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Johnson v. Baltimore City Police Department

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Northern Division

September 9, 2014

TORRIE JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
v.
BALTIMORE CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

WILLIAM D. QUARLES, Jr., District Judge.

Torrie Johnson, pro se, sued Lynette Morton, Linda McLean, [1] Adam Long, Bernard Taylor, and others[2] for civil rights violations and Maryland state law claims. On January 28, 2013, the Court dismissed the claims against all defendants other than Morton, McLean, Long, and Taylor. See ECF No. 37. The Court also dismissed seven of Johnson's ten claims. Pending are Long and Taylor's motion for summary judgment on Johnson's remaining claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983[3] and Morton and McLean's similar motion.[4] No hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2011). For the following reasons, Long and Taylor's motion will be granted. Morton and McLean's motion for summary judgment will be granted in part and denied in part.

I. Background[5]

On May 1, 2010, [6] Johnson was driving her daughter's blue Jeep Cherokee northbound on Charles Street in Baltimore, Maryland. ECF No. 79-1 at 7-8 (hereinafter "Johnson Dep. Vol. I").[7] Johnson's daughter had several unpaid tickets on the vehicle. Johnson Dep. Vol. I 27:20-22. Johnson had no knowledge of the tickets. Id. 28:1-7.

Johnson pulled over to the side of the road to take a telephone call. Id. 22:3-12. The engine remained running, and Johnson kept her foot on the parking brake. ECF No. 88 at 2. Before the call ended, a yellow Baltimore City van pulled up next to Johnson's vehicle, blocking her ability to drive away. Johnson Dep. Vol. I 22:8 to 23:17. A few moments later, Morton "banged" on the driver's side window and informed Johnson that she was putting a boot on the car because it had unpaid parking tickets. Id. 24:17-22. Morton "put this big like cardboard looking thing, sign, notice rather, on the windshield."[8] Id. 24:21 to 25:1.

Johnson placed the car in park, and the car shifted back slightly because it was on an incline. Id. at 25:5-13. When Johnson stepped out of the car to speak with Morton and McLean, McLean accused Johnson of trying to run over her. Id. Johnson explained that she had just placed the car in park, and the car shifted back. See ECF No. 79-2 at 12 (hereinafter "Johnson Dep. Vol. II").

As Johnson approached the rear of the car, she saw McLean installing a boot on the rear passenger's side tire. Johnson Dep. Vol. I 25:14-18. Johnson told Morton and McLean that they could not boot her car because it was occupied and agents can only boot unoccupied vehicles. See id. 26:1-3. When McLean continued to boot the car, Johnson reached down and pulled the boot off the tire. Id. 26:6-8. McLean tried to install the boot, and Johnson removed it two more times. Id. Johnson repeated that they could not boot an occupied car. Id. 26:13-14.

Morton took the boot from McLean and went to the front passenger's side tire to install it. Id. 26:8-14. Johnson followed Morton and stood behind her. Id. 30:1-3. When Morton tried to attach the boot, Johnson attempted to remove it again. Id. 26:15-16. Morton elbowed Johnson in the face. Id. 26:16-18. Johnson stood up and did not try to remove the boot because "[she] didn't want to get in no fight." Id. Johnson called the Mayor's Office to report the incident. Id. 19-20. Morton called the police and reported that she had been assaulted.[9] See ECF Nos. 79-3 at 1; 79-4 at 1.[10]

Long and Taylor[11] responded to Morton's call. ECF No. 79-3 at 1. Long was the supervising officer. Id. at 3. Morton and McLean explained to the officers that Johnson's car had outstanding parking violations and needed to be immobilized. Id. at 2; see also ECF No. 79-4 at 2. Morton and McLean said that Johnson had assaulted Morton when she first left her vehicle by "shov[ing] [] Morton on her back and chest to try and prevent [] Morton from applying the parking boot."[12] ECF No. 79-3 at 2. They said after the assault, Johnson threw the boot under the vehicle. Id.

Long and Taylor also interviewed Johnson, who was "aggressive and angry." Id. at 3. Johnson told the officers that Morton had struck her in the nose, and showed them the injury. ECF No. 88 at 4. Long was "aggressive" and "mean" to Johnson. Johnson Dep. Vol. I 35:1 to 36: 19. Long told Johnson he believed Morton because Morton was a city employee. Id. Long further stated that Morton "just wanted an apology" from Johnson. Id. Johnson declined to apologize "for a crime she had not committed." Id.

Long and Taylor believed that there was probable cause that Johnson had assaulted Morton. See ECF Nos. 79-3 at 3; 79-4 at 3. Long directed Taylor to arrest Johnson. Johnson Dep. Vol. I 38:4 to 39:17. Johnson was briefly held at the Fayette Street police station before being transported to Central Booking. Id. 40:12-19. Johnson was released between 11:00pm and midnight. Id. 42:3-5.

One day later, Johnson's daughter paid the outstanding tickets on the car, and the parking boot was removed. Johnson Dep. Vol. II 79:7-22. Johnson was charged with second-degree assault on Morton, and "was found not guilty" at trial. Id. 66:10-21.[13]

On February 28, 2012, Johnson filed suit, pro se, against the city, police department, and individual defendants under 42 U.S.C §§ 1983 and 1985 and Maryland tort law. ECF No. 1 at 5-6. On March 2, 2012, Johnson was granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis. ECF No. 3. On January 28, 2013, the Court dismissed the claims against all defendants other than Morton, McLean, Long, and Taylor. See ECF No. 37. The Court also dismissed seven of Johnson's ten claims.[14]

On October 11, 2013, Morton and McLean filed a motion for summary judgment on the remaining claims. ECF No. 77. Long and Taylor filed a similar summary judgment motion. ECF No. 79. On November 26, 2013, Johnson replied to Morton and McLean's motion. ECF No. 87. On December 2, 2013, Johnson replied to Long and Taylor's motion. ECF No. 88. On December 12, 2013, McLean and Morton replied. ECF No. 91. On December 19, 2013, Long and Taylor replied. ECF No. 92.

II. Analysis

A. Legal Standard

1. Summary Judgment

The Court "shall grant summary judgment 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).[15] In considering the motion, the judge's function is "not... to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. A dispute about a material fact is ...


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