United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division
MICHAEL B. EASTER, Plaintiff,
JASON HENDRIX, et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
GREGORY F. VAN TATENHOVE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
seek summary judgment as to Plaintiff Michael B. Easter's
federal claims, brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
Kentucky Constitutional claims, and Kentucky state law
claims. [R. 37.] For the reasons set forth below, the Court
GRANTS the Defendants' motion.
April 10, 2016 at approximately 2:30 a.m., Defendant-Officers
Jason Hendrix and Austin Sasser were dispatched to an
apartment located in Shelbyville, Kentucky in response to an
excessive noise complaint. [R. 1 at 4; R. 37-2; R. 37-3.] The
apartment was that of Plaintiff Michael B. Easter, where he
resided with his mother, Elizabeth “Libby”
Easter, and his twelve-year old daughter. [R. 1.] Libby
Easter called the officers to their home because Mr. Easter
was listening to music on his laptop computer at a high
volume and refused to turn the music down. [R. 1; R. 37-2 at
1.] Upon Defendants' arrival at Mr. Easter's
residence, Officer Hendrix knocked and Libby answered the
door. [R. 1; R. 37-2; R. 37-3.] The parties disagree as to
whether Libby invited the officers into the home, but both
agree that upon arrival, Libby Easter told the officers that
the noise disturbance had ceased, and Mr. Easter told the
Officers to “get the F out of my house.” [R. 1;
R. 37-1, R. 39.]
entering the residence, Officer Hendrix heard what he
described as “a person hyperventilating into a plastic
bag.” [R. 37-2.] Among continued protestations from Mr.
Easter, Officer Hendrix sought the source of the noise, which
turned out to be Mr. Easter's twelve-year-old daughter.
Id. Officer Hendrix found Mr. Easter's daughter
breathing heavily in her bedroom. [R. 37-2.] It is undisputed
that she and Mr. Easter were involved in a disagreement prior
to police being called to the home, but details of the
disagreement are disputed. [R. 1 at 6; R. 38-2 at 2.] Mr.
Easter asserts that his daughter “physically struck,
shoved, and briefly confined” him. [R. 1 at 6.] The
Officers conducted an interview with Mr. Easter's
daughter outside of the presence of Mr. Easter, with Libby
Easter's consent. [R. 1 at 7] Officers Hendrix and Sasser
claim that the daughter informed them that Mr. Easter had
“hit her in the face and pushed her on the bed causing
her to hit her head on a mirror.” [R. 38-2 at 2.]
Officer Hendrix noticed redness on the right side of her
face, and that she appeared to have a “bruise” or
“knot” toward the back of her head. Id.
Because Officer Hendrix believed that Mr. Easter's
daughter needed medical evaluation, EMS was called to the
point Mr. Easter was handcuffed in his home. [R. 39; R.
38-2.] The parties agree that officers informed Mr. Easter
that he was not under arrest, and that the handcuffs were for
his own safety. Id. Following the interview with Mr.
Easter's daughter, the Defendants believed they had
probable cause to arrest Mr. Easter for Assault in the Fourth
Degree, Child Abuse, and Mr. Easter was informed he was under
arrest. [See R. 1 at 7; R. 38-2 at 3.] The parties
agree that Mr. Easter verbally protested as Officer Sasser
escorted him to a police cruiser. [See R. 1 at 7; R.
38-2 at 3.] The Officers claim that Mr. Easter engaged in
“violent, tumultuous, and threatening behavior”
such that he caused residents living in neighboring
apartments to come to their doors to see what was going on
outside. [R. 38-2 at 3.] Mr. Easter disputes this claim and
says that no nearby residents came to investigate. [R. 39 at
occurred, Mr. Easter was subsequently charged with Disorderly
Conduct in the Second Degree. [R. 1.] Mr. Easter was
transported to Shelby County Detention Center and claims
that, either during transport or booking at Shelby County
Detention Center, Officer Sasser “grabbed the hood of
the [Mr. Easter's] hoody and tightened it around his neck
. . . and executed a chokehold that caused the [Mr. Easter]
to lose consciousness.” [R. 1 at 7-8.] At the time of
booking, a Standard Medical Questions form was prepared by
the Detention Center in which Plaintiff indicated that he was
not in need of medical attention. [R. 37-2 at 12.] A photo
taken during the booking process shows no sign of injury to
Mr. Easter's neck or head. Id. at 13.
one-day jury trial on October 12, 2016, Mr. Easter was
acquitted of the Assault in the Fourth Degree, Child Abuse
charge and convicted of the offense of Disorderly Conduct in
the Second Degree. [R. 1 at 9.] Mr. Easter subsequently filed
this action on April 9, 2017 against Defendants Jason
Hendrix, Austin Sasser, and Danny Goodwin, both individually
and in their official capacities. Mr. Easter alleges
violations of his Constitutional rights under the Fourth,
Tenth and Fourteenth Amendments as well as §§ 10
and 11 of the Kentucky Constitution. [See R. 1.]
Additionally, Mr. Easter brings Kentucky state law claims for
malicious prosecution, false imprisonment, assault and
battery, and outrage. Id. Defendants filed a Motion
for Summary Judgment disputing these claims and putting forth
the affirmative defense of qualified immunity. [R. 37-1.] Mr.
Easter, now proceeding pro se, filed what he called
a “Motion for Summary Judgment and Response to
Defendant's Motion for Summary of Judgment.” [R.
39.] The Defendants filed a reply to that motion, urging the
Court to construe it as a Response to their earlier motion
for Summary Judgment, rather than as a cross-motion for
Summary Judgment. [R. 43.]
initial matter, the Court takes up the issue of how to
interpret Mr. Easter's motion. It is styled as
“Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment and
Response to Defendant's Motion for Summary of
Judgment.” [R. 39.]
speaking, filings by pro se litigants are construed
liberally. See Spotts v. United States, 429 F.3d
248, 249 (6th Cir. 2005). Where a party is without
representation, pro se pleadings “must be held to less
stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by
lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94
(2007) (citing Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106
(1976)). However, the Court is under no duty to “search
the entire record to establish that it is bereft of a genuine
issue of material fact.” In re Morris, 260
F.3d 654, 655 (6th Cir. 2001). Rather, “the nonmoving
party has an affirmative duty to direct the court's
attention to those specific portions of the record upon which
it seeks to rely to create a genuine issue of material
applying a liberal construction, Mr. Easter's motion [R.
39] falls short of the standard for a Motion for Summary
Judgment. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56. Mr. Easter's
motion seeks no affirmative relief aside from asking the
Court “to honorably block [Defendants'] motion as
it is false.” Id. To the extent he cites to
the record, Mr. Easter directs the Court's attention to
whole affidavits, as well as a video recording of the
entirety of his day-long jury trial. [R. 39.] Mr. Easter puts
forth no argument for Summary Judgment on his own behalf.
See Id. Accordingly, Mr. Easter's motion is most
appropriately construed as a response to Defendants'
Motion for Summary Judgment.
judgment is appropriate “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 genuine dispute exists on a
material fact, and thus summary judgment is improper, if the
evidence shows ‘that a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the nonmoving party.'” Olinger v.
Corporation of the President of the Church, 521
F.Supp.2d 577, 582 (E.D. Ky. 2007) (quoting Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986)). Stated
otherwise, “[t]he mere existence of a scintilla of
evidence in support of the plaintiff's position will be
insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could
reasonably find for the plaintiff.” Anderson,
477 U.S. at 252.
moving party has the initial burden of demonstrating the
basis for its motion and identifying those parts of the
record that establish the absence of a genuine issue of
material fact. Chao v. Hall Holding Co., Inc., 285
F.3d 415, 424 (6th Cir. 2002). The movant may satisfy its
burden by showing “that there is an absence of evidence
to support the non-moving party's case.”
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325
(1986). Once the movant has satisfied this burden, the
non-moving party must go beyond the pleadings and come
forward with specific facts demonstrating the existence of a
genuine issue for trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56; Hall
Holding, 285 F.3d at 424 (citing Celotex, 477
U.S. at 324). Moreover, “the nonmoving party must do
more than show there is some metaphysical doubt as to the
material fact. It must present significant probative evidence
in support of its opposition to the motion for summary
judgment.” Hall Holding, 285 F.3d at 424
(internal citations omitted). When applying the summary
judgment standard, the Court must review the facts and draw
all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party.
Logan v. Denny's, Inc., 259 F.3d 558, 566 (6th
Cir. 2001) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986)).
case involves three Defendants, each of whom has been sued in
both their official and individual capacities: Officer Danny
Goodwin, Officer Jason Hendrix, and Officer Austin Sasser.
[R. 1.] Defendants Hendrix and Sasser responded to Mr.
Easter's home on April 10, 2016, but Officer Goodwin was
not involved in responding to the call. [See R. 1.]
Instead, Officer Danny Goodwin is sued in his individual and
official capacity because he was, at the time, Chief of the
Shelbyville Police Department, and therefore established
policies which governed the employment, training, supervision
and conduct of the officers of the Shelbyville Police
Department. [R. 1; R. 9.]
is clear that any federal charges asserted against the
Defendants in their official capacity are functionally
equivalent to charges against the City of Shelbyville,
because “individuals sued in their official capacities
stand in the shoes of the entity they represent.”
Alkire v. Irving, 330 F.3d 802, 810 (6th Cir. 2003)
(citing Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 165
(1985)). This is because a plaintiff seeking to
“recover on a damages judgment in an official-capacity
suit must look to the government entity itself.”
Id. Thus, the City of Shelbyville is the true
defendant, and Officers Goodwin, Hendrix, and Sasser are
dismissed as defendants with respect to the pending federal
and state law claims. See Clark v. Kentucky, 229
F.Supp.2d 718, 721-22 (E.D. Ky. 2002) (dismissing official
capacity claims). Summary judgment is GRANTED in favor of the
Defendants on all claims made against them in their official
are nine remaining claims against Officers Goodwin, Hendrix
and Sasser in their individual capacities in this action. [R.
1.] Defendants oppose these claims on substantive grounds as