SIMMONS v. GRANDISON Case No. 10-13681.
833 F.Supp.2d 702 (2011)
Catherine SIMMONS, Plaintiff, v. Darrin GRANDISON and William Dawson, individually and in their capacities as Michigan State Police Officers, Defendants.
United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division.
June 20, 2011.
Joseph T. Froehlich, Michigan Attorney General, Lansing, MI, for Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
PATRICK J. DUGGAN, District Judge.
On September 16, 2010, Catherine Simmons ("Plaintiff") filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Michigan State Police Detective Specialists Darrin Grandison and William Dawson ("Defendants") violated her constitutional rights during an investigation of suspected money laundering. Before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, filed on March 8, 2011 pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. The matter has been fully briefed, and the Court heard oral argument on June 9, 2011. For the reasons stated below, the Court grants Defendants' Motion in part and denies it in part.
I. Factual and Procedural Background
Detective Specialists Grandison and Dawson are assigned to Gaming Unit of the Michigan State Police, which is tasked with the enforcement of Michigan's gambling laws. On June 7, 2009, Grandison was asked by his Sergeant to investigate a report of suspicious play at the Greektown Casino in Detroit. The casino's surveillance team had advised the Michigan State Police that a patron was "force feeding" slot machines.
Grandison and two casino security officers approached Plaintiff. Grandison stated that he was a state trooper with the Michigan State Police Gaming Section and asked Plaintiff to cash out and follow him. Plaintiff refused to do so. Grandison asked Plaintiff a second time, and she again refused. Grandison then pressed the button on the machine to cash out the remaining credits and instructed Plaintiff to take the ticket and follow him. Plaintiff took the ticket and accompanied Grandison and the casino security officers to an interview room.
In the interview room, Grandison searched Plaintiff's purse for weapons. He then advised Plaintiff that he was going to take the money and TITO tickets she was holding in her hand. Plaintiff pulled back at first, but after Grandison explained that the room was subject to video and audio surveillance, she turned over the money and tickets. Plaintiff asked to leave, and Grandison replied that she could not leave until after he completed an accounting of the money and tickets. Grandison asked Plaintiff if she knew what the total of the money and tickets was, and she responded that she came to the casino with five thousand dollars. Grandison counted eleven $100 bills and twenty-three TITO tickets. He totaled these and explained to Plaintiff that his total was $3,543. Grandison then told Plaintiff that she was free to leave, and she exited the interview room. According to Grandison, the entire encounter with Plaintiff lasted less than thirty minutes. Grandison Dep. 49:19-23, Aug. 27, 2010. Plaintiff claims that she was detained for approximately forty-five minutes. Pl.'s Resp. Br. 2.
Later that night, Grandison spoke with Detective Specialist William Dawson of the Michigan State Police Gaming Unit, who had already opened an investigation relating to possible money laundering by Plaintiff. Grandison therefore turned his materials over to Dawson. Dawson continued his investigation for the next fifteen months, during which Plaintiff or her attorney inquired several times about the return of the money. The money has since been returned to Plaintiff.
Plaintiff filed this suit on September 16, 2010, alleging that her constitutional rights were violated by Grandison's search and seizure of her person (Count I); Grandison's search and seizure of her property (Count II); and Dawson's "illegal retention" of her property during the investigation (Count III).
II. Standard of Review
Summary judgment is appropriate when "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The central inquiry is "whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
Once the movant meets this burden, the non-movant must come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp.,
A. Governing Law
Although Plaintiff raises her claims under the Due Process Clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, her search and seizure claims are properly analyzed under the Fourth Amendment. See Graham v. Connor,
Police officers may conduct investigatory stops that fall short of traditional arrest where the officer's action is supported by reasonable suspicion to believe that criminal activity may be afoot. United States v. Arvizu,
B. Plaintiff's Detention by Grandison
1. Reasonable Suspicion
Grandison had reasonable suspicion to believe that Plaintiff was committing criminal activity. Casino surveillance had explained to him that Plaintiff's play was inconsistent with that of normal gamblers. Grandison also observed Plaintiff in person, concluding that her gambling activity was minimal and she was attempting to change bills. Grandison's training and experience in the enforcement of gaming laws enabled him to recognize the signs of possible money laundering in Plaintiff's actions. While Grandison could not yet establish that Plaintiff had engaged in money
Plaintiff argues that Grandison had no reason to suspect that she was engaged in illegal activity. She contends that it is not illegal to gamble against a $100 bill eight to ten times, cash out the remaining balance, and begin the process again with another $100 bill. Pl.'s Resp. Br. 8. Such conduct is only legal, however, where it is not used to conceal the proceeds of criminal activity. Plaintiff's unusual play gave Grandison reason to conclude that she was merely attempting to change bills. Grandison's training and experience indicated that a frequent motive for changing bills is to conceal the proceeds of criminal activity. This sort of concealment is illegal under Michigan law. See Michigan Compiled Laws § 750.411k. Grandison could articulate a particularized basis for suspecting wrongdoing, and the reasonable suspicion standard requires nothing more.
2. Intrusiveness of the Search and Seizure
The degree of suspicion is only the first part of the reasonableness inquiry relating to a Terry stop. The Court also considers the manner in which the search and seizure were conducted. Terry, 392 U.S. at 28, 88 S.Ct. at 1883. "The scope of activities during an investigatory detention must reasonably be related to the circumstances that initially justified the stop." United States v. Richardson,
Plaintiff argues that the duration of her detention exceeded that permitted in an investigatory stop, turning it into an arrest. In assessing whether a detention is too long in duration to be justified as an investigative stop, courts examine whether the police diligently pursued a means of investigation that was likely to confirm or dispel their suspicions quickly, during which time it was necessary to detain the defendant. United States v. Sharpe,
Plaintiff concludes that because she was seized by Grandison, the encounter cannot be a Terry stop. Pl.'s Resp. Br. 7. A Terry stop, however, is a limited form of seizure under the Fourth Amendment. Smoak v. Hall,
C. Grandison's Seizure of Plaintiff's Property
"Determining whether a seizure of personal property based upon less than probable cause is reasonable for the purposes of the Fourth Amendment involves a two-step inquiry." Farm Labor Org. Comm. v. Ohio State Hwy. Patrol,
Although Grandison had observed Plaintiff gambling in such a manner as to indicate that she was merely changing bills, that activity in and of itself is not criminal. An offense is committed only if the money being changed is the proceeds of criminal activity. At the time Grandison seized Plaintiff's money, there were no facts known to him indicating that Plaintiff's money had been obtained through criminal activity. Absent such facts, a prudent person could not conclude that Plaintiff had committed, was committing, or was about to commit a criminal offense. All that was known was that Plaintiff's gambling was consistent with the behavior of money launderers. The Court cannot conclude as a matter of law that Grandison had probable cause to seize Plaintiff's property for more than a brief period of time. With respect to this claim, Defendants' motion for summary judgment must therefore be denied.
At the hearing, Defendants suggested that the seizure of Plaintiff's money and tickets was permissible under the exigent circumstances exception to the Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement. A warrantless seizure may be justified
D. Dawson's Retention of Plaintiff's Property
Plaintiff alleges that Dawson's retention of her property during the fifteen-month investigation violated her due process rights. Compl. ¶ 34. The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides, in pertinent part:
U.S. Const. amend. XIV § 1. "Nothing in that Amendment protects against all deprivations of life, liberty, or property by the State." Parratt v. Taylor,
Defendants argue that Plaintiff has the state law remedies of conversion and claim and delivery to recover her property. The Court cannot see how these remedies are inadequate, as they would ensure the return of Plaintiff's money. Furthermore, Plaintiff has specifically sought these remedies in a lawsuit filed in Wayne County Circuit Court on October 20, 2009. See Defs.' Br. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 4. Because the state remedies provided are adequate to address the deprivation alleged by Plaintiff, the Court concludes that Defendants must be granted summary judgment with respect to Plaintiff's due process claim.
Plaintiff alleges that Dawson's retention of her property deprived her of equal protection of the laws. Compl. ¶ 34. A person asserting an equal protection claim, however, must show discrimination because of membership in a particular class, not merely that she was treated unfairly as an individual. Bass v. Robinson,
E. Sovereign Immunity
Plaintiff has sued Defendants in both their individual capacities and their official capacities as officers of the Michigan State Police Department. Defendants argue that Plaintiff's official capacity claims against them are barred by the doctrine of sovereign immunity, and the Court agrees. "Suits against state officials in their official capacity ... should be treated as suits against the State." Hafer v. Melo,
F. Qualified Immunity
"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,
Plaintiff has at least raised a genuine dispute of fact as to whether her constitutional right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure was violated. Grandison seized Plaintiff's money and tickets, and Defendants have failed to establish that the probable cause requirement for such a seizure was satisfied. As for whether a "clearly established" right was violated, it is certain that a police officer's reasonable suspicion of criminal activity only permits a brief seizure of a person or property. The law gives police officers ample notice that reasonable suspicion does not justify an indefinite seizure. See Sharpe, 470 U.S. at 685, 105 S.Ct. at 1575 ("Obviously, if an investigative stop continues indefinitely, at some point it can no longer be justified as an investigative stop."). Because Defendants have not shown that any mistake as to the law's
IV. State Court Ruling
At the hearing, Defendants informed the Court that Plaintiff's state-court action was recently dismissed. Defendants seek to supplement the record in the event that the state court concludes that their actions were reasonable, asserting that such a ruling may have preclusive effect in this suit. Section 1983 does not override the law governing the preclusive effect of state-court judgments. Migra v. Warren City Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ.,
For the reasons stated above, the Court has concluded that Defendants must be granted summary judgment with respect to Count I, "Illegal Search and Seizure of Plaintiff's Person" and Count III, "Illegal Retention of Property." Because Plaintiff's remaining claim, Count II, "Illegal Search and Seizure of Plaintiff's Property," makes no allegations concerning Defendant Dawson, the Court concludes that Dawson should be dismissed from this action.
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