896 F.2d 1228 (10th Cir. 1990), 86-1392, Abercrombie v. City of Catoosa, Okl.

Docket Nº:86-1392.
Citation:896 F.2d 1228
Party Name:Randy ABERCROMBIE, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. CITY OF CATOOSA, OKLAHOMA; Mayor Curtis Conley; and Police Chief Benny Dirck, Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:February 16, 1990
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
 
FREE EXCERPT

Page 1228

896 F.2d 1228 (10th Cir. 1990)

Randy ABERCROMBIE, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

CITY OF CATOOSA, OKLAHOMA; Mayor Curtis Conley; and Police

Chief Benny Dirck, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 86-1392.

United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit

February 16, 1990

Rehearing Denied March 22, 1990.

Page 1229

Earl W. Wolfe, Tulsa, Okl., for plaintiff-appellant.

Walter D. Haskins (Joseph A. Sharp and John H.T. Sheridan, of Best, Sharp, Thomas, Glass & Atkinson, with him on the brief), Tulsa, Okl., for defendants-appellees.

Before BALDOCK, McWILLIAMS, and EBEL, Circuit Judges.

EBEL, Circuit Judge.

Plaintiff, Randy Abercrombie, brought suit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma against the City of Catoosa, Mayor Curtis Conley, and Police Chief Benny Dirck, alleging two counts: (1) a conspiracy in violation of 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1985(2) and 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1986 arising out of alleged intimidation and retaliation against him because of his testimony in an unrelated case in federal court; and (2) a claim under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983 for deprivation of a property interest without due process of law and for interference with plaintiff's first amendment rights arising from the removal of plaintiff from the wrecker rotation logs used to make wrecker referrals by the City of Catoosa police dispatchers. Plaintiff appeals from the district court's grant of summary judgment for the City and Mayor Conley on both counts of plaintiff's complaint and for the police chief Dirck on Count I, and from the district court's grant of judgment notwithstanding the verdict in favor of Dirck.

The facts leading to this appeal are as follows. Plaintiff was the owner of a wrecker business in Catoosa, Oklahoma. The police chief of Catoosa, defendant Benny Dirck, was in charge of determining which wreckers in the city would receive the police department's wrecker referrals made for third parties. From November 1981 until March 1982, plaintiff received all the wrecker referrals from the police.

In his complaint, plaintiff alleges that when he appeared to testify in federal

Page 1230

court in February 1982 as a witness in a suit against the City of Catoosa, Mayor Conley told him that he "had better stay away from [plaintiff's attorney] Wolfe." He also alleges that subsequently he was approached by police chief Dirck, who asked him, "How is business?" When plaintiff replied that his business was "[d]oing real well," Dirck allegedly stated, "You do know I can control your business?" After testifying in that case, plaintiff no longer was given all the wrecker referrals from the police. Instead, the referrals were rotated between plaintiff and another wrecker. 1

Subsequently, plaintiff campaigned on behalf of a mayoral candidate who challenged the incumbent Mayor Conley. After his candidate lost the election, plaintiff was removed from the wrecker rotation log used by the police dispatchers and therefore no longer received any wrecker referrals from the police.

Plaintiff brought suit in the district court against the City of Catoosa, Mayor Curtis Conley, and Police Chief Benny Dirck. The district court granted all defendants summary judgment on plaintiff's first count of conspiracy in violation of 42 U.S.C. Secs. 1985(2) and 1986. That court also granted defendants Conley and the City of Catoosa summary judgment on plaintiff's second count under 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1983 for deprivation of a property interest and first amendment retaliation. Thus, the only issue that survived summary judgment was the Section 1983 claim against Dirck. On that claim, a jury found for plaintiff, awarding him $7,500 on his property deprivation claim, $125,000 on his first amendment claim, and $50,000 in punitive damages. After the jury reached its verdict, the district court granted Dirck judgment notwithstanding the verdict.

I.

CONSPIRACY UNDER SECTIONS 1985(2) AND 1986

We review the summary judgment orders de novo, applying the same legal standard used by the district court under Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Osgood v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 848 F.2d 141, 143 (10th Cir.1988). Summary judgment should be granted only if "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and ... the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). When applying this standard, we are to examine the factual record and reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment. Gray v. Phillips Petroleum Co., 858 F.2d 610, 613 (10th Cir.1988). However, the nonmoving party may not rest upon his pleadings; the party must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2553, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986).

The district court held, and we agree, that plaintiff has not established the existence of a conspiracy, which is a prerequisite to a claim under Sections 1985(2) and 1986. Section 1985(2) specifically requires the existence of "two or more persons" who "conspire." Section 1986, which provides an action for neglecting to prevent a violation of Section 1985, is premised upon the existence of a valid Section 1985 claim. Wright v. No Skiter, Inc., 774 F.2d 422, 424 (10th Cir.1985).

In support of his conspiracy claim, plaintiff alleged that when he went to federal court to testify in an unrelated case, he was approached by Mayor Conley, who told him that he had "better stay away from [plaintiff's attorney] Wolfe." He also alleges that he subsequently was approached by Dirck, who told him, "You do know I can control your business?"

Those allegations are insufficient to establish a conspiracy. A civil conspiracy requires the combination of two or more persons acting in concert. Singer v. Wadman, 745 F.2d 606, 609 (10th Cir.1984), cert. denied, 470 U.S. 1028, 105 S.Ct. 1396, 84 L.Ed.2d 785 (1985). Plaintiff has not

Page 1231

established, either by direct or circumstantial evidence, a meeting of the minds or agreement among the defendants. Plaintiff merely has alleged two isolated statements, one by Conley and one by Dirck. Without any evidence of communication between Dirck and Conley, there is nothing to give rise to the inference that they conspired. See Richardson v. City of Indianapolis, 658 F.2d 494, 500 (7th Cir.1981), cert. denied, 455 U.S. 945, 102 S.Ct. 1442, 71 L.Ed.2d 657 (1982). Thus, the district court was correct in concluding that there is no genuine issue of material fact concerning the existence of a conspiracy. Accordingly, it was proper to dismiss the first count of plaintiff's complaint on summary judgment. 2

II.

PLAINTIFF'S SECTION 1983 CLAIM

The second count of plaintiff's complaint alleged that the defendants violated Section 1983 by depriving plaintiff of a property...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP