Harcz v. Boucher, 022619 FED6, 18-1116

Docket Nº:18-1116
Opinion Judge:COOK, Circuit Judge.
Party Name:PAUL JOSEPH HARCZ, JR., ELEANOR CANTER, BRIAN DIAN, MARK EAGLE, TERRY EAGLE, DAVID ROBINSON, and JOSEPH SONTAG, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. BRODY BOUCHER, JASON WILLIAMS, JEFF HELD, EDWIN HENRIQUEZ, BRIAN GEORGE, RYAN DAVIS, STEPHEN THOMAS, KEVIN COOK, VINCENT MUNOZ, DAN BROCKLEHURST, all defendants sued in their personal capacities, MICHIGAN ASS...
Judge Panel:BEFORE: SILER, COOK, and BUSH, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:February 26, 2019
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
 
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PAUL JOSEPH HARCZ, JR., ELEANOR CANTER, BRIAN DIAN, MARK EAGLE, TERRY EAGLE, DAVID ROBINSON, and JOSEPH SONTAG, Plaintiffs-Appellants,

v.

BRODY BOUCHER, JASON WILLIAMS, JEFF HELD, EDWIN HENRIQUEZ, BRIAN GEORGE, RYAN DAVIS, STEPHEN THOMAS, KEVIN COOK, VINCENT MUNOZ, DAN BROCKLEHURST, all defendants sued in their personal capacities, MICHIGAN ASSOCIATION OF CENTERS FOR INDEPENDENT LIVING, HANDICAPPER ADVOCACY ALLIANCE, INC., Defendants-Appellees.

No. 18-1116

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

February 26, 2019

NOT RECOMMENDED FOR FULL-TEXT PUBLICATION

ON APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN

BEFORE: SILER, COOK, and BUSH, Circuit Judges.

COOK, Circuit Judge.

The state police prevented Paul Joseph Harcz and a group of disability-rights advocates from entering an event celebrating the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") on the Michigan State Capitol grounds, first stopping them at a checkpoint and eventually arresting Harcz for attempting to force his way into the event. The group sued several state officers and the private event planners, alleging First and Fourteenth Amendment violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Harcz also alleged claims of false arrest, false imprisonment, and malicious prosecution under the Fourth Amendment and state law. The district court dismissed all claims on the pleadings. We AFFIRM dismissal of the claims against the private defendants and the Fourteenth Amendment claim against all defendants. But because the appellants plausibly allege First Amendment violations against the state defendants and the case requires further factual development to resolve qualified immunity, we REVERSE dismissal of the First Amendment claim and Harcz's individual claims.

I.

In 2014, private parties began planning an event to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the ADA. They secured a permit to hold the celebration on the east side of the Michigan State Capitol on September 17, 2015, and advertised the event as "free and open to the public." The plaintiffs-appellants in this case, most physically disabled, knew about the event; Harcz, in fact, directly participated in its planning, serving on the accommodations committee.

Though eager to celebrate the ADA anniversary, the plaintiffs also harbored misgivings about certain aspects of the celebration. In particular, they questioned the propriety of the sponsorship by an employer said to pay disabled employees sub-minimum wages and choosing as the venue the State Capitol building that-in their opinion-violated the ADA. They relayed these concerns to Sara Grivetti, the event's chief organizer and CEO of the Michigan Association of Centers for Independent Living ("MACIL"), who then speculated with fellow event planners that the plaintiffs might protest and disrupt the event.

In the days leading up to the celebration, the organizers notified the Michigan State Police that protestors might disrupt the event. Grivetti spoke with an officer about the plaintiffs' objection to one of the event's sponsors and expressed concern about disruption. She also communicated with the facilities director for the Capitol about potential protests. Ellen Weaver, another event planner and representative for the Handicapper Advocacy Alliance, Inc. ("HAAI"), similarly contacted the police and expressed concern about disruption from protestors. The plaintiffs allege that on the morning of the event, Grivetti and Weaver met with the police and again communicated their desire to prevent disruption. They allege that the police "agreed" with Grivetti and Weaver that officers would exclude suspected protestors from the event and prevent them from passing beyond the Austin Blair statue on the Capitol grounds.

On the day of the event, the plaintiffs assembled on a street corner adjacent to the Capitol carrying handmade signs, a banner, and leaflets for distribution. An officer approached and told them they could not pass the statue. The plaintiffs insisted that they did not want to cause a disturbance and merely sought to "peacefully . . . share their views on issues important to them." When the group of about fifteen to twenty attempted to enter the event, the police blocked their path. Later, the officers erected metal barricades across the sidewalk leading up to the event, approximately 130 feet from the stage, preventing the plaintiffs from entering.

Harcz, legally blind and using a walking stick, eventually attempted to circumvent the barricades. Following a scuffle, the police arrested Harcz and held him in the Capitol for the duration of the ADA celebration. In state court, a judge found probable cause that Harcz obstructed the officers, but the prosecutor dropped Harcz's felonious assault charge before trial.

The plaintiffs filed this action in district court against individual police officers, the Capitol facilities director, MACIL, and HAAI, alleging First and Fourteenth Amendment violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Harcz also alleged claims of false arrest, false imprisonment, and malicious prosecution against several officers under the Fourth Amendment and state law. The various defendants moved to dismiss and for summary judgment, and the district court dismissed all claims under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).

The district court addressed the plaintiffs' claims in three parts. It first found that the plaintiffs could not sustain a § 1983 claim against the private defendants, MACIL and HAAI, because they failed to allege facts showing a civil conspiracy with the police. Second, it held that qualified immunity protected the state defendants because "sufficient daylight" existed between the circumstances of the ADA event and those in similar cases on which the defendants might have relied. Finally, it dismissed Harcz's individual claims, independently finding that his actions provided adequate grounds for probable cause supporting arrest. The plaintiffs appealed.

II.

We review de novo a district court's dismissal of a complaint under Rule 12(b)(6). Bridge v. Ocwen Fed. Bank, FSB, 681 F.3d 355, 358 (6th Cir. 2012). To survive a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff must "allege[] facts that 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face' and that, if accepted as true, are...

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