Robinson v. City of St. Louis, Case No. 4:17-CV-156 PLC

CourtUnited States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Missouri)
PartiesKAYLA ROBINSON, Plaintiff, v. CITY OF ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI, et al, Defendants.
Docket NumberCase No. 4:17-CV-156 PLC
Decision Date06 April 2018

CITY OF ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI, et al, Defendants.

Case No. 4:17-CV-156 PLC


April 6, 2018


This matter is before the Court1 on two motions for summary judgment: (1) a motion for partial summary judgment filed by Plaintiff Kayla Robinson (ECF No. 50); and (2) a motion for summary judgment filed by Defendants2 St. Louis City police officers Angela Hawkins and Kelli Swinton and the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department Board of Police Commissioners and its individual members (collectively, "Board Defendants") (ECF No. 53). For the following reasons, Plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment is denied and Defendants' motion for summary judgment is granted in part and denied in part.

On November 15, 2016, Plaintiff filed a petition in the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 asserting claims of unreasonable strip search, excessive force, municipal liability, and civil conspiracy following her arrest on October 19, 2012 in the City of St. Louis. (ECF No. 3). Plaintiff alleged that, during a traffic stop, Defendant Hawkins,

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a St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department (SLMPD) officer, pushed Plaintiff against a tractor-trailer two times, lowered Plaintiff's pants and underwear, and placed her hand against Plaintiff's vagina, thus violating the Fourth Amendment's prohibition on unreasonable searches and use of excessive force (Counts I and II). Plaintiff further claimed that Defendants Hawkins and Defendant Swinton, another SLMPD officer, conspired to cover-up Defendant Hawkins' wrongdoing (Count VI).

In her original petition, Plaintiff also alleged counts of municipal and supervisory liability against the City of St. Louis, claiming its customs and failure to train and supervise Defendant Hawkins led to the deprivation of Plaintiff's constitutional rights (Counts III, IV, V). Defendant City of St. Louis removed the case to federal court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441 and the Court's federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331. (ECF No. 1). Plaintiff subsequently filed a first amended complaint replacing Defendant City of St. Louis with the St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners and its individual members, Defendants Gray, Battle-Turner, Irwin, Switzer, and Slay, in their official capacities only. (ECF No. 18).

Plaintiff's first amended complaint alleges the following claims under Section 1983: (1) unreasonable search and use of excessive force in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments against Defendant Hawkins in her individual and official capacities; (2) unconstitutional custom or policy permitting unreasonable searches and use of excessive force, failure to train, and failure to supervise resulting in the deprivation of rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments against the Board Defendants; and (3) civil conspiracy in furtherance of violations of the Fourth Amendment against Defendants Hawkins and Swinton in their individual and official capacities.

Plaintiff moves for partial summary judgment against Defendant Hawkins on her claim

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under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for unreasonable search in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution. (ECF No. 50). Defendants seek summary judgment on all six of Plaintiff's Section 1983 claims. (ECF No. 53).

I. Legal Standard

The standards applicable to summary judgment motions are well settled, and they do not change when both parties have moved for summary judgment. See Wermager v. Cormorant Twp. Bd., 716 F.2d 1211, 1214 (8th Cir. 1983); CitiMortgage, Inc. v. Equity Bank, N.A., 261 F.Supp.3d 942, 950 (E.D.Mo. 2017). Summary judgment is proper "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a); Hill v. Walker, 737 F.3d 1209, 1216 (8th Cir. 2013). The movant "bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion" and must identify "those portions of [the record]...which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). If the movant does so, the non-movant must respond by submitting evidentiary materials that set out "specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Id. at 324 (quotation marks omitted).

"On a motion for summary judgment, 'facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party only if there is a genuine dispute as to those facts.'" Ricci v. DeStefano, 557 U.S. 557, 586 (2009) (quoting Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007) (internal quotation marks omitted)). The court's function is not to weigh the evidence but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). "Credibility determinations, the weighing of the evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the facts are jury functions, not those of a judge." Torgerson v. City of

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Rochester, 643 F.3d 1031, 1042 (8th Cir. 2011) (quoting Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000)).

Where parties file cross-motions for summary judgment, each motion should be reviewed in its own right, with each non-moving party "entitled to the benefit of all inferences favorable to them which might reasonably be drawn from the record[.]" Wermager, 716 F.2d at 1214; see also Canada v. Union Elec Co., 135 F.3d 1211, 1212-13 (8th Cir. 1998). "[T]he filing of cross motions for summary judgment does not necessarily indicate that there is no dispute as to a material fact, or have the effect of submitting the cause to a plenary determination on the merits." Wermager, 716 F.2d at 1214.

II. Background

a. Stop and Search

On the evening of October 19, 2012, St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department (SLMPD) officers, including Defendant Hawkins, Capt. Joseph Spiess, and Sgt. Mark McMurry, were conducting a police checkpoint to "look for guns, drugs, and violent offenders." At approximately 10:30 p.m., Plaintiff's boyfriend, Ronnell Jenkins, was driving Plaintiff's car, and Plaintiff was a front-seat passenger. Mr. Jenkins' brother, Richard Jones, was a passenger in the back seat of the vehicle. Defendant Hawkins and Capt. Spiess observed Plaintiff's vehicle make an illegal u-turn to avoid the checkpoint. In response, they activated the roof lights and siren of their unmarked police car and pulled over Plaintiff's vehicle. Defendant Hawkins and Captain Spiess stopped Plaintiff's vehicle to determine if Plaintiff, Mr. Jenkins, and Mr. Jones were "purposely attempting to avoid police contact at the checkpoint" and to "look for drugs and guns."

Defendant Hawkins, wearing street attire and a black vest that said "Police," approached

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Plaintiff's vehicle. As Defendant Hawkins neared the rear, passenger side of the vehicle, she observed Mr. Jenkins "hand something" to Plaintiff. Defendant Hawkins continued walking toward the passenger-side door and saw Plaintiff "taking her hands out of the front of her waistband." Defendant Hawkins reached the passenger-side door and observed Mr. Jenkins and Plaintiff complete their exchange within "a second or two." Defendant Hawkins had "a hunch" that Plaintiff and Mr. Jenkins had exchanged drugs or a weapon.

Defendant Hawkins instructed Plaintiff to show her hands and exit the vehicle. Plaintiff complied. Defendant Hawkins handcuffed Plaintiff's hands together behind her back and performed a standard pat-down search.3 Defendant Hawkins found no weapons or contraband on Plaintiff's person as a result of that search.

After the pat-down search, Defendant Hawkins asked Plaintiff what she had placed in her waistband, and Plaintiff admitted, "I have some marijuana." When Defendant Hawkins instructed Plaintiff to retrieve the marijuana, Plaintiff asked Defendant Hawkins to transport her to the police station and allow her to retrieve the marijuana there. Defendant Hawkins refused, explaining that ". . . it was an officer safety issue and that wasn't . . . possible."

Because Plaintiff did not want "to retrieve [the marijuana] in front of the male officers," Defendant Hawkins walked her around a building to "a nearby parking lot," stopping behind a tractor-trailer. Plaintiff did not resist but "begged" Defendant Hawkins to conduct the search "back at the station."

Prior to conducting the strip search, Defendant Hawkins requested rubber gloves over the

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radio. Another SLMPD officer, Sgt. Mark McMurry, drove his patrol car "alongside the trailer," handed Defendant Hawkins a pair of gloves, and "walked away."

At this point, Plaintiff's and Defendants' versions of events diverge significantly. According to Defendant Hawkins' deposition testimony, she unfastened Plaintiff's belt because Plaintiff's hands remained cuffed behind her back. Defendant Hawkins stated that unfastening Plaintiff's belt loosened Plaintiff's jeans "quite substantially" so that Plaintiff was able to lower them to about mid-thigh and retrieve the marijuana from her underwear. According to Defendant Hawkins' account, when Plaintiff retrieved the marijuana, she also withdrew a small baggie of what appeared to be crack, which Plaintiff attempted to shove down her pants leg and hide under her foot. Defendant Hawkins ordered Plaintiff to move her foot and collected the baggie. Defendant Hawkins stated that Plaintiff pulled her pants back up in the same manner that she pulled them down, and Defendant Hawkins refastened her belt.

Plaintiff, on the other hand, alleges that, when she asked Defendant Hawkins to search her at the police station, Defendant Hawkins said, "Bitch, no, we're doing this right now" and "was just yelling and in [Plaintiff's] face continuously." In her deposition, Plaintiff testified that Defendant Hawkins "drug [her] without shoes to a vacant...

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