103 F.3d 1040 (1st Cir. 1997), 96-1143, Logue v. Dore

Docket Nº:96-1143.
Citation:103 F.3d 1040
Party Name:James LOGUE, Sr., Plaintiff, Appellant, v. Ronald DORE, Defendant, Appellee.
Case Date:January 08, 1997
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
 
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Page 1040

103 F.3d 1040 (1st Cir. 1997)

James LOGUE, Sr., Plaintiff, Appellant,

v.

Ronald DORE, Defendant, Appellee.

No. 96-1143.

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

January 8, 1997

Argued Dec. 3, 1996.

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William H. Rowerdink, III, Quincy, MA, for plaintiff-appellant.

Leonard H. Kesten, Boston, MA, with whom Brody, Hardoon, Perkins & Kesten was on brief, for defendant-appellee.

Before SELYA and STAHL, Circuit Judges, and WOODLOCK, [*] District Judge.

SELYA, Circuit Judge.

Asserting that the proceedings below were tainted both by the district judge's mistaken view of the law and by his personal animus, plaintiff-appellant James Logue invites us to order a new trial before a different trier. We decline the invitation.

I. BACKGROUND

Since one of Logue's principal complaints is that the district court took his false arrest and false imprisonment claims from the jury at the close of his case in chief, we assay the facts in the perspective most advantageous to Logue's position. See, e.g., Veranda Beach Club Ltd. Partnership v. Western Sur. Co., 936 F.2d 1364, 1375 (1st Cir.1991).

In 1990, Logue and his wife became embroiled in divorce proceedings. Despite this discord, the couple continued for a time to share the marital domicile at 411 School St., Marshfield, Massachusetts. The situation changed on November 13, 1992, when Mrs. Logue secured an ex parte restraining order barring her estranged husband from the School St. premises. 1 Pursuant to that order the Marshfield police asked Logue to remove himself from the property, and he complied.

Three days later Logue prevailed upon the state court to amend its November 13 order. The amendment gave Logue access to the premises between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. so that he could continue to operate his painting business (which was based in a garage on the property).

By its terms, the amended order expired on December 2, 1992. On that date, the state court convened a hearing to determine inter alia whether the restraining order should remain in effect, and if so, whether Logue should still be allowed limited access to the marital premises. The parties and their counsel appeared but, when the judge

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reserved decision, Logue and his lawyer departed without awaiting the ruling. Late that same morning the judge renewed the original restraining order, thereby effectively rescinding Logue's daytime privileges and banning him from the premises in toto.

Unaware that a completely prohibitory order had issued, Logue repaired to School St. on December 2. His wife returned that afternoon, told him of the judge's decision, and asked that he leave. Logue continued working. Disquieted, Mrs. Logue called the Marshfield police to report what she viewed as a blatant violation of the new restraining order. Officer Ronald Dore responded to the call. When Dore arrived, Mrs. Logue showed him a copy of the current restraining order. By that time, however, Logue had evacuated the premises.

After leaving the scene Logue contacted his attorney in an effort to ascertain the terms of the new restrainer. He received no definitive guidance. Instead, his lawyer instructed him to stop by his office the next morning so that they could straighten out the situation.

As a matter of form, a restraining order of this sort is composed of a series of multicolored carbon copies to be distributed to various parties. Typically, there is a copy for the court's use, one for the probation department's use, one for the plaintiff, one for the defendant, one for the local police department, and a final copy on which the return of service is to be inscribed. Early on the morning of December 3, Dore reviewed the police copy of the newly minted restraining order. He then proceeded on routine patrol. In the meantime Logue bypassed his lawyer's office, returned to the marital residence, and resumed work. Dore observed Logue's vehicle in the driveway, confronted him in the garage, and--turning a deaf ear to Logue's protest that he had the right to be on the property during the day, and that he could verify his status by a telephone call--placed him under arrest for violating the restraining order. Dore transported Logue to police headquarters and booked him. Logue was then taken to the state court and arraigned. Eventually, the charges against him were dropped.

Logue mounted a counterattack, suing Dore for damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the federal district court. His complaint contained three counts that are germane to this appeal. 2 In those counts Logue contended that Dore had falsely arrested and imprisoned him, and had employed excessive force, all in derogation of section 1983. During trial, the district court directed a verdict in the defendant's favor on the false arrest and false imprisonment counts. The jury subsequently found for the defendant on the excessive force claim. Following a peculiar colloquy related to fees and costs (described infra Part IV), Logue filed this appeal.

II. THE DIRECTED VERDICT

Logue assigns error to the entry of judgment as a matter of law on the false arrest and false imprisonment claims, asserting that he adduced enough evidence to create a jury question as to whether Dore had probable cause to arrest him. The standard under which we review Logue's challenge is so familiar that it verges on the banal: without taking into consideration the credibility of witnesses, resolving conflicts in testimony, or evaluating the weight of the evidence, could a reasonable jury find for the plaintiff on the proof presented? See Gibson v. City of Cranston, 37 F.3d 731, 735 (1st Cir.1994). We will affirm the judgment only if, after surveying the evidence and the inferences derivable therefrom in the light most flattering to the plaintiff, we determine that a rational factfinder could have reached no conclusion except that the plaintiff take nothing. See Veranda Beach, 936 F.2d at 1375; Wagenmann v. Adams, 829 F.2d 196, 200 (1st Cir.1987).

In trying the false arrest and false imprisonment counts, Logue's theory was that Dore violated his Fourth Amendment rights by arresting him without probable cause. According to Logue, there was no probable cause because Dore lacked any reason to

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believe that Logue knew the terms of the December 2 restraining order and intentionally violated it. The lower court rejected this premise. So do we.

The constitutionality of a warrantless arrest "depends ... upon whether, at the moment the arrest was made, the officer[ ] had probable cause to make it." Beck v. Ohio, 379 U.S. 89, 91, 85 S.Ct. 223, 225, 13 L.Ed.2d 142 (1964). In turn, probable cause to make an arrest exists if--and only if--the facts and circumstances of which the arresting officer has knowledge are sufficient to lead an ordinarily prudent officer to conclude that an offense has been, is being, or is about to be committed, and that the putative arrestee is involved in the crime's commission. See Rivera v. Murphy, 979 F.2d 259, 263 (1st Cir.1992); Hoffman v. Reali, 973 F.2d 980, 985 (1st Cir.1992). In sum, the existence of probable cause (and, in turn, the validity of an ensuing arrest) is gauged by an objective standard; as long as the circumstances surrounding the event warrant the officer's reasonable belief that the action taken is appropriate, the arrest is justified. See Scott v. United States, 436 U.S. 128, 137-38, 98 S.Ct. 1717, 1723, 56 L.Ed.2d 168 (1978); United States v. Figueroa, 818 F.2d 1020, 1023 (1st Cir.1987); see also Whren v. United States, --- U.S. ----, ----, 116 S.Ct. 1769, 1774, 135 L.Ed.2d 89 (1996) (holding that "[s]ubjective intentions play no role in ordinary, probable-cause Fourth Amendment analysis"). And, moreover, though probable cause requires more than mere suspicion, it does not require the same quantum of proof as is needed to convict. See United States v. Aguirre, 839 F.2d 854, 857-58 (1st Cir.1988).

At first blush it appears that Dore surpassed this minimum. After all, the evidence is straightforward that an unqualified chapter 209A restraining order issued on December 2, and that order, by its terms, barred Logue from the School St. property. The record is equally pellucid that Dore learned the terms of that order on two separate occasions before taking action. Thus, Dore knew prior to arresting Logue that Logue's mere presence on the School St. premises transgressed the restraining order and thereby constituted a criminal act. In the lower court's view, no more was exigible.

Logue seeks to blunt the force of this reasoning by elevating the probable cause threshold. He would have us rule that, in addition to the arresting officer's reasonable belief that the restraining order was being violated, probable cause in this case could only be established if the officer also believed that the violator himself knew the terms of the order. But this embellishment has no basis in the law. What the arrestee knows or does not know at the time of his apprehension is irrelevant to the question of whether the arresting officer has probable cause.

To be frank, we find it difficult to understand the nexus that Logue strives to fashion between the arrestee's knowledge and the probable cause determination. It seems most likely that Logue has confused the elements necessary to establish probable cause with the elements necessary to determine guilt or innocence. The arrestee's knowledge is, of course, relevant to the latter determination, for the Commonwealth, in order to convict Logue of violating the chapter 209A restraining order, would be required to show scienter, that is, to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he had knowledge or notice that such an order had been issued...

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