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D.C. v. Dallas Independent School District

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division

January 14, 2020

D.C., Plaintiff,
v.
DALLAS INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT; ALAN E. MILES, INDIVIDUALLY, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM ORDER AND OPINION

          ADA BROWN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is Defendant Alan E. Miles's Motion for Summary Judgment on Plaintiff D.C.'s Deemed Admissions (Doc. No. 57). Having considered the motion, submissions, and applicable law, the Court determines the motion should be granted for the following reasons.

         Background

         The following allegations are taken from D.C.'s First Amended Complaint. While a student at Skyline High School in the Dallas Independent School District (DISD), D.C. was assaulted by another student (Student 2) on campus. Miles, a DISD police officer, apprehended D.C. by “slanging him head first into lockers located in the hallway at the school, ” “plac[ing] D.C. into a chokehold with his forearm[, ] and dragg[ing] D.C. several feet down the hall and into a classroom.” D.C. was “held there, ” where Miles “slammed [D.C.'s] head against the desk.” Miles arrested D.C., who was charged with resisting arrest. The apprehension and arrest “caused multiple contusions and bruised to D.C.'s neck, face, forehead, and lips.” D.C. brought this action against Miles alleging claims for violations of D.C.'s Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Doc. No. 17).[1] Miles filed a partial motion to dismiss the Fifth Amendment-based section 1983 claim, and the Court granted the motion (Doc. Nos. 27 & 37).

         Miles subsequently served D.C. with requests for admission (Doc. No. 49-1; see also Doc. No. 54). D.C. failed to timely respond to the requests, and Miles filed a motion to deem matters admitted (Doc. No. 48). D.C. did not respond to the motion, which the Court granted (Doc. No. 54), and D.C. has not moved to withdraw the admissions. Accordingly, the matters in the requests for admission are deemed admitted and are conclusively established for purposes of this action under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 36 and this Court's Order (Doc. No. 54). See Fed. R. Civ. P. 36(a)(1), (a)(3), (b);[2] Murrell v. Casterline, 307 Fed.Appx. 778, 780 (5th Cir. 2008) (deemed admission on essential issue can serve as basis for summary judgment); Dukes v. S. Carolina Ins. Co., 770 F.2d 545, 548-49 (5th Cir. 1985).

         Among others, the following factual matters set out in Miles's requests to D.C. are admitted:

         In October 2015, D.C. was involved in a physical altercation with Student 2 on the campus of Skyline High School. Miles and another DISD police officer, Johanna Williams, received a call about the fight and responded to the scene. Thereafter, D.C. attempted to start a second fight with Student 2. To prevent the assault, Miles restrained D.C., who resisted by pushing and shoving Miles and grabbing Miles by the throat. There were no lockers in the “parking lot/courtyard” were the apprehension took place, and Miles did not “slang and/or slam” D.C. into lockers during the apprehension.

         Miles instructed D.C. to calm down and demanded that D.C. place his hands behind his back. D.C. refused to comply, and Miles placed his left forearm around D.C.'s upper body and “pulled, ” but did not “drag, ” D.C. to a school security office. This walk lasted less than fifteen seconds, and there were no lockers in the hallway leading to the office. Miles continued to try to subdue D.C., but D.C. continued to resist arrest. Miles and Williams were met by campus officer Anthony Allen in the office, and Miles, with the assistance of Williams and Allen, placed D.C. in handcuffs. Miles then arrested D.C. for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, search, or transport. Miles did not “slam” D.C. against a desk. D.C. was not injured during the arrest, and his broken lip, neck and back pain, and contusions resulted from his previous altercations with Student 2.

         Miles now has moved for summary judgment [3] on D.C.'s remaining Fourth Amendment-based section 1983 claim, which alleges Miles used excessive force. Miles asserts he is entitled to qualified immunity based on the deemed admissions.

         Legal Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate if the movant shows “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); Norwegian Bulk Transp. A/S v. Int'l Marine Terminals Partnership, 520 F.3d 409, 411 (5th Cir. 2008). “A court must be satisfied that no reasonable trier of fact could find for the nonmoving party or, in other words, that the evidence favoring the nonmoving party is insufficient to enable a reasonable jury to return a verdict in her favor.” Norwegian Bulk Transp. A/S, 520 F.3d at 411-12 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).

         The “usual summary judgment burden of proof” is altered when the movant asserts a qualified immunity defense. Brown v. Callahan, 623 F.3d 249, 253 (5th Cir. 2010). When a government official pleads qualified immunity, the burden shifts to the plaintiff to demonstrate the defense's inapplicability by “establishing a genuine fact issue as to whether the official's allegedly wrongful conduct violated clearly established law.” Brown, 537 F.3d at 253; Club Retro, L.L.C. v. Hilton, 568 F.3d 181, 194 (5th Cir. 2009). The court must view all facts and reasonable inferences drawn from the record “in the light most favorable to” a plaintiff opposing the motion, but the plaintiff cannot rest on conclusory allegations or assertions. Heinsohn v. Carabin & Shaw, P.C., 832 F.3d 224, 234 (5th Cir. 2016); Poole v. City of Shreveport, 691 F.3d 624, 630 (5th Cir. 2012).

         Analysis

         “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) (quoting Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982)). Courts use a two-part test to determine if a government official is entitled to qualified immunity. First, the court determines if the official's conduct violated a constitutional right. Terry v. Hubert, 609 F.3d 757, 761 (5th Cir. 2010). For an excessive force claim, “[t]he second prong of the test ‘is better understood as two separate inquiries: whether the allegedly violated constitutional rights were clearly established at the time of the incident; and, if so, whether the conduct of the defendant was objectively unreasonable in light of that then clearly ...


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