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VAN HOUTEN v. BAUGHMAN

June 30, 1987

JAMES VAN HOUTEN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
TOM BAUGHMAN, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mills, District Judge:

OPINION ORDER

VanHouten brings a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that Officer Baughman, while acting under color of state law, deprived him of his constitutional rights protected by the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments.

We are here on the officer's motion for summary judgment.

Allowed in part and denied in part.

I. Facts

The Court has gleaned the facts from the sworn deposition testimony of both parties to this action. The two versions of the incident conflict in some key portions. At these junctures, the Court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2513, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986).

Defendant, Tom Baughman, is and was at the time of the incident in question a police officer employed by the City of Springfield. He was acting under color of state law when the alleged deprivation of Plaintiff's constitutional rights occurred. See e.g., Monroe v. Pape, 365 U.S. 167, 81 S.Ct. 473, 5 L.Ed.2d 492 (1961).

During his patrol on July 10, 1981, Officer Baughman pulled over a vehicle driven by Kate Beasley and attempted to issue her a citation for running a red light. Plaintiff, James VanHouten, had observed the traffic stop and believed that Ms. Beasley had proceeded through a yellow rather than a red light. Seeking to intervene on her behalf, VanHouten pulled his vehicle in front of the area where Officer Baughman had stopped Ms. Beasley's auto. VanHouten then talked to Ms. Beasley and confirmed that she was receiving a citation for running a red light. VanHouten informed Officer Baughman that he witnessed the event and that she had not gone through a red light.

At this point, there are some discrepancies between the parties' description of the event. VanHouten's version reveals that at this time he was told by Baughman that "it is none of your damn business" and directed him to return to his car. Instead, VanHouten returned to Ms. Beasley's car to inquire about leaving his name and address. He then went back to the officer's car where he was again told to leave the scene and threatened with arrest if he failed to do so. VanHouten then went to his car. When he began to write down a description of Ms. Beasley's car, Officer Baughman came over to his car and asked if he was attempting to interfere with the arrest. VanHouten replied that he was not, whereupon Officer Baughman asked him to leave. VanHouten requested Officer Baughman's name. Officer Baughman pointed to his badge and VanHouten read it. Officer Baughman started back toward his car, but then returned to VanHouten's auto, asked him to get out, and placed him under arrest for interfering with a police officer. VanHouten was handcuffed by Officer Baughman and taken to the police station by another officer who was called as a backup. VanHouten stated that he believed the handcuffs were placed on too tightly but did not complain at the time. VanHouten exhibited no physical force against Baughman, nor was there any verbal abuse directed toward the officer.

Officer Baughman's story is essentially the same except for two key points. Although not entirely clear from Officer Baughman's deposition, it appears that at the time just prior to the arrest, VanHouten voluntarily got out of his car. On the other hand, VanHouten maintains that he was ordered out of his car and then arrested. Officer Baughman also claims, contrary to VanHouten's version, that VanHouten "got irate and got right up in my face" in the course of their discussion.

II. Summary Judgment Standard

Under Rule 56(c), summary judgment should enter "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." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). Unquestionably, in determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, the evidence is to be taken in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 158-59, 90 S.Ct. 1598, 1609, 26 L.Ed.2d 142 (1970). Nevertheless, the rule is also well established that the mere existence of some factual dispute will not frustrate an otherwise proper summary judgment. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). Thus, the "preliminary question for the judge [is] not whether there is literally no evidence, but whether there is any upon which a jury could properly proceed to find a verdict for the party producing it, upon whom the onus of proof is imposed." Id. at 2511, quoting Improvement Co. v. Munson, 14 Wall. 442, 448, 20 L.Ed. 867 (1872); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2553, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). In other words, the Court must consider the evidence "through the prism of the substantive evidentiary burden" in deciding Defendants' motion. Anderson, 106 S.Ct. at 2513; Carson v. Allied News Co., 529 F.2d 206, 210 (7th Cir. 1976). Applying this standard, the Court now turns to the case at bar.

III. Law and ...


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