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Bryant v. City of Goodyear

United States District Court, D. Arizona

May 19, 2014

David Bryant, et al., Plaintiffs,
The City of Goodyear, et al., Defendants.


JAMES A. TEILBORG, Senior District Judge.

Pending before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 116). The Court now rules on the motion.

I. Background

The following basic facts surrounding this case are undisputed. Plaintiff David Bryant ("Bryant") was a sergeant with the Goodyear Police Department's ("GPD") Street Crimes Unit ("SCU"). In November 2010, the GPD initiated an investigation of Bryant for alleged discrepancies between Bryant's reported hours worked and the time he actually worked. The investigation arose when Bryant's squad members allegedly reported that Bryant had instructed them to report ten hours worked on November 9, 2010 but they had only worked five hours that day. Bryant reported on his own timesheet for that day that he had worked ten hours, but according to Defendants, had only worked five hours. (Doc. 117-3 at 20-21, 23-24).

Sergeant Jeff Rogers was assigned to conduct an internal investigation into the SCU squad members' claims.[1] Rogers obtained summary reports of timesheets for SCU squad members, copies of their original timesheets and timesheet corrections, and reports of starting and ending times as recorded by radio operators in Computer Aided Dispatch ("CAD"). Rogers found what he termed a "large discrepancy" between Bryant's timesheets and CAD logs, but no significant discrepancy in the records of the other four SCU squad members. (Doc. 117-4 at 3). Rogers recommended that Bryant be criminally investigated.

Based on Rogers' alleged discovery of a discrepancy, Lieutenant Newman criminally investigated Bryant. Newman received Rogers' memorandum of his findings as well as copies of timesheets, "hours proof listings, unit/officer status inquiry listings, hours history detail selection criteria, and unit log listings for David Bryant." (Defendants' Statement of Facts in Support of their Motion for Summary Judgment ("DSOF") ΒΆ 76). Newman reviewed these records for the time period from January 1, 2010 through July 24, 2010, as well as Bryant's posted work schedule for January 1, 2010 through November 13, 2010. Newman also reviewed computer access and logon records, facility access control records, off-duty work records, and phone records. Newman discovered facts that he believed showed Bryant had falsified his timesheets. For example, Bryant had submitted a timesheet claiming he worked ten hours on July 30, 2010, but he was on vacation in Texas that week.[2]

Based on his investigation, Newman submitted charges to the County Attorney involving Bryant's hours for the dates of August 27, 2010; September 7, 2010; September 23, 2010; and October 14, 2010. (Doc. 117-2 at 9). Newman subsequently sent a complete report to the County Attorney concerning these as well as other dates and times for which Newman believed Bryant had been compensated but had not worked. ( Id. at 8). A grand jury eventually indicted Bryant on seventeen counts, including fraudulent schemes and practices, theft, and forgery. The County Attorney later dismissed the indictment.

II. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate when "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). "A party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must support that assertion by... citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits, or declarations, stipulations... admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials, " or by "showing that materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact." Id. 56(c)(1)(A), (B). Thus, summary judgment is mandated "against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

Initially, the movant bears the burden of pointing out to the Court the basis for the motion and the elements of the causes of action upon which the non-movant will be unable to establish a genuine issue of material fact. Id. at 323. The burden then shifts to the non-movant to establish the existence of material fact. Id. The non-movant "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts" by "com[ing] forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e) (1963) (amended 2010)). A dispute about a fact is "genuine" if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The non-movant's bare assertions, standing alone, are insufficient to create a material issue of fact and defeat a motion for summary judgment. Id. at 247-48. However, in the summary judgment context, the Court construes all disputed facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Ellison v. Robertson, 357 F.3d 1072, 1075 (9th Cir. 2004).

III. Qualified Immunity

Defendants Newman, McLaughlin, and Brown argue they are entitled to qualified immunity as a matter of law because at least one reasonable police officer in their position could have believed their conduct was permissible. (Doc. 116 at 12).

A. Legal Standard

"The doctrine of qualified immunity protects government officials from liability for civil damages insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known." Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 231 (2009) (quoting Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982)). This protection "applies regardless of whether the government official's error is a mistake of law, a mistake of fact, or a mistake based on mixed questions of law and fact.'" Id. (quoting Groh v. Ramirez, 540 U.S. 551, 567 (2004)). There is a two-step test for resolving a qualified immunity claim: the "constitutional inquiry" and the "qualified immunity inquiry." Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 201 (2001). The "constitutional inquiry" asks whether, when taken in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, the facts alleged show that the official's conduct violated a constitutional right. Id. If so, a court turns to ...

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