821 F.3d 697 (6th Cir. 2016), 15-3336, Smith v. City of Wyoming

Docket Nº:15-3336
Citation:821 F.3d 697
Opinion Judge:LIPEZ, Circuit Judge.
Party Name:GLENDA ANN SMITH, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. CITY OF WYOMING, et al., Defendants-Appellees
Attorney:Glenda A. Smith, Wyoming, Ohio, for Appellant. Gary E. Becker, Nathan B. Spencer, DINSMORE & SHOHL, LLP, Cincinnati, Ohio, for Appellees.
Judge Panel:Before: STRANCH, DONALD, LIPEZ,[*] Circuit Judges.
Case Date:April 15, 2016
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

Smith and Johnston divorced; they had two daughters Tiffany, aged 9-11 and Jasmine, 13-15 years old. In March 2012, police entered, purportedly at the invitation of a guest, after child services reported that Smith was possibly intoxicated and unable to care for her children. Another time, Johnston called 9-1-1 after Tiffany told him, by telephone, that a man was in Smith’s house and was making... (see full summary)


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821 F.3d 697 (6th Cir. 2016)

GLENDA ANN SMITH, Plaintiff-Appellant,


CITY OF WYOMING, et al., Defendants-Appellees

No. 15-3336

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

April 15, 2016

As Amended May 18, 2016.

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Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio at Cincinnati. No. 1:13-cv-00915--Timothy S. Black, District Judge.


Glenda A. Smith, Wyoming, Ohio, for Appellant.

Gary E. Becker, Nathan B. Spencer, DINSMORE & SHOHL, LLP, Cincinnati, Ohio, for Appellees.

Before: STRANCH, DONALD, LIPEZ,[*] Circuit Judges.

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LIPEZ, Circuit Judge.

This case presents questions about the protections of the Fourth Amendment in the context of police entries into a private home. Plaintiff Glenda A. Smith (" Smith" ) alleges violations of the U.S. Constitution and Ohio law stemming from a series of encounters with police officers. Each of these encounters was precipitated by reports that Smith was impaired by alcohol or otherwise posed a threat of neglect or abuse to her minor children. On cross motions for summary judgment, the district court granted summary judgment to defendants on all claims and dismissed the case.

We affirm the judgment of the district court with regard to most of plaintiff's claims. However, with regard to two of

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her claims--an unlawful entry on March 9, 2012 and an unlawful arrest on April 2, 2013--we find error. On those two claims, we vacate the grant of summary judgment for defendants and remand to the district court.


A. Factual summary

We recount facts that are not disputed by the parties, except where otherwise noted. Smith and her husband, Joseph Johnston, divorced in February 2012. Between that time and December 2013, Smith had four interactions with the police department of the city of Wyoming, Ohio stemming from disputes about her treatment of her daughters Tiffany and Jasmine. The incidents took place on March 9, 2012, and April 2, May 2, and December 7, 2013. At the time of these events, Smith's daughters were 9 to 11 years old and 13 to 15 years old respectively.

On March 9, 2012, Sergeant World and Officer Krummen visited Smith's home after the local child services agency reported that she was possibly intoxicated and unable to care for her children. Appellees claim that a guest invited the officers to enter the home, where they saw Smith attempting to hide behind a piece of furniture and noticed her bloodshot eyes and slurred speech. Smith denies that she was intoxicated and that the police were invited inside. The parties agree that the encounter ended with the police arranging for the children to spend that night with their father, Joseph Johnston.

The most significant interaction between Smith and the police occurred on April 2, 2013, around midday. Johnston called 9-1-1 after Tiffany (then 10 years old) told him on the telephone that a man whom she did not know was in Smith's house, and that his presence was making her uncomfortable. (Her older sister Jasmine was at school.) The man in question, Robert Chinn, asserted at his deposition that when he arrived at the house he was greeted by Smith and Tiffany. He said hello to Tiffany, and had a friendly interaction with her for a minute or two. He then went upstairs with Smith and was there for about 20 minutes.

Sergeant World and Officer Murphy were dispatched to Smith's home. Tiffany opened the door and the officers entered, though the parties dispute whether Tiffany consented to their entrance. She informed them that her mother and the unknown man were in an upstairs bedroom. The officers went upstairs and knocked on the bedroom door. Smith opened it, and the officers asked her to step out of the room so they could identify the man inside. Here the accounts diverge again. Smith claims that the officers asked her to tell her male friend to come out of the bedroom, and that she immediately stepped aside and ushered him out. Chinn's deposition testimony corroborates aspects of her account. He remembered the officers asking Smith to leave the bedroom only once, and confirmed that he and Smith emerged from the bedroom at the officers' request. He also corroborated Smith's assertion that she was not intoxicated at the time. The officers, by contrast, put forward the version of events depicted in Sergeant World's deposition testimony:1 Smith and Chinn were visibly drunk, Smith did not comply with the officers' repeated requests to leave the bedroom and reveal the man inside, and she instead asked the officers a series of questions while standing in the doorway. World describes Smith as being " very slow to respond

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to us" and exhibiting " very slurred" speech during the encounter, and later during her arrest being " very apologetic" and " very flirtatious." The parties agree that Smith did not raise her voice, but did ask the officers what they were doing in her home, and that at one point an officer told her she might be arrested.

All agree that Officer Murphy attempted to grab Smith's hand and that she pulled it away. But Smith claims that she had stepped out of the bedroom and was standing in the hallway when she was grabbed, while Appellees aver that Officer Murphy grabbed her to pull her out of the bedroom. Sergeant World then arrested Smith for obstructing official business, handcuffed her, guided her by the arm to his police car, and eventually drove her to a local detention facility. Smith concedes that she did not complain of any pain or injury. Chinn showed his identification to the officers and was allowed to leave. The criminal charge against Smith was ultimately dropped.

At this point, the accusations of domestic abuse became more serious. On May 2, 2013, Tiffany called 9-1-1, saying that her mother had threatened to kill her. Sergeant Ballinger and Officer McGillis responded to Smith's home, where they followed Tiffany inside. Smith conceded to the officers that she might have made such a threat in the heat of an argument. The officers mediated the dispute between Smith and her daughter and left. On December 6, 2013, Johnston took his daughter to a police station, where he showed Officer Riggs a bruise on her head. Tiffany reported that Smith had struck her several times on the head and face. The next day, Officer Riggs visited Smith's house to discuss Tiffany's injury. Speaking to the officer at the front door, Smith denied hitting Tiffany. (Tiffany would later change her story and say that she sustained the bruise during a fight with Jasmine.) Smith claims that during the conversation she attempted to close the front door and that Riggs briefly put his foot in the door frame to prevent it from shutting. Riggs denies this.

B. Procedural history

The procedural history of this case is relatively straightforward. Smith, an attorney, received permission to proceed in forma pauperis and brought this action pro se in the United States District Court, filing an amended complaint on April 10, 2014. Smith's amended complaint lists fourteen causes of action, including thirteen against individual officers (Counts 1-13). She brings one cause of action against the City of Wyoming--a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim for failure to train and supervise (Count 14).2 The defendants moved for summary judgment on all claims, arguing that they did not violate Smith's constitutional rights, that in the alternative the individual officers are entitled to qualified immunity, and that state law provides immunity with regard to the state law claims. Smith filed her own cross motion for summary judgment.

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With the benefit of depositions and affidavits from Smith, her daughters, some of the officers involved, and others, the district court granted summary judgment for defendants on all claims. The district court found that the individual officers had committed no constitutional violations, that Smith had failed to show the existence of a municipal policy or custom linked to the alleged violations by the officers, and that they were protected by state law immunity from the claims under Ohio law. Smith appeals.

C. Standard of review

We review the grant of summary judgment de novo. Clay v. Emmi, 797 F.3d 364, 369 (6th Cir. 2015). We consider the facts in the light most favorable to Smith and draw all reasonable inferences in her favor. Id. Where Smith " fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to [her] case, and on which [she] will bear the burden of proof at trial," we must affirm summary judgment for defendants. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct....

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