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Newton v. Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department

United States District Court, D. Nevada

May 5, 2014

Biran Foster Newton, Plaintiff.
v.
Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, et al., Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [DOC. 18]

JENNIFER A. DORSEY, District Judge.

Pro se Plaintiff Brian Foster Newton alleges that he was arrested and detained in violation of the United States Constitution and Nevada state law. Defendants, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department ("Metro") and several of its employees, move for summary judgment on his claims, and Newton filed to filed no opposition. Finding that the uncontested admissible evidence fails to support Newton's allegations that his arrest was unlawful and his detention unreasonable, the Court grants Defendants' motion on all counts and enters summary judgment in their favor.

Background

On October 1, 2011, Plaintiff Brian Foster Newton was in Las Vegas, Nevada, on vacation with his girlfriend to celebrate the "Las Vegas Bike Fest, " a gathering of motorcycle enthusiasts. Doc. 18-2 at 52. Metro had instructed its officers that the Bike Fest was a "zero tolerance" event, meaning that if officers had probable cause that any person had committed a crime, they were to arrest that person. Doc. 18-1 at 25.

Late that night Newton, dressed in a red shirt and hat, jaywalked across a street in Downtown Las Vegas's Fremont Street Experience. Docs. 18-1 at 25-26; 18-2 at 52. Four Metro officers, including Officer John Quintana, were located in view of the crosswalk. See 18-1 at 26; 18-2 at 52. Newton caught Quintana's eye because Quintana knew by training that red was the color of the Hell's Angels, a motorcycle group that had recently been involved in a violent confrontation in a Nevada casino. Doc. 18-1 at 26. After Newton saw Quintana looking at him in an "accusatory manner, " Newton asked him "why you looking at me like that, " "do you have a problem, " or similar words. Doc. 18-1 at 26; 18-2 at 52. The crowd around Newton noticed the confrontation, and appeared to be closing in on the site of the confrontation. Doc. 18-1 at 26. Quintana arrested Newton for jaywalking and disorderly conduct. See Docs. 18-1 at 26, 57; 18-2 at 52.

Quintana took hold of Newton's left wrist and placed his handcuffs on him, while another officer took hold of Newton's right wrist and placed handcuffs on him. See Docs. 18-1 at 26; 18-2 at 52. Newton was then led to an area where several police cars were located. Docs. 18-1 at 26; 18-2 at 52. He was not intoxicated and offered no resistence. Docs. 18-1 at 27; 18-2 at 52. During the one and a half hours during which he remained handcuffed, Newton complained of wrist and shoulder pain, and Quintana loosened his cuffs and later placed him in a third set of cuffs. Doc. 18-1 at 27. Quintana also re-adjusted Newton's position several times during the duration of his detention in the police car. Id.

Newton sued Metro, Officer Quintana, Sergeant Eric Roberson (Quintana's supervisor), and three unnamed Metro officers in Clark County state court on January 22, 2013. Doc. 1 at 6. He served Defendants with process on March 6, 2013, and then amended his complaint on March 12, 2013. See id. at 14, 22-23. Newton claims that Quintana, Roberson, and Does 1-3 negligently inflicted personal injuries on him, and that Metro is liable on a respondeat superior theory of liability. Id. at 18. He also brings a Monell claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Metro for the actions of Quintana, Roberson, and Does 1-3, alleging that the officers lacked probable cause to stop and arrest him in violation of his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights under color of law. Id. at 19. Newton claims that Metro had a "plan, scheme, custom and usage" to "rough up, detain and arrest people wearing the color red at the Fremont Street Experience." See id. Finally, Newton claims that all defendants are liable to him for attorney's fees as port of the costs of suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988. Id.

Defendants removed this case to federal court on March 22, 2013, and a discovery plan was adopted. Docs. 1, 10. Newton's counsel was given leave to withdraw on July 3, 2013, and Newton has since proceeded pro se. Docs. 14, 15. Although the Court ordered Newton to file a status report within 30 days to advise the Court of his intent to either proceed pro se or retain new counsel, he filed none. See Doc. 15. Defendants submitted discovery requests under Federal Procedure Rules 30, 33, and 34 on August 15, 2013, and claim that no responses were received. See Doc. 18 at 10-11.

On October 31, 2013, Defendants moved for summary judgment against Newton. Newton received notice of the potential consequences of failing to oppose the motion for summary judgment, Doc. 19, but failed to file a response. See Doc. 20. Having evaluated Defendants' unopposed motion on its merits and recognizing that summary judgment may not be granted merely because the motion is not opposed, the Court grants the motion and enters summary judgment in Defendants' favor for the reasons set forth below.

Discussion

Summary judgment is appropriate when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."[1] When considering the propriety of a summary judgment motion, the court views all facts and draws all inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.[2] If reasonable minds could differ on the material facts at issue, summary judgment is not appropriate because the purpose of summary judgment is to avoid unnecessary trials when the facts are undisputed.[3] The Court need only consider properly authenticated, admissible evidence in deciding summary judgment, [4] although it may consider other materials in the record.[5]

Once the moving party satisfies Rule 56 by demonstrating the absence of any genuine issue of material fact, the burden shifts to the party resisting summary judgment to "set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial."[6] "[A]n adverse party may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of the adverse party's pleading, but... must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial."[7] Rule 56(e)(2) states that "[i]f a party fails to properly... address another party's assertion of fact as required by Rule 56(c), the court may... consider the fact undisputed for purposes of the motion."[8]

As a general matter, the trial court may not grant an summary judgment motion as unopposed, but must consider whether the merits of the undisputed facts warrant entry of judgment against the non-moving party.[9] Where summary judgment is sought against a pro se defendant, the Court considers all of that party's contentions offered in motions and pleadings, so long as the information contained therein is made on personal ...


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