United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division
OPINION & ORDER
MICHAEL L. BROWN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
LaCarsha Gay sued Cobb County police officers and Cobb County
claiming they violated her constitutional rights while
responding to a domestic dispute. Defendants moved for
summary judgment on all claims. (Dkt. 47.) Defendants also
moved to file documents under seal. (Dkt. 49.) Plaintiff then
moved for partial summary judgment. (Dkt. 50.) The Court
grants Defendants' motion for summary judgment and
request to file documents under seal and denies
Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment.
has been in a relationship with Daniel Garcia for many years.
They have one daughter, known in this proceeding as KG. (Dkt.
58-1 ¶¶ 83-84.) At the time of the incident here,
Plaintiff, Garcia, and KG lived in the same apartment.
(Id. ¶ 95.) KG was eight years old.
(Id. ¶ 83.) On the relevant day, Plaintiff and
Garcia had a loud argument with each other. (Id.
¶ 107.) Their fight - apparently about who was going to
use Plaintiff's car - stretched from their own apartment
into the common area. (Id.) The fight became
physical with Garcia grabbing Plaintiff by the hair.
(Id. ¶¶ 108-10, 114.) At that point, KG
tried to intervene to help her mother and was
injured. (Id. ¶ 114.)
adults continued yelling and screaming at each other.
(Id. ¶ 116.) Plaintiff, afraid for herself and
her daughter, called 911. (Id. ¶ 119.) She
asked the police to come to her apartment but ended the call
abruptly. (Id.) The operator called her back and
could hear Plaintiff arguing with another adult (later
identified as Garcia). (Id.) The operator
specifically heard Plaintiff say “you hit your
daughter.” (Id.) That call ended abruptly as
well. (Id.) Plaintiff called police again, gave them
the name of the apartment complex, and stated “please
get here.” (Id. ¶ 120.) She then said
“he's here and he won't leave.”
(Id. ¶ 120.) The operator could hear Plaintiff
continuing to argue with an unknown man (later identified as
Garcia) and also heard KG crying in the background.
(Id.) She did not tell the operator how the argument
started but expressed concern she might get in trouble with
police for fighting with her boyfriend. (Id.
Plaintiff's neighbors also called 911 to report the
fight. (Id. ¶ 124.) The neighbor said that a
man and woman were fighting and that a little girl was
screaming and crying. (Id. ¶ 124.) The neighbor
said the two adults fought “every day” but this
was the worst she had ever heard. (Id. ¶ 124.)
She called back a few minutes later and said it sounded like
the woman was getting beat up by her boyfriend and the
daughter was crying. (Id. ¶ 125.) The neighbor
told the police to get there “fast.”
Officers Madden and Moore got to the apartment quickly.
(Id. ¶ 127.) They knew someone in the apartment
had called 911 twice, pleaded for urgent help, and said the
alleged aggressor “won't leave.”
(Id. ¶ 130.) They did not know where the
aggressor was or whether he was still threatening the caller.
(Id. ¶ 131.) They had received training in
responding to domestic disputes. (Id. ¶ 30.)
They knew that, when the police are called to investigate
domestic disputes, one of the parties to the dispute will
sometimes hide in the residence. (Id. ¶ 37.)
Madden and Moore found KG in the parking lot. (Id.
¶ 132.) She was crying and seemed distraught.
(Id.) She told them her parents had been fighting
and led them to apartment 30C. (Id. ¶ 133- 34.)
Officer Madden could see abrasions and scratches on her face.
(Dkt. 52 at 23:7-11.) KG said her daddy had done it.
answered the door and told Officers Moore and Madden that the
man she had been fighting with had already left. (Dkt. 58-1
¶ 134.) The Officers asked to search the house, and
Plaintiff told them no. (Id. ¶ 140.) The
Officers thought Plaintiff appeared suspicious and Officer
Moore stated, “we don't know who is inside.”
(Id. ¶ 143.)
Moore took a few steps up the stairs into the apartment.
(Id. ¶ 145.) Plaintiff protested, and Officer
Moore went back down the stairs. (Id.) He put his
foot in the doorway to keep the door open. (Id.) The
Officers asked Plaintiff to come outside so that they could
interview her, but she refused, telling them the man had
left. (Id. ¶ 147.)
point, KG walked past the Officers into the apartment with
her mother. (Id. ¶ 149.) The Officers state
they noticed a fresh scratch and abrasion near KG's right
eye. (Id. ¶¶ 149, 164.) Plaintiff does not
dispute the fact that the Officers noticed this injury but
claims they would have seen KG's injuries when they spoke
with her in the parking lot. (Id.) Either way, the
Officers knew KG had been injured. Plaintiff refused to let
the Officers speak with KG. (Id. ¶ 151.)
talking to the Officers for about ten minutes, Plaintiff
became frustrated, feeling the Officers “weren't
focusing on [the] situation that they were called for.”
(Id. ¶ 152.) Plaintiff tried to close the door
and Officer Moore kept his foot in it to prevent her from
shutting the door. (Id. ¶ 153.) The Officers
told her she could not shut the door because she was under
investigation. (Id. ¶ 154.) Plaintiff got angry
and started yelling and cursing at the Officers, saying she
would close her “f@#$ door.” (Id.)
Plaintiff believed the police were not there to assist her
but rather wanted to search her apartment for drugs or guns.
(Id. ¶ 155.) She continued to curse when asked
to stop because there were small children around.
(Id. ¶ 158.) During the argument, Officer
Dorsey arrived at the scene. (Dkt. 54 at 24:3-24.)
Officers tried to investigate for ten minutes but Plaintiff
refused to provide pertinent information, kept yelling at the
Officers, and remained uncooperative. (Id. ¶
162.) She also refused to allow them to ask KG any questions,
telling them to speak only with her. (Id. ¶
164.) The Officers arrested Plaintiff for obstruction and
disorderly conduct. (Id. ¶ 166; 43-6 ¶
43.) She refused to comply with the Officers until she was in
one of their police cars. (Dkt. 58-1 ¶¶ 168-70.)
other police officers found Garcia a few blocks away.
(Id. ¶ 178.) He denied the argument had become
physical, but officers saw bloody scratches on his neck.
(Id. ¶ 179.) The Officers could not determine
who was the primary aggressor and arrested both Plaintiff and
Garcia. (Id. ¶ 180.) The Officers charged
Plaintiff with obstruction, cruelty to child in the third
degree, disorderly conduct, and simple battery. (Id.
¶ 189.) Plaintiff's bond was set at $10, 000, an
amount she could not pay. (Dkt. 3 at 8.) Police charged
Garcia with simple battery and cruelty to children. (Dkt.
58-1 ¶ 181.) He pleaded guilty and spent twenty-two days
in jail. (Id. ¶ 202.) Plaintiff remained in
jail for twenty- three days before the prosecutor dropped the
charges. (Id. ¶ 209.) The prosecutor believed
there was sufficient evidence to prosecute Plaintiff but
dismissed because Plaintiff had already served twenty-three
days in jail and the prosecutor wanted to cut her a break.
(Id. ¶¶ 205-09.)
sued, alleging the Officers arrested her because she refused
to let them come into her house and cursed at them. (Dkt. 3.)
She asserted two Fourth Amendment claims (arrest without a
warrant and illegal search and seizure) and three state tort
law claims (false arrest, false imprisonment, and malicious
Standard of Review
judgment is appropriate when “the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that
the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “No genuine issue of material fact
exists if a party has failed to ‘make a showing
sufficient to establish the existence of an element . . . on
which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.'
” AFL-CIO v. City of Miami, 637 F.3d 1178,
1186-87 (11th Cir. 2011) (quoting Celotex Corp. v.
Catlett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986)). An issue is genuine
when the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return
a verdict for the nonmovant. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249-50 (1986). A fact is
“material” if it is “a legal element of the
claim under the applicable substantive law which might affect
the outcome of the case.” Allen v. Tyson Foods,
Inc., 121 F.3d 642, 646 (11th Cir. 1997).
moving party bears the initial responsibility of asserting
the basis for its motion. Celotex, 637 F.3d at 323.
The movant is not, however, required to negate the
nonmovant's claim. Id. at 324. Instead, the
moving party may meet her burden by “
‘showing' - that is, pointing to the district court
- that there is an absence of evidence to support the
non-moving party's case.” Id. After the
moving party has carried its burden, the non-moving party
must present competent evidence that there is a genuine issue
for trial. Id.
court must view all evidence and factual inferences in a
light most favorable to the non-moving party. Samples v.
City of Atlanta, 846 F.2d 1328, 1330 (11th Cir. 1988).
But “the mere existence of some alleged
factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an
otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the
requirement is there be no genuine issue of
material fact.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at
Officers moved for summary judgment on Plaintiff's
federal claims saying they are entitled to qualified
immunity. They also moved for summary judgment on the state
law claims, saying they are entitled to official immunity.
Plaintiff opposed those motions.
Federal Claims & Qualified Immunity
immunity offers complete protection for government officials
sued in their individual capacities if their conduct does not
violate clearly established statutory or constitutional
rights of which a reasonable person would have known.”
Vinyard v. Wilson, 311 F.3d 1340, 1346 (11th Cir.
2002) (internal quotation marks omitted). So
“[q]ualified immunity gives government officials
breathing room to make reasonable but mistaken judgments
about open legal questions.” Ashcroft v.
al-Kidd, 563 U.S. 731, 743 (2011). Qualified immunity
allows officials to “carry out their discretionary
duties without the fear of personal liability or harassing
litigation.” Lee v. Ferraro, 284 F.3d 1188,
1194 (11th Cir. 2002). When properly applied, qualified
immunity “protects all but the plainly incompetent or
those who knowingly violate the law.” al-Kidd,
563 U.S. at 743 (internal quotation marks omitted).
immunity may attach only when the officer is “acting
within the scope of his discretionary authority when the
allegedly wrongful acts occurred.” Grider v. City
of Auburn, 618 F.3d 1240, 1254 n.19 (11th Cir. 2010). A
public official acts within the scope of his discretionary
authority where the acts complained of were “undertaken
pursuant to the performance of his duties and within the
scope of his authority.” See Rich v. Dollar,841 F.2d 1558, 1564 (11th Cir. 1988). “Once the
defendant establishes that he was acting within his
discretionary authority, the burden shifts to the plaintiff
to show that qualified immunity is not appropriate.”
Lee, 284 F.3d at 1194. There seems to be no question
that Defendants acted within the scope of their discretionary
authority when arresting Plaintiff. See, e.g.,