United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville
CECIL H. PERRY, Plaintiff,
CARTER COUNTY, TENNESSEE, and BARNEY BROWN, individually and in his official capacity as Constable for Carter County, Tennessee, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
C. POPLIN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
case is before the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
636(c), Rule 73(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure,
and the consent of the parties, for all further proceedings,
including entry of judgment [Doc. 23].
before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. 24],
filed by Defendant Carter County, Tennessee (“Defendant
Carter County”). The Motion is ripe and ready for
adjudication. Accordingly, for the reasons explained below,
the Court hereby GRANTS Defendant Carter
County's Motion [Doc. 24].
Court will begin with the allegations in the Complaint and
then turn to the parties' statement of undisputed facts.
Allegations in the Complaint
Complaint [Doc. 1] in this matter was filed on November 22,
2017. The Complaint states that Defendant Barney Brown was a
constable of Carter County and that he was an elected
official and policy maker for Carter County. [Doc. 1 at
¶ 3]. The Complaint alleges that on December 2, 2016,
Plaintiff was traveling on US-19E when he encountered
Defendant Brown. [Id. at ¶ 4]. Defendant Brown
stopped Plaintiff for an alleged traffic violation.
[Id. at ¶ 5]. The Complaint states that
Defendant Brown was driving what appeared to be a patrol car,
and he identified himself as a constable, although he had no
credentials and wore civilian attire. [Id. at ¶
Complaint alleges that during the stop, Defendant Brown
informed Plaintiff that he could write him a ticket, and
Plaintiff advised Defendant Brown to “write the
ticket[, ] and I will be on my way.” [Id. at
¶ 7]. Defendant Brown responded that he could take
Plaintiff to jail. [Id. at ¶ 8]. Plaintiff grew
concerned and asked to speak to Defendant Brown's
supervisor. [Id. at ¶ 9]. The Complaint states
that Defendant Brown's demeanor changed drastically and
that Defendant Brown informed Plaintiff that he was a
constable and stated, “You don't think I got the
power! I got the power.” [Id. at ¶ 10].
Plaintiff began to fear for his safety and attempted to roll
up the window, at which point, Defendant Brown drew a handgun
and placed it on Plaintiff's head. [Id. at
¶ 11]. Plaintiff placed his hands in the air and
informed Defendant Brown that he would do anything Defendant
Brown said. [Id. at ¶ 12].
Complaint states that Defendant Brown ordered Plaintiff to
get his registration, and Plaintiff stated that he could not
do so because the way he was sitting and asked to exit the
car. [Id. at ¶ 13]. Defendant Brown held
Plaintiff at gun point for several minutes, and during that
time, Plaintiff looked for an opportunity to flag down any
car that might pass. [Id. at ¶ 14]. Plaintiff
saw an oncoming vehicle, and ran into the roadway, shouting
for help and asking for someone to call 911. [Id. at
¶ 15]. Defendant Brown ordered Plaintiff to return to
the roadside, and Plaintiff continued to stay in the roadway,
waving his arms and screaming for help. [Id. at
¶ 16]. Defendant Brown entered Plaintiff's vehicle,
removed the keys from the ignition, threw Plaintiff's
keys to the grass, and then left the scene. [Id. at
¶ 17]. Once Defendant Brown left the scene, Plaintiff
used his cell phone to call for help. [Id. at ¶
Complaint avers that the Carter County Sherriff's
Department responded to the call, and Plaintiff was informed
that because the incident involved another officer, the case
would be investigated by the Tennessee Bureau of
Investigation (“TBI”). [Id. at ¶
19]. The Complaint alleges that a few days later, Plaintiff
was contacted by an agent with the TBI, and that on March 13,
2017, the Carter County grand jury indicted Defendant Brown
for aggravated assault and official oppression. [Id.
at ¶¶ 20-21].
respect to Defendant Carter County, Plaintiff alleges that it
was deliberately indifferent for reinstating Defendant Brown
as a constable (Count Five) and that it was deliberately
indifferent by failing to train constables (Count Six).
[Id. at ¶¶ 34-43].
following facts are taken from the parties' briefs,
unless otherwise noted. On November 23, 2009, Defendant Brown
executed an Affidavit for Election to the Office of
Constable, wherein he swore that he had not been convicted in
any federal or state court of a felony. [Doc. 24-1].
Subsequently, on August 5, 2010, Defendant Brown won the
election to the office of Constable for a four-year term.
[Doc. 24-2]. The parties do not appear to dispute that
Defendant Brown's term began on September 1, 2010.
September 20, 2010, the Carter County Commission
(“County Commission”) held a meeting, and the
minutes of the meeting reflect that County Commission
accepted Defendant Brown's resignation. [Doc. 24-3 at 1].
Specifically, the county attorney reported that Defendant
Brown's resignation was official after it was revealed
that Defendant Brown had a prior felony conviction.
[Id. at 2]. Later, on October 18, 2010, the County
Commission held another meeting, wherein Defendant Brown
announced that he had submitted his resignation after being
accused of a felony on the advice of his attorney. [Doc. 24-4
at 3]. He stated that any trouble he had been in occurred
when he was a teenager and that if reinstated, he would
protect and serve the people of the Second District to the
best of his ability. [Id.]. The County Commission
voted to reelect Defendant Brown as the Constable of the
Second District. [Id. at 4].
to Defendant Carter County, at the time of Defendant
Brown's reappointment, the exact circumstances of his
felony were unclear. Thereafter, it was determined that in
1959, Defendant Brown was convicted of breaking and entering
and larceny. [Doc. 24-5]. His jail sentence of five years was
suspended as long as he complied with the rules of probation,
paid restitution, obtained a job and remained lawfully
employed, and was home each night at 9:00 p.m.
August 7, 2014, Defendant Brown was elected to a new,
four-year term, which began on September 1, 2014. [Doc.
24-6]. Subsequently, on December 2, 2016, Defendant Brown
performed a traffic stop on Plaintiff while Plaintiff was
traveling on U.S. Highway 19E. [Doc. 24-7]. The actions that
occurred during the stop serve as the basis for
POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES
mentioned above, Plaintiff alleges two counts against
Defendant Carter County: (1) deliberate indifference for
reinstating Defendant Brown, and (2) deliberate indifference
for failing to train Defendant Brown. Defendant Carter County
moves for summary judgment, arguing that it is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law as to both counts.
grounds, Defendant Carter County states that its 2010
decision to reinstate Defendant Brown was not deliberately
indifferent to Plaintiff's rights and that there is no
causal link between the 2010 reinstatement and the alleged
constitutional violation in 2016. Further, Defendant Carter
County argues that it has no duty to train a constable
because a constable is a state official; that even if
Defendant Brown was a county official, it has no duty to
train him because he is responsible for his own training; and
that Defendant Brown has obtained the training that is
required by law. Finally, Defendant Carter County argues that
Plaintiff has sued Defendant Brown in his official capacity,
which is redundant because Carter County is already a
Defendant in this matter.
filed a Response [Doc. 26], arguing that the Motion should be
denied, or in the alternative, that the case should be stayed
until the criminal charges against Defendant Brown are
resolved. Plaintiff argues that the County
Commission took action to appoint Defendant Brown, despite
his previous resignation. Plaintiff argues that Defendant
Carter County exercised decision-making authority over the
constable, regardless of whether the constable itself is a
state or county officer. Plaintiff asserts that Defendant
Carter County permitted Defendant Brown to occupy his office
in direct violation of Tennessee Code Annotated §
8-10-102(a)(1)(D). Plaintiff argues that the reason the
Tennessee General Assembly requires that constables have no
prior felony convictions is to prevent criminal behavior,
such as that which was experienced by Plaintiff. Plaintiff
asserts that Defendant Carter County intentionally ignored
the requirements of Tennessee Code Annotated §
8-10-102(a)(1)(D), and therefore, was deliberatively
indifferent to the rights of citizens. In the alternative,
Plaintiff states that pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 56(d), he needs additional facts and that he cannot
conduct discovery because Defendant Brown is currently facing
Carter County filed a Reply [Doc. 30], maintaining that there
is no causal link between the 2010 reinstatement of Defendant
Brown and Plaintiff's 2016 allegations of harm.
Carter County asserts that Plaintiff failed to respond to its
argument that there is no causal link between the
reinstatement and the alleged harm, and ...