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Brooks v. City of Henderson

United States District Court, D. Nevada

March 28, 2017

ADAM BROOKS, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF HENDERSON, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          Gloria M. Navarro, United States District Judge

         Pending before the Court is the Motion for Summary Judgment, (ECF No. 39), filed by Defendant Joseph W. Ebert (“Defendant”). Plaintiff Adam Brooks (“Plaintiff”) filed a Response, (ECF No. 45), and Defendant filed a Reply, (ECF No. 46). For the reasons discussed below, the Court GRANTS Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This case arises from Plaintiff's arrest for the impersonation of a police officer in violation of NRS § 199.430. Defendant, a police officer with the Henderson Police Department (“HPD”), was assigned to investigate Plaintiff, a former HPD officer and a licensed bail enforcement agent, following two events that suggested possible violations of NRS § 199.430. (Ex. A to Mot. for Summary J. (“MSJ”), ECF No. 39-1); (Ex. 2 to Resp. at 6, ECF No. 45-2); (Ex. 3 to Resp., ECF No. 45-3).

         The first incident, a traffic stop in which Plaintiff was stopped for speeding, occurred on March 11, 2012. (See Ex. A-2 to MSJ at 16, ECF No. 39-3). The incident report prepared by the HPD officer involved, Officer Jonathan Bezrutczyk (“Officer Bezrutcyzk”), states that Plaintiff “introduced himself as a retired officer” and “presented an active duty Henderson Police Department flat badge.” (Id.). Based on the length of Plaintiff's service as a police officer with the HPD, Officer Bezrutcyzk concluded that Plaintiff “unlawfully retained his flat badge.” (Id. at 17-18). Another HPD officer later impounded the badge. (Id. at 18).

         The second incident occurred on October 11, 2011, at a McDonald's restaurant located in Henderson, Nevada. (See Ex. A-1 to MSJ (“Aff. for Warrant”), ECF No. 39-2). Although this event took place before the traffic stop, HPD only later became aware of the McDonald's incident because Dave Erickson (“Erickson”), a Senior Investigator for the State of Nevada, Department of Business and Industry, Division of Insurance (“Insurance Division”), reported the incident to HPD on April 3, 2012. (Id. at 2). Erickson investigated the incident pursuant to the Insurance Division's regulatory and enforcement authority relating to Plaintiff's bail enforcement license. (See id.).

         During his investigation, Erickson interviewed the McDonald's employees who witnessed the incident and compiled audio recordings of his interviews. (Id. at 2-3). The employees' accounts of the event generally agree that on the day of the incident, several bail agents visited the McDonald's location demanding information about an employee's boyfriend, whom the agents stated was wanted for arrest. (Id. at 3-5). While at the restaurant, one of the bail agents spoke on the phone with the McDonald's area manager, Fortunato Balanzar (“Balanzar”). (Id. at 3). According to Balanzar, the bail agent identified himself as a “police officer.” (Id.). Another employee who spoke with the bail agent on the phone “stated that the bail agent never said he was a ‘police officer'” but “did make statements that he was an ‘officer' cooperating with the police.” (Id. at 3). No witnesses physically present for the incident stated that the bail agent identified himself as a police officer. (Id. at 4).

         Defendant reviewed the interviews conducted by Erickson and concluded that, based on video surveillance footage of the incident, the agent who spoke with Balanzar was Plaintiff. (Id.). On May 1, 2012, Defendant conducted his own interview of Balanzar, who confirmed his prior statement of events. (Id.). Based on his investigation, Defendant prepared an Affidavit for Warrant referencing both incidents and asserting that probable cause existed to arrest Plaintiff for violation of NRS § 199.430. (Id. at 5). On June 6, 2012, a Warrant of Arrest issued and a Criminal Complaint charging Plaintiff for impersonating a police officer was filed. (Ex. A-3 to MSJ, ECF No. 39-4); (Ex. B to MSJ, ECF No. 39-5). The charges against Plaintiff were ultimately dismissed pursuant to a plea agreement. (Ex. B to MSJ at 6).

         Plaintiff filed his original Complaint on March 12, 2014, alleging: (1) violation of civil rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (2) municipal liability pursuant to Monell; (3) supervisory liability pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (4) state law malicious prosecution; and (5) state law false arrest. (Compl. ¶¶ 26-64, ECF No. 1). Plaintiff subsequently filed his Amended Complaint on June 11, 2014. (See Am. Compl., ECF No. 8). The instant Motion seeks summary judgment on the basis of qualified immunity regarding Plaintiff's only surviving claim, § 1983 liability against Defendant for submitting the Affidavit for Warrant in violation of Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment rights. (See MSJ at 39).

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         A. Motion for Summary Judgment

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide for summary adjudication when the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show 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). Material facts are those that may affect the outcome of the case. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute as to a material fact is genuine if there is sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party. See Id. “Summary judgment is inappropriate if reasonable jurors, drawing all inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, could return a verdict in the nonmoving party's favor.” Diaz v. Eagle Produce Ltd. P'ship, 521 F.3d 1201, 1207 (9th Cir. 2008) (citing United States v. Shumway, 199 F.3d 1093, 1103-04 (9th Cir. 1999)). A principal purpose of summary judgment is “to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986).

         In determining summary judgment, a court applies a burden-shifting analysis. “When the party moving for summary judgment would bear the burden of proof at trial, it must come forward with evidence which would entitle it to a directed verdict if the evidence went uncontroverted at trial. In such a case, the moving party has the initial burden of establishing the absence of a genuine issue of fact on each issue material to its case.” C.A.R. Transp. Brokerage Co. v. Darden Rests., Inc., 213 F.3d 474, 480 (9th Cir. 2000) (citations omitted). In contrast, when the nonmoving party bears the burden of proving the claim or defense, the moving party can meet its burden in two ways: (1) by presenting evidence to negate an essential element of the nonmoving party's case; or (2) by demonstrating that the nonmoving party failed to make a showing sufficient to establish an element essential to that party's case on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. See Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 323- 24. If the moving party fails to meet its initial burden, summary judgment must be denied and the court need not consider the nonmoving party's evidence. See Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 159-60 (1970).

         If the moving party satisfies its initial burden, the burden then shifts to the opposing party to establish that a genuine issue of material fact exists. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). To establish the existence of a factual dispute, the opposing party need not establish a material issue of fact conclusively in its favor. It is sufficient that “the claimed factual dispute be shown to require a jury or judge to resolve the parties' differing versions of the truth at trial.” T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pac. Elec. Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 631 (9th Cir. 1987). In other words, the nonmoving party cannot avoid summary judgment by relying solely on conclusory allegations that are unsupported by factual data. See Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989). ...


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