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Stubbs v. Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department

United States District Court, D. Nevada

May 4, 2017

STEPHEN STUBBS, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
LAS VEGAS METROPOLITAN POLICE DEPARTMENT, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          JAMES C. MAHAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Presently before the court is defendants Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and Lt. Yasenia Yatomi's motion for summary judgment.[1] (ECF No. 22). Plaintiffs Kevin Desmairas and Stephen Stubbs have filed a response (ECF No. 27), and defendants have filed a reply (ECF No. 41).

         I. Background

         This case involves Desmairas's alleged detention for a traffic violation and the corresponding arrest of his attorney Stephen Stubbs for “obstruction” in connection with Stubbs's purported efforts to represent Desmairas during the traffic stop. (ECF No. 1 at 3-5). Of some relevance, Desmairas is a member of the “Bikers for Christ ministry group.” (Id. at 2).

         Plaintiffs allege the following claims: (1) malicious prosecution under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (2) violation of the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments under § 1983; (3) a Monell claim under § 1983; (4) malicious prosecution under state tort law; (5) intentional infliction of emotional distress; (6) false arrest and imprisonment; and (7) negligence per se.[2] (Id.).

         II. Legal Standard

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allow summary judgment 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). 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).

         For purposes of summary judgment, disputed factual issues should be construed in favor of the non-moving party. Lujan v. Nat'l Wildlife Fed., 497 U.S. 871, 888 (1990). However, to be entitled to a denial of summary judgment, the non-moving party must “set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Id.

         In determining summary judgment, the 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.” C.A.R. Transp. Brokerage Co. v. Darden Rests., Inc., 213 F.3d 474, 480 (9th Cir. 2000). Moreover, “[i]n 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.” Id.

         By contrast, when the non-moving 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 non-moving party's case; or (2) by demonstrating that the non-moving 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 non-moving 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, 630 (9th Cir. 1987).

         The Ninth Circuit has held that information contained in an inadmissible form may still be considered for summary judgment if the information itself would be admissible at trial. Fraser v. Goodale, 342 F.3d 1032, 1036 (9th Cir. 2003) (citing Block v. City of Los Angeles, 253 F.3d 410, 418-19 (9th Cir. 2001) (“To survive summary judgment, a party does not necessarily have to produce evidence in a form that would be admissible at trial, as long as the party satisfies the requirements of Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 56.”)).

         III. Discussion

         a. Federal claims

         i. Individual liability under 42 U.S.C § 1983

         When a plaintiff brings a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, government officials sued in their individual capacities may raise the affirmative defense of qualified immunity. See Spoklie v. Montana, 411 F.3d 1051, 1060 (9th Cir. 2005). “Qualified immunity balances two important interests-the need to hold public officials accountable when they exercise power irresponsibly and the need to shield officials from harassment, distraction, and liability when they perform their duties reasonably.” Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 231 (2009). Indeed, “[q]ualified immunity attaches when an official's conduct ‘does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.'” White v. Pauly, 137 S.Ct. 548, 551 (2017) (quoting Mullenix v. Luna, 136 S.Ct. 305, 308 (2015)).

         The doctrine protects government officials performing discretionary functions from liability for civil damages as long as their conduct does not violate “clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.” Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982). “The principles of qualified immunity shield an officer from personal liability when an officer reasonably believes that his or her conduct complies with the law.” Pearson, ...


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