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Bolden v. City of Euclid - 595 F. App'x 464 (6th Cir. 2014)

Rule:

Federal courts apply state law to determine whether collateral estoppel applies. Under Ohio law, collateral estoppel applies when the fact or issue (1) was actually and directly litigated in the prior action, (2) was passed upon and determined by a court of competent jurisdiction, and (3) when the party against whom collateral estoppel is asserted was a party in privity with a party to the prior action. Where a plaintiff has been convicted criminally, collateral estoppel bars a subsequent challenge to probable cause related to his arrest in a civil case, and the same bar applies if the plaintiff pleaded guilty or no-contest to a criminal charge in state court.

Facts:

Plaintiffs Samir Bolden and Brandon Martin were walking in their neighborhood in defendant City of Euclid ("City"). Defendant Paul Doyle, a police officer employed by THE city, lived in the same neighborhood. While plaintiffs were walking past Officer Doyle's house, Officer Doyle drove up to them, exited his vehicle, and accused them of trespassing on his property and looking into his security cameras. Plaintiffs maintained that they were walking on the sidewalk. While questioning plaintiffs, Officer Doyle pushed Martin into Bolden. Officer Doyle ordered plaintiffs to "stop" and to "get on the ground." Bolden complied, but Martin started to walk away, pulling out his cell phone so that he could apprise his mother of the situation. This led Officer Doyle to "smack" Martin's phone out of his hand and throw the headphones Martin was wearing around his neck to the ground, breaking them. Officer Doyle then threw Martin to the ground and forcibly held him down, one hand securing Martin's arms behind his back, the other on Martin's neck holding his face down, and Officer Doyle's knee on Martin's face. While Martin was being held to the ground, Officer Doyle placed him in handcuffs. Officer Doyle then told Bolden to stand up and placed Bolden in handcuffs as well. Backup was called and arrived to transport plaintiffs to the police station. After being transported to the police station without incident, plaintiffs were placed in the "roll call" room and further questioned by Officer Doyle and two other police officers. Bolden filled out a police report at Officer Doyle's request, but Martin refused. Although Bolden originally wrote that he and Martin were walking past Officer Doyle's house, and past the driveway, Officer Doyle made him scribble it out and write that they were walking by Officer Doyle's house and on or in the driveway. Plaintiffs were both charged in one-count with a misdemeanor Criminal Trespass, Ohio Rev. Code § 2911.21(A)(1), in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division. Bolden elected to proceed to a bench trial before a magistrate judge. While finding that there was probable cause to file the complaint, the court dismissed the charges against Bolden under Ohio Juvenile Rule 29(F)(2)(d), which allowed a court to dismiss the complaint if dismissal was in the best interest of the child and the community. On the other hand, Martin did not go to a trial, and instead entered into Euclid's Juvenile Diversion Program, a program "comprised of an alliance between the City of Euclid, Euclid Police Department, Euclid Schools, Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court, and various organizations/businesses to offer families a positive alternative to traditional Juvenile Court involvement." Both Martin and his mother confirmed at their depositions that they understood diversion to be an admission of the charges against Martin. Subsequently, plaintiffs filed a twelve-count complaint n federal district court against Officer Doyle and other officers under 42 U.S.C.S. § 1983 and state law. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of defendants and dismissed the case. Plaintiffs appealed, claiming, inter alia, that Officer Doyle lacked probable cause to search, seize and arrest them.

Issue:

Did the district court err in granting summary judgment in favor of defendants?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The court affirmed the trial court's judgment. The court noted that normally a conflict in the evidence, such as the conflict in the stories surrounding plaintiffs' alleged trespass, would have precluded a finding of qualified immunity for defendants and the differences would then be left to the factfinder to assess whether or not probable cause existed to search and seize plaintiffs and arrest them. However, in plaintiffs' case, the criminal trespassing charge was admitted by Martin when he entered into a diversion program, and it was proved against Bolden at trial in juvenile court. Thus, plaintiffs were collaterally estopped from challenging the existence of probable cause.

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