United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington
OPINION AND ORDER
E. WIER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Police Department Officers Justin Muravchick and Brian Cobb,
their individual capacities, moved for summary judgment. DE
#24 (Motion). Dallas Gover opposed. DE #28 (Response).
Defendants replied. DE #31 (Reply). For the following
reasons, the Court fully GRANTS Defendants
summary judgment. Qualified immunity shields each officer
from every claim.
evening of June 23, 2016, Officers Muravchick and Cobb, of
the LPD, conducted a traffic stop of Gover. DE #25-1 (Gover
Depo.), at 21-22. Plaintiff thought the stop was “for
an expired registration plate.” DE #1, at ¶ 8;
see also DE #25-1, at 22 (“Were you aware that
your registration was improper? I was. Did you think that was
the reason they were pulling you over? I did.”).
Muravchick confirmed this. DE #27-1 (Muravchick Depo.), at
19, 23. After Gover pulled over, Muravchick approached the
driver's window; Cobb stayed behind the truck cab, at the
pillar on the passenger side. DE #25-1, at 22-23; see
also DE #26-1 (Cobb Depo.), at 18-19. After Gover showed
Muravchick his license and insurance, Muravchick started back
toward the police car, but “was stopped by Cobb.”
DE #25-1, at 24. The officers “had a conversation that
[Gover] couldn't hear.” Id. Cobb stated
that, in this conversation, he “advised”
Muravchick “to pull Mr. Gover out of the
vehicle.” DE #26-1, at 23. Muravchick said that Cobb
“alert[ed]” him that he (Cobb) thought Gover was
“destroying something” and “smashing a
substance on the floorboard.” DE #27-1, at 36-37. Gover
denies using his “foot to attempt to grind anything
into the floorboard or mat[.]” DE #28-7 (Gover
Affidavit), at ¶ 5.
this conversation, according to Gover, Muravchick
“turned back around, approached the driver's door,
and he asked if it would be okay for them to search my
vehicle.” DE #25-1, at 25. Gover did not give
consent-he “asked what for”-and the situation
began to escalate. Id. Gover eventually exited the
vehicle, and Cobb “asked what did you do with the
cocaine[?]” Id. at 25-26. Plaintiff “had
no idea what he was talking about.” Id. at 26.
While the driver's door was open, Cobb viewed material on
the driver's floorboard that he, utilizing his training
and experience, suspected to be crack cocaine. DE #26-1, at
kept Gover “up against the backside of my tail bed,
” and Cobb began searching the vehicle, lifting the
driver's side floor mat. DE #25-1, at 26. Muravchick
patted Gover down and “led [him] to a curb directly
behind [his] truck for [him] to sit down.” Id.
at 27. Cobb, according to Gover, kept “searching”
his truck-specifically the “the driver's side, the
floorboard.” Id. During this process, Gover
learned the allegation that “Cobb had seen me throw
cocaine in the floor and stomp on it.” Id. at
28; see also DE #26-1, at 20 (Cobb agreeing that he
saw “Gover grinding his heel into the carpet on the
floorboard”). Gover could not recall, in deposition, if
he had been moving his knee, DE #25-1, at 28, and he later
swore (as the Court already partially recounted) that he
“never used my foot to attempt to grind anything into
the floorboard or mat on my floorboard during any point on
the night of my arrest” and that he “never made
any movements with my foot that would be interpreted to be
grinding anything into the floorboard of my truck.” DE
#28-7, at ¶¶ 5-6.
eventually learned that Cobb “scraped” material
from the floorboard and field-tested it. DE #25-1, at 29-30.
Gover “knew” this material actually was
“doughnut icing” from doughnuts he purchased
“two Sundays prior to the incident” from
“Kroger bakery, ” not cocaine. Id. at
30. Cobb described seeing two different substances in two
different locations in the floorboard: “There was a
little crushed up white rock and powder right where Mr.
Gover's heel was, back away from the gas pedal towards
the seat, and then there was also another white substance,
powdery, on the floor closer to the gas pedal.” DE
#26-1, at 25-26. Despite Gover's confidence that the
material was doughnut icing, one field test came back
positive for cocaine. DE #25-1, at 32. Another field test,
though, was negative for controlled substances. DE #26-1, at
the positive field test, according to Plaintiff, “they
continued to search my truck, ” while Gover remained on
the curb, not yet under arrest. DE #25-1, at 32-33.
“They” continued to search “for an extended
period of time.” Id. at 33. Muravchick
confirmed that he searched the truck “after [Gover] was
under arrest or at some point during the arrest[.]” DE
#27-1, at 32-34. After the search(es) concluded, Muravchick
arrested Gover. DE #25-1, at 33.
on these occurrences, Kentucky levied several criminal
charges against Gover, to wit, no/expired registration plate,
tampering with physical evidence, and possession of
controlled substance (cocaine) 1st offense. See DE
#24-4, at 1. Gover posted bond and was released the next day,
June 24, 2016. See Id. at 1-2; DE #25-1, at 42
(Gover confirming he was “in custody for 22
Commonwealth eventually dismissed all charges without
prejudice,  and Gover later initiated this suit,
asserting four claims under 42 U.S.C. §
and the United States Constitution: (1) unconstitutional
arrest and imprisonment, (2) unconstitutional pretrial
detention, (3) malicious prosecution, and (4)
unconstitutional search. The parties have litigated the case,
and Defendants' summary judgment motion is fully briefed
and ripe for consideration.
“shall grant summary judgment 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 reviewing court must construe the
evidence and draw all reasonable inferences from the
underlying facts in favor of the nonmoving party.
Matsushita Elec., 106 S.Ct. at 1356; Lindsay v.
Yates, 578 F.3d 407, 414 (6th Cir. 2009). Additionally,
the court may not “weigh the evidence and determine the
truth of the matter” at the summary judgment stage.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 106 S.Ct. 2505,
burden of establishing the absence of a genuine dispute of
material fact initially rests with the moving party.
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2553
(1986) (requiring the moving party to set forth “the
basis for its motion, and identify those portions of
‘the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the
affidavits, if any,' which it believes demonstrate an
absence of a genuine issue of material fact”);
Lindsay, 578 F.3d at 414 (“The party moving
for summary judgment bears the initial burden of showing that
there is no material issue in dispute.”). If the moving
party meets its burden, the burden then shifts to the
nonmoving party to produce “specific facts”
showing a “genuine issue” for trial. Celotex
Corp., 106. S.Ct. at 2253; Bass v. Robinson,
167 F.3d 1041, 1044 (6th Cir. 1999). However, “Rule
56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment . . . against a
party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the
existence of an element essential to that party's case,
and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at
trial.” Celotex Corp., 106 S.Ct. at 2552;
see also Id. at 2557 (Brennan, J., dissenting)
(“If the burden of persuasion at trial would be on the
non-moving party, the party moving for summary
judgment may satisfy Rule 56's burden of production in
either of two ways. First, the moving party may submit
affirmative evidence that negates an essential element of the
nonmoving party's claim. Second, the moving party may
demonstrate to the Court that the nonmoving party's
evidence is insufficient to establish an essential element of
the nonmoving party's claim.” (emphasis in
is “material” if the underlying substantive law
identifies the fact as critical. Anderson, 106 S.Ct.
at 2510. Thus, “[o]nly disputes over facts that might
affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will
properly preclude the entry of summary judgment. Factual
disputes that are irrelevant or unnecessary will not be
counted.” Id. A “genuine” issue
exists if “there is sufficient evidence favoring the
nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdict for that
party.” Id. at 2511; Matsushita
Elec., 106 S.Ct. at 1356 (“Where the record taken
as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find
for the non-moving party, there is no ‘genuine issue
for trial.'”) (citation omitted). Such evidence
must be suitable for admission into evidence at trial.
Salt Lick Bancorp v. FDIC, 187 Fed.Appx. 428, 444-45
(6th Cir. 2006).
primarily argue that qualified immunity protects them from
Gover's claims. See DE #24, at 7-16.
“[G]overnment officials performing discretionary
functions generally are shielded from liability for civil
damages insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly
established statutory or constitutional rights of which a
reasonable person would have known.” Harlow v.
Fitzgerald, 102 S.Ct. 2727, 2738 (1982); see also,
e.g., Robertson v. Lucas, 753 F.3d 606, 610
(6th Cir. 2014) (affirming grant of qualified immunity to
state and federal law enforcement officers); Barnes v.
Wright, 449 F.3d 709, 711 (6th Cir. 2006) (reversing the
denial of qualified immunity to law enforcement officers in a
§ 1983 suit).
the defendant officers have raised the qualified immunity
defense, plaintiff bears the burden of showing that
defendants are not entitled to qualified immunity.”
Johnson v. Moseley, 790 F.3d 649, 653 (6th Cir.
2015). In the summary judgment context, the Court
“view[s] all evidence, and draw[s] all reasonable
inferences, in the light most favorable to the nonmoving
party, ” Gover. Kent v. Oakland Cnty., 810
F.3d 384, 390 (6th Cir. 2016) (internal alteration removed).
evaluate the qualified immunity question, courts engage in a
two-part inquiry: “First, taken in the light most
favorable to the party asserting the injury, do the facts
alleged show that the [official]'s conduct violated a
constitutional right? Second, is the right clearly
established?” Silberstein v. City of Dayton,
440 F.3d 306, 311 (6th Cir. 2006); see also Pearson v.
Callahan, 129 S.Ct. 808, 818 (2009) (holding that courts
may address the two questions in either order). The right
must be “so clearly established in a particularized
sense that a reasonable officer confronted with the same
situation would have known that his conduct violated that
right.” Moseley, 790 F.3d at 653. The Court
must avoid “a high level of generality” in
assessing the clarity of the right or misconduct.
Mullenix v. Luna, 136 S.Ct. 305, 308 (2015) (per
curiam) (“The dispositive question is whether the
violative nature of particular conduct is clearly
established. . . . This inquiry must be undertaken in light
of the specific context of the case, not as a broad general
proposition.” (internal quotation marks omitted)
(citing Brosseau v. Haugen, 125 S.Ct. 596 (2004))).
“Clearly established means that, at the time of the
officer's conduct, the law was sufficiently clear that
every reasonable official would understand that what he is
doing is unlawful. In other words, existing law must have
placed the constitutionality of the officer's conduct
beyond debate. This demanding standard protects all but the
plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the
law.” Dist. of Columbia v. Wesby, 138 S.Ct.
577, 589 (2018) (internal quotation marks and citations
tells the Court that all the claims in this case “are
predicated on a violation of the Fourth Amendment.” DE
#28, at 8. The Court evaluates each Count in turn.
arresting agent is entitled to qualified immunity if he or
she could reasonably (even if erroneously) have believed that
the arrest was lawful, in light of clearly established law
and the information possessed at the time by the arresting
agent.” Kennedy v. City of Villa Hills, 635
F.3d 210, 214 (6th Cir. 2011) (internal quotation marks and
alteration removed). “Thus, even if a factual dispute
exists about the objective reasonableness of the
officer's actions, a court should grant the officer
qualified immunity if, viewing the facts favorably to the
plaintiff, an officer reasonably could have believed that the
arrest was lawful.” Id. The Circuit has
In order for a wrongful arrest claim to succeed under §
1983, a plaintiff must prove that the police lacked probable
cause. Painter v. Robertson, 185 F.3d 557, 569 (6th
Cir. 1999). A police officer has probable cause if there is a
“‘fair probability'” that the
individual to be arrested has either committed or intends to
commit a crime. Northrop v. Trippett, 265 F.3d 372,
379 (6th Cir. 2001) (quoting United States v.
Sokolow, 490 U.S. 1, 7, 109 S.Ct. 1581, 104 L.Ed.2d 1
(1989)), cert. denied, 535 U.S. 955, 122 S.Ct. 1358,
152 L.Ed.2d 354 (2002). A police officer determines the
existence of probable cause by examining the facts and
circumstances within his knowledge that are sufficient to
inform “a prudent person, or one of reasonable ...