Argued: September 20, 2016
from the United States District Court for the Western
District of North Carolina, at Statesville. Richard L.
Voorhees, District Judge. (5:12-cv-00202-RLV-DSC)
Algernon Williams, Sr., LAW OFFICE OF ALGERNON WILLIAMS,
Charlotte, North Carolina, for Appellant.
Patrick Houghton Flanagan, CRANFILL SUMNER & HARTZOG LLP,
Charlotte, North Carolina; Joseph Finarelli, NORTH CAROLINA
DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Raleigh, North Carolina, for
Matthew K. Lilly, CRANFILL SUMNER & HARTZOG LLP,
Charlotte, North Carolina; Roy Cooper, North Carolina
Attorney General, Donna Elizabeth Tanner, Assistant Attorney
General, NORTH CAROLINA DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Raleigh, North
Carolina, for Appellees.
GREGORY, Chief Judge, and KING and AGEE, Circuit Judges.
in part, reversed in part, and remanded by published opinion.
Chief Judge Gregory wrote the opinion, in which Judge King
joined. Judge Agee wrote an opinion concurring in part and
dissenting in part.
GREGORY, Chief Judge
April Yvette Smith brought a suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
alleging violations of her constitutional rights when she was
arrested and held in police custody for eighty days. She
named as defendants the investigating officers, Defendants
Jason Munday and Charles McGinley; the arresting officers,
Defendants Brian Greene and Mark Lesassier; the Chief of
Police, Defendant Rodney Jordan; the City of Lincolnton; and
the Lincolnton Police Department. She raised Fourth Amendment and tort
claims in both direct and supervisory contexts, all of which
center around the allegation that she was arrested without
district court found that the officers had probable cause to
believe that Smith illegally possessed and sold crack
cocaine. Thus, no officers violated her constitutional rights
or caused her injury, and neither their supervisor nor
employer failed to prevent such injuries. The district court
accordingly granted summary judgment in favor of all of the
defendants. We reverse and remand for further proceedings.
reviewing a grant of summary judgment, we "view all
reasonable inferences drawn from the evidence in the light
that is most favorable to the non-moving party."
Nader v. Blair, 549 F.3d 953, 958 (4th Cir. 2008).
March 10, 2009, officers Munday and McGinley conducted an
undercover investigation using a confidential informant,
Rufus Lynch Sr. J.A. 84, 105. The officers searched Lynch,
wired him with audio and video recorders, and gave him sixty
dollars. J.A. 84-85. Lynch then went to 728 East Pine Street,
where he purchased crack cocaine from two individuals. J.A.
85. After the transaction, Lynch returned to the officers.
Id. He told the officers that he purchased drugs
from April Smith, a black female. Id. The
detective's notes identify April Smith as such: "B/F
April Smith, " and "April B/F skinny $20 1 rock in
plastic, Smith 40s." Supp. J.A. 17.
the audio recorder had no batteries, it failed to record the
transaction. Supp. J.A. 17. And because the camera wired to
Lynch pointed in the wrong direction, the video recording did
not capture the drug sale. J.A. 85. The video instead shows
an unidentified black woman sitting on a front porch, and two
other individuals standing on the porch. J.A. 79. It also
recorded a discussion of prices. Id.
some point during the next nine months, Munday scanned police
databases for residents of Lincoln County named April Smith
with criminal records. He then stumbled upon April Yvette
Smith, a black woman who lived in Lincoln County and had been
convicted of selling crack cocaine in 1993, 1997, and 2005.
His search also revealed at least two other April Smiths with
criminal records. Supp. J.A. 40-41. He had no indication that
the woman who sold crack cocaine to Lynch in March 2009 had a
criminal record, or was even a Lincoln County resident. And
the record reflects no further attempt by Munday to
investigate Smith or connect her to the crime.
nine months after the sale, on December 20, 2009, Munday
applied for and received an arrest warrant for Smith, on
charges of possession with intent to sell crack cocaine and
selling or distributing cocaine. Supp. J.A. 77. And on
December 22, 2009, Defendants Greene and Lesassier served the
arrest warrant and arrested Smith in her home, which was
eleven miles away from the site of the drug sale.
See Supp. J.A. 86. Smith was held in custody for
approximately eighty days, facing the threat of prosecution.
Over the course of her incarceration, Smith allegedly lost
her job. J.A. 43. The Lincoln County District Attorney's
Office then requested that the charges be dismissed.
filed suit, alleging constitutional violations of the Fourth
and Fourteenth Amendments,  and state-law claims for intentional or
negligent infliction of emotional distress, negligence,
negligent supervision, gross negligence, assault, battery,
false imprisonment, and false arrest.
district court found that no constitutional violation
occurred. The district court reasoned that the investigating
officers were looking for a black woman named April Smith who
sold drugs, and they found a black woman named April Smith
who had sold drugs in the past, and who was arrested only
eleven miles away from where the drug sale occurred. The one
factor the district court believed counseled against probable
cause was Smith's weight. The seller was a skinny woman;
conversely, Smith was 160 pounds upon arrest, and alleged
that she weighed more than 200 pounds in March 2009, when the
sale occurred. But the officers were unaware of Smith's
weight at the time of the transaction, and the district court
reasoned that 160 pounds was not so different from
"skinny, " especially with an intervening nine
months, so as to discredit a finding of probable cause. Thus,
even if she ultimately might not have been the correct
individual, the district court found that--at the time, with
the information then known--the investigating officers had
probable cause to believe that Smith was the woman who sold
Lynch crack cocaine.
even ignoring Smith's weight, a criminal history, common
race, common gender, and unfortunately common name is not
enough to establish probable cause. For this reason, we
reverse the district court and remand for further
review a district court's grant of summary judgment de
novo. Sylvia Dev. Corp. v. Calvert County, 48 F.3d
810, 817 (4th Cir. 1995). Summary judgment should be granted
only when "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);
see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325
(1986). All "factual disputes and any competing,
rational inferences [are resolved] in the light most
favorable to the party opposing that motion."
Rossignol v. Voorhaar, 316 F.3d 516, 523 (4th Cir.
2003) (quoting Wightman v. Springfield Terminal Ry.
Co., 100 F.3d 228, 230 (1st Cir. 1996)).
district court properly stylized Smith's false arrest
claims against the investigating officers as malicious
prosecution claims. J.A. 107. A claim of malicious
prosecution under § 1983 is a claim "founded on a
Fourth Amendment seizure that incorporates elements of the
analogous common law tort of malicious prosecution."
Lambert v. Williams, 223 F.3d 257, 262 (4th Cir.
2000). This Fourth Amendment claim requires "that 
the defendant ha[s] seized plaintiff pursuant to legal
process that was not supported by probable cause and  that
the criminal proceedings have terminated in ...