Millinder v. Hudgins, No. 1:18-cv-01042-STA-cgc

CourtUnited States District Courts. 6th Circuit. Western District of Tennessee
Writing for the CourtS. THOMAS ANDERSON, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Citation421 F.Supp.3d 549
Docket NumberNo. 1:18-cv-01042-STA-cgc
Decision Date21 October 2019
Parties David L. MILLINDER, Plaintiff, v. Joseph HUDGINS, Jr., and Decatur County, Tennessee, Defendants.

421 F.Supp.3d 549

David L. MILLINDER, Plaintiff,
v.
Joseph HUDGINS, Jr., and Decatur County, Tennessee, Defendants.

No. 1:18-cv-01042-STA-cgc

United States District Court, W.D. Tennessee, Eastern Division.

Signed October 21, 2019


421 F.Supp.3d 552

Leanne A. Thorne, Law Office of Leanne Austin Thorne, Lexington, TN, for Plaintiff.

William B. Mauldin, J. Austin Stokes, Pentecost, Glenn, Mauldin & York PLLC, Jackson, TN, for Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

S. THOMAS ANDERSON, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

The informer's privilege is a long-standing rule of law that allows the government "to withhold from disclosure the identity of persons who furnish information" concerning criminal activity to law enforcement. State v. Ostein , 293 S.W.3d 519, 527 (Tenn. 2009) (quoting Roviaro v. United States , 353 U.S. 53, 59, 77 S.Ct. 623, 1 L.Ed.2d 639 (1957) ). This case presents a troubling example of the government disregarding the informer's privilege and disclosing the identity of an informer to the suspects he had reported to the police. Before the Court is Defendants Joseph Hudgins, Jr. and Decatur County, Tennessee's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 34) filed on July 15, 2019. Despite a failure to safeguard the informer's anonymity in this case, Defendants' Motion must be GRANTED.

BACKGROUND

This is an action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for the violation of Millinder's constitutional rights. Millinder alleges that he acted as an informant to report drug trafficking activity in Decatur County, Tennessee. Hudgins, who was at the time a Decatur County law enforcement official, took Millinder's tip and used the information to obtain a search warrant that led to two arrests and the bust of a drug, gambling, and alcohol ring. Millinder alleges that Hudgins created a risk to his personal safety by placing Millinder's written statement and personal identifying information in an investigative file that was later produced to the district attorney's office. The assistant district attorney prosecuting the case then produced the file with Millinder's statement and information to the attorney for the suspects in the course of discovery in the case against the suspects, thereby allowing the suspects to learn about Millinder's identity and involvement in the investigation of their crimes. Hudgins and Decatur County now seek summary judgment on Millinder's claims, arguing that Millinder cannot prove that Hudgins violated his rights. Defendants argue in the alternative that Hudgins is entitled to qualified immunity.

I. Factual Background

The Court first considers whether a genuine issue of material fact exists to preclude judgment as a matter of law at this stage of the case. In support of their Motion for Summary Judgment, Defendants have asserted that a number of facts are undisputed for purposes of Rule 56. Local Rule 56.1(a) requires a party seeking summary judgment to prepare a statement of facts "to assist the Court in ascertaining whether there are any material facts in dispute." Local R. 56.1(a). A fact is material if the fact "might affect the outcome of the lawsuit under the governing substantive law." Baynes v. Cleland , 799 F.3d 600, 607 (6th Cir. 2015) (citing Wiley v. United States , 20 F.3d 222, 224 (6th Cir. 1994) and

421 F.Supp.3d 553

Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 247–48, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986) ). A dispute about a material fact is genuine "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson , 477 U.S. at 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505. For purposes of summary judgment, a party asserting that a material fact is not genuinely in dispute must cite particular parts of the record and show that the evidence fails to establish a genuine dispute or that the adverse party has failed to produce admissible evidence to support a fact. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1).

The Court finds that the following facts are not in dispute for purposes of deciding Defendants' Rule 56 Motion. After his wife discovered marijuana in their son's pants pocket, Plaintiff David Millinder decided to conduct his own investigation into the source of the drugs. (Defs.' Statement of Undisputed Fact ¶¶ 1, 2; ECF No. 35-2). Millinder asked his nephew where a teenager could buy drugs in the area, and his nephew took him to Billy Bob's Bar. (Id. ¶ 3.) There, Millinder observed his nephew purchase $1,200 worth of marijuana from Jeff Hopper. (Id. ¶ 4.) Having witnessed an illegal drug transaction, Millinder contacted Defendant Joseph Hudgins, a criminal investigator employed at the Decatur County Sheriff's Department. (Id. ¶¶ 5-7.) Hudgins asked Millinder to meet him under a bridge in a secluded location for safety reasons. (Pl.'s Statement of Fact ¶ 12, ECF No. 38-1.)

On February 1, 2016, Millinder met Hudgins, reported what he had observed, and completed a written statement. (Defs.' Statement of Undisputed Fact ¶ 10; Pl.'s Statement of Fact ¶ 15.) Millinder wrote in his statement that he had seen "a pound of weed bought from Jeff Hopper's house" within the last 24 hours. (Defs.' Statement of Undisputed Fact ¶ 11.)1 Plaintiff's report was consistent with other information Hudgins had previously received about Jeff Hopper. (Pl.'s Statement of Fact ¶¶ 13, 18.) So using Millinder's information, Hudgins obtained a search warrant for Hopper's home. During the search of Hopper's residence, Hudgins discovered marijuana, firearms, and drug paraphernalia. (Id. ¶ 22.) Based on the evidence recovered during the search, police then obtained arrest warrants for Hopper and his girlfriend Judy Mills and made the arrests at Billy Bob's Bar. (Id. ¶ 25.) As part of a search of the bar incident to the arrests, police found more weapons, gambling machines, and evidence of illegal alcohol sales. (Id. ¶ 26.) Hopper and Mills were both charged and eventually pleaded guilty to avoid trial. (Id. ¶ 39.)

Millinder's allegations against Hudgins and Decatur County in this case stem from the handling of his February 2016 statement reporting Hopper's illegal activities. According to Millinder, Hudgins assured him that his identity would remain confidential and that his statement would be stored in a locked cabinet, though Defendants add that the state would have called Millinder as a witness if the case had gone to trial. (Id. ¶ 17.) A confidential informant usually has some connection to or involvement with the criminal enterprise he reports to the police; whereas, a citizen informant has no such connection. (Id. ¶¶ 6-8.) Even though there was no evidence Millinder was involved in Hopper's criminal activity,

421 F.Supp.3d 554

Hudgins treated Millinder like a confidential informant, not a citizen informant. (Id. ¶¶ 9, 15.) Hudgins assigned Millinder a confidential informant number and required him to complete the paperwork for confidential informants, all out of concern over Millinder's motives in reporting Hopper, even after Millinder's tip was corroborated by what the police found at Hopper's home and Billy Bob's Bar. (Id. ¶¶ 15, 16.)

Under Decatur County policies, a source's statements and personal information were deemed confidential. (Id. ¶ 10.) Hudgins testified that while employed by Decatur County, his practice was to keep confidential informant statements in a confidential file separate from his investigative file. (Id. ¶ 27.) Hudgins did not produce confidential files to the District Attorney, only investigative files. (Id. ¶ 28.) Before turning over an investigative file to the District Attorney, Hudgins would typically review the file and remove or redact any personal or confidential information. (Id. ¶¶ 11, 29.) Although Hudgins viewed Millinder like a confidential informant, Hudgins did not follow his normal practice of storing Millinder's statement in a confidential file. Instead, Hudgins kept Millinder's informant statement in the investigative file. (Id. ¶ 32.) In Hudgins's opinion, Millinder's statement was "the basis for the whole case." (Defs.' Statement of Undisputed Fact ¶ 13.)

When Hudgins left his employment at the Decatur County Sheriff's Department in October 2016, a copy of Millinder's statement incriminating Hopper was still in Hudgins's investigative file. (Id. ¶ 17.) The parties dispute how exactly the investigative file containing a copy of Millinder's written statement came to the District Attorney's Office. Hudgins claims that all of his investigative files and his confidential files remained in the custody of the Decatur County Sheriff's Department at the time of his resignation. (Id. ¶ 18.) Hudgins denies that he personally provided a copy of the investigative file containing Millinder's statement to the DA. (Id. ¶ 22.) Millinder contends that Hudgins's other testimony shows Hudgins had already turned the investigative file over to the DA before he left the Sheriff's Department. In any event, it is undisputed that Hudgins did not disclose Millinder's identity or produce any information about Millinder to the suspects themselves, Hopper and Mills. (Id. ¶¶ 23-24.)

The Assistant DA responsible for the prosecution against Hopper and Mills was Lisa Miller. (Id. ¶¶ 47, 60.) Miller was employed by the State of Tennessee in Tennessee's 24th Judicial District,...

To continue reading

Request your trial
2 practice notes
  • Barefield v. Hillman, No. 3:17-cv-01525
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Tennessee
    • July 27, 2020
    ...negligence, meaning the government official knows of and disregards an excessive risk to the safety of another. Millinder v. Hudgins , 421 F. Supp. 3d 549, 560 (W.D. Tenn. 2019). Ordinarily, "deliberate indifference" means that the defendant both knew of and consciously disregarde......
  • Emery v. Kory, CASE NO. 2:19-cv-11419
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Michigan)
    • September 22, 2020
    ...on affirmative state action that denies life, liberty, or propertyPage 9 without due process of law." Millinder v. Hudgins, 421 F. Supp. 3d 549, 556-557 (W.D. Tenn. 2019) (quoting Barber v. Overton, 496 F.3d 449, 453 (6th Cir. 2007)). "The state created danger doctrine exists as a......
2 cases
  • Barefield v. Hillman, No. 3:17-cv-01525
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Tennessee
    • July 27, 2020
    ...negligence, meaning the government official knows of and disregards an excessive risk to the safety of another. Millinder v. Hudgins , 421 F. Supp. 3d 549, 560 (W.D. Tenn. 2019). Ordinarily, "deliberate indifference" means that the defendant both knew of and consciously disregarde......
  • Emery v. Kory, CASE NO. 2:19-cv-11419
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Michigan)
    • September 22, 2020
    ...on affirmative state action that denies life, liberty, or propertyPage 9 without due process of law." Millinder v. Hudgins, 421 F. Supp. 3d 549, 556-557 (W.D. Tenn. 2019) (quoting Barber v. Overton, 496 F.3d 449, 453 (6th Cir. 2007)). "The state created danger doctrine exists as a......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT