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Cynthia Hudson v. Town of Weare et al.

December 11, 2012

CYNTHIA HUDSON
v.
TOWN OF WEARE ET AL.



SUMMARY ORDER

Both sides in this civil rights action, dissatisfied with this court's order granting summary judgment to defendants as to some claims and denying it as to others, see Order of Nov. 16, 2012 ("Order"), have moved the court to reconsider that decision. Defendants, whose original arguments in favor of summary judgment on plaintiff Cynthia Hudson's federal and state-law wrongful detention claims fell flat, have used their motion to reconsider to brief entirely new arguments. They assert that this court erred---manifestly--in not addressing these previously unbriefed arguments. For her part, Hudson contends that the court, in granting summary judgment to defendants on her federal and state-law claims for wrongful arrest and malicious prosecution, misapplied the undisputed facts. Neither motion demonstrates any "manifest error of fact or law" in the court's rulings. L.R. 7.2(e). Both are denied.

I. Defendants' motion for reconsideration

Defendants take issue with the court's decision leaving standing three of Hudson's claims against them, to wit:

* Hudson's claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Daniel Aiken, the officer who pulled her over, charging that he lacked reasonable suspicion that she had violated the law at the time he stopped her;

* Hudson's claim against the Town of Weare and its police chief under § 1983, seeking to hold them liable for the allegedly unconstitutional traffic stop under Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978); and

* Hudson's state-law false arrest claim against all three defendants arising from the same stop.

Defendants' memoranda in support of summary judgment on these claims argued that Aiken had reasonable suspicion to believe that Hudson "was impaired due to the manner in which she was operating her car" when he stopped her. Memo. in Supp. of Mot. for Summ.

J. (document no. 19-1) at 6-7; see also id. at 19-20. Defendants did not seek to defend the lawfulness of the traffic stop on any other basis. Nor did they argue in their memoranda that the Town and the chief were entitled to summary judgment on Hudson's Monell claim because Aiken did not act pursuant to a policy or custom of the Weare police department; their sole argument in favor of summary judgment on that claim was that Hudson had "not suffered a deprivation of any constitutional right." Id. at 17.

As discussed in the Order, defendants' arguments were inconsistent with Hudson's version of the facts, which was that she did nothing more than activate her turn signal and then shut it off shortly thereafter without turning, only to ultimately activate it again less than 500 yards later and turn. Under this version of the facts, the court held, the presence of reasonable suspicion that Hudson was impaired was "not even arguable," making summary judgment on Hudson's federal and state claims arising from the stop inappropriate. Order at 3.

Having thus struck out, defendants now seek to defend the lawfulness of the stop on alternate grounds. While the facts, viewed in the light most favorable to Hudson, may not engender reasonable suspicion that she was impaired, defendants argue, they do establish reasonable suspicion that she violated other traffic laws---which defendants finally cite in their motion for reconsideration. For good measure, defendants have also gotten around to arguing that the Town and the chief cannot be held liable under Monell because the record "contains no evidence of an unconstitutional custom, practice, or policy under which Officer Aiken was operating when he performed his investigatory stop." Defts.' Mot. for Recons. (document no. 27) at 8.*fn1

Both these arguments come too late. It is well-established in this Circuit that "[a] motion for reconsideration is not a vehicle for the introduction of arguments that could and should have been made to the district court earlier." Fabrica de Muebles J.J. Alvarez, Inc. v. Inversions Mendoza, Inc., 682 F.3d 26, 33 (1st Cir. 2012); see also Vallejo v. Santini-Padilla, 607 F.3d 1, 7 n.4 (1st Cir. 2010). In light of this inveterate rule, it is difficult to discern any good-faith basis for defendants' motion.*fn2

Defendants apparently take the position that once the court had identified the material facts as to which there was no genuine dispute and viewed the rest in the light most favorable to Hudson,*fn3 it was duty-bound to scour the New Hampshire Revised Statutes Annotated and the United States Code in search of some law that, based upon those facts, Hudson arguably violated. See Defts.' Mot. for Recons. at 3 (citing Lamar v. Micou, 114 U.S. 218, 223 (1885), for the proposition that "courts of the United States are bound to take judicial notice" of state laws "without plea or proof"). If that is in fact what defendants are arguing, they are seriously mistaken. Federal courts will not "do counsel's work," Holmes v. Spencer, 685 F.3d 51, 68 (1st Cir. 2012), and are not "obliged to dream up and articulate [parties'] arguments for them," Cruz-Erazo v. Rivera-Montanez, 212 F.3d 617, 622 n.3 (1st Cir. 2000). The court did not err, manifestly or otherwise, in failing to do so here.

The defendants are also incorrect insofar as they suggest that once they had argued that summary judgment should be granted on Hudson's Monell claim because no constitutional violation had occurred, Hudson needed to produce evidence sufficient to satisfy every element of that claim. That is not how summary judgment functions. The "party moving for summary judgment bears the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Carmona v. Toledo, 215 F.3d 124, 132 (1st Cir. 2000). "[U]nless the moving party meets its initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact," the nonmoving party has "no obligation to offer evidence supporting its own case." Id. at 133. Where defendants' summary judgment memoranda did not betray the faintest whiff of an argument that Hudson lacked evidence of an unconstitutional custom, practice, or policy, she was not required to come forward with such evidence. And, again, the court did not err in failing to grant summary judgment due to the absence of such evidence.

None of this is to say, of course, that defendants cannot present these arguments at a later time. If, indeed, Hudson lacks evidence that Aiken stopped her pursuant to a custom, practice, or policy of the Weare police department, then defendants may move for judgment as a matter of law under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50(a)(1) when she fails to present such evidence at trial. Similarly, if the facts found by the jury at trial would create reasonable suspicion that, prior to the stop, Hudson arguably violated the law---including one of defendants' newly-discovered traffic laws---defendants may so argue at the appropriate time (though they may wish to revisit their intention to rely on these newly-discovered laws if the evidence at trial ...


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