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Block v. Phoenix Police Department

United States District Court, D. Arizona

March 15, 2017

Curtis Lee Block, Plaintiff,
Phoenix Police Department, et al., Defendants.


         Plaintiff Curtis Lee Block brought this pro se civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Phoenix Police Department Officers Adam Applegate, James Ray, and Seth Jahnke. (Doc. 7.)[1] Before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, which Plaintiff opposes. (Docs. 34, 57.)

         The Court will grant the Motion and terminate the action.

         I. Background

         In his First Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleged that on June 21, 2014, Defendants violated his Fourth Amendment rights when they entered the curtilage of his residence to arrest him without a warrant. (Doc. 7.)

         Defendants move for summary judgment on the grounds that (1) they did not violate the Fourth Amendment because Plaintiff had numerous misdemeanor warrants for his arrest and (2) Plaintiff's claim is barred by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 486-87 (1994). (Doc. 34.)

         The Court issued an Order with the Notice required under Rand v. Rowland, 154 F.3d 952, 960 (9th Cir. 1998), which informed Plaintiff of the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. (Doc. 37.) After some procedural delays, the Motion for Summary Judgment is fully briefed and ready for ruling. (Docs. 57, 63.)[2]

         II. Summary Judgment Standard

         A court must grant summary judgment “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); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). The movant bears the initial responsibility of presenting the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the record, together with affidavits, if any, that it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323.

         If the movant fails to carry its initial burden of production, the nonmovant need not produce anything. Nissan Fire & Marine Ins. Co., Ltd. v. Fritz Co., Inc., 210 F.3d 1099, 1102-03 (9th Cir. 2000). But if the movant meets its initial responsibility, the burden then shifts to the nonmovant to demonstrate the existence of a factual dispute and that the fact in contention is material, i.e., a fact that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law, and that the dispute is genuine, i.e., the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmovant. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 250 (1986); see Triton Energy Corp. v. Square D. Co., 68 F.3d 1216, 1221 (9th Cir. 1995). The nonmovant need not establish a material issue of fact conclusively in its favor, First Nat'l Bank of Ariz. v. Cities Serv. Co., 391 U.S. 253, 288- 89 (1968); however, it must “come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (internal citation omitted); see Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1).

         At summary judgment, the judge's function is not to weigh the evidence and determine the truth but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. In its analysis, the court does not make credibility determinations; it must believe the nonmovant's evidence and draw all inferences in the nonmovant's favor. Id. at 255; Soremekun v. Thrifty Payless, Inc., 509 F.3d 978, 984 (9th Cir. 2007). The court need consider only the cited materials, but it may consider any other materials in the record. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3).

         III. Relevant Facts

         On June 14, 2014, Sergeant Jahnke met with members of his squad and informed them that there was probable cause to arrest Plaintiff on an attempted robbery charge stemming from a 2012 incident. (Doc. 35, Defs.' Statement of Facts ¶ 1.) Applegate conducted a records check of Plaintiff and found that he had numerous misdemeanor warrants for his arrest, primarily for failure to appear, and Applegate shared this information with Jahnke and Ray. (Id. ¶ 2.) Defendants decided to conduct a knock-and-talk at Plaintiff's last known address; however, they were advised Plaintiff had not been at that residence recently. (Id. ¶¶ 3-4.) Defendants attempted to locate Plaintiff at possible job sites and another residential address, to no avail. (Id. ¶¶ 8-9.)

         A woman at the last residential address directed Defendants to a house on the corner of 10th Avenue and Buckeye, where Defendants observed a bicycle that matched the description of the bicycle Plaintiff was known to ride. (Id. ¶¶ 13, 16.) This house had a chain link fence surrounding the front yard and a gate. (Id. ¶ 17.) Applegate approached the gate and could see someone seated inside a porch enclosure; Applegate called out Plaintiff's name, and Plaintiff came to the gate. (Id. ¶¶ 18-19; Doc. 58 at 2.) Upon request, Plaintiff handed his Arizona driver's license to Applegate, which confirmed Plaintiff's identity. (Doc. 35 ¶ 20; Doc. 58 at 2.) Applegate asked Plaintiff to come out of the yard to discuss a case with him, but Plaintiff refused and advised Applegate to get a warrant. (Doc. 35 ¶ 22; Doc. 58 at 2.) According to Plaintiff, he and Applegate had a discussion about the officers' need for a warrant to enter the premises absent any exigent circumstances. (Doc. 7 at 3.) Plaintiff also told Applegate that he was aware there was a misdemeanor warrant for his arrest; however, Applegate told Plaintiff the officers were not there on the misdemeanor warrant. (Doc. 58 at 2.)

         Defendants then went into a huddle, and Applegate explained the situation to Jahnke; they agreed that Applegate would attempt to detain Plaintiff the next time he made contact. (Doc. 58 at 2; Doc. 35 ¶ 23.) Applegate returned to the front gate and handed Plaintiff his driver's license back; when Plaintiff reached for his license, Applegate grabbed his wrist ...

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