489 F.3d 273 (6th Cir. 2007), 06-5197, Revis v. Meldrum

Docket Nº:06-5197, 06-5399.
Citation:489 F.3d 273
Party Name:Nathaniel REVIS, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. April C. MELDRUM, Katherine A. Young, Dale J. Montpelier, Traci A. Waldo, Laschinski T. Emerson, Joyce Graves, Larry Eaton, Roane County, Tennessee, And Anderson County, Tennessee, Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:April 19, 2007
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
 
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489 F.3d 273 (6th Cir. 2007)

Nathaniel REVIS, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

April C. MELDRUM, Katherine A. Young, Dale J. Montpelier, Traci A. Waldo, Laschinski T. Emerson, Joyce Graves, Larry Eaton, Roane County, Tennessee, And Anderson County, Tennessee, Defendants-Appellees.

Nos. 06-5197, 06-5399.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit.

April 19, 2007

Argued: January 31, 2007

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee at Knoxville. No. 04-00532-R. Leon Jordan, District Judge.

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ARGUED:

Stephen G. Anderson, Baker, Donelson, Bearman & Caldwell, Knoxville, Tennessee, for Appellant.

Linda J. Hamilton Mowles, Lewis, King, Krieg & Waldrop, Knoxville, Tennessee, W. Mitchell Cramer, Norton & Luhn, Knoxville, Tennessee, Kristen B. Amonette, Dodson, Parker & Behm, Nashville, Tennessee, Frank Q. Vettori, O'Neil, Parker & Williamson, Knoxville, Tennessee, for Appellees.

ON BRIEF:

Stephen G. Anderson, Andrew L. Colocotronis, Baker, Donelson, Bearman & Caldwell, Knoxville, Tennessee, for Appellant.

Linda J. Hamilton Mowles, Lewis, King, Krieg & Waldrop, Knoxville, Tennessee, W. Mitchell Cramer, Norton & Luhn, Knoxville, Tennessee, Donald Capparella, Dodson, Parker & Behm, Nashville, Tennessee, Frank Q. Vettori, O'Neil, Parker & Williamson, Knoxville, Tennessee, for Appellees.

Before: GILMAN and SUTTON, Circuit Judges; TARNOW, District Judge.[*]

OPINION

RONALD LEE GILMAN, Circuit Judge.

Laschinski T. Emerson obtained a money judgment in a sexual-harassment lawsuit from a Tennessee trial court against her former employer Nathaniel Revis and his company, Oak Ridge Research, Inc. (ORRI). Revis appealed, but failed to post an appeal bond. Emerson subsequently sought and obtained two writs of execution for Revis's real and personal property in Roane County, Tennessee to satisfy the judgment. Roane County Deputy Sheriff Larry Eaton, accompanied by Tracy Waldo, a paralegal from the law firm representing Emerson, appeared at Revis's house to serve the writs. Under Eaton's direction, private contractors seized Revis's personal property and changed the locks on his residence. Deputy Eaton also ordered Revis to leave the residence and inquired about any cash that Revis was carrying on his person.

Revis filed suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the persons and entities involved in executing the writs, alleging that the seizure of his residence and the

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search of his person pursuant to the writs violated his constitutional rights. The district court granted summary judgment to some of the defendants, dismissed all claims against the rest, and further ordered Revis to pay the private-party defendants' costs of litigation. For the reasons set forth below, we AFFIRM in part, VACATE in part, and REMAND the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Factual background

Emerson filed a lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Anderson County, Tennessee against Revis and ORRI, alleging sexual harassment, assault and battery, and retaliatory discharge. The law firm of Montpelier & Young, along with solo practitioner April Meldrum, represented Emerson. A jury awarded Emerson $175,800 in actual damages, including $18,000 from Revis himself and $157,800 from ORRI, in addition to $500,000 in punitive damages. Judgment was entered in November of 2003, but an amended judgment was filed in August of 2004 that remitted the punitive damage award to $150,000, but also added $282,964.50 in attorney fees and $12,000 in discretionary costs. The total amended award amounted to $620,764.50.

Revis and ORRI were held jointly and severally liable for the punitive damages, the attorney fees, and the costs, meaning that Revis was personally liable for a maximum of $462,964.50. The amended judgment also specified that 10% interest would accrue on the judgment beginning on July 22, 2003, the date that the jury verdict was announced. Furthermore, the amended judgment stated that "execution may issue" unless Revis filed an appeal bond within 30 days from the date of entry.

After filing postjudgment discovery requests in August of 2004 that sought financial information from Revis, Emerson lodged two applications for writs of execution with the Anderson County Circuit Court on October 8, 2004. The applications sought permission to sell both real and personal property owned by Revis in Roane County, Tennessee. Because Revis had not yet posted an appeal bond, Anderson County Deputy Court Clerk Joyce Graves promptly issued the writs. Both writs were addressed "to any lawful officer to execute and return." The writs provided, in pertinent part, as follows:

You are hereby commanded to take from the property of Nathaniel Revis including in [sic] property listed below the sum of $678,807.32 ... to satisfy the judgment obtained by the plaintiffs .... You are further commanded to pay such monies, when collected, into the Court and you shall make return as to how you have executed this writ within the time allowed by law.

Both writs thus overstated Revis's actual judgment debt by roughly $200,000, though this misstatement has little bearing on the issues before us. Under the "description of property," the first writ listed "Residence located at [Revis's home address]." The second writ described "all personal property (and asset [sic] including furnishings, automobiles, cash, etc.) located on the premises of [Revis's home address]." Both writs were delivered to the Sheriff s Department in Roane County.

Deputy Larry Eaton received the writs and reviewed them. Unsure how to proceed, he took them to the Roane County Attorney for review. Eaton stated in his affidavit that the County Attorney advised him that the writs were valid court orders and were "to be obeyed as stated on their faces." Eaton did not ask-and the County Attorney apparently offered no advice-

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--about whether actual seizure of the residence was appropriate or necessary. Revis has moved on appeal to submit deposition testimony on this issue given by Eaton in a parallel state-court proceeding, but this testimony does no more than confirm the facts as described and therefore need not be considered.

At 6:25 a.m. on October 18, 2004, Deputy Eaton served the writs on Revis at Revis's residence. Several other Sheriffs Department employees accompanied Eaton, as did Waldo on behalf of Montpelier & Young. After Eaton notified Revis of the writs, several employees of a private moving company hired by Montpelier & Young began packing Revis's personal property and moving it to a storage facility. This included removing allegedly valuable "artwork and furnishings."

Revis claims that, in addition to removing his personal property, Deputy Eaton caused the locks to be changed at his residence. According to Revis, K & K Lock and Key changed the outside locks on Revis's home pursuant to a contract arranged for by Montpelier & Young and approved in writing by Waldo. At least one set of the new keys was given to Eaton. According to Revis, Eaton escorted him out of the residence at 10:00 p.m. that night and advised Revis that he could not return.

Finally, Revis claims that he was unconstitutionally searched by Eaton. Waldo allegedly requested, at some point during the execution, that Eaton check to determine whether Revis was removing cash from the premises. Revis stated in his affidavit that Eaton "demanded that I submit to a search of my person" and that Revis "complied under duress." He added that Eaton "was armed" and "made it apparent that force would be used if I resisted." Eaton explained in his affidavit that he simply asked Revis if he had any cash on him, and that Revis responded by showing him his wallet, which contained three dollars. Both parties agree that no money was taken from Revis during this interaction.

Revis posted an appeal bond seven days later. At that point, all of his property, both real and personal, was returned to him.

B. Procedural background

As noted above, Emerson had prevailed against Revis in her sexual-harassment lawsuit in Tennessee state court. Revis's current lawsuit stems from the actions taken to collect the judgment obtained in that litigation. Revis filed this action in federal district court in November of 2004, claiming violations of his civil rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985(3). "Section 1983 provides a federal cause of action for civil damages against an individual acting under color of state law who deprives another of rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws." Jones v. Reynolds, 438 F.3d 685, 689 (6th Cir.2006) (quotation marks omitted). A § 1985(3) claim, on the other hand, is based upon "private conspiracies that are aimed at invidiously discriminatory deprivation of the equal enjoyment of rights secured to all by law." Taylor v. Brighton Corp., 616 F.2d 256, 264 (6th Cir.1980). Revis also asserted eight claims under Tennessee state law arising from the same events. As private-party defendants, the complaint named Emerson, her attorneys in the underlying state-court action, and paralegal Waldo. Roane County, Anderson County, Deputy Eaton, and Deputy Clerk Graves were named as County defendants.

During the course of the ensuing litigation, all of the defendants other than Anderson County and Deputy Clerk Graves moved for either summary judgment

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or dismissal, and Revis responded by moving for partial summary judgment against Eaton and Roane County and by opposing the other defendants' motions. Two orders that disposed of the various motions were...

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