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Tisdale v. Gravitt

United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Gainesville Division

September 30, 2014

NYDIA TISDALE, Plaintiff,
v.
MAYOR H. FORD GRAVITT, both individually and in his official capacity, CITY OF CUMMING, GEORGIA and POLICE CHIEF CASEY TATUM, both individually and in his official capacity as Chief of Police for the City of Cumming, DEPUTY POLICE CHIEF WALTER COOK, individually, Defendants

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For Nydia Tisdale, Plaintiff: Gerald R. Weber, LEAD ATTORNEY, Law Offices of Gerry Weber, LLC, Atlanta, GA; Hollie G. Manheimer, Stuckey & Manheimer, Inc., Decatur, Ga.

For Mayor H. Ford Gravitt, individually and in his official capacity, City of Cumming, Georgia, Police Chief Casey Tatum, individually and in his official capacity as Chief of Police for the City of Cumming, Deputy Police Chief Walter Cook, individually, Defendants: Dana Kristin Maine, LEAD ATTORNEY, Freeman Mathis & Gary, Atlanta, GA; Dana Brent Miles, Kevin James Tallant, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Miles Patterson Hansford Tallant, LLC, Cumming, GA; James Monroe Dervin, Kathleen Sullivan Dod, Freeman Mathis & Gary, Atlanta, GA.

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ORDER

RICHARD W. STORY, United States District Judge.

This case comes before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [63], Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on First and Fourth Amendment and Open Meeting Act Claims Against All Defendants [69], and Plaintiff's Consent Request for Redaction [84]. As an initial matter, the Request for Redaction [84] is GRANTED.

Background

This case arises out of an incident that took place when Plaintiff attended a meeting of the Cumming City Council on April 17, 2012 (the " City Council Meeting" ). The facts in this case are largely undisputed. Plaintiff attended the City Council meeting planning to video record the proceedings to post on her website, AboutForsyth.com. Plaintiff set up her video camera and tripod in the center aisle of the auditorium in City Hall. (Defs.' Statement of Material Facts (" SOMF" ), Dkt. [63-4] ¶ 4.)

When the meeting began, Defendant Mayor Ford Gravitt asked Defendant Police Chief Casey Tatum to remove Plaintiff's video camera from the auditorium, announcing, " We don't allow filming inside of the city hall here unless it's specific reasons, so if you would remove the camera." (Pl.'s SOMF, Dkt. [69-1] ¶ 5; Defs.' SOMF, Dkt. [63-4] ¶ 10.) Plaintiff did not immediately comply; she attempted to explain that Georgia law permits video recording meetings and requested that Mayor Gravitt consult the City Attorney. (Pl.'s SOMF, Dkt. [69-1] ¶ 6.) Mayor Gravitt replied that filming was not up for discussion, and again directed that the camera be removed. (Id.)

Police Chief Tatum then grabbed Plaintiff's tripod in order to remove the camera from the auditorium. (Defs.' SOMF, Dkt. [63-4] ¶ 15.) While it is clear that at this point an altercation took place between Plaintiff and Tatum, the facts regarding the altercation are largely in dispute. According to Plaintiff, Tatum also grabbed Plaintiff's arm. (Pl.'s SOMF, Dkt. [69-1] ¶ 9.) Defendants deny that Tatum touched Plaintiff. (Defs.' SOMF, Dkt. [63-4] ¶ 19.) Tatum, followed by Deputy Police Chief Walter Cook, escorted Plaintiff to the back of the room. (Pl.'s SOMF, Dkt. [69-1] ¶ 15; Defs.' SOMF, Dkt. [63-4] ¶ 23.) Then, Plaintiff exited the council chamber. (Pl.'s SOMF, Dkt. [69-1] ¶ 18; Defs.' SOMF, Dkt. [63-4] ¶ 27.) Plaintiff remained outside the council chamber for a short time, and then reentered the council

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chamber while the meeting was still in progress. (Defs.' SOMF, Dkt. [63-4] ¶ 29.)

Plaintiff took a seat in the front row of the council chamber. (Tisdale Depo., Dkt. [66] at 66-67.) She began audio recording the meeting and took still photographs with a smaller camera. (Id. at 67.) Plaintiff also took some moving images with her smaller camera. (Id.; Pl.'s SOMF, Dkt. [69-1] ¶ 30.) At that point, Deputy Police Chief Cook again told Plaintiff to stop recording, per the Mayor's earlier direction. (Tisdale Depo., Dkt. [66] at 66-67; Cook Depo., Dkt. [73-4] at 33-34.) Plaintiff remained in her seat for the remainder of the meeting. (Defs.' SOMF, Dkt. [63-4] ¶ 29.)

Plaintiff initiated this action, raising federal and state law claims against the entity Defendant the City of Cumming, Georgia, and the following individual Defendants: (1) Mayor H. Ford Gravitt, individually and in his official capacity as Mayor of the City of Cumming, Georgia; (2) Police Chief Casey Tatum, individually and in his official capacity as Police Chief for the City of Cumming, Georgia; and (3) Deputy Police Chief Walter Cook, individually. (Compl., Dkt. [1].)

Against the foregoing Defendants, Plaintiff asserts the following claims for relief. Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Plaintiff raises claims for violation of freedom of speech as protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments and violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments' prohibition against unreasonable search and seizure. (Id. ¶ ¶ 21-22.) Plaintiff also raises claims under the provisions of the Georgia Constitution pertaining to free speech and unreasonable seizure. (Id.) Additionally, Plaintiff raises claims under Georgia law for false imprisonment; false imprisonment under color of legal process; battery; and violation of the Georgia Open Meetings Act. (Id. ¶ ¶ 20, 23-25.) Finally, Plaintiff seeks declaratory and injunctive relief allowing her to attend and film Cumming City Council meetings. (Id. ¶ 26.)

In a case in Georgia Superior Court arising out of the same incident at the April 17, 2012 Cumming City Council meeting, the Georgia Attorney General filed a complaint against Mayor Gravitt, individually and in his official capacity as Mayor of the City of Cumming, and the City of Cumming for violations of the Georgia Open Meetings Act, O.C.G.A. § 50-14-1 et seq.. (See Pl.'s Notice of Supp. Auth., Dkt. [91].) The Forsyth Superior Court granted Summary Judgment in favor of the Attorney General, holding that Mayor Gravitt and the City of Cumming violated the Open Meetings Act in three separate acts: " (1) they wrongfully prevented [Plaintiff] from video recording a meeting at the start of the meeting; (2) they wrongfully removed [Plaintiff] from the meeting when she had done nothing wrong; and (3) they wrongfully prevented [Plaintiff] from later videotaping the meeting, without sound, using a different camera." . (See id. at 8. (Olens v. Gravitt, 12-CV-1205 (Forsyth S.Ct. Aug. 8, 2014)).)

Defendants now move for summary judgment on each count in the present case [63], and Plaintiff moves for summary judgment on liability for First and Fourth Amendment and Open Meetings Act violations [69]. After setting out the legal standard governing motions for summary judgment, the Court considers the parties' respective motions in turn.

Discussion

I. Legal Standard - Summary Judgment

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 requires that summary judgment be granted " if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a

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matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). " The moving party bears 'the initial responsibility of informing the . . . court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.'" Hickson Corp. v. N. Crossarm Co., 357 F.3d 1256, 1259 (11th Cir. 2004) (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986) (internal quotations omitted)). Where the moving party makes such a showing, the burden shifts to the non-movant, who must go beyond the pleadings and present affirmative evidence to show that a genuine issue of material fact does exist. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 257, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986).

The applicable substantive law identifies which facts are material. Id. at 248. A fact is not material if a dispute over that fact will not affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Id. An issue is genuine when the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Id. at 249-50.

In resolving a motion for summary judgment, the court must view all evidence and draw all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Patton v. Triad Guar. Ins. Corp., 277 F.3d 1294, 1296 (11th Cir. 2002). But, the court is bound only to draw those inferences which are reasonable. " 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." Allen v. Tyson Foods, Inc., 121 F.3d 642, 646 (11th Cir. 1997) (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986)). " If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50 (internal citations omitted); see also Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586 (once the moving party has met its burden under Rule 56(a), the nonmoving party " must do more than simply show there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts" ).

Finally, the filing of cross-motions for summary judgment does not give rise to any presumption that no genuine issues of material fact exist. Rather, " [c]ross-motions must be considered separately, as each movant bears the burden of establishing that no genuine issue of material fact exists and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Sh ...


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