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Miller v. Maddox

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

August 3, 2017

Andrea Miller, Plaintiff-Appellant,
Woodston Maddox, Defendant-Appellee.

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee at Nashville. No. 3:13-cv-01270-Kevin H. Sharp, District Judge.

         ON BRIEF:

          Kyle F. Mothershead, Nashville, Tennessee, R. Andrew Free, Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellant.

          Keli J. Oliver, Melissa Roberge, DEPARTMENT OF LAW OF THE METROPOLITAN DEPARTMENT OF NASHVILLE AND DAVIDSON COUNTY, Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellee.

          Before: MOORE, STRANCH, and DONALD, Circuit Judges.



         Andrea Miller was arrested, charged, and indicted on charges of reckless driving and resisting arrest, based on false statements made by officer Woodston Maddox. The district court granted summary judgment in Maddox's favor on Miller's malicious prosecution claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. We conclude that Maddox is not entitled to judgment as a matter of law and is not entitled to either absolute or qualified immunity. Accordingly, we REVERSE the district court's judgment.


         Miller brought a Fourth Amendment malicious prosecution claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Maddox arising from her alleged reckless driving and resisting of arrest. The district court granted Maddox's motion for summary judgment and dismissed Miller's complaint, reasoning that Miller could not establish an exception to the general rule that the issuance of an indictment conclusively establishes probable cause, and that Maddox was entitled to absolute immunity from a § 1983 suit based on statements he made to the night court commissioner.


         This court reviews a district court's grant of summary judgment de novo. Jackson v. VHS Detroit Receiving Hosp., Inc., 814 F.3d 769, 775 (6th Cir. 2016). Summary judgment is appropriate "if the movant shows 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). A dispute is "genuine" "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party." Ford v. Gen. Motors Corp., 305 F.3d 545, 551 (6th Cir. 2002) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). The moving party bears the initial burden of establishing that there are no genuine issues of material facts, which it may accomplish "by demonstrating that the nonmoving party lacks evidence to support an essential element of its case." Id. (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986)). In response, the nonmoving party must present "significant probative evidence" that will reveal that there is more than "some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Moore v. Philip Morris Cos., Inc., 8 F.3d 335, 340 (6th Cir. 1993). The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the nonmovant's position will not suffice to avoid summary judgment. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252.


         We have recognized that a plaintiff may bring a malicious prosecution claim under the Fourth Amendment based on a defendant officer's wrongful investigation, prosecution, conviction, and incarceration of a plaintiff. Barnes v. Wright, 449 F.3d 709, 715-16 (6th Cir. 2006). To succeed on such a claim, Miller must establish that (1) a criminal prosecution was initiated against her and Maddox made, influenced, or participated in the prosecution decision; (2) there was no probable cause to support the charges; (3) as a result of the legal proceedings, Miller suffered a deprivation of liberty "apart from the initial seizure"; and (4) the criminal proceedings ended in Miller's favor. Sykes v. Anderson, 625 F.3d 294, 308-09 (6th Cir. 2010). The last element is not in dispute in this case.


         Miller first insists that because, in affirming the denial of Maddox's motion to dismiss, this court found in her favor on the first and third elements, the law of the case doctrine conclusively establishes that those elements are met and precludes our review of those issues on summary judgment.

         Initially, despite Miller's claims to the contrary, our prior decision did not resolve whether her allegations of post-process detention deprived her of liberty so as to satisfy the third element. Rather, it mentioned, in passing when rejecting Maddox's argument that Miller's claim should be construed as one for false imprisonment, that "the detention that Miller challenges is the three-to-four-hour period of confinement that resulted from the allegedly wrongful institution of this legal process." Order, R. 20 at 4, Case No. 14-6216. We noted that ...

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