810 F.2d 1055 (11th Cir. 1987), 86-8356, Motes v. Myers

Docket Nº:86-8356
Citation:810 F.2d 1055
Party Name:Belinda Joy MOTES, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. James Ronnie MYERS, Kenneth Jones, Rockdale County Board of Commissioners, Charles Smith, Chairman, City of Conyers, Barbara Bramblett, City Manager, Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:February 20, 1987
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
 
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Page 1055

810 F.2d 1055 (11th Cir. 1987)

Belinda Joy MOTES, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

James Ronnie MYERS, Kenneth Jones, Rockdale County Board of

Commissioners, Charles Smith, Chairman, City of

Conyers, Barbara Bramblett, City

Manager, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 86-8356

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

February 20, 1987

Page 1056

Pamela G. Guest, Doraville, Ga., for plaintiff-appellant.

Arthur H. Glaser, Atlanta, Ga., John A. Nix, Conyers, Ga., for Myers.

Alan F. Herman, Atlanta, Ga., for C. Conyers & Bramblett.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.

Before HATCHETT and CLARK, Circuit Judges, and TUTTLE [*], Senior Circuit Judge.

CLARK, Circuit Judge:

This case involves a dispute over title to an air conditioner. On its surface, the lawsuit seems trivial and lacking in federal jurisdiction. Underneath lurks the question of whether plaintiff Motes was deprived of her constitutional right of liberty without due process of law and whether 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983 affords her relief and federal jurisdiction of her claim. Belinda Joy Motes sued Sergeant James Ronald Myers, an officer with the City of Conyers Police Department, and Deputy Sheriff Kenneth Jones, an officer of the Rockdale Sheriff's Department, for unconstitutionally arresting her, and the City of Conyers and the County of Rockdale for improperly hiring, training, supervising and retaining these two officers. Specifically, Motes alleges that she was wrongfully imprisoned without probable cause, that excessive force was used in her arrest, and that there was an unlawful search of her home. Furthermore, Motes claims that during the arrest she sustained physical injury in the form of bruises, and that after the arrest she suffered mental and emotional anguish, and aggravation of her epileptic condition. We construe the complaint to assert a Sec. 1983 claim of deprivation of a liberty interest, as well as the right to possess one's property free from an illegal search.

The district court granted defendant Myers' motion to dismiss, and in the alternative, for summary judgment, granted the City of Conyers' motion for summary judgment, granted the motion by the City of Conyers' Manager for judgment on the pleadings in her favor, and dismissed all pendent state claims without prejudice. We reverse the dismissal and grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants Myers and Jones on grounds that Motes has alleged facts sufficient to state a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983. We affirm as to the City of Conyers and Bramblett. As the subsequent discussion will show, Myers' actions were those of a private citizen, not a City of Conyers policeman. Thus, the City is not involved. The judgment of the district court against the plaintiff included defendants Rockdale County and Chairman Charles Smith. The district court made no reference to these defendants in the dispositional part of its order, nor did it discuss them in its findings of fact and conclusions of law. We include these defendants in our remand without expressing an opinion as to whether they are entitled to pre-trial summary judgment.

FACTS

Motes' arrest grew out of a two-year dispute with Myers over ownership of an

Page 1057

air conditioner installed in a rental house on his property. Motes and Myers have been acquainted with each other since high school, and Motes began dating Myers' brother Wendell during the summer of 1982. At that time, Wendell moved into Myers' rental house and agreed to fix it up in exchange for free board. Subsequently, Wendell installed Motes' air conditioner in the house. Motes contends that she merely loaned the air conditioner to Wendell, and that she owns it. Myers claims that, to the best of his knowledge, the air conditioner was given to Wendell, probably by Motes.

Beginning in May, 1984, the issue of ownership of the air conditioner arose in several conversations between different people. In May, Motes' mother requested Myers to return the unit, and he refused. Also in May, Myers asked the Chief of Police in Conyers, Roland Vaughn, whether he or Motes owned the air conditioner. Vaughn suggested that he consult an attorney on the question. Meanwhile, Myers' wife asked Frank Smith, a Justice of the Peace in Rockdale County, for advice on the same question, and he told her that the air conditioner was abandoned property that now belonged to the Myers. In May or June, 1984, Myers and Wendell also discussed ownership of the unit. Sometime between May...

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