ALEXAVICH v. MELLON

3:03-CV-1476(JCH).

2005 | Cited 0 times | D. Connecticut | August 22, 2005

RULING ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [DOC. NO. 30]

The plaintiff, Bruce R. Alexavich, initiated this action inthis court against Kevin Mellon, a Detective in the BristolPolice Department. [Doc. No. 1]. The plaintiff asserts a singlecause of action related to the execution of a search warrant athis property, 71 Williams Street in Bristol, on January 31, 2001.Alexavich claims that Mellon and other officers, in violation ofthe Fourth Amendment, engaged in an unreasonable search andseizure which resulted in the destruction of property andemotional distress. On February 15, 2005, Mellon filed a Motionfor Summary Judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules ofCivil Procedure [Doc. No. 30].

I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

In a motion for summary judgement, the burden is on the movingparty to establish that there are no genuine issues of materialfact in dispute and that it is entitled to judgement as a matterof law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256(1986); White v. ABCO Engineering Corp., 221 F.3d 293, 300 (2dCir. 2000). The burden of showing that no genuine factual disputeexists rests upon the moving party. Carlton v. Mystic Transp.,Inc., 202 F.3d 129, 133 (2d Cir. 2000) (citing Gallo v.Prudential Residential Servs., Ltd. Partnership, 22 F.3d 1219,1223 (2d Cir. 1994)). Once the moving party has met its burden, in order to defeat themotion the nonmoving party must "set forth specific facts showingthat there is a genuine issue for trial," Anderson,477 U.S. at 255, and present such evidence as would allow a jury to find inhis favor. Graham v. Long Island R.R., 230 F.3d 34, 38 (2d Cir.2000).

In assessing the record, the trial court must resolve allambiguities and draw all inferences in favor of the party againstwhom summary judgement is sought. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255;Graham, 230 F.3d at 38. "This remedy that precludes a trial isproperly granted only when no rational finder of fact could findin favor of the non-moving party." Carlton, 202 F.3d at 134."When reasonable persons, applying the proper legal standards,could differ in their responses to the question" raised on thebasis of the evidence presented, the question must be left to thejury. Sologub v. City of New York, 202 F.3d 175, 178 (2d Cir.2000).

II. ANALYSIS

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses,papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures,shall not be violated. . . ." U.S. Const. Amend. IV; see alsoCaldarola v. County of Westchester, 343 F.3d 570 (2d Cir.2003). Mellon moves for summary judgment not on the grounds thatAlexavich's rights under the Fourth Amendment were not violated,but on the basis that, even if the plaintiff's rights wereviolated, Mellon had no role in the search and seizure thatresulted in any violation.

For the purposes of the instant motion, the court accepts factsundisputed by the parties as true and resolves disputed facts infavor of the plaintiffs where the plaintiffs provide evidence to support their allegations. Mellon obtained asearch warrant, the validity of which is not contested, to search71 Williams Street, owned by Alexavich, for a gun believed tohave been involved in a prior burglary. According to an IncidentReport filed by Detective A.J. Barton, members of the BristolPolice Department executed that warrant on January 31, 2001. Theparties do not dispute, however, that the warrant was executed bymembers of the Bristol and Southington Emergency Response Teams,of which Mellon is not a member. The defendant does not attemptto explain either the relationship between the Bristol PoliceDepartment and the ERT or the discrepancy between his conclusorystatement that the ERT executed the warrant and the informationcontained in the incident report, an exhibit provided by thedefendant.

The sole basis for Mellon's motion for summary judgment is hisfactual assertion that he was not allowed to enter 71 WilliamsStreet until after the premises had been secured. Therefore,Mellon argues, he was not personally involved in the deprivationof constitutional rights, Moffitt v. Town of Brookfield,950 F.2d 880, 885 (2d Cir. 1991), and, furthermore, there is no proofthat his actions proximately caused the plaintiff any injury,Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 330 (1986). According toMellon, because the ERT executed the warrant, he was required toremain outside of the premises until the ERT had entered andsecured the premises. The plaintiff can point to no evidence tothe contrary. However, Detective Mellon's own affidavit,interrogatory responses, and Local Rule 56(a)(1) Statementacknowledge that he participated in the search of the premises,once the premises had been secured. See Mellon Aff. [Doc. No.31, Ex. B] ¶¶ 9, 13, 15-16; Notice of Responses to Pl.'sInterrogatories to Def. [Doc. No. 31, Ex. C] ¶ 8; Local Rule 56(a)(1) Stmt. [Doc. No. 31] ¶ 11. There is noevidence before the court to suggest whether the alleged damageoccurred prior to or after Detective Mellon entered 71 WilliamsStreet. Drawing all factual inferences in favor of the plaintiff,the court cannot conclude as matter of law, with no evidence tosupport such a finding, that the alleged damage to property andresulting emotional distress occurred entirely prior to Mellonentering 71 Williams Street.

Because Mellon's argument that he is entitled to qualifiedimmunity is based on the same factual premise and the court hasconcluded that a question of material fact remains with respectto that issue, he is not entitled to summary judgment onqualified immunity grounds. See Tolbert v. Queens College,164 F.3d 132, 138 (2d Cir. 1999).

III. Conclusion

For the foregoing reasons, the defendants' motion for summaryjudgment [Doc. No. 30] is DENIED.

SO ORDERED.

RULING ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [DOC. NO. 30]

The plaintiff, Bruce R. Alexavich, initiated this action inthis court against Kevin Mellon, a Detective in the BristolPolice Department. [Doc. No. 1]. The plaintiff asserts a singlecause of action related to the execution of a search warrant athis property, 71 Williams Street in Bristol, on January 31, 2001.Alexavich claims that Mellon and other officers, in violation ofthe Fourth Amendment, engaged in an unreasonable search andseizure which resulted in the destruction of property andemotional distress. On February 15, 2005, Mellon filed a Motionfor Summary Judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules ofCivil Procedure [Doc. No. 30].

I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

In a motion for summary judgement, the burden is on the movingparty to establish that there are no genuine issues of materialfact in dispute and that it is entitled to judgement as a matterof law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256(1986); White v. ABCO Engineering Corp., 221 F.3d 293, 300 (2dCir. 2000). The burden of showing that no genuine factual disputeexists rests upon the moving party. Carlton v. Mystic Transp.,Inc., 202 F.3d 129, 133 (2d Cir. 2000) (citing Gallo v.Prudential Residential Servs., Ltd. Partnership, 22 F.3d 1219,1223 (2d Cir. 1994)). Once the moving party has met its burden, in order to defeat themotion the nonmoving party must "set forth specific facts showingthat there is a genuine issue for trial," Anderson,477 U.S. at 255, and present such evidence as would allow a jury to find inhis favor. Graham v. Long Island R.R., 230 F.3d 34, 38 (2d Cir.2000).

In assessing the record, the trial court must resolve allambiguities and draw all inferences in favor of the party againstwhom summary judgement is sought. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255;Graham, 230 F.3d at 38. "This remedy that precludes a trial isproperly granted only when no rational finder of fact could findin favor of the non-moving party." Carlton, 202 F.3d at 134."When reasonable persons, applying the proper legal standards,could differ in their responses to the question" raised on thebasis of the evidence presented, the question must be left to thejury. Sologub v. City of New York, 202 F.3d 175, 178 (2d Cir.2000).

II. ANALYSIS

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses,papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures,shall not be violated. . . ." U.S. Const. Amend. IV; see alsoCaldarola v. County of Westchester, 343 F.3d 570 (2d Cir.2003). Mellon moves for summary judgment not on the grounds thatAlexavich's rights under the Fourth Amendment were not violated,but on the basis that, even if the plaintiff's rights wereviolated, Mellon had no role in the search and seizure thatresulted in any violation.

For the purposes of the instant motion, the court accepts factsundisputed by the parties as true and resolves disputed facts infavor of the plaintiffs where the plaintiffs provide evidence to support their allegations. Mellon obtained asearch warrant, the validity of which is not contested, to search71 Williams Street, owned by Alexavich, for a gun believed tohave been involved in a prior burglary. According to an IncidentReport filed by Detective A.J. Barton, members of the BristolPolice Department executed that warrant on January 31, 2001. Theparties do not dispute, however, that the warrant was executed bymembers of the Bristol and Southington Emergency Response Teams,of which Mellon is not a member. The defendant does not attemptto explain either the relationship between the Bristol PoliceDepartment and the ERT or the discrepancy between his conclusorystatement that the ERT executed the warrant and the informationcontained in the incident report, an exhibit provided by thedefendant.

The sole basis for Mellon's motion for summary judgment is hisfactual assertion that he was not allowed to enter 71 WilliamsStreet until after the premises had been secured. Therefore,Mellon argues, he was not personally involved in the deprivationof constitutional rights, Moffitt v. Town of Brookfield,950 F.2d 880, 885 (2d Cir. 1991), and, furthermore, there is no proofthat his actions proximately caused the plaintiff any injury,Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 330 (1986). According toMellon, because the ERT executed the warrant, he was required toremain outside of the premises until the ERT had entered andsecured the premises. The plaintiff can point to no evidence tothe contrary. However, Detective Mellon's own affidavit,interrogatory responses, and Local Rule 56(a)(1) Statementacknowledge that he participated in the search of the premises,once the premises had been secured. See Mellon Aff. [Doc. No.31, Ex. B] ¶¶ 9, 13, 15-16; Notice of Responses to Pl.'sInterrogatories to Def. [Doc. No. 31, Ex. C] ¶ 8; Local Rule 56(a)(1) Stmt. [Doc. No. 31] ¶ 11. There is noevidence before the court to suggest whether the alleged damageoccurred prior to or after Detective Mellon entered 71 WilliamsStreet. Drawing all factual inferences in favor of the plaintiff,the court cannot conclude as matter of law, with no evidence tosupport such a finding, that the alleged damage to property andresulting emotional distress occurred entirely prior to Mellonentering 71 Williams Street.

Because Mellon's argument that he is entitled to qualifiedimmunity is based on the same factual premise and the court hasconcluded that a question of material fact remains with respectto that issue, he is not entitled to summary judgment onqualified immunity grounds. See Tolbert v. Queens College,164 F.3d 132, 138 (2d Cir. 1999).

III. Conclusion

For the foregoing reasons, the defendants' motion for summaryjudgment [Doc. No. 30] is DENIED.

SO ORDERED.

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