766 F.2d 962 (6th Cir. 1985), 83-5927, King v. Love
|Citation:||766 F.2d 962|
|Party Name:||Johnny KING, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Robert H. LOVE, Defendant-Appellant.|
|Case Date:||July 03, 1985|
|Court:||United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit|
Argued April 11, 1985.
James D. Causey (argued), Memphis, Tenn., Alice L. Gallaher, Memphis, Tenn., for defendant-appellant.
Asa H. Hoke (argued), Memphis, Tenn., Sidney Gilreath, Gilreath & Associates, Knoxville, Tenn., for plaintiff-appellee.
Before KENNEDY and CONTIE, Circuit Judges, and KINNEARY, District Judge. [*]
CONTIE, Circuit Judge.
Defendant Robert Love, a City Court judge in Memphis, Tennessee, appeals from a jury verdict awarding $10,000 in compensatory damages and $50,000 in punitive damages to plaintiff Johnny King in this action arising under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983. For the reasons set forth below, we vacate the judgment and remand for further proceedings.
In January 1979, King reported to the Tennessee Department of Safety that his driver's license had been stolen. The Department issued a replacement license. On February 4, 1979, W.C. Anderson was arrested for driving while intoxicated. He produced King's stolen license, however, and the police completed the ticket in King's name. Anderson subsequently failed to appear in court to answer the charge. As a result, an arrest warrant in King's name was issued. King eventually learned of the warrant and voluntarily contacted the police Warrant Squad and a member of the City Prosecutor's staff in order to explain that a mistake had been made. The prosecutor instructed King to appear in Memphis City Court.
When King appeared in court before Judge Love on October 5, 1979, a different prosecutor was present. Although King offered to explain the mistake, Judge Love continued the case and instructed him to retain an attorney. King reappeared before Judge Love without counsel on December 12, 1979. King testified at trial that he had contacted several lawyers between early October and early December 1979. Although he was working in late 1979, he testified at trial that he could not afford an attorney at that time. The record reflects that when King reappeared without counsel, Judge Love again continued the case and instructed him to hire a lawyer.
King appeared before Judge Love without counsel for a third time on March 4, 1980. King later testified that although he calmly attempted to explain the mistaken identity problem, Judge Love refused to listen and ordered him to be incarcerated without bond for contempt in having again appeared without counsel. Judge Love testified that King shouted and shook his fist
and that King was jailed for this contemptuous conduct rather than for appearing without counsel.
It is undisputed that King remained in jail from 2:00 P.M. on March 4 until 10:00 A.M. on March 7. Attorney Otis Higgs obtained King's release. The erroneous driving while intoxicated charge against King was dropped and a warrant for Anderson's arrest was issued. King subsequently filed a complaint against Judge Love with the Tennessee Court of the Judiciary. That disciplinary tribunal scheduled a hearing for August 20, 1980.
In June 1980, Judge Love asked police officer Pittman to do him a "favor" by executing the Anderson arrest warrant. Pittman testified that Judge Love stated that the subject of the warrant had filed a complaint against him. Pittman and Judge Love subsequently had a telephone conversation during which Pittman indicated that he had located the man to be arrested. At this time, Pittman thought that King and Anderson were the same person. Sometime later, Pittman and Judge Love met by chance at lunch. In response to Judge Love's inquiry about whether the Anderson arrest warrant had been executed, Pittman stated that it would be executed when another police officer returned from vacation. Judge Love instructed Pittman to change the warrant from $2,500 bond to no bond. Pittman then informed Judge Love that the ticket and the arrest warrant named different persons, i.e., King and Anderson respectively. Pittman testified that Judge Love responded that King and Anderson "were one and the same" (Tr. at 439). Judge Love denied making that statement. He further testified that he wanted the warrant executed so that he could investigate a rumor heard from a man, identified only as one who "frequently hung around the police station" (Tr. at 231), that King had illegally sold his license to Anderson.
On August 19, 1980, one day before the hearing scheduled by the Tennessee Court of the Judiciary, officers Pittman and Green appeared at King's home with the Anderson arrest warrant. The officers asked for "W.C. Anderson, alias Johnny King" (Tr. at 28). King testified that although he attempted to explain the officers' mistake, they arrested him anyway. During the trip to the police station, King again protested that a mistake had been made. According to King, officer Green responded that "Judge Love is trying to put us in the middle of this" (Tr. at 31).
The officers took King to the Bureau of Identification where fingerprint analysis revealed that King and Anderson were indeed different people. Police legal advisor Keenan then took King before Judge Love in order to determine which man Love wanted. Upon seeing King, Judge Love recessed the court and talked privately with Keenan. Keenan's testimony about his conversation with Judge Love follows:
He [Judge Love] told me: "Do you know who, who this guy is?" I said: "No." He said: "This is the guy that is scheduled to testify against me in the judiciary panel." I did not know that there was a hearing scheduled. I, I wasn't aware of that, really, at that point in time. So I said: "Well, I understand; however, Your Honor, we can't hold this man. We are going to have to release him unless you can tell me this is the guy that is wanted on the warrant." He said: "Well, go ahead and release him then." I said: "Fine," and we turned and I took Mr. King back to the prosecutor's office. [Tr. at 346.]
Keenan then instructed officers Pittman and Green to take King home. The August 19 episode lasted several hours.
King subsequently sued the City, Judge Love and officers Pittman and Green. Count One of the complaint alleged that Judge Love had unlawfully incarcerated him on March 4, 1980. Count Two alleged that Judge Love and officers Pittman and Green had participated in an illegal arrest on August 19, 1980. The district court dismissed King's action against the City and the jury returned a verdict in favor of the police officers. These determinations are not at issue on this appeal. The district court ruled that Judge Love was not entitled
either to absolute judicial immunity or to a directed verdict. The jury awarded King $10,000 in compensatory damages and $50,000 in punitive damages. On appeal, Judge Love contends that this action is barred under the doctrine of absolute judicial immunity, that the district court should have granted a directed verdict and that the district court committed other reversible errors during trial. Since the judgment must be vacated and the case remanded for a new trial, we address only the first two issues.
In analyzing the absolute judicial immunity claim, Judge Love's conduct with respect to the March 4, 1980 and August 19, 1980 incidents must be considered separately. We address the March 4, 1980 incident first.
The parties agree that the driving while intoxicated allegation asserted against King was a misdemeanor charge. Section one of Chapter 288 of the Private Acts of Tennessee of 1972 provides that municipal courts in counties having a population of 600,000 or more have concurrent jurisdiction with the criminal courts and general sessions courts over all misdemeanors. Under this section, municipal courts in Shelby County, Tennessee, where Memphis is located, have jurisdiction over misdemeanor cases. Thus, the City Court over which Judge Love presided had subject matter jurisdiction in King's case.
The contempt powers of Tennessee judges are statutorily defined. Tenn.Code Ann. Sec. 29-9-103. That section states that "where not otherwise specifically provided," circuit, chancery and appellate courts may impose no more than ten days in jail and a fifty dollar fine for contempt. All other courts are limited to imposing a ten dollar fine. Since the Memphis City Court is not a circuit,...
To continue readingFREE SIGN UP