United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Brunswick Division
LISA GODBEY WOOD, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.
before the Court are Plaintiff's George Alston and
Defendants' City of Darien, Donnie Howard, and Anthony
Brown ("Defendants") competing motions for partial
summary judgment (Dkt. No. 23) and for summary judgment (Dkt.
No. 22), respectively. The issues are fully briefed and ripe
reasons stated below, the Defendants' Motion is
GRANTED and Plaintiff's Motion is
stationed on the shoulder of Interstate 95, Darien Police
Officer Anthony Brown observed a white Mercedes with dark
window tint traveling southbound. Dkt. No. 23-1 p. 2; Dkt.
No. 22-5, 6:24-25, 7:1-2. Brown initiated a traffic stop for
a suspected violation of O.C.G.A. § 40-8-73, which
prohibits . fixing of materials which reduce transmission or
increase light reflectance through windows or windshields.
Dkt. No. 22-5, 7:9-24. While approaching the car, Brown also
noticed that the vehicle's license plate was partially
obscured. Dkt. No. 22-6, 6:1-3. Brown asked the driver of the
car, George Alston, to roll up his windows; Brown then
checked the windows with a tint meter. Dkt. No. 23-1 p. 2.
The windows were tinted more darkly than is permitted under
Georgia law. Dkt. No. 22-5, 7:15-17.
asked Alston for his license; Alston did not immediately
comply, instead handing him an identification card from the
Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC). Dkt. No.
23-1 p. 2. Brown then wrote Alston two citations: the first
for an obstructed tag frame in violation of O.C.G.A. §
40-2-41, and the second for window tint violation under
O.C.G.A. § 40-8-73. Dkt. No. 30. Alston signed only one
of the two citations and then-according to Brown-said
"[y]ou know, this is the second time you've done
this fucking bullshit." Dkt. No. 22-5 66:16-25, 67:1-11.
commanded Alston to "[e]xit the vehicle" and told
Alston he was under arrest. Dkt. No. 22-5, 50:15-19.
According to Brown, Alston did not move, glaring at Brown
instead. Dkt. No. 22-5, 50:21-23. Brown then drew his taser,
pointed it at Alston's chest, and again commanded that
Alston exit the vehicle. Dkt. No. 22-5, 11:1-12. Brown
testified that the sole purpose of pointing his taser at
Alston was because Alston did not immediately exit the
vehicle when commanded to do so. Dkt. No. 22-5, 50:6-17.
with the taser, Alston did exit the vehicle and was placed in
handcuffs. Dkt. No. 22-5, 12:14-25. According to Alston,
Alston immediately told Brown that the handcuffs were
"too tight"-but Brown finished clamping and locking
the handcuffs. Dkt. No. 22-4, 27:3-25, 28:1-5.
was arrested. According to Brown, the sole purpose of
Alston's custodial arrest was to take him to be
fingerprinted. Dkt. No. 22-5, 21:25, 22:1-2. The Attorney
General had previously designated window tint violations as
an offense for which violators must be fingerprinted. Dkt.
No. 22-1 p. 3. Brown had thereafter been instructed to
effectuate this policy by his superior; Brown stated that he
had been directed by the Chief of the Darien Police
Department to bring in anyone who was cited for window tint
violations. Dkt. No. 22-5, 22:5-10. Indeed, in his
deposition, Darien Police Department Chief Howard confirmed
that he had made that instruction on the basis of a request
by the Clerk of the Mcintosh State Court. Dkt. No. 22-7,
32:5-12. The Clerk had been struggling to fill out paperwork
as a result of the officers not making arrests for window
tint violations, and had therefore requested that Chief
Howard instruct his officers to arrest individuals for window
tint violations. Dkt. No. 22-7, 32:7-35.
Alston says that Brown arrested him for another reason.
According to Alston, Brown told Darien Officer Robbie
Gault-who arrived at the scene of the arrest shortly after
Alston's arrest-that Brown made the arrest because of how
Alston "acted in the car with his wife, " and
because Alston "was cussing [Brown] so I will call his
job and have him fired." Dkt. No. 22-4, 28:11-17.
was responsible for transporting Alston to the jail. It took
three to four minutes to travel to the Mcintosh County Jail,
and then another two to three minutes before Gault could
remove Alston's handcuffs. Dkt. No. 22-4, 30:17-19;
31:6-8. As Gault drove Alston to the jail, Alston told Gault
that his handcuffs were too tight and asked him to loosen
them. Dkt. No. 22-6, 5:6-21. Alston says that Gault told him,
"You're a big guy; he should have used two pair of
cuffs; he shouldn't have done that." Dkt. No. 22-4,
31:16-17. When Gault took the cuffs off his hands, Alston
noticed that his left hand was swollen and his right hand was
bleeding from a half-inch long gash. Dkt. No. 22-4, 33:14-22.
Alston showed his injuries to jailor Tammy Skipper, who
encouraged Alston to show his injuries to Brown's
superior officer. Dkt. No. 22-4, 35:3-14. Gault's
testimony, however, contradicted Defendant's assessment;
he testified that Alston was not bleeding and only had
"indentation of the skin" consistent with
"normal use of a handcuff." Dkt. No. 22-6,
7:22-8:8. The booking sheet from the Mcintosh County Jail,
signed by Alston, indicated that Alston had no visible signs
of "trauma or illness" or "pain [or]
injury." Dkt. No. 22-1, Ex. B. And the records from
Southeast Georgia Health Systems indicate that providers who
examined Alston hours after his meeting with Brown noted
neither bleeding nor contusions. Dkt. No. 22-1, Ex. C.
his arrest and release from jail, Alston went to the
Brunswick hospital, where X-rays were taken of his left hand.
Dkt. No. 22-4, 45:15-20. At a May 15, 2014 follow-up
appointment with Dr. Dunn, Alston's X-ray revealed a
positive Tinel's sign in his left wrist, which Dr. Dunn
diagnosed as indicative of an irritated radial sensory nerve.
Dkt. No. 32-2, 11:1-8. Alston returned on June 5, 2014
reporting the same symptoms. Dkt. No. 32-2, 11:13-19. Alston
again reported to the hospital on April 10, 2015, where Dunn
performed an MRI, revealing arthritis and a full thickness
tear of a connective ligament in Alston's wrist. Dkt. No.
32-2, 12:12-22. Now three years after the incident, Alston
continues to struggle with pressing the clutch of his
motorcycle, performing yard work, and body building. Dkt. No.
22-4, 47:15-23, 48:8-12.
brings several claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
("Section 1983") against Officer Anthony Brown,
Chief Donnie Howard, and against the City of Darien alleging:
(1) false arrest in violation of the Fourth Amendment, (2)
excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment, and (3)
liability of the City of Darien (Dkt. No. 1). He also alleges
violations by Officer Brown and Chief Howard of Alston's
First Amendment Rights and denial of a petition for redress.
(Dkt. No. 1). Defendants moved for summary judgments on all
claims. Dkt. No. 22. Plaintiff moves for partial summary
judgment only on the claims of false arrest and excessive
force. Dkt. No. 23.
party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of
demonstrating the basis for its motion for summary judgment
and identifying those portions of the pleadings, depositions,
answers to interrogatories, and admissions which it believes
demonstrate absence of any genuine issue of material fact.
Taylor v. Espy, 816 F.Supp. 1553, 1556 (N.D.Ga.
1993) (citation omitted). If it shows that there is
insufficient evidence supporting the nonmoving party's
case, the moving party has satisfied its burden. Celotex
Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986).
burden then shifts to the nonmovant to demonstrate a genuine
issue of material fact for trial. Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 257 (1986). The nonmovant may
meet this burden by showing that the record contains
"supporting evidence, sufficient to withstand a directed
verdict motion, which was 'overlooked or ignored' by
the moving party." Fitzpatrick v. City of
Atlanta, 2 F.3d 1112, 1116 (11th Cir. 1993) (quoting
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 332 (Brennan, J., dissenting)).
Alternatively, the nonmovant "may come forward with
additional evidence sufficient to withstand a directed
verdict motion at trial based on the alleged evidentiary
deficiency." Id. at 1117. But should the
nonmovant instead attempt to carry this burden with nothing
more "than a repetition of his conclusional allegations,
summary judgment for the defendants [is] not only proper but
required." Morris v. Ross, 663 F.2d 1032,
1033-34 (11th Cir. 1981).
summary judgment stage, it is the Court's responsibility
"not to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of
the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue
for trial." Tolan v. Cotton, 134 S.Ct. 1861,
1866 (2014) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249
(1986)) (internal quotation marks omitted). When, as here,
the parties have filed cross- motions for summary judgment,
the applicable Rule 56 standard is not affected. See
Gerling Glob. Reinsurance Corp. of Am. v. Gallagher, 267
F.3d 1228, 1233-34 (11th Cir. 2001). "[T]he facts are
viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party on
each motion." Chavez v. Mercantil Commercebank,
N.A., 701 F.3d 896, 899 (11th Cir. 2012).
alleges that Defendants committed numerous violations of
Section 1983. Plaintiff specifically makes a number of
federal law claims against Brown and Howard in their official
and individual capacities, in addition to seeking to hold the
City of Darien liable for their actions. See
generally Dkt. No. 1. In response, Defendants assert
that qualified ...