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Greene v. Shegan

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

August 24, 2015

ABDUL GREENE, Plaintiff,
v.
JODY SHEGAN, et al., Defendants

          For ABDUL C. GREENE, Plaintiff: Gregory L. Lattimer, LEAD ATTORNEY, LAW OFFICES OF GREGORY L. LATTIMER, PLLC, Washington, DC.

         For JODY SHEGAN, Officer, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Defendants: James Anthony Towns, Sr., LEAD ATTORNEY, Shermineh C. Jones, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Washington, DC.

Page 89

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

         RICHARD W. ROBERTS, Chief United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Abdul Greene filed an action asserting common law claims of false arrest, assault and battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress, and a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 of deprivation under color of law of the constitutional right to be free from unreasonable seizure, all stemming from an encounter with Metropolitan Police Officer Jody Shegan in 2010. Defendants Shegan and the District of Columbia filed a post-discovery motion for

Page 90

summary judgment, arguing that probable cause for arresting Greene shielded Shegan with qualified immunity from liability, that Shegan used reasonable force to effect the lawful arrest, and that Greene's factual allegations of intentional infliction of emotional distress are insufficient as a matter of law. The Court heard arguments on the motion on August 11, 2015. Because genuine disputes existed over material facts bearing on whether probable cause existed to arrest and use force against Greene and whether Shegan's actions could amount to extreme and outrageous conduct, the defendants' motion for summary judgment was denied. This memorandum opinion memorializes the findings and conclusions announced at the hearing.

         DISCUSSION

         The defendants moved under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) for summary judgment on all of Greene's claims. Summary judgment may be granted when " 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 dispute is genuine where the " evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). At summary judgment stage, a court must view the conflicting evidence and draw all reasonable inferences from it in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Id. at 255.

         I. QUALIFIED IMMUNITY

         The first of the defendants' three principal arguments advanced was that the undisputed facts show that Officer Shegan had probable cause to arrest Greene. The defendants claimed that the presence of probable cause entitled Officer Shegan to qualified immunity from Greene's 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim, and voided Greene's false arrest/false imprisonment claim. Defs.' Mem. of P. & A. in Supp. of Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. (" Defs.' Mem. of P. & A." ), ECF No. 43-1 at 5-8.

         " The doctrine of qualified immunity protects government officials '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.'" Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 231, 129 S.Ct. 808, 172 L.Ed.2d 565 (2009) (quoting Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818, 102 S.Ct. 2727, 73 L.Ed.2d 396 (1982)). To resolve a government official's qualified immunity claim, " a court must decide [(1)] whether the facts that the plaintiff has alleged or shown make out a violation of a constitutional right . . . [and (2)] whether the right at issue was 'clearly established' at the time of the defendant's alleged misconduct." Id. at 232 (internal citations omitted).

         It was well established when this event occurred that the Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. An arrest without probable cause is an unreasonable seizure that violates the Fourth Amendment. Martin v. Malhoyt, 830 F.2d 237, 262, 265 U.S. App.D.C. 89 (D.C. Cir. 1987). Under D.C. law,

[t]he focal point of [a false arrest or false imprisonment] action is the question whether the arresting officer was justified in ordering the arrest of the plaintiff; if so, the conduct of the arresting officer is privileged and the action fails. . . . Justification can be established by showing that ...

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