Fisher v. Jordan

Decision Date17 February 2023
Docket Number1:17-cv-12504
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Michigan

Honorable Thomas L. Ludington United States District Judge

In April 2016, a multijurisdictional law-enforcement taskforce executed a valid search warrant at Leslie Fisher's house detached garage, and workshop. Altogether, the officers found Leslie, her husband, a marijuana grow room, a THC-extraction lab, jewelry, body armor, an unregistered Baretta, five other firearms, more than 32 pounds of marijuana, 67 cannabis plants, and thousands of dollars' worth of equipment used to grow and to extract THC from marijuana.

Leslie's husband told the police that Leslie did not help him with his grow operation and seldomly entered the garage, which had the same access code as their house and workshop. Leslie denied knowing the extent of the operation and proffered their medical-marijuana cards, which permitted possession of 24 plants and 5 ounces. She added that the marijuana in the house is her personal smoke stash and came from the garage. The Fishers were arrested for, among other things, possession with intent to deliver marijuana. The county circuit court dismissed Leslie's charges.

In August 2017, she sued the officers, arguing they arrested her without probable cause. Both sides filed motions for summary judgment. The primary question presented is whether the officers had probable cause to arrest Leslie Fisher.


In early March 2016, Plaintiff Leslie Fisher's neighbor tipped off the Michigan State Police (MSP) that Plaintiff's husband was growing marijuana in their garage and manufacturing THC wax in a workshop a block from their house. ECF No. 61-3 at PageID.698 (describing the wax “as approximately seven flat, pizza sized brownish colored substances that ‘Looked like peanut butter brittle without peanuts.'). Defendant Randall Jordan[1] met with the tipster twice in 2016: once between March 8 and 15, and once a few days later. ECF Nos 61-10 at PageID.777-79; 61-11 at PageID.808. For the first meetup, Detectives Riley Olson[2] and Thomas Brown[3] attended. ECF No. 61-11 at PageID.804. Officer Jason Powell[4] attended but remained in the car. ECF No. 64-3 at PageID.928. During the second rendezvous, the tipster shared the location of the grow operation with Olson, Brown, and Jordan. See ECF Nos. 61-11 at PageID.807; 64 at PageID.881-82. Jordan later corroborated the tipster's information. ECF Nos. 61-4 at PagelD.703-04; 61-11 at PageID.805-06.

Based on trash pulls, drive-bys, real-estate records, and the meetings with the tipster, Jordan completed an affidavit for a search warrant for the Fishers' house, garage, and “work shop.” ECF No. 64-7 at PageID.959-62. The affidavit was reviewed by Defendant Matthew Rice,[5] ECF Nos. 61-10 at PageID.775; 64-5 at PageID.944, reviewed and signed by Isabella County Assistant Prosecutor Mark Kowalczyk, and signed by Magistrate Judge Matt Hagen, ECF Nos. 61-5 at PageID.707; 64-7 at PageID.962. Jordan's affidavit stated he “received anonymous tips [over several months] stating the resident(s) . . . were growing and possibly selling marijuana.” ECF No. 61-3 at PageID.698. Plaintiff contests the accuracy of that statement.

On April 12, 2016, Jordan obtained a search warrant for the Fishers' house, garage, and workshop. ECF No. 61-5 at PageID.710. The warrant was reviewed by Kowalczyk and signed by Judge Hagan. Id. at PageID.707.


Defendants and other BAYANET[6] officers executed the search warrant at Plaintiff's house. Id. at PageID.708. On arrival, Defendant John Trafelet[7] knocked and announced the officers' presence. ECF No. 61-12 at PageID.834. Rice saw curtains moving, so he thought Plaintiff and her husband were inside. Id. In her bedroom upstairs, Plaintiff heard the knocking. ECF No. 61-9 at PageID.745. So did her husband, who went upstairs to put on pants. Id.

Because no one answered the door, Trafelet ordered forced entry. ECF No. 61-12 at PageID.834. Powell immediately rammed the door open, ECF No. 61-13 at PageID.844, and Plaintiff's husband rushed downstairs (with pants on), ECF No. 61-9 at PageID.745. He saw the door forcibly opened from the dining room, id. at PageID.745, 750, where officers handcuffed him and then sat him at the dining-room table, ECF Nos. 61-5 at PageID.708; 61-9 at PageID.750.

Meanwhile, Jordan went upstairs, gun drawn but pointed to the ground, and found Plaintiff applying makeup for work. ECF No. 61-9 at PageID.747. He asked her to approach, and she did, hands raised. Id. Jordan holstered his gun then escorted Plaintiff to the stairway, gripping her left arm with one hand. Id. at PageID.748-49. Jordan released her into the stairway then followed her downstairs. Id. at PageID.747-50. Once downstairs, Jordan handcuffed Plaintiff, hands front, then sat her at the dining-room table with her husband. See id. at PageID.750-52.

With the couple cuffed, Powell led the search. ECF No. 60 at PageID.621. In the garage, officers found 11,590 grams (~25.6 pounds) of marijuana, 67 marijuana plants, 26 plastic bags, 19 light bulbs, 12 lamps, 10 amps, 5 drying racks, 3 “lighting controls,” 2 canister filters, plastic bags, a grinder, a humidifier, and a digital scale. ECF No. 61-5 at PageID.708-09.

In Plaintiff's bedroom, a K-9 flagged a minifridge and a bedside nightstand. ECF No. 61-8 at PageID.740. From that nightstand Powell seized 19.5 grams of marijuana, then 7.5 grams of THC wax inside the fridge, an unregistered Beretta handgun atop another nightstand, and 2.9 more grams of marijuana in the room. See ECF Nos. 60 at PageID.620; 61-5 at PageID.708-09. Then Powell searched the downstairs computer room where he located 29.2 grams of marijuana seeds, two shotguns, two rifles, body armor, and a Glock registered to Plaintiff's husband. ECF Nos. 60 at PageID.621-23; 61-5 at PageID.708-09. Powell brought it all to Trafelet, see ECF No. 60 at PageID.621, who was downstairs cataloguing all the evidence, ECF No. 61-12 at PageID.832, 836-37. Trafelet also received evidence from Jordan, ECF No. 61-11 at PageID.820-21, who went to the dining room, joined by Rice from outside, ECF No. 61-10 at PageID.787-89.

Officers concurrently searched the Fishers' workshop a block away, where they located more than six pounds of marijuana and paraphernalia used to grow it or to convert it to wax. ECF No. 61-6 at PageID.725-26. There, the officers “found [the] pizza boxes filled with the peanut-brittle-like material that the tipster described.” ECF No. 61 at PageID.678.

While other officers searched the house, Jordan and Rice questioned Plaintiff's husband. ECF No. 61-5 at PageID.709-11. After being read his Miranda rights, Plaintiff's husband agreed to talk. Id. at PageID.709. Rice testified Plaintiff's husband said that he was saving the “overages” to sell to dispensaries but could not find a buyer, id., and that Plaintiff “had nothing to do with the grow operation or the shop operation,” ECF No. 61-10 at PageID.795. Plaintiff's husband then confirmed that the access codes of the house, garage, and workshop were the same. Id. at PageID.796. Jordan testified that Plaintiff's husband said she “did not know the extent of his marijuana grow operation because she seldomly went into his garage.” ECF No. 61-5 at PageID.711. Rice later testified to the same facts, adding that he “did not learn from any source that [Plaintiff] had been in the garage between the time [her husband] started his grow operation and the time she was arrested.” ECF No. 64-5 at PageID.950. And Rice testified that he was not aware of any evidence suggesting Plaintiff entered the workshop. Id at PageID.951. Plaintiff's husband also said he and Plaintiff could each legally possess 2.5 ounces of marijuana and 12 plants (collectively 5 ounces and 24 plants) with their “Michigan Medical Marijuana Cards,” ECF No. 61-5 at PageID.710, which were then validated by Isabella County Central Dispatch at the scene, id. at PageID.711.

After sitting in the dining room for an hour, Plaintiff was questioned by Jordan and Rice in a downstairs bedroom. ECF No. 61-9 at PageID.755-56, 758. First, Rice read Plaintiff her Miranda rights from a form, which she said she understood but would not sign. ECF No. 61-5 at PageID.711. Then Plaintiff denied “go[ing] into the garage,” knowing “how much” marijuana was in it, and knowing what her husband “does at his shop.” Id. Plaintiff ended the interview after being accused of illegitimately funding her lifestyle and responding that she has “earned everything [she] got.” Id. at PageID.758. Jordan and Rice then returned Plaintiff to the dining room, id. at PageID.760, where she waited with her husband until 2:00 PM, when they were taken to jail, id. at PageID.754.

Jordan testified that he alone chose to arrest Plaintiff because:
(1) her husband said that, though “seldomly,” she accessed their garage,
(2) which he added has “the same key code” as their house,
(3) and “her medical marijuana card” permitted her to use marijuana,
(4) which she said came from the garage,
(5) which is where the officers found the illegal grow operation.

See ECF No. 61-11 at PagelD. 817-18, 825.

While the house was searched, officers also searched the workshop, where they found a “THC extraction lab” housing 2,834 grams of marijuana and some lamps, pumps, and other paraphernalia. See ECF Nos. 60 at PageID.614; 61-5 at PageID.710; 61-6 at PageID.725.


The next day, with Jordan as the “Complaining Witness,” Isabella County Prosecutor found probable cause to charge Plaintiff with:


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