884 F.Supp.2d 420 (D.Md. 2012), Civ. L-09-2978, Santos v. Frederick County Board of Com'rs

Docket Nº:Civil L-09-2978.
Citation:884 F.Supp.2d 420
Opinion Judge:BENSON EVERETT LEGG, District Judge.
Party Name:Roxanna SANTOS, Plaintiff, v. FREDERICK COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS, et al., Defendants.
Attorney:John C. Hayes, Jr., David D. West, Nixon Peabody LLP, Kimberly J. Jandrain, Coburn and Greenbaum PLLC, Washington, DC, Diana Sagorika Sen, Jose Luis Perez, Legal Aid Society Civil Division, New York, NY, Zorayda Moreira Smith, Casa De Maryland Incorporated, Hyattsville, MD, for Plaintiff. Daniel ...
Case Date:February 07, 2012
Court:United States District Courts, 4th Circuit, District of Maryland
 
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Page 420

884 F.Supp.2d 420 (D.Md. 2012)

Roxanna SANTOS, Plaintiff,

v.

FREDERICK COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS, et al., Defendants.

Civil No. L-09-2978.

United States District Court, D. Maryland.

February 7, 2012

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John C. Hayes, Jr., David D. West, Nixon Peabody LLP, Kimberly J. Jandrain, Coburn and Greenbaum PLLC, Washington, DC, Diana Sagorika Sen, Jose Luis Perez, Legal Aid Society Civil Division, New York, NY, Zorayda Moreira Smith, Casa De Maryland Incorporated, Hyattsville, MD, for Plaintiff.

Daniel Karp, Sandra D. Lee, Karpinski Colaresi and Karp PA, Baltimore, MD, Garrett Roe, Michael Meriwether Hethmon, Washington, DC, for Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

BENSON EVERETT LEGG, District Judge.

This case concerns the allegedly unlawful detention and arrest of Plaintiff Roxana Santos by two Frederick County Sheriff's Deputies, Defendants Jeffrey Openshaw and Kevin Lynch (" Deputies" ). Now pending is the Deputies' Motion for Summary Judgment. Docket No. 84. The issues have been comprehensively briefed, and on November 15, 2011, the Court heard oral argument on the Motion. For the reasons stated herein, the Court will, by separate Order, GRANT the Motion.

I. BACKGROUND

Shortly after 10:00 a.m. on October 7, 2008, Roxana Santos was sitting on the curb in the alleyway behind Common Market, a food co-op where she worked as a dishwasher. Santos was eating a bit of bread while she waited for her 11:00 a.m. shift to begin.

At the same time, Frederick County Sheriff's Deputies Jeffrey Openshaw and Kevin Lynch were engaged in a routine patrol of the area. Their route took them through the parking lot of the Evergreen Square shopping center, which houses Common Market and several other businesses and restaurants. Openshaw and Lynch drove around to the rear of a large building containing Common Market and Gold's Gym, where they encountered Santos sitting on the curb next to a large storage container of the type transported by cargo ships. There are three separate accounts of the circumstances surrounding the Deputies' approach.

According to Openshaw and Lynch, when Santos observed them driving toward her in a marked patrol car, she got up, quickly gathered her things, and ducked around the corner of the storage container out of their view. Though the patrol car was approximately 150 feet away, Deputy Lynch testified that he saw Santos regard them with a startled look before withdrawing behind the container: " Her eyes got large, like, oh, no, there's the police." Lynch Dep. 43:16-21. The Deputies commented to one another that the behavior seemed odd, and they decided to question Santos.

By contrast, Santos claims that she had just sat down when she noticed the patrol car approaching, but thought nothing of it. She denies doing anything even arguably suspicious. Santos states that as she remained seated, the car pulled up, Deputies Openshaw and Lynch got out, and Openshaw began to ask questions.

The third account comes from Eric Lofhjelm, another Common Market employee.

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Lofhjelm was standing on the building's loading dock, which looked down the alley towards the far side of the building from which the Deputies approached. Lofhjelm noticed the patrol car come around the corner. When it passed out of his field of view, he stepped out onto a stairwell from which he could see both the patrol car pulling up to the storage container and Santos sitting on the curb. Lofhjelm observed the parties' interaction for a short time before going inside, though he was too far away to hear anything. During the time that he watched, Lofhjelm did not see Santos get up or move.

From this point on, the parties' versions of the facts are largely congruent, except as expressly noted. Accounts agree that the two Deputies circled around the storage container, approaching Santos from opposite directions. They wore standard issue Sheriff's uniforms and had guns on their hips. Deputy Openshaw greeted Santos and asked if she was on break. Santos said, yes. According to Openshaw, a language barrier was immediately apparent. He inquired if Santos worked at Common Market, and again she said, yes. Openshaw then asked if Santos had identification. Santos understood the question, but responded in Spanish that she had none. Openshaw asked if she had a passport and Santos responded, this time in English, that she had a passport but that she had left it at home.

Deputy Openshaw then asked Santos her name. He testified that when he could not understand Santos's attempt to spell it for him, he gave her his notepad with a request that she write out her name and date of birth. According to Openshaw, Santos complied. Santos, by contrast, does not remember either Deputy asking for any such information or giving her paper and pencil. 1 At no point did either Deputy question Santos on the subject of her immigration status.

While Santos remained seated, Deputy Openshaw withdrew to confer with Deputy Lynch. Though Santos could not understand what the officers were doing, Openshaw used his radio to run a routine warrant check, providing the dispatcher with the name Roxanna Elizabeth Orellana Santos, born [month] [day], 1980.2 At some point, Santos produced a Salvadoran ID card from her purse. She offered it to the Deputies, one of whom walked over to retrieve it. Openshaw testified that Santos offered the ID after she had written down her name and birthdate, but he could not recall if this occurred before or after he called in the warrant check.

A short time later, the dispatch officer notified the Deputies that Santos was the subject of an Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (" ICE" ) warrant for immediate deportation. Openshaw testified that at this point Santos was not free to leave, but he did not immediately place her under arrest. Instead, the Deputies requested verification of the warrant, meaning that someone from the Sheriff's Office would contact ICE to determine whether it was still active. 3

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While the warrant was being verified, Santos asked the Deputies if she could get up. Openshaw said, no, and gestured that she should remain seated. Eventually, the dispatch officer radioed back that the warrant was verified and active. Santos, deciding it was time for her to go to work, attempted to stand up and leave. At this point the Deputies handcuffed her, placed in the patrol car, and transported her to patrol headquarters.4

At headquarters, Santos was turned over to an ICE agent for questioning. After temporary detention in the Frederick County Adult Detention Center and Baltimore Adult Detention Center, ICE transferred Santos to the Dorchester County Jail in Cambridge, Maryland, where she remained until her supervised release on November 13, 2008. Santos was not deported, and the record does not reveal her current immigration status.

On November 10, 2009, Santos filed the instant suit, naming as defendants Deputies Openshaw and Lynch, Frederick County Sheriff Charles Jenkins, the Frederick County Board of Commissioners, and several other individuals from ICE and the Department of Homeland Security. Santos eventually agreed to dismiss her claims against the federal Defendants and to bifurcate all claims of supervisory liability against Sheriff Jenkins and the Board of Commissioners. The supervisory liability claims have been stayed pending resolution of the case against the officers. Santos filed a Second Amended Complaint containing the following counts:

• Count I— Unlawful seizure, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against Deputies Openshaw and Lynch in their official and individual capacities.

• Count II— Unlawful arrest, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against Deputies Openshaw and Lynch in their official and individual capacities.

• Count III— Violation of Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against Deputies Openshaw and Lynch in their official and individual capacities.

• Count IV— Conspiracy under 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3), against Deputies Openshaw and Lynch in their official and individual capacities.

• Count V— Supervisory liability, against Sheriff Jenkins, in his official and individual capacities. (bifurcated and stayed)

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• Count VI— A claim against the Frederick County Board of Commissioners under 42 U.S.C. § 2000d, which prohibits exclusion from participation in, denial of benefits of, and discrimination under federally assisted programs on ground of race, color, or national origin. (bifurcated and stayed)

• Count VII— Monell entity liability against the Frederick County Board of Commissioners. (bifurcated and stayed)

Deputies Openshaw and Lynch now move for summary judgment as to Counts I-IV.

II. Legal Standard

The Court may grant summary judgment when " the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986); see also Felty v. Graves-Humphreys Co., 818 F.2d 1126, 1128 (4th Cir.1987) (recognizing that trial judges have " an affirmative obligation" to prevent factually unsupported claims and defenses from proceeding to trial).

Nevertheless, in determining whether there is a genuine issue of material fact, the Court views the facts, and all reasonable inferences to be drawn from them, in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Pulliam Inv. Co. v. Cameo Properties, 810 F.2d 1282, 1286 (4th Cir.1987). Hearsay statements or conclusory statements with no evidentiary basis cannot support or defeat a motion for summary judgment. See Greensboro Prof'l Fire Fighters Ass'n, Local 3157 v. City of Greensboro, 64 F.3d 962, 967 (4th Cir.1995).

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