606 F.3d 240 (6th Cir. 2010), 09-1340, Miller v. Sanilac County

Docket Nº:09-1340.
Citation:606 F.3d 240
Opinion Judge:MERRITT, Circuit Judge.
Party Name:Alan MILLER, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. SANILAC COUNTY and Jim Wagester, in his individual and official capacity, Defendants-Appellees.
Attorney:Shawn C. Cabot, Christopher Trainor and Associates, White Lake, Michigan, for Appellant. Megan K. Cavanagh, Garan Lucow Miller, P.C., Detroit, Michigan, for Appellees. Christopher J. Trainor, Christopher Trainor and Associates, White Lake, Michigan, for Appellant. Rosalind Rochkind, John J. Gillo...
Judge Panel:Before MERRITT, COLE, and COOK, Circuit Judges. MERRITT, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which COLE, J., joined. COOK, J. (pp. 255-58), delivered a separate opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part. COOK, Circuit Judge, concurring in part and dissenting in part.
Case Date:June 04, 2010
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
 
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606 F.3d 240 (6th Cir. 2010)

Alan MILLER, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

SANILAC COUNTY and Jim Wagester, in his individual and official capacity, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 09-1340.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit.

June 4, 2010

Argued: March 10, 2010.

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ARGUED:

Shawn C. Cabot, Christopher Trainor and Associates, White Lake, Michigan, for Appellant.

Megan K. Cavanagh, Garan Lucow Miller, P.C., Detroit, Michigan, for Appellees.

ON BRIEF:

Christopher J. Trainor, Christopher Trainor and Associates, White Lake, Michigan, for Appellant.

Rosalind Rochkind, John J. Gillooly, Garan Lucow Miller, P.C., Detroit, Michigan, for Appellees.

Before MERRITT, COLE, and COOK, Circuit Judges.

MERRITT, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which COLE, J., joined. COOK, J. (pp. 255-58), delivered a separate opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part.

OPINION

MERRITT, Circuit Judge.

In this lawsuit brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, plaintiff, Paul Miller, is claiming multiple constitutional violations against him during a traffic stop and arrest by Deputy Sheriff Jim Wagester and Sanilac County, Michigan. Miller received several traffic code violations and civil infractions, including drunk driving, all of which were

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later dismissed when Miller's blood-alcohol level was determined to be 0.00%. The District Court issued an order granting defendants' motion for summary judgment, which Miller now appeals. Miller v. Sanilac County, No. 07-14965, 2009 WL 416438 (E.D.Mich. Feb.18, 2009). The key issues before this Court are whether Wagester had probable cause to arrest Miller for drunk driving or for reckless driving after he drove through a stop sign on an icy road. For the reasons stated below, we affirm in part and reverse in part the grant of summary judgment.

I. Factual Background and Procedural History

Miller began the night of February 19, 2006, with some friends at a demolition derby from 8:00 p.m. to about 11:00 p.m. The temperature was approximately zero degrees with a significant wind-chill, and there is no dispute that there was ice on the roads. After dropping off his friends on the way home, he assisted another friend he learned had driven into a ditch. Around midnight, Miller approached a stop sign at an intersection. Miller states that he was driving at approximately 30 m.p.h. but was unable to stop because of the ice. Wagester, who was observing the area after hearing reports of an underage drinking party nearby, estimated that Miller was traveling over 60 m.p.h. before slowing down to about 30 m.p.h. as he went through the stop sign. 1 After Wagester activated his lights, Miller claims to have stopped immediately, whereas Wagester stated that Miller continued for a quarter mile.

Upon walking up to Miller's car, Wagester asked for Miller's license, registration, and proof of insurance. Miller claims he had his seatbelt on at this time whereas Wagester said Miller never had his seatbelt on. Because Miller's license had been confiscated for a previous arrest for Operating a Vehicle while Intoxicated (hereinafter " drunk driving" ), Miller gave him the documentation he was provided to use as a license. Miller alleges he had proper registration and proof of insurance but could not produce them immediately. Both agree that Wagester walked away as Miller was searching his glove box and Wagester did not ask for them again.

Wagester claims to have " detect[ed] a slight odor of alcohol coming from [Miller's] breath." After running a check on Miller, he learned of the drunk driving arrest and asked him to step out of the vehicle to perform field sobriety tests. According to Wagester, Miller did not stagger or stumble as he got out of the vehicle and walked around, but his eyes appeared " glazed or glassy." Miller was asked to recite the ABCs, walk a straight line, touch his fingertips to his thumb, touch his nose, and count backwards from 54 to 43. Wagester determined he failed all but one,2 although Miller said he was not informed

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whether or not he passed any of the tests. Miller declined to take a preliminary breath test because he did not trust Wagester and thought it was less reliable than a blood test, which he later agreed to take.

Thereafter, Wagester placed Miller under arrest for reckless driving. Miller claims that Wagester effected the arrest by spinning him around, kicking his feet apart, and slamming him against his vehicle. Miller concedes, however, that he was not hurt by any of these actions. Miller was put in handcuffs and placed in a patrol car. Wagester estimates that Miller was out of the vehicle for six to eight minutes, but Miler claims it was 45 minutes. At some point, Miller complained that his handcuffs were too tight. They were removed during the booking process, although Miller is unsure how long they remained on.

After processing, Wagester secured a search warrant from a magistrate judge authorizing him to draw Miller's blood for further investigation of suspected drunk driving. Miller also gave consent. Miller was transported to a nearby hospital for the blood draw. The individual who drew Miller's blood observed that Miller was shaking and was cold to the touch, which Miller claims to be the result of being subjected to the cold during the arrest. Miller alleges that he passed out from the cold at some point while he was at the jail although he indicated on a medical questionnaire at the time that he was in good physical condition and was not having any medical problems.

Deputy Wagester wrote seven tickets for Miller: failure to use a seatbelt, no proof of registration, no proof of insurance, reckless driving, refusal to submit to a breath test, minor in possession, and 0.02% blood-alcohol-no-tolerance-law violation.3 Miller left the jail on February 19, 2006, on a personal recognizance bond. The next week, Miller's blood test results came back indicating that Miller's blood-alcohol level was 0.00%. In early April, all charges against Miller related to this case were dismissed. A few days later, Deputy Wagester requested that the lab test Miller's blood for controlled substances. That test also came back negative.

Miller filed the present suit against Deputy Wagester and Sanilac County on November 20, 2007. Against Deputy Wagester, Miller alleged three constitutional violations pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (use of excessive force, Fourth Amendment search and seizure violations, and malicious prosecution) and four state tort claims (assault and battery, false arrest/false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, and gross negligence). Miller also alleged that Sanilac County is liable for Deputy Wagester's constitutional violations because it inadequately trains and supervises its officers. In a motion for summary judgment, Deputy Wagester argued that he is entitled to qualified immunity on all counts and Sanilac County asserted that Miller failed to state a claim against it. The District Court issued an order granting the motion, which Miller now appeals. This Court reviews the district court's grant of summary judgment de novo. Spears v. Ruth, 589 F.3d 249, 253 (6th Cir.2009). Summary judgment is proper when there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

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Id. (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)). We must view all the facts and the inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and uphold a grant of summary judgment only where the record as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party. Id.

II. Liability of Deputy Wagester

" To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must set forth facts that, when construed favorably, establish (1) the deprivation of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States (2) caused by a person acting under the color of state law." Sigley v. City of Parma Heights, 437 F.3d 527, 533 (6th Cir.2006) (citing West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48, 108 S.Ct. 2250, 101 L.Ed.2d 40 (1988)). As the District Court recognized, only the first prong is at issue here.

" Under the doctrine of qualified immunity, ‘ government 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.’ " Phillips v. Roane County, 534 F.3d 531, 538 (6th Cir.2008) (quoting Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818, 102 S.Ct. 2727, 73 L.Ed.2d 396 (1982)). Determining whether government officials are entitled to qualified immunity generally requires two inquiries: " First, viewing the facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, has the plaintiff shown that a constitutional violation has occurred? Second, was the right clearly established at the time of the violation?" Id. at 538-39.4 These prongs need not be considered sequentially. Jones v. Byrnes, 585 F.3d 971, 975 (6th Cir.2009) (citing Pearson v. Callahan, __ U.S. __, 129 S.Ct. 808, 172 L.Ed.2d 565 (2009)).

The issue of qualified immunity may be submitted to a jury only if " the legal question of immunity is completely dependent upon which view of the [disputed] facts is accepted by the jury." Humphrey v. Mabry, 482 F.3d 840, 846 (6th Cir.2007) (quoting Brandenburg v. Cureton, 882 F.2d 211, 216 (6th Cir.1989)).

A. Section 1983 Federal Constitutional Claims

1. Malicious Prosecution

The parties on appeal have not challenged the District Court's holding that Miller's federal Fourth Amendment claim for malicious prosecution under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 may be considered under the same criteria as under Michigan state law. Miller, 2009 WL 416438, *4. This court and other courts have debated the...

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