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Newcomb v. City of Anoka

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

January 30, 2018

Tylon Larrice Newcomb, Plaintiff,
City of Anoka; Sgt. David Hutchinson, Officer Canon Yang, Officer Andrew Carlson, Officer Jordan Trammel, and Officer Caroline Pruter, each in their individual and official capacities; Defendants.



         Plaintiff filed claims against Defendants under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged violations of his First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendment rights. The Court dismissed the claims against Defendant City of Anoka. ECF No. 42. The remaining Defendants are employees of Metro Transit. They moved for summary judgment and dismissal with prejudice. ECF No. 56. Pro se Plaintiff filed no opposition to the motion for summary judgment and did not appear at the hearing. ECF Nos. 67, 68 at 2. In a Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) dated September 22, 2017, the Honorable Franklin L. Noel, United States Magistrate Judge, recommended that Defendants' motion for summary judgment be granted. ECF No. 68.

         Plaintiff objected to the R&R, stating that he “didn't have any knowledge of a court date, wasn't properly served.” ECF No. 69 at 1. The docket contains no record of a certificate of service as to Defendants' motion for summary judgment. Because the Court could not conclude that Plaintiff was properly served with the motion for summary judgment and the hearing date, the Court gave Plaintiff an opportunity to file an opposition to Defendants' motion. ECF No. 73. Plaintiff filed no additional opposition.

         Accordingly, the Court conducted a de novo review of the record. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3); D. Minn. LR 72.2. For the reasons set for below, the Court agrees with the R&R that summary judgment is appropriate, as “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).

         In support of their motion, Defendants offered police reports, the deposition of Plaintiff, and a video that depicts the encounter giving rise to Plaintiff's claims. ECF Nos. 59, 60. Plaintiff offered no evidence. The record evidence all substantiates Defendants' factual assertions. As a result, the Court finds that there is no genuine dispute of material fact as to the following incident. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e).

         Plaintiff and Qui Lewis entered the Northstar commuter train without buying tickets. The conductor told them that they had to buy tickets at the next stop. They purchased reduced disability fare tickets. The conductor believed they were ineligible for these tickets and informed Metro Transit police officers of these events. Defendants Carlson and Yang, both police officers for Metro Transit, approached Plaintiff and Lewis and asked to see their tickets and identification. Plaintiff refused to provide identification and sat down in his seat. Defendants explained that valid identification is required to purchase a reduced disability fare ticket.

         Plaintiff still refused to provide identification and began to argue with and yell at Defendants. While continuing to argue, Plaintiff stood up in an aggressive manner and moved within approximately six inches of Defendant Carlson's face. Defendants interpreted this as threatening and confrontational. Defendant Carlson pushed his hand into Plaintiff's chest to return Plaintiff to a sitting position. Defendants informed Plaintiff that he was under arrest for fare evasion and ordered him to place his hands behind his back. Plaintiff disregarded the order and continued arguing. Defendant Carlson reached for Plaintiff's arm and Lewis blocked Defendant Carlson.

         Defendants Carlson and Yang then waited with Plaintiff until the arrival of Defendants Hutchinson, Trammel, and Pruter, all police officers with Metro Transit. Defendants next escorted Plaintiff and Lewis off the train without using any force. Once off the train, Defendants handcuffed and searched Plaintiff and Lewis, resulting in the seizure of a cell phone. Defendants transported Plaintiff to the Anoka County Jail and he was charged with fare evasion and obstruction of legal process. He later pled guilty to unlawfully obtaining transit services in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.855.

         Based on the above facts, Defendants are entitled to summary judgment on the claims against them, both in their individual capacities and their official capacities.

         Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity as to the § 1983 claims against them in their individual capacities. “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 (2009) (citation omitted). Defendants did not violate any clearly established constitutional rights in their interaction with Plaintiff. Thus, Defendants are immune from suit in their individual capacities and the Court grants them summary judgment.

         The Court construes Plaintiff's claims against Defendants in their official capacities as claims against Defendants' employer, Metro Transit. See Johnson v. Outboard Marine Corp., 172 F.3d 531, 535 (8th Cir. 1999) (“A suit against a public employee in his or her official capacity is merely a suit against the public employer.”). A municipality is liable under § 1983 if a municipal “custom or policy was the moving force behind . . . an unconstitutional act by a municipal employee.” Reasonover v. St. Louis Cty., Mo., 447 F.3d 569, 583 (8th Cir. 2006) (citations omitted). Defendants committed no unconstitutional acts. Therefore, Metro Transit cannot be liable under § 1983 and is entitled to summary judgment.[1]

         In short, the Court adopts the recommended disposition. Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED THAT:

         1. Defendants' motion for summary judgment [ECF ...

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