moving party's] position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the [non-moving party].” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252.

         III. Discussion

         At the outset, the Court will DENY Jackson's cross-motion for summary judgment as untimely. By agreed order, the parties set the deadline for dispositive motions at April 30, 2018. Jackson's response, which was stylized as including a cross-motion for summary judgment but only discussed the merits of the cross-motion in one paragraph at the end of the brief, was filed on May 7, ...

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