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Creel v. City of Cleveland

May 22, 2008

RALPH CREEL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF CLEVELAND, TN, ET AL. DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Curtis L. Collier Chief United States District Judge

Chief Judge Curtis L. Collier

MEMORANDUM

Before the Court are motions for summary judgment (Court File Nos. 28, 30) and a motion to dismiss (Court File No. 32) filed by Defendants. Having reviewed the parties' briefs (Court File Nos. 31, 32, 33, 37, 38), the applicable law, and the evidence in this case, the Court will GRANT the summary judgment motions (Court File No. 28, 30).*fn1

I. RELEVANT FACTS

Plaintiff Ralph Creel was arrested by a City of Cleveland police officer in September 1994 and indicted for child rape. Prior to his trial in 1995, the district attorney's office for Bradley County dismissed the charges. On April 19, 1996, a state criminal court entered an order of expungement with respect to Plaintiff's police and criminal court records. Information relating to the case had appeared in a local newspaper and people in the community were aware of it.

In late 2005, Plaintiff became a candidate for constable, running against defendant Johnny Hicks, who was seeking re-election.*fn2 While Johnny Hicks was campaigning, he came to the home of defendant Gary Hicks, assistant chief of police for the Cleveland Police Department.*fn3 While the two men conversed about the election, Johnny Hicks asked Gary Hicks for potential police reports concerning Plaintiff. Gary Hicks talked with defendant Wes Snyder, Jr., the chief of police, who said the police department would have to produce all of its public records relating to the case.

The police records division produced to Gary Hicks a computer-generated offense report related to Plaintiff's 1994 arrest. The report noted that Plaintiff had been indicted but did not state the eventual resolution of his case. Gary Hicks called Johnny Hicks to tell him about the report, which he then brought to him. A few days later, Johnny Hicks called Gary Hicks to ask if the police department had any other reports about Plaintiff. No other reports were found. About a day later, Johnny Hicks came to the police department, where he met with Gary Hicks, Snyder, and the officer who originally investigated Plaintiff. After an additional search, they found the original case file, which contained copies of the offense report and arrest report, which were provided to Johnny Hicks. They did not find the expungement order at that time.

Prior to releasing the record, Hicks had another officer check with the records department, which reported back that it "could not locate an Expungement Order." Plaintiff infers from this statement that, "Obviously, the existence of the Expungement Order was known." Because of the difficulty finding records, Snyder had assumed the records were either taken away by someone or expunged by a court order.

Three days after releasing the records, a police official found the expungement order. He informed Gary Hicks, who called Johnny Hicks and told him he should not distribute or use any of the documents previously given to him. By that time, Johnny Hicks had distributed numerous copies of the documents, but he stopped distributing them when told of the expungement order. Gary Hicks also sent Johnny Hicks a letter instructing him to destroy the records previously provided.

Asserting claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Plaintiff alleges the defendants violated his rights to substantive and procedural due process. He also alleges Gary Hicks and unknown John Does conspired to deny him his civil rights. Plaintiff also asserts Defendants committed the state law tort of invasion of privacy.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment is proper when "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c).

First, the moving party must demonstrate no genuine issue of material fact exists. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986); Leary v. Daeschner, 349 F.3d 888, 897 (6th Cir. 2003). The Court views the evidence, including all reasonable inferences, in the light most favorable to the non-movant. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574 (1986); Nat'l Satellite Sports, Inc. v. Eliadis Inc., 253 F.3d 900, 907 (6th Cir. 2001). However, the non-movant is not entitled to a trial based solely on its allegations, but must submit significant probative evidence to support its claims. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324; McLean v. Ontario, Ltd., 224 F.3d 797, 800 (6th Cir. 2000). The moving party is entitled to summary judgment if the non-movant fails to make a sufficient showing on an essential element for which it bears the burden of proof. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. In short, if the Court concludes a fair-minded jury ...


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