275 F.3d 565 (6th Cir. 2002), 00-2471, Risbridger v. Connelly

Docket Nº:00-2471
Citation:275 F.3d 565
Party Name:BENJAMIN TRAVIS RISBRIDGER, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE, v. LAWTON CONNELLY, CHIEF OF POLICE, CITY OF EAST LANSING, IN HIS OFFICIAL AND INDIVIDUAL CAPACITIES; SHEREIF FADLY, A POLICE OFFICER OF THE CITY OF EAST LANSING, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS, CITY OF EAST LANSING, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.
Case Date:January 04, 2002
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
 
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275 F.3d 565 (6th Cir. 2002)

BENJAMIN TRAVIS RISBRIDGER, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

LAWTON CONNELLY, CHIEF OF POLICE, CITY OF EAST LANSING, IN HIS OFFICIAL AND INDIVIDUAL CAPACITIES; SHEREIF FADLY, A POLICE OFFICER OF THE CITY OF EAST LANSING, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS,

CITY OF EAST LANSING, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.

No. 00-2471

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

January 4, 2002

Argued: November 27, 2001

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan at Lansing. No. 99-00130--Gordon J. Quist, District Judge.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Michael J. Steinberg (argued and briefed), American Civil Liberties Union Fund of Michigan, Detroit, MI, Dorean M. Koenig (argued and briefed), Thomas Cooley Law School, Lansing, MI, for appellee.

Mary Massaron Ross (argued and briefed), Plunket & Clooney, Detroit, MI, for Appellants.

Before: Guy and Boggs, Circuit Judges; Carr, District Judge.[*]

OPINION

Ralph B. Guy, Jr., Circuit Judge.

Defendants Lawton Connelly, Chief of Police for the City of East Lansing, and Shereif Fadly, an East Lansing police officer, appeal from the entry of partial summary judgment and the district court's decision to deny them qualified immunity with respect to the plaintiff's Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment claims brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Officer Fadly stopped plaintiff, Benjamin Risbridger, based on reasonable suspicion that he was involved in an assault and battery, and asked Risbridger for his identification. When Risbridger adamantly refused, Fadly arrested him for hindering or obstructing an officer in the discharge of his duties in violation of a city ordinance. The misdemeanor case against Risbridger was ultimately dismissed and this civil action followed.

After a review of the record and the arguments presented on appeal, we find the individual defendants are entitled to qualified immunity and reverse the entry of partial summary judgment in favor of plaintiff on his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment claims against them.

I.

The material facts are undisputed. At approximately 2:30 a.m. on November 30, 1997, Officer Fadly was called to the 300 block of M.A.C. Street to assist Officers Phillips and Blanck after they stopped two males who were acting suspiciously. These individuals told Officer Phillips that they had witnessed a fight in the alley. As they continued to be questioned, plaintiff and his brother walked by and one of the witnesses identified plaintiff as having been involved in the fight. As a result, Officer Fadly approached plaintiff and asked to see his identification. Plaintiff answered: "No. What for?" Officer Fadly informed plaintiff that he was investigating a fight and that a witness had pointed him out. Officer Fadly asked again for plaintiff's identification and warned that he

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could be arrested if he refused. Plaintiff refused and was arrested.1

Plaintiff was charged with disorderly conduct under East Lansing, Michigan, Code, Title IX, Ch. 108, § 9.102(19), which makes it a misdemeanor to "[a]ssault, obstruct, resist, hinder, or oppose any member of the police force . . . in the discharge of his/her duties as such." In Michigan, an officer may make a warrantless arrest of a person who commits a misdemeanor in the officer's presence. Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 764.15(1)(a).2 After arriving at the police station, plaintiff identified himself and related that he had encountered the two "witnesses" in a bar just before they were escorted out by the bartender. Plaintiff was booked on the ticket for hindering or obstructing an officer and released on bond at approximately 6:00 a.m. He was not questioned any further about the assault.

Risbridger filed a motion to dismiss the misdemeanor ticket for hindering or obstructing an officer on constitutional grounds. After a hearing in May 1998, the state court judge rejected Risbridger's First Amendment overbreadth challenge but found that the arrest was invalid because Risbridger was free to decline to speak to Officer Fadly. Following that ruling, the city decided not to prosecute the ticket and an order of nolle prosequi was entered.

In November 1999, plaintiff sued Officer Fadly, Chief Connelly, and the City of East Lansing. Plaintiff alleged violations of his federal and state constitutional rights and asserted several state law claims. Defendants filed a joint motion to dismiss or for summary judgment, based in part upon qualified immunity, with respect to all of the claims. Plaintiff moved for partial summary judgment in his favor on the § 1983 claims, only. On October 31, 2000, the district court (1) granted the defendants' motion with respect to plaintiff's free speech claims brought under both the federal and state constitutions; (2) denied defendants' motion with respect to all other claims; and (3) granted partial summary judgment in favor of plaintiff on his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment claims. See Risbridger v. Connelly, 122 F.Supp.2d 857 (W.D. Mich. 2000). The individual defendants appealed.

II.

A district court's decision rejecting an individual defendant's claim to qualified immunity is immediately appealable to the extent that it raises a question of law, notwithstanding the absence of a final judgment. Behrens v. Pelletier, 516 U.S. 299, 310-11 (1996); Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 530 (1985). Since the issues in this case do not turn on which facts the parties may be able to prove, we have jurisdiction over this appeal. Williams v. Mehra, 186 F.3d 685, 690 (6th Cir. 1999) (en banc). Our review of the denial of qualified immunity is de novo. Blake v. Wright, 179 F.3d 1003,

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1007 (6th Cir. 1999), cert. denied, 528 U.S. 1136 (2000).

"[G]overnment officials performing discretionary functions, generally are shielded 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." Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982). We have articulated a three-part inquiry for evaluating a defendant's entitlement to qualified immunity, which asks (1) whether the facts taken in the light most favorable to plaintiff could establish a constitutional violation; (2) whether the right was a "clearly established" right of which any reasonable officer would have known; and (3) whether the official's actions were objectively unreasonable in light of that clearly established right. Williams, 186 F.3d at 691.

The right must be defined at the appropriate level of specificity to determine whether it was clearly established at the time the defendants acted. Wilson v. Layne, 526 U.S. 603, 615 (1999) (citing Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 641 (1987)). This means that to be "clearly established" the contours of the right must be sufficiently clear so that a...

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