Farm Labor Organizing Comm. v. Ohio State Highway

Citation95 F.Supp.2d 723
Decision Date20 April 2000
Docket NumberNo. 3:96CV7580.,3:96CV7580.
PartiesFARM LABOR ORGANIZING COMMITTEE, et al., Plaintiffs, v. The OHIO STATE HIGHWAY PATROL, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Ohio

John Mark Finnegan, William B. Senhauser, Equal Justice Foundation, Toledo, OH, for Plaintiff.

Allen P. Adler, Carol Hamilton O'Brien, Office of Attorney General, Corrections Litigation Section, Columbus, OH, Tomi L. Dorris, Office of Attorney General, Ohio State Highway Patrol, Columbus, OH, for Defendants.


CARR, District Judge.

This is a civil rights case involving the questioning of Hispanic motorists about their immigration status by the Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP). This court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Pending is plaintiffs' motion for reconsideration of my September 8, 1999 Order. (Doc. 111). For the following reasons, plaintiffs' motion for reconsideration shall be granted in part and denied in part.


Plaintiffs are migrant workers who claim that the OSHP, particularly members of its Traffic and Drug Interdiction Team (TDIT), violated their constitutional rights by interrogating them about their immigration status, and, in some cases, confiscating immigration documents, on the basis of their Hispanic appearance. Plaintiffs seek a an injunction prohibiting this alleged practice and money damages. (See Doc. 44).

On Sunday, March 26, 1995, at approximately 2:00 p.m., named plaintiffs Aguilar and Esparza were traveling eastbound on Interstates 80-90 near the exit for Ohio State Route 2. Aguilar was driving. Trooper Kiefer pulled plaintiffs over for a faulty headlight. Plaintiffs do not dispute the legitimacy of this stop.

Trooper Kiefer approached and asked to see Aguilar's license. Aguilar complied, providing an Illinois license. Trooper Kiefer then ordered Aguilar out of the car and placed him in the back of his cruiser.

Almost immediately, a second cruiser arrived. The trooper from the second cruiser walked a drug-sniffing dog around the outside of plaintiffs' vehicle. The dog "alerted," thereby indicating that plaintiffs' vehicle contained narcotics.1

The second trooper demanded to see Esparza's identification; she provided Illinois photo identification. She then was asked to produce her green card, which she did. Esparza was placed in the cruiser with Aguilar. Trooper Kiefer demanded to see Aguilar's green card at that time.

After initial examination of the green cards, Trooper Kiefer asked plaintiffs where they had gotten their green cards and whether they had paid for them, meaning to ask whether they were forged documents. Plaintiffs replied that they had, in fact, paid for their green cards, intending to communicate that they had paid the required processing fees, not that they had obtained their green cards illegally.2 Trooper Kiefer misunderstood from plaintiffs' answers that the green cards were forged because green cards are not available for purchase.

Rather than return the green cards, Trooper Kiefer retained them for authentication. He did not issue plaintiffs a receipt for their green cards, tell them when they could expect them back if the cards were indeed authentic, or tell them where or how to inquire if they had any questions about the seizure.

On Monday, the day following the seizure of the documents, paralegal Arturo Ortiz contacted the OSHP on behalf of Aguilar and Esparza, but the OSHP could not help him because Ortiz lacked certain information regarding the incident. On Thursday, four days after the seizure, Ortiz obtained this required information from Aguilar and Esparza. He then contacted the OSHP and spoke to Trooper Kiefer. Trooper Kiefer delivered the green cards later that same day.

In my September 8, 1999 Order, I granted plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment as to the issue of whether Trooper Kiefer violated the Fourth Amendment by retaining Aguilar's and Esparza's green cards for four days, and denied plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment as to all other issues and all other defendants. In addition, I granted summary judgment in favor of defendants Marshall, Davies, Healy, Elling, Elders, Blue, Ambrose, Baronowski, Courtney, Laubacher, Piatarek, Pape, Stevens, Unger, and Williams, and denied Trooper Kiefer's motion for summary judgment. Lastly, I dissolved the preliminary injunction I previously had granted. (Doc. 67).

Plaintiffs now move this Court to reconsider the dismissal of their equal protection, 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Title VI claims.3 In opposition, defendants raise two affirmative defenses, one based on standing and the other on the applicable statute of limitations.


Summary judgment must be entered "against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). The moving party always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the record which demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Id. at 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548. The burden then shifts to the nonmoving party who "must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)).

Once the burden of production shifts, the party opposing summary judgment cannot rest on its pleadings or merely reassert its previous allegations. It is insufficient "simply [to] show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986). Rather, Rule 56(e) "requires the nonmoving party to go beyond the [unverified] pleadings" and present some type of evidentiary material in support of its position. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324, 106 S.Ct. 2548.

In deciding the motion for summary judgment, the evidence of the non-moving party will be believed as true, all doubts will be resolved against the moving party, all evidence will be construed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and all reasonable inferences will be drawn in the non-moving party's favor. Eastman Kodak Co. v. Image Technical Services, Inc., 504 U.S. 451, 456, 112 S.Ct. 2072, 119 L.Ed.2d 265 (1992). Summary judgment shall be rendered only if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show 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).

I. Standing

Defendants argue that I should not enjoin the OSHP from asking motorists about their immigration status on the basis of their Hispanic appearance because Aguilar and Esparza, the class representatives, have no standing. According to defendants, Aguilar and Esparza lack standing to obtain equitable relief because they cannot show that it is likely that they will be questioned about their immigration status and/or have their green cards seized again at some future time. Thus, defendants assert, regardless of the merits of plaintiffs' equal protection, § 1983 and Title VI claims, plaintiffs are not entitled to an injunction, either individually or on behalf of the class they seek to represent.4

Plaintiffs disagree, citing evidence that suggests that it is the OSHP's policy to ask Hispanic-looking motorists whether they have proper immigration papers. This, plaintiffs argue, proves that it is inevitable that some members of the class will be subject to ethnically discriminatory questioning, giving the class representatives standing by proxy. In any event, plaintiffs observe that I already made a ruling on standing in their favor. (See Docs. 67 and 94).

Those who seek to invoke the jurisdiction of the federal courts must satisfy Article III of the Constitution by alleging an actual case or controversy. Flast v. Cohen, 392 U.S. 83, 94-101, 88 S.Ct. 1942, 20 L.Ed.2d 947 (1968). An actual case or controversy is characterized by a "personal stake in the outcome" of a lawsuit; this requirement assures that constitutional issues will be presented only when ripe for resolution. Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 204, 82 S.Ct. 691, 7 L.Ed.2d 663 (1962). "Abstract injury is not enough." City of Los Angeles v. Lyons, 461 U.S. 95, 101-02, 103 S.Ct. 1660, 75 L.Ed.2d 675 (1983). A plaintiff must show that "he has sustained or is immediately in danger of sustaining some direct injury" as a result of the challenged conduct; the injury or threat of injury must be "real and immediate," not "conjectural" or "hypothetical." Id. (citing Golden v. Zwickler, 394 U.S. 103, 109-10, 89 S.Ct. 956, 22 L.Ed.2d 113 (1969); United Public Workers of America v. Mitchell, 330 U.S. 75, 89-91, 67 S.Ct. 556, 91 L.Ed. 754 (1947); Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Mellon, 262 U.S. 447, 488, 43 S.Ct. 597, 67 L.Ed. 1078 (1923)). Further, the injury must be one that is "fairly traceable to the defendant's allegedly unlawful conduct and likely to be redressed by the requested relief." Kardules v. City of Columbus, 95 F.3d 1335, 1352 (6th Cir.1996) (quoting Allen v. Wright, 468 U.S. 737, 751, 104 S.Ct. 3315, 82 L.Ed.2d 556 (1984)).

Synthesizing these principles, the Supreme Court has articulated a three part test for a party to have standing to sue:

Over the years, our cases have established that the irreducible constitutional minimum of standing contains three elements: First, the plaintiff must have suffered `injury in fact'—an invasion of a legally protected interest which is (a) concrete and particularized, and (b) `actual or imminent, not conjectural or...

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