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Moore v. Gwinnett County

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

March 29, 2019

Charlotte Moore, Plaintiff,
Gwinnett County, a political subdivision of the State of Georgia, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION & ORDER


         Plaintiff Charlotte Moore sued Gwinnett County police officers and Gwinnett County claiming they violated her constitutional rights while responding to disputes she had with roommates. Defendants moved for summary judgment on all claims. Dkts. 97, 98, 100, and 102. The Court grants Defendants' motions.

         I. Background[1]

         Plaintiff Charlotte Moore rented a home located at 2267 Hudson Drive, Lilburn, Georgia. Dkt. 95 at 8, 42. Her lease allowed Moore to sublet rooms in the house to other people. Id. at 42. This matter arises from police response to two disputes she has with roommates - one on July 14, 2014, and one on November 27, 2015.

         A. The July 14, 2014, Incident

         Christopher Lawrence began renting a room from Moore in June 2014. Id. at 86-87. Almost immediately, he and Moore began having problems arising from Lawrence's alleged failure to comply with Moore's rules. Id. at 87-88. On July 10, 2014, Lawrence called police to complain that Moore would not let him put juice in the refrigerator. Id. at 91-92; see Dkt. 102-6 at ¶¶ 2-3.

         The next day, Moore locked Lawrence out of the kitchen after Lawrence allegedly threatened to poison Moore by “putting something” in the water supply in her refrigerator. See Dkt. 95 at 90, 94-96, 107- 08. Lawrence called police and Defendants Justin Richey and David Leigh went to the house. Dkts. 51 at ¶ 15; 100-4 at 13-21; 100-3 at 17- 18. Moore told them she wanted Lawrence “out” of her home because he was trying to poison her. Dkts. 95 at 112-16; 100-4 at 18. Because Moore refused to file a police report, the police officers told her (1) if she wanted Lawrence to leave her house, she had to go through the eviction process, and (2) so long as Lawrence remained her tenant, Moore had to give him “reasonable” access to the kitchen. Dkts. 100-4 at 18-20; 100-3 at 17-18.

         On July 14, 2014, Moore went into Lawrence's locked room with her master key, collected his personal belongings, and took them to a storage facility. Dkt. 95-1 at 26-29. She also changed the locks to the house. Id. Moore had neither permission to do this nor a dispossessory warrant. Id. at 7-8, 26-28.

         When Lawrence returned, he - again - called the police. Dkt. 99, Ex. 5 at 00:00:38-00:00:45.[2] Defendants Richey and Leigh went back to the house, this time with Defendant Jennifer Roberts. Dkts. 100-4 at 24; 100-3 at 29; 100-5 at 10-11.[3] They got there at about 11:00 p.m. Id. Lawrence told them what Moore had done, claimed the items she removed from the house included an unspecified amount of cash, and showed them paperwork he had received from Moore, specifically a document showing the address of the storage facility and a letter terminating his lease. Dkts. 100-3 at 30-32; 100-4 at 25; 95 at 118. Lawrence said he wanted to prosecute Moore for theft. Dkt. 100-4 at 32.

         The three officers went to the front door. Dkts. 100-4 at 27-28; 100-3 at 34; 100-5 at 15. Although the officers' recollection of this encounter differs from Moore's, the parties agree that the officers knocked on the door and Moore answered by opening the door inwards. Dkt. 95-1 at 33- 34. Moore testified that she spoke with the officers while standing behind her door, which she opened just wide enough to put her arm through.[4]

         Both Moore and Defendant Richey have submitted audio recordings of the encounter. Dkts. 109; 102-3.[5] In the recordings, Moore speaks with officers for several minutes, admitting she took Lawrence's belongings to the storage locker without his permission. See Dkt. 102-3 at 00:10:28-00:11:30:00. Moore insists she had the right to evict Lawrence because he threatened her. The officers explain that, since she had refused to file a police report against Lawrence or get a dispossessory warrant, she had no right to do what she did. Id. at 00:11:30-00:12:40.

         The officers then told her that she was under arrest and asked her to step outside. Id. at 00:12:40-00:12:50. Moore continued to argue with the officers, claiming she had the right to evict him and leading to the following exchange:

Male Officer: Ma'am, can you step outside? You're under arrest. [Pause] Ma'am, if you do not step outside we will make you step outside.
Moore: Ok, let me call my attorney.
Roberts: No, you're not calling your attorney.
Male Officer: You'll be able to call your attorney [inaudible] . . .
Moore: Ok, ok, ok. Hold on . . .
Roberts: Step outside right now.
Moore: I don't have shoes or nothing on.
Male Officer: We'll get your shoes.
Moore: No, I mean . . .
Roberts [speaking over Moore]: [unintelligible] . . . step outside. Say no one more time, you're gonna get an obstruction charge. Don't you shut that door. Get out . . .
Moore: Ok, what are you arresting me for exactly?
Roberts: Theft by taking.
Moore [raising voice]: I didn't take anything.
Roberts: Come out now. Come out now. [Shuffling can be overheard]. Don't shut this door on me.
Moore [raising voice]: I didn't shut this door. I want to get my shoes.
Roberts: You ain't getting nothing.
Moore [yelling]: Why can't I get my shoes?
[Shuffling in background]
Roberts: Because that's not what I told you could do.
[Sounds of struggle continue]
Roberts [yelling]: Give me this.
Moore [yelling]: Why are you taking my shoes?
Male Officer: Stop.
Moore [yelling]: Let me . . . I'm just . . .
Roberts [speaking over Moore]: Because you are going to do what we tell you and nothing else. Put your hands behind your back.
Moore [yelling]: Wait. Stop. Stop. [Moore screams] Stop it.
Roberts [yelling]: Back up. Back up please.
Moore [yelling]: Stop it.
Roberts: You're going to get tased.
Male Officer: Turn around. Put it behind your back. Put it behind your back now.
Roberts: Put your hands behind your back now.
Male Officer: Put your hands behind your back now.
Moore: I can't. Wait a minute . . . [garbled]
Roberts [speaking over Moore]: Put them down. Put them down.
Male Officer: Put it behind your back.
[A sound that appears to be a taser discharging can be heard]
Male Officer: Put your hands behind your back.
[Moore can be heard screaming in the background over the sound of a struggle. The sound of a taser continues]
Male Officer: Put your hands behind your back.
Moore [shouting]: [unintelligible]
Male Officer: Turn around. Turn around.
Moore [yelling]: [unintelligible]
Male Officer: Ma'am, if you do not turn around, you're gonna get tased. You're gonna get tased again. You're gonna get tased.
Moore [shouting]: No, I can't . . . [unintelligible]
Male Officer: Turn around.
Multiple Officers [yelling over one another]: Ma'am, put your hands behind your back.
Moore: Ok . . .
Male Officer: Put it behind your ...

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