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Dante Mitchell v. City of Philadelphia

March 29, 2011

DANTE MITCHELL
v.
CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, ET AL.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: O'neill, J.

MEMORANDUM

Plaintiff has sued the City of Philadelphia, detective Robert Redanauer and officer Thomas Strain, alleging that they violated his constitutional rights during a May 12, 2008 traffic stop. Presently before me are defendants' motion for summary judgment and plaintiff's response in opposition thereto.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff's recitation of the events giving rise to this lawsuit differs significantly from that of defendants. Plaintiff avers on May 12, 2008, he was sitting in his car on the 5000 block of Hutchinson Street in Philadelphia. Mitchell Aff. ¶ 1. He had marijuana stored in his underwear where it could not be seen. Id. at ¶ 2. Then, "[m]any police cars came out of nowhere," id. at¶ 3, and, without first requesting that plaintiff reveal what he was hiding in his clothing, "one police officer tried to go into [his] underpants" to get the marijuana. Id. at ¶ 4. While plaintiff was being arrested by six officers, one of them said "mace him, mace him" and another said "take him down." Id. at ¶ 6. Plaintiff felt his legs come out from under him and then his head hit the ground. Id. at ¶ 7. While plaintiff was handcuffed on the ground, one of the officers stepped on plaintiff's shoulder and another officer stepped on plaintiff's face. Id. at ¶ 8. Plaintiff further avers that he never resisted arrest, struck an officer or attempted to destroy evidence. Id. at ¶ 9- 10.

Defendants have produced evidence suggesting that on the date of the incident Philadelphia police officer Richard Redanauer*fn1 pulled over the vehicle that plaintiff was driving. Defendant Strain, also a Philadelphia police officer, arrived at the scene shortly after the vehicle was stopped. Strain testified that, upon his arrival, he smelled a "strong odor of marijuana." Strain Dep. 6:16-18 (Jan. 22, 2010) (Defs.' Ex. A). The officers asked plaintiff to exit his vehicle.*fn2 While plaintiff was standing beside his car, Strain noticed a "bulge in [plaintiff's] waistband" and "a white bag hanging from the top of [plaintiff's] pants." Id. at 6:2-7. The officers ordered plaintiff to place his hands on top of the car, id. at 7:8-9, at which time, according to Strain, plaintiff "started to resist by throwing elbows and striking [Strain]." Id. at 7:11-14. According to Strain, plaintiff also tried to discard the substance in the white bag by "rubbing it with his feet into the ground." Id. at 8:22-9:2. Following a "brief struggle," Richard Redanauer and Strain forced plaintiff to the ground and placed him in handcuffs. Id. at 7:17-19, 17:7-9. The officers recovered a white plastic bag filled with a "green weedy substance" that they believed to be marijuana. Id. at 7:21-23. Although Strain denied striking plaintiff or hearing anyone say "mace him," Strain admitted that "a lot of force had to be used to get [plaintiff] under control." Id. at 22:19-23:2.

Defendant Robert Redanauer was the police detective responsible for preparing plaintiff's post-arrest paperwork. Robert Redanauer Dep. 6:8-10 (Jan. 22, 2010) (Defs.' Ex. B). Robert Redanauer testified that he does not know or recognize plaintiff and that he was not present at the scene of plaintiff's arrest. Id. at 19:2-12.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment will be granted "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). The party moving for summary judgment bears the burden of demonstrating 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 Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23. If the movant sustains its burden, the non-movant must set forth facts demonstrating the existence of a genuine dispute. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). A dispute as to a material fact is genuine if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id. A fact is "material" if it might affect the outcome of the case under governing law. Id.

To establish "that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed," a party must:

(A) cit[e] to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials; or

(B) show[ ] that the 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.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1). The adverse party must raise "more than a mere scintilla of evidence in its favor" in order to overcome a summary judgment motion and cannot survive by relying onunsupported assertions, conclusory allegations, or mere suspicions. Williams v. Borough of W. Chester, 891 F.2d 458, 460 (3d Cir. 1989). The "existence of disputed issues of material fact should be ascertained by resolving all inferences, doubts and issues of credibility against" the movant. Ely v. Hall's Motor Transit Co., 590 F.2d 62, 66 (3d Cir. 1978) (citations and quotation marks omitted).

ANALYSIS

Plaintiff concedes that the City of Philadelphia and Robert Redanauer should be dismissed from this case. See Pl.'s Br. at 1 ("It is conceded that the City of Philadelphia and Detective Robert Redanauer should be dismissed from this case."). I ...


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