Santoni v. Potter

Decision Date27 May 2004
Docket NumberNo. 03-1914.,03-1914.
Citation369 F.3d 594
PartiesVincent James SANTONI, Jr., Plaintiff, Appellant, v. John E. POTTER, Postmaster General and Ceo, United States Postal Service et al., Defendants, Appellees.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit

Cynthia Dill for the appellant.

Evan J. Roth, Assistant United States Attorney, with whom Paula D. Silsby, United States Attorney, was on brief for appellees John Potter, United States Postmaster General, and Michael Desrosiers. Peter T. Marchesi, with whom Wheeler & Arey, P.A. was on the brief for appellees Barry DeLong and Randy Wing.

Before BOUDIN, Chief Judge, LYNCH, and LIPEZ, Circuit Judges.

LIPEZ, Circuit Judge.

Vincent Santoni appeals from the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendants on his claims against Michael Desrosiers and John E. Potter, Postmaster General and CEO of the United States Postal Service (USPS).1 Santoni, a former postmaster of Solon, Maine, was arrested for indecent exposure by a local deputy sheriff. Desrosiers, a postal inspector who had sworn out the arrest warrant, accompanied the deputy sheriff and participated in the arrest. Santoni subsequently filed an 18-count complaint against Desrosiers, the USPS, and the sheriff and deputy sheriff of Somerset County, Maine, asserting a variety of federal constitutional and state law claims in connection with the allegedly unlawful arrest. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants on all counts. Santoni appeals from the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the federal defendants2 on his Fourth Amendment claim under Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388, 91 S.Ct. 1999, 29 L.Ed.2d 619 (1971), and his claims of unlawful arrest, assault, battery, and false imprisonment under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1346(b), 2671-2680. We affirm the decision of the district court.


On August 2, 1999, Michael Desrosiers, a postal inspector for the United States Postal Service, learned that the USPS had received a complaint concerning Vincent Santoni, the postmaster of Solon, Maine. The complaint alleged that Santoni had exposed himself to Heather M., a 15-year-old girl who resided in Solon. On August 13, 1999, Desrosiers' supervisor instructed him to conduct an immediate investigation.

On August 16, 1999, Desrosiers interviewed Heather, who said that around 2 p.m. on July 15, 1999, she was riding her bicycle across a bridge near the post office in Solon when she heard someone call her name. She turned around and recognized Santoni, whom she knew, standing by the edge of the water with his pants down to his knees and both of his hands holding his exposed penis. Heather told Desrosiers that for several years Santoni had been making inappropriate sexual comments and gestures to her during her visits to the Solon post office. Heather's mother, who attended the interview, said that Santoni had also made inappropriate comments to her and to other women. Desrosiers prepared a type-written statement based on the interview, which Heather reviewed and signed. Over the next few weeks, Desrosiers interviewed other female customers of the Solon post office who reported that Santoni had touched them or made inappropriate comments while he was at work at the post office.

On September 8, 1999, Desrosiers discussed the results of his investigation with Andrew Benson, an Assistant District Attorney (ADA) for Somerset County, Maine. At Benson's request, Desrosiers arranged for a fellow postal inspector, who was also a polygraph examiner, to administer a polygraph examination of Heather. After receiving the results of the test, which Heather passed, Desrosiers again discussed the case with ADA Benson. At the conclusion of that discussion, the DA's Office authorized the prosecution of Santoni on the criminal charge of indecent conduct, a Class E misdemeanor under 17A Me.Rev.Stat. Ann. § 854.

On October 5, 1999, Desrosiers appeared before the clerk of the state district court in Skowhegan, Maine, to present a request for a criminal complaint and a warrant for Santoni's arrest. He also submitted a supporting affidavit identifying Desrosiers as a postal inspector and stating that he had probable cause to believe that Santoni had committed the state law offense of indecent conduct, in violation of 17A Me.Rev.Stat. Ann. § 854. The affidavit provided details about Desrosiers' interview with Heather and stated that she had passed a polygraph examination. The court clerk issued a criminal complaint against Santoni for violating the indecent conduct statute and a corresponding warrant for his arrest. At Desrosiers' request, Randy Wing, a deputy sheriff for Somerset County, accompanied Desrosiers to Santoni's home, where Santoni was arrested. On April 21, 2000, Santoni was tried in the Skowhegan District Court and was acquitted after the court determined that the evidence was insufficient to sustain a conviction for indecent conduct.3

On January 3, 2002, Santoni filed an 18-count complaint in the United States District Court for the District of Maine against the USPS, Desrosiers, Wing, and Somerset County Sheriff Barry DeLong. He sued the USPS pursuant to the FTCA, 18 U.S.C. §§ 1346, 2671 et seq., claiming that it was liable to him for unlawful arrest, abuse of process, malicious prosecution, false imprisonment, intentional and/or negligent infliction of emotional distress, assault, battery, invasion of privacy, and negligent supervision and training. He sued Desrosiers in his individual capacity, seeking damages for violations of the First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments of the United States Constitution pursuant to Bivens, 403 U.S. at 388, 91 S.Ct. 1999. Santoni brought analogous Fourth Amendment claims against Wing and DeLong pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He further claimed that all four defendants had engaged in a civil conspiracy to violate his federal and state civil rights.

On April 8, 2002, Desrosiers and the USPS, the federal defendants, moved to dismiss or for summary judgment on all of Santoni's federal claims. The district court determined that no constitutional rights had been violated and that, in any event, Desrosiers was protected from liability on Santoni's Fourth Amendment claim by the doctrine of qualified immunity. Although it found that Santoni's FTCA claims against the USPS did not fall within the FTCA's discretionary function exception, it held that the claims failed on their merits. Therefore, the district court granted summary judgment in favor of Desrosiers and the USPS and dismissed Santoni's claims against them. After the district court granted summary judgment for the federal defendants, the lawsuit proceeded against DeLong and Wing. Following discovery, the state defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, which was granted. Santoni filed this appeal against all of the original defendants but has chosen not to prosecute his claims against the state defendants.


On appeal, Santoni challenges the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Desrosiers on Santoni's Bivens claim. He argues that because Desrosiers lacked authority under state or federal law to make an arrest for a Class E state law crime, the arrest of Santoni constituted an unreasonable seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment. He further claims that Desrosiers is not entitled to qualified immunity. In addition, Santoni argues that because the district court improperly determined that the arrest was lawful, it erred in granting summary judgment in favor of the USPS on Santoni's FTCA claims. We address each of these arguments in turn.

A. Standard of Review

We review the district court's grant of summary judgment de novo. Wojcik v. Mass. State Lottery Comm'n, 300 F.3d 92, 98 (1st Cir.2002). Summary judgment is appropriate where the evidence shows that "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). A fact is "material" if it "might affect the outcome of the suit" under the applicable legal standard. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). A factual issue is "genuine" only "if a reasonable jury could resolve it in favor of either party." Basic Controlex Corp., Inc. v. Klockner Moeller Corp., 202 F.3d 450, 453 (1st Cir.2000). In deciding whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, we construe the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Flowers v. Fiore, 359 F.3d 24, 29 (1st Cir.2004).

B. Bivens Claim Against Desrosiers
1. Santoni's Arrest

Under Bivens, a person may sue a federal official in his or her individual capacity for damages arising out of a constitutional violation committed under color of federal law. See Bivens, 403 U.S. at 389, 91 S.Ct. 1999; Aversa v. United States 99 F.3d 1200, 1213 (1st Cir.1996). Relying on Bivens, Santoni claims that because Desrosiers had no legal authority to make an arrest for a state law misdemeanor, his arrest of Santoni constituted an unreasonable seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment.4

We have not resolved whether an arresting officer's lack of authority under state or federal law to conduct an otherwise constitutionally valid arrest constitutes an unreasonable seizure under the Fourth Amendment. The circuits are divided on this issue. Compare Malone v. County of Suffolk, 968 F.2d 1480, 1482-83 (2d Cir.1992) (whether officers have valid authority to arrest pursuant to state law affects constitutionality of the arrest); Ross v. Neff, 905 F.2d 1349, 1353-54 (10th Cir.1990) (arrest executed outside of the officer's jurisdiction violates the Fourth Amendment and gives rise to a potential § 1983 action); and United States v. Trigg, 878 F.2d 1037, 1041 (7th Cir.1989) (custodial arrest is constitutional if arresting officer had probable...

To continue reading

Request your trial
197 cases
  • Buchanan ex rel. Estate of Buchanan v. Maine, No. CIV.04-26-B-W.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Maine
    • 16 Febrero 2006
    ...issue of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. Civ. P. 56(c); Santoni v. Potter, 369 F.3d 594, 598 (1st Cir.2004). Not every factual dispute is "sufficient to thwart summary judgment; the contested fact must be `material' and the disput......
  • Sánchez v. United States
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit
    • 14 Febrero 2012
    ...must be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.” Abreu, 468 F.3d at 25 (alteration in original) (quoting Santoni v. Potter, 369 F.3d 594, 602 (1st Cir.2004)) (internal quotation marks omitted). Under United States v. Gaubert, 499 U.S. 315, 111 S.Ct. 1267, 113 L.Ed.2d 335 (1991), ......
  • Rooney v. Town of Groton
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Massachusetts
    • 23 Septiembre 2008
    ...v. Gwadosky, 430 F.3d 30, 34 (1st Cir.2005), cert. denied, 547 U.S. 1143, 126 S.Ct. 2034, 164 L.Ed.2d 806 (2006); Santoni v. Potter, 369 F.3d 594, 598 (1st Cir.2004); Mulvihill, 335 F.3d at 19; Podiatrist Ass'n, Inc. v. La Cruz Azul De Puerto Rico, Inc., 332 F.3d 6, 13 (1st Cir.2003). Despi......
  • Charette v. St. John Valley Soil & Water Conservation Dist.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Maine
    • 17 Agosto 2018
    ...most favorable to the nonmoving party and give that party the benefit of all reasonable inferences in its favor. See Santoni v. Potter, 369 F.3d 594, 598 (1st Cir. 2004).Once the moving party has made this preliminary showing, the nonmoving party must "produce specific facts, in suitable ev......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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