United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington
OPINION AND ORDER
E. Wier United States District Judge
Constitution does not guarantee that only the guilty will be
arrested.” Baker v. McCollan, 99 S.Ct. 2689,
2695 (1979). David Jones's case is but one-though surely
unfortunate-example of that truism. Following remand from the
Sixth Circuit, see Jones v. Clark Cnty., 690
Fed.Appx. 334, 336 (6th Cir. 2017), the parties have
litigated the case, and Clark County, Sheriff Berl Perdue,
Jr., and Officer Lee Murray seek summary judgment. DE #61
(Motion); see also DE ##69 (Response); 72 (Reply).
Because, for the following reasons, Jones's federal and
state malicious prosecution theories fail, the Court
GRANTS DE #61 and dismisses the case.
Sixth Circuit, on a preliminary record at the time,
previously provided the following case background:
In October 2013, the police tracked a 39-second video of
child pornography to an IP address and tracked that IP
address to subscriber David Jones. Officer Lee Murray secured
and executed a search warrant for Jones's residence,
seizing a tablet computer, cellphone, modem, printer, and
DVDs. Officer Murray arrested Jones, who waived his right to
counsel and answered all questions, denying any knowledge of
any child pornography. [T]he police did not investigate the
seized devices to determine whether they contained any child
pornography, such as the 39-second video. Had the police done
any such investigation, they would have discovered that they
did not. Nonetheless, Officer Murray recommended charges and
the prosecutor obtained a grand-jury indictment charging
Jones with promoting a minor in a sexual performance, in
violation of K.R.S. § 531.320(2)(b).
Over a year later, in November 2014, the authorities had
still done no investigation of the seized devices, at which
point Jones's attorney had an expert examine them. They
were found to contain no evidence of child pornography. Jones
moved to dismiss the indictment and the state court released
him on December 15, 2014. Jones had spent 14 months in jail.
Jones, 690 Fed.Appx. at 334-35. At the motion to
dismiss stage, the Sixth Circuit found factual issues and
remanded Judge Reeves's dismissal order.
has voluntarily narrowed the case to malicious prosecution
theories under federal (via 42 U.S.C. §
1983) and Kentucky law. See DE
The Court has reviewed the entire record, including every
page of the depositions, see DE #62, and summary
judgment exhibits. Defendants' 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. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp.,
106 S.Ct. 1348, 1356 (1986); 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, 2511 (1986).
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 various doctrines grant them immunity
from Jones's claims. See DE #61-1, at 8-22. The
Court analyzes the federal and state issues
Federal Malicious Prosecution Claim
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 denial of qualified
immunity to law enforcement officers in a § 1983 suit).
the defendant[s] 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, ” here Jones.
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 officer'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
succeed on a malicious-prosecution claim under § 1983
when the claim is premised on a violation of the Fourth
Amendment, a plaintiff must prove the following: First, the
plaintiff must show that a criminal prosecution was initiated
against the plaintiff and that the defendant made,
influenced, or participated in the decision to prosecute.
Second, because a § 1983 claim is premised on the
violation of a constitutional right, the plaintiff must show
that there was a lack of probable cause for the criminal
prosecution. Third, the plaintiff must show that, as a
consequence of a legal proceeding, the plaintiff suffered a
deprivation of liberty, as understood in our Fourth Amendment
jurisprudence, apart from the initial seizure. Fourth, the
criminal proceeding must have been resolved in the
plaintiff's favor.” Sykes v. Anderson, 625
F.3d 294, 308-09 (6th Cir. 2010) (internal quotation marks,
citations, and footnote removed).
critical element is the second-that Jones must show that
there was a lack of probable cause for the
prosecution. Ultimately, the interplay between the