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Helton v. Roane County Inc. TN

June 12, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thomas A. Varlan United States District Judge



Plaintiffs James F. Helton, Alice Joan Helton, Karen Sue Helton, and James Wade Helton (hereinafter collectively referred to as "Plaintiffs") filed the present pro se civil action.*fn1 Plaintiffs make claims against David Haggard ("Haggard"), Adam Wilson ("Wilson"), and Guy McGuckin ("McGuckin"), in their official and individual capacities, and against Roane County Inc. TN ("Roane County") (hereinafter collectively referred to as "Defendants"), alleging constitutional violations and conspiracy pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiffs also state claims of assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence, malicious abuse of process, false arrest, and false imprisonment. Defendants have filed a Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. 6]. The Court granted Plaintiffs' request for an extension of time to file a response, and Plaintiffs filed their response before the extended filing deadline expired. [Docs. 8, 10, 12.] Defendants' motion [Doc. 6] is now ripe for determination.*fn2

The Court has carefully considered the motion and supporting materials [Docs. 6, 7, 12] in light of the entire record and controlling law. For the reasons set forth herein, Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. 6] will be GRANTED.


Defendant Roane County is a governmental entity that operates the Roane County Sheriff's Department. [Doc. 1 at ¶ 8.] Defendants Wilson and McGuckin are deputies employed by the Roane County Sheriff's Department. [Doc. 1 at ¶ 9.] Defendant Haggard is the Sheriff of Roane County. [See Doc. 1.]

On March 30, 2006, Plaintiffs James Helton and Alice Joan Helton were placed under arrest and charged with disorderly conduct and assault on an officer.*fn3 [Doc. 1 at ¶ 1, Doc. 7 at 2.] Defendants claim the incident arose after Officers Wilson and McGuckin responded to a call regarding a dispute over utilities. [Doc. 7 at 1.] Plaintiffs James and Alice Helton allegedly arrived on the scene in their van, and an altercation ensued resulting in the arrests of James and Alice Helton. [Doc. 7 at 1.]

Plaintiffs allege that Defendants Wilson and McGuckin assaulted them during and after their arrest. [Doc. 1 at ¶ 1.] Plaintiffs claim that Defendants Wilson and McGuckin used excessive force and deprived them of liberty and punishment without due process of law. [Doc. 1 at ¶ 14.] These allegations include the "use of unusual punishment in the form of intimidation and coercion tactics of verbal and physical" abuse. [Doc. 1 at ¶ 21.] Plaintiffs also claim that Defendant Roane County tolerated a pattern and practice of alleged unconstitutional actions by its officers and failed to adequately train, direct, supervise, or control Defendants Wilson and McGuckin. [Doc. 1 at ¶ 25.] Plaintiffs also allege that Defendants Wilson and McGuckin conspired to violate their civil rights "by acting in concert to creat[e] an environment of intimidation and coercion, including the use of verbal and physical abuse." [Doc. 1 at ¶ 28.] They also allege that Defendant Roane County's system of reviewing police conduct denied Plaintiffs their constitutional rights. [Doc. 1 at ¶¶ 16, 17.] The record in this case does not identify how Karen Sue Helton and the other James Helton are involved in the present case.*fn4 [See Doc. 1.]


Under Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c), summary judgment is proper if "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." The moving party bears the burden of establishing that there is no genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 330 n.2 (1986). The court must view the facts and all inferences to be drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.

Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd., v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); Burchett v. Kiefer, 310 F.3d 937, 942 (6th Cir. 2002). To establish a genuine issue as to the existence of a particular element, the non-moving party must point to evidence in the record upon which a reasonable jury could find in its favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The genuine issue must also be material; that is, it must involve facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Id.

The judge's function at the point of summary judgment is limited to determining whether sufficient evidence has been presented to make the issue of fact a proper jury question. Id. at 249. The judge does not weigh the evidence, judge the credibility of witnesses, nor determine the truth of the matter. Id. Thus, "[t]he inquiry performed is the threshold inquiry of determining whether there is the need for trial - whether, in other words, there are any genuine factual issues that properly can be resolved only by a finder of fact because they may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party." Id. at 250.


Federal statute provides that "[e]very person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State . . . , subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law." 42 U.S.C. § 1983. To prevail on a § 1983 claim, a plaintiff must prove (1) deprivation of a right protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States (2) by person acting under color of state law. Boykin v. Van Buren Twp., 479 F.3d 444, 451 (6th Cir. 2007) (citing Tahfs v. Proctor, 316 F.3d 584, 590 (6th Cir. 2003)). Municipalities and other local government units are included among those "persons" to whom ยง 1983 applies. Monell ...

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