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D.B. v. The City of McKinney

United States District Court, E.D. Texas, Sherman Division

December 18, 2017


          JOHNSON JUDGE.



         Came on for consideration the report of the United States Magistrate Judge in this action, this matter having been heretofore referred to the United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636. On September 8, 2017, the report of the Magistrate Judge was entered containing proposed findings of fact and recommendations (see Dkt. #75) that Defendant David Eric Casebolt's (“Casebolt”) Motion for Summary Judgment (the “Motion”) (Dkt. #53) be GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART. The Court recommended that Defendant Casebolt's motion for summary judgment be granted as to Plaintiff's state law claims and denied as to Plaintiff's unlawful arrest and excessive force claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

         Defendant Casebolt filed objections to the report (Dkt. # 83). The Court has made a de novo review of the objections raised by Defendant Casebolt and is of the opinion that the findings and conclusions of the Magistrate Judge are correct and the objections are without merit as to the ultimate findings of the Magistrate Judge. The Court hereby adopts the findings and conclusions of the Magistrate Judge as the findings and conclusions of the Court.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This lawsuit arises out of the McKinney Police Department's (“MPD”) investigation of a reported disturbance and/or potential fight at a neighborhood pool party on June 5, 2015 (Dkt. #50 at 4). D.B. (“D.B.” or “Plaintiff”) was a minor on this date and had allegedly been invited by a resident to attend the pool party. (Dkt #50 at 7). Defendant Casebolt is an officer for the MPD and was at the scene. See Dkt. #50. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Casebolt unlawfully detained her and used excessive force in so doing (see generally Dkt. #50). Plaintiff filed this lawsuit against Defendant Casebolt, alleging a Section 1983 claim for false arrest and excessive force, as well as state law claims. Id.

         On June 22, 2017, Casebolt filed the present Motion, arguing: (1) Plaintiff's Section 1983 claims for false arrest and excessive force are subject to qualified immunity; and (2) Plaintiff's claims under Texas law are barred by statutory immunity. See Dkt. #53. The Magistrate Judge found there were a number of genuine issues of material fact related to whether a reasonable officer would believe D.B. committed or was suspected of a crime; whether D.B. resisted or struggled when Casebolt attempted to detain or arrest her; and whether the force used was excessive to the need; and concluded that Casebolt is not entitled to qualified immunity at this stage of litigation. Casebolt does not object to the Magistrate Judge's finding that Plaintiff's state law claims are barred by the Texas Tort Claims Act. See Dkt. #75 at 11.



         Casebolt first objects that the Magistrate Judge improperly relied on his and Plaintiff's “subjective intentions or state of mind” to determine that Casebolt was not entitled to qualified immunity on Plaintiff's claim for wrongful detention and/or wrongful arrest under Fourth Amendment standards. See Dkt. #83 at 1-5. However, the Court finds that Casebolt misconstrues the summary judgment evidence and the Magistrate Judge's reliance on that evidence to support her conclusions.

         Under the federal rules, declarations may be cited as support for a factual assertion. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A), (c)(4). Generally, a declarant is competent to testify when her testimony is grounded in observation or other personal experience and is not based on speculation, intuition, or rumors about matters remote from that personal experience. See Visser v. Packer Eng'g Assocs., 924 F.2d 655, 659 (7th Cir. 1991). Contrary to Casebolt's flawed interpretations, Plaintiff's statements in her declaration (“D.B. Declaration”) (Dkt. 64-1) that she did not disobey Defendant Casebolt's orders to leave but rather was trying to comply (id. at ¶¶ 11-12) are factual statements about the events in question from Plaintiff's perspective, not “subjective intentions” as Casebolt argues.

         Casebolt similarly complains that the Magistrate Judge should not have considered “subjective and immaterial” statements in Casebolt's own declaration (“Casebolt Declaration”) (Dkt. 53-1), specifically statements that he ordered people to leave if they were not running or acting suspicious and then later detained D.B. because he thought she may have been involved in the disturbance and had disobeyed his orders (id. at ¶¶ 14, 20-21). See Dkt. #83 at 1-2. Although the report mentions the statements about which Casebolt complains, the report specifically states the Magistrate Judge's conclusion-that there was a factual issue surrounding D.B.'s actions as they related to reasonable suspicion to detain, or probable cause to arrest, D.B.-was based on the YouTube Video and Casebolt's Dashcam video. See Dkt. #75 at 17. Thus, the Court finds the Magistrate Judge's finding is properly based on evidence of the objective reasonableness of the actions in question and not the subjective intent of either Plaintiff or Defendant. Mangieri v. Clifton, 29 F.3d 1012, 1017 (5th Cir. 1994). Accordingly, Defendant Casebolt's objections are OVERRULED.

         Defendant Casebolt also objects to the Magistrate Judge's reliance on D.B.'s assertions that she was not resisting or struggling while at the same time stating she was “writhing in pain” (Dkt. 64-1, D.B. Decl. at ¶ 17). See Dkt. #83 at 5-6. Casebolt argues it was erroneous for the Magistrate Judge to rely on and accept D.B.'s assertion that she was not struggling or resisting. However, the report indicates the conclusion was not based on just one piece of evidence. See Dkt. #75 at 20. The report makes clear that the Magistrate Judge's finding was based not only on the D.B. Declaration and the Casebolt Declaration, but also on the YouTube Video and Casebolt's Dashcam video. Id.

         Additionally, the Magistrate Judge was required to view the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all reasonable inferences in her favor. Griggs v. Brewer, 841 F.3d 308, 312 (5th Cir. 2016) (citing Devilee v. Marcantel, 567 F.3d 156, 163-64 (5th Cir. 2007)). “[A] judge's function at summary judgment is not to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial.” Tolan v. Cotton, 134 S.Ct. 1861, 1866 (2014) (citations and quotations omitted). Although a qualified ...

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