United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
WAYNE E. COLEMAN, Plaintiff,
CALVERT COUNTY, et al, Defendants.
J. HAZEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
civil rights action brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
Plaintiff Wayne E. Coleman alleges that his Constitutional
rights were violated during a traffic stop and subsequent
search performed by officers of the Calvert County
Sherriff's Department. On September 22. 2016. this Court
granted summary judgment to all Defendants on all counts
except for Coleman's unreasonable search and seizure
claim against Officers Gott. Phelps and Fvans in their
individual capacities. ECF No. 32 at 1. Phelps. Gott and
Evans, filed a second Motion for Summary Judgment on July 14.
2017. ECF No. 52. No hearing is necessary. See Loc.
R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the following reasons.
Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is granted.
Complaint focuses on the events of February 4, 2014. That
morning. Coleman was driving his pick-up truck home along
Route 260 when Officer Gott pulled him over for not having a
rear license plate. ECF No. 52-3 at 5. Gott approached the
driver's side door, informed Coleman that he lacked a
rear license plate, and asked for identification,
Id. Coleman handed Gott a sovereign citizen
"personal identification card"' and a
"Public Servant's Questionnaire.""
Id. at 5-6, The Questionnaire asserted the right of
a "sovereign natural person" to collect information
from a "Public Servant" pursuant to 5 U.S.C. §
552a(e)(3). Id. at 5. Upon receiving these papers.
Gott returned to his vehicle and requested a supervisor
because Coleman was not providing his license. ECF No. 52.
Ex. A at 09:47:30.
Officer Phelps then arrived on the scene. ECF No. 52, Ex. A
at 09:45:55. Both Phelps and Gott approached the driver's
side window of the truck, and Phelps asked Coleman to produce
a driver's license, telling him he could go to jail for
failing to produce a license during a traffic stop. ECF No.
27. Ex. A at 09:51:00. After Coleman failed to comply. Phelps
opened the truck door, took Coleman's hand, and said,
"climb on out. I don't want to drag you out of the
vehicle." Id. at 09:51:17. At the same time,
the two officers grabbed each of Coleman's arms
and moved him to the side of the truck. Id. at
09:51:17. The officers placed Coleman's hands on the
truck and frisked him after he reached for his back pocket,
Id. at 09:51:26. The officers additionally searched
inside at least some of Coleman's pockets and seized a
wallet: they also lifted off his hat and looked underneath
it. Id. Inside the wallet, the officers found
Coleman's Virginia driver's licensed. ECF No. 52-3 at
13. Phelps escorted Coleman by his shirtsleeve behind the
truck and ordered him to sit on the roadside guardrail. ECF
No. 52. Ex. A at 09:52. At this point. Officer Cress arrived
on the scene. Id. at 09:53:45.
officers informed Coleman that his truck would be impounded
because it could not be legally operated without a rear
plate. Id. at 10:09:15. Phelps asked Coleman if he
wanted anything from the truck before it was towed, and
Coleman mentioned only an unsealed, stamped letter that
Phelps brought to him. Id. at 10:10:30. Coleman was
charged criminally for driving an uninsured vehicle, failing
to attach registration plates, and operating an unregistered
vehicle on the highway. ECF No. 27-4. But rather than making
a custodial arrest, the officers issued Coleman a summons.
Complaint. Coleman raised a number of claims against
Defendants pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. 42 U.S.C.
§ 1986. 18 U.S.C. § 241. Maryland state law and
Maryland's Declaration of Rights. ECF No. 16 ¶¶
23-96. Coleman sought the following relief: a declaration
that his rights were violated: an injunction ordering
Defendants to avoid Coleman on sight and forbidding them from
detaining him; compensatory and punitive damages: statutory
damages and reimbursement of funds paid or lost; and court
costs. Id. ¶¶ 97-102.
September 22. 2016. the Court granted in part
Defendants" Motion to Dismiss or. in the Alternative.
Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 27; ECF No. 32. The
Court granted summary judgment to "Defendants on all
counts except for the unreasonable search and seizure claim
in Count I with respect to Gott. Phelps, and Evans in their
individual capacities." Id. at 22. Regarding
that claim, the Court reasoned that while Gott and Phelps had
"'a reasonable suspicion that Coleman was armed and
dangerous." there "remains an issue of whether the
officers exceeded the permissible scope of the frisk"
when they searched Coleman's pockets, Id. at 10.
In its Memorandum Opinion, the Court noted that Defendants
had raised the argument that the officers had probable cause
to arrest and search Coleman based on his failure to provide
satisfactory identification. Id. at 11 n.8. However,
the Court denied summary judgment at that time as the Court
did not have knowledge of "the contents of the
card" that Coleman provided to the officers before the
search, which could have negated probable cause if the
information provided was sufficient, Id.
14. 2017. Defendants tiled the now-pending Motion for Summary
Judgment. ECF No. 52. On July 17. 2017. a letter was sent to
Coleman, advising him of his right to respond to the
Defendants" Motion. ECF No. 53. On August 7, 2017.
Coleman tiled a Response in Opposition to Defendants"
Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 55. which he amended on
August 9. 2017. ECF No. 56.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
[Federal Rule of Civil Procedure] 56(c). summary judgment is
proper if the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the
affidavits, if any. show that there is no genuine issue as to
any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a
judgment as a matter of law."'" Celotex
Corp. v Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548
(1986) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)). The party moving for
summary judgment bears the burden of demonstrating that no
genuine dispute exists as to material facts, Pulliam Inv.
Co. v. Cameo Props., 810 F.2d 1282, 1286 (4th Cir.
1987). If the moving party demonstrates that there is no
evidence to support the non-moving party's case, the
burden shifts to the non-moving party to identify specific
facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. See
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23. Importantly, at the
summary judgment stage, it is not the Court's function to
weigh the evidence but simply to decide if there is a genuine
issue for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby. Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 249, 106 S.Ct. 2505 (1986). A dispute of
material fact is genuine if the conflicting evidence creates
"fair doubt." Car v. Oily. Of Prince
William, 249 F.3d 295, 299 (4th Cir. 2001). such that
"a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
nonmoving party." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.
ruling on a motion for summary judgment, "[t]he evidence
of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable
inferences are to be drawn in his favor." Id.
at 255. Nevertheless, a "mere scintilla of proof is not
enough to defeat a motion for summary judgment. Peters v.
Jenney, 327 F.3d 307. 314 (4th Cir. 2003) (citing
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252). To defeat the motion,
the party opposing summary judgment must submit evidentiary
materials showing facts on the basis of which the finder of
fact could reasonably decide the case in its favor.
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252. If a party fails to make
a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an
essential element on which that party will bear the burden of
proof at trial, summary judgment is proper. Id.
their Motion for Summary Judgment. Defendants make two
arguments as to why the Court should grant summary judgment
on their behalf. First, Defendants argue that they had
probable cause to arrest Coleman at the time they searched
his pockets, and that the search was therefore valid as a
search incident to arrest. See ECF No. 52-1 at 5.
Second. Defendants argue that, at the very least, they are
entitled to qualified immunity "given the complete
absence of any case, reported or otherwise, addressing ...