United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
H. SHARP UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the Court are a Report and Recommendation of the
Magistrate Judge (Docket No. 76), Objections filed by the
Defendant (Docket No. 77), and a Response to Objections filed
by the Plaintiff (Docket No. 78). The Magistrate Judge
recommended that Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment
(Docket No. 60) be denied.
to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3) and
Local Rule 72.03(b)(3), the Court has reviewed de
novo the Report and Recommendation, the Objections, the
Response, and the file. The Court finds that the Objections
of the Defendant are well-taken, and the Report and
Recommendation is rejected. Accordingly, Defendant's
Motion for Summary Judgment (Docket No. 60) is GRANTED, and
this action is DISMISSED.
Miller's Amended Complaint alleges, pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983, a claim for Fourth Amendment malicious
prosecution against Defendant Maddox. She contends that
Defendant charged her with reckless driving and resisting
arrest without probable cause, falsely testified against her
before the grand jury and at her preliminary hearing, and
intentionally swore out false affidavits resulting in her
being booked into jail.
has filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, contending that he
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law because the grand
jury returned an indictment against Plaintiff, which
conclusively establishes that Defendant had probable cause to
arrest Plaintiff. Defendant also argues that he did not
testify before the grand jury in Plaintiff's case;
another officer did. Defendant represents that there is no
record of the grand jury testimony which was given, and the
officer who gave it does not remember what he said, so
Plaintiff cannot show that anyone presented false testimony.
Defendant further contends that Plaintiff's allegations
are more appropriately characterized as a false arrest claim,
not a malicious prosecution claim, and that Plaintiff did not
suffer the deprivation of liberty required to sustain a
malicious prosecution claim. Finally, Defendant argues that
he did not participate in the prosecution of Plaintiff and he
is entitled to qualified immunity.
succeed on a malicious prosecution claim under Section 1983
when the claim is premised on a violation of the Fourth
Amendment, a plaintiff must prove that (1) a criminal
prosecution was initiated against the plaintiff and the
defendant made, influenced or participated in the decision to
prosecute; (2) there was a lack of probable cause for the
criminal prosecution; (3) as a consequence of the legal
proceeding, the plaintiff suffered a deprivation of liberty
apart from the initial seizure; and (4) the criminal
proceeding was resolved in the plaintiff's favor.
Sykes v. Anderson, 625 F.3d 294, 308 (6th
Cir. 2010). The tort of malicious prosecution is entirely
distinct from that of false arrest, as the malicious
prosecution tort remedies detention accompanied not by
absence of legal process, but by wrongful
institution of legal process. Id. at 307.
is no dispute that a criminal prosecution was initiated
against Plaintiff Miller. The parties dispute whether
Defendant made, influenced or participated in the decision to
prosecute. To be liable for “participating” in
the decision to prosecute, the officer must participate in a
way that aids in the decision, as opposed to passively or
neutrally participating. Sykes, 625 F.3d at 309. The
Magistrate Judge stated that Defendant's submission of
affidavits to a General Session Court Commissioner for the
purpose of obtaining arrest warrants and criminal charges
constituted more than passive or neutral participation in the
decision to prosecute. In so finding, he relied upon the Sixth
Circuit Court of Appeals' decision in this case (Docket
No. 47) wherein the appellate court affirmed this Court's
denial of Defendant's Motion to Dismiss on qualified
correctly points out that the Sixth Circuit made that
statement in ruling on a motion to dismiss, not a motion for
summary judgment, and the legal standards are different. On a
motion to dismiss, the court is simply determining whether
the plaintiff has alleged sufficient facts to proceed with
the lawsuit, and the court must accept all the allegations of
the Complaint as true. On summary judgment, a plaintiff must
do more - she must show that, after discovery, there is a
genuine issue of material fact and that the defendant is not
entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Moreover, the Sixth
Circuit was determining whether Plaintiff had sufficiently
alleged her claims to overcome a qualified immunity defense
only - not whether Plaintiff had demonstrated sufficient
facts to prove a malicious prosecution claim.
must also show that there was no probable cause for the
prosecution. Defendant argues that the grand jury indictment
in this case conclusively determines the existence of
probable cause. The finding of an indictment, fair upon its
face, by a properly constituted grand jury, conclusively
determines the existence of probable cause. Barnes v.
Wright, 449 F.3d 709, 716 (6thCir. 2006).
There is an exception to this general rule when a defendant
deliberately or recklessly presents false testimony to a
grand jury in order to obtain an indictment. Robertson v.
Lucas, 753 F.3d 606, 616 (6th Cir. 2014).
Thus, Plaintiff's burden on this motion was to adduce
evidence that Defendant knowingly or recklessly presented
false testimony to the grand jury. Plaintiff has failed to
meet this burden.
has not disputed Defendant's claim that he did not
testify before the grand jury in this case; another officer
testified. No matter who testified, however, there is no
record of the grand jury proceedings, so the Court cannot
discern the content of any presumed testimony, much less
whether it was deliberately or recklessly false. See,
e.g., Snow v. Nelson, 634 Fed.Appx. 151, 157
(6th Cir. 2015). The other officer has testified
that he does not remember the substance of his testimony or
his preparation for giving that testimony. The Court cannot
speculate as to what testimony was before the grand jury.
Tinney v. Richland County, 2016 WL 397963 at * 13
(N.D. Ohio February 2, 2016).
cannot sustain her burden of showing an exception to the
general rule that an indictment conclusively determines the
existence of probable cause because she cannot show that
anyone deliberately or recklessly presented false testimony
to the grand jury in her case. There is no record from which
an inference could be drawn that Plaintiff's indictment
was secured through false testimony, so Plaintiff has not
shown a lack of probable cause.
even if Defendant's statements to the night court
commissioner (rather than testimony before the grand jury)
are considered the initiation of allegedly false charges, as
Plaintiff argues, Defendant is entitled to immunity for those
statements. In Briscoe v. LaHue, 103 S.Ct.
1108 (1983), the Supreme Court held that witnesses alleged to
have given false testimony, including police officers, are
absolutely immune from a suit for damages under Section 1983.
Id. at 1119-20; see also Rehberg v. Paulk,132 S.Ct. 1497, 1498-99 (2012) (“A witness in a grand
jury proceeding is entitled to the same absolute immunity
from suit under Section 1983 as a witness who testifies at
trial”). The Supreme Court also made clear that this
broad immunity applies not only to a witness's actual
testimony to the ...