United States District Court, D. New Mexico
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
24, 2015, Plaintiff Michael Taylor (Plaintiff) filed a
COMPLAINT FOR NEGLIGENCE AND VIOLATION OF THE FOURTH
AMENDMENT (Doc. No. 1) (Complaint), alleging that Defendants
Anthony Robinson (Robinson) and Jordan Burd (Burd) (together,
Defendants) had caused Plaintiff's unlawful arrest
through Robinson's negligence and Burd's violation of
Plaintiff's civil rights. See Compl.
¶¶ 15-16, 19. Defendants moved for summary judgment
on October 31, 2016. See DEFENDANTS ANTHONY ROBINSON
AND JORDAN BURD'S OPPOSED MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
(Doc. No. 52) (Defendants' Motion); DEFENDANTS ANTHONY
ROBINSON AND JORDAN BURD'S MEMORANDUM BRIEF IN SUPPORT OF
THEIR OPPOSED MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (Doc. No. 53)
(Defendants' Memorandum). Plaintiff filed a cross-motion
for summary judgment the next day. See
PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (Doc. No. 54)
(Plaintiff's Motion). Each party responded in opposition.
See DEFENDANTS ANTHONY ROBINSON AND JORDAN
BURD'S RESPONSE TO PLAINTIFF'S OPPOSED MOTION FOR
SUMMARY JUDGMENT (Doc. No. 55) (Defendants' Response);
PLAINTIFF'S RESPONSE IN OPPOSITION TO DEFENDANT'S
MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (Doc. No. 56) (Plaintiff's
Response). The parties then replied in support of their
Motions. See DEFENDANTS ANTHONY ROBINSON AND JORDAN
BURD'S REPLY TO PLAINTIFF'S RESPONSE TO THEIR MOTION
FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (Doc. No. 57) (Defendants' Reply);
PLAINTIFF'S REPLY SUPPORTING HIS MOTION FOR SUMMARY
JUDGMENT (Doc. No. 59) (Plaintiff's Reply). The Court
will deny Plaintiff's Motion and will grant summary
judgment in favor of Defendants.
facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted. On December 2,
2014, Plaintiff was stopped for speeding by New Mexico State
Police Officer Robinson. Defendant's Memo. ¶ 1, Ex.
A Taylor Depo. 43:2-12, 36:6-8. Dispatch informed Robinson
that Plaintiff had a valid outstanding bench warrant.
Defendant's Memo. ¶ 2, Ex. A Taylor Depo. 34:15-23,
Ex. B Robinson Depo. 28:13-18. Robinson arrested Plaintiff
for the warrant and transported Plaintiff to the San Miguel
County Jail, where Plaintiff was booked into the facility.
Defendant's Memo. ¶ 4, Ex. A Taylor Depo. 34:22-25,
35:22-23; Ex. B Robinson Depo. 28:19, 40:10-41:24. Robinson
signed the warrant, gave it to dispatch at the jail, and
provided a copy to Plaintiff. Defendant's Memo. ¶ 5,
Ex. B Robinson Depo. 40:23-44:21. Plaintiff bonded out of the
San Miguel County Jail on December 4, 2014. Defendant's
Memo. ¶ 6, Ex. A Taylor Depo. 36:1.
December 16, 2014, Plaintiff was stopped again for speeding
by Officer Burd, also of the New Mexico State Police.
Defendant's Memo. ¶ 8, Ex. A Taylor Depo. 33:21-24.
Dispatch informed Burd that Plaintiff had a valid outstanding
bench warrant. Defendant's Memo. ¶ 9, Ex. G Burd
Depo. 19:17-24. Plaintiff told Burd that he had already been
arrested on the warrant and had been released on bond, and he
presented Burd with a bond receipt. Plaintiff's Mot.
¶ 14, Ex. 1 Taylor Depo. Ex. C, Ex. 3 Burd Depo
19:25-20:10. Plaintiff alleges that he also presented release
papers from San Miguel County Jail, but he did not submit
copies of these papers with his Motion because they are no
longer in his possession. Plaintiff's Mot. ¶ 14, Ex.
1 Taylor Depo. 46:10-47:12. Defendants acknowledge only the
bond receipt showing the amount paid. Defendants' Resp.
¶¶ 3-5. The bond receipt contained Plaintiff's
name, case number, and the amount and date of Plaintiff's
bond. Plaintiff's Mot. ¶ 14, Ex. 1 Taylor Depo. Ex.
C, Plaintiff's Resp. ¶¶ 9-10. Plaintiff further
alleges that he called the bonding company for verification
of his release but that Burd refused to speak to them.
Plaintiff's Mot. ¶ 15, Ex. 1 Taylor Depo. 44:21-
45:15. Defendants dispute this allegation. Defendants Resp.
¶ 4. When Plaintiff claimed the warrant was not active,
Burd called dispatch and asked for verification of the
outstanding warrant. Defendants Resp. ¶ 3, Ex. G Burd
Depo. 20:13-21. Dispatch informed Burd that the warrant was
indeed valid and active, and Burd placed Plaintiff under
arrest. Defendants' Resp. ¶ 3. Burd then transported
Plaintiff to Santa Fe County Adult Detention Center, where
Plaintiff was booked and held for multiple days before being
released again on bond. Plaintiff's Mot. ¶¶
18-19, Ex. 3 Burd Depo. 20:21-21:4, Ex. 1 Taylor Depo.
brings claims for unlawful arrest under the Fourth Amendment
and under the New Mexico Tort Claims Act, NMSA 1978,
§§ 41-4-1 to -29 (1976, as amended through 2009)
(NMTCA). See Compl. ¶¶ 14-21. The Court
has original jurisdiction over Plaintiff's Fourth
Amendment claim, see 28 U.S.C. § 1331, and
supplemental jurisdiction over the related state-law claims,
see 28 U.S.C. § 1367.
judgment may be granted if the moving party shows
“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). “When applying this
standard, [the Court] view[s] the evidence and draw[s]
reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable
to the nonmoving party.” Scull v. New Mexico,
236 F.3d 588, 595 (10th Cir. 2000) (internal quotation marks
omitted). The court must analyze each motion individually and
on its own merits if both parties have moved for summary
judgment. See Buell Cabinet Co. v. Sudduth, 608 F.2d
431, 433 (10th Cir. 1979) (explaining that
“[c]ross-motions for summary judgment are to be treated
separately; the denial of one does not require the grant of
another.”). Cross-motions for summary judgment entitle
the Court “to assume that no evidence needs to be
considered other than that filed by the parties, but summary
judgment is nevertheless inappropriate if disputes remain as
to material facts.” Atlantic Richfield Co. v. Farm
Credit Bank of Wichita, 226 F.3d 1138, 1148 (10th Cir.
when a defendant raises qualified immunity as a defense, the
plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant's actions
violated a clearly-established constitutional or statutory
right before the defendant will bear the traditional burden.
See Scull, 236 F.3d at 595. A right is clearly
established only if there is “a Supreme Court or Tenth
Circuit decision on point, or the clearly established weight
of authority from other courts [has] found the law to be as
the plaintiff maintains.” Id. (internal
quotation marks omitted).
contends that Burd unlawfully arrested him in violation of
the Fourth Amendment, which the Court will construe as a
claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and that Burd is also
liable for false arrest under the NMTCA, although Plaintiff
acknowledges that his Complaint did not expressly bring an
NMTCA claim against Burd. See Compl. ¶¶
17-21; Plaintiff's Mot. at 8-11. Plaintiff asserts that
Robinson failed to fulfill his duty to cause Plaintiff's
warrant to be cleared from the system after Robinson arrested
Plaintiff, and therefore that Robinson is liable under the
NMTCA for his negligence that resulted in Plaintiff's
later false arrest by Burd. See Compl. ¶¶
14-16; Plaintiff's Mot. at 6. Defendants maintain that
Burd is entitled to absolute and qualified immunity for his
arrest of Plaintiff on a facially valid warrant, and that
neither Robinson nor Burd is liable under the NMTCA for
Burd's reasonable actions. See Defendant's
Memo. at 6-7, 12.
Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable seizures, including
unlawful arrests. See Koch v. City of Del City, 660
F.3d 1228, 1238-39 (10th Cir. 2014). But even if an arrest is
unlawful because it is based on an erroneous order, that
order may still be facially valid. See Turney v.
O'Toole, 898 F.2d 1470, 1473 (10th Cir.1990)
(“[E]ven assuming that an order is infirm as a matter
of state law, it may be facially valid, as ‘facially
valid' does not mean ‘lawful, ' and erroneous
orders can be valid.”). “Just as judges acting in
their judicial capacity are absolutely immune from liability
under section 1983, officials charged with the duty of
executing a facially valid court order enjoy absolute
immunity from liability for damages in a suit challenging
conduct prescribed by that order.” Id. at 1472
(internal brackets, quotation marks, and citations omitted).
“[L]aw enforcement officers are . . . entitled to
absolute ‘quasi-judicial' immunity for their
actions in executing facially valid warrants, writs, and
other court orders, such as bench warrants.” Zamora
v. City of Belen, 383 F.Supp.2d 1315, 1325-26 (D.N.M.
2005) (collecting cases).
argues that Burd is not entitled to absolute immunity because
he should have known from the information on the bond receipt
that the warrant was no longer valid. See
Plaintiff's Resp. at 11-12. But “[u]nless a warrant
is facially invalid an officer has no constitutional duty to
independently determine its validity.” Hill v.
Bogans, 735 F.2d 391, 393 (10th Cir. 1984) (officer
acted reasonably in relying on routine police procedures for
establishing the existence of an outstanding warrant and
should not be held responsible for the failure of county
personnel to clear the warrant from the records). See
also Scull, 236 F.3d at 597-98 (Jailers had no duty to
independently investigate claims that a defendant should be
released on writ of habeas corpus when facility was not named
in writ and the warrant for arrest was facially valid).
“An officer on the highway is entitled to rely on an
accurate computer notification that there is an existing
warrant for an individual's arrest. The officer is not
required by the Fourth Amendment to obtain a copy of the
warrant, research supporting documentation, or go behind the
facial validity of a warrant before making the arrest.”
Smyth v. City of Lakewood, 83 F.3d 433, 1996 WL
194715, at *4 (10th Cir. 1996).
cites to Maresca v. Bernalillo County, 804 F.3d
1301, 1310 (10th Cir. 2015), for the proposition that
“in determining whether there is probable cause,
officers are charged with knowledge of any ‘readily
available exculpatory evidence' that they unreasonably
fail to ascertain.” But Maresca addressed a
warrantless arrest based on a stolen vehicle report, brought
up when the officer mistyped a license plate number, wherein
the description of the stolen vehicle clearly did not match
the vehicle occupied by the plaintiffs and the officer
ignored repeated requests to recheck the number. See Id
. at 1304-05. The Tenth Circuit held that the officer
was not entitled to rely on her unreasonable mistake as
probable cause to arrest particularly due to the
officer's “failure to ...