United States District Court, D. New Hampshire
Richard Coleman, pro se
Charles P. Bauer, Esq., Matthew Vernon Burrows, Esq.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
K. Johnstone United States Magistrate Judge
plaintiff Richard Coleman alleges that Thomas Dronsfield of
the Lee Police Department maliciously prosecuted him in
violation of state and federal law. Across numerous motions and
other filings, each party now asks the court to enter summary
judgment in his favor. These requests have been referred to
the undersigned magistrate judge for report and
recommendation. As discussed below, the court recommends that
the district judge deny Coleman's request for summary
judgment, grant Dronsfield's request for summary
judgment, and deny as moot several other attendant motions.
Overview of Claims
purposes of context, the court briefly summarizes
Coleman's claims against Dronsfield as alleged in his
complaint. A more comprehensive discussion of these claims
can be found in the undersigned's April 18, 2017 Report
and Recommendation. See doc. no. 19. Coleman alleges
that in March 2012, his neighbor, Natasha Cormier, falsely
reported to law enforcement that Coleman was exposing his
genitals to her. Dronsfield, then a Sergeant with the Lee
Police Department, responded to Coleman's residence and
confronted Coleman, but did not arrest Coleman at that time.
Dronsfield subsequently obtained an arrest warrant for
indecent exposure, and Coleman alleges that Dronsfield lied
in the affidavit he submitted to secure that warrant and
intentionally omitted exculpatory information from the
affidavit. Coleman was arrested and prosecuted, but the
charges were ultimately dropped in January 2015. Coleman
brings malicious-prosecution claims against Dronsfield under
the Fourth Amendment by way of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and
under state tort law.
noted, there are numerous motions and other filings currently
pending. These documents can be separated into six
categories. The first comprises Coleman's initial motion
for summary judgment (doc. no. 70), Dronsfield's
objection (doc. no. 75), Coleman's “motion to
deny” that objection (doc. no. 79), and
Dronsfield's response to the “motion to deny”
(doc. no. 81). The second includes Dronsfield's motion
for summary judgment (doc. no. 76), Colemans'
“motion to deny” that motion (doc. no. 88),
Dronsfield's response to that “motion to
deny” (doc. no. 90), and Coleman's subsequent
objection to Dronsfield's underlying motion for summary
judgment (doc. no. 95). The third is composed of
Dronsfield's motion to strike Coleman's objection to
Dronsfield's motion for summary judgment (doc. no. 97),
Coleman's “motion to deny” that motion (doc.
no. 3), and Dronsfield's response thereto (doc. no. 105).
The fourth consists of Coleman's motion for amended
summary judgment (doc. no. 102) and Dronsfield's
objection (doc. no. 106). The fifth includes Coleman's
motion to supplement his motion for summary judgment (doc.
no. 113) and Dronsfield's objection (doc. no. 114). The
last comprises Coleman's motion to charge Dronsfield with
perjury, obstruction of justice, and fraud, and to charge
Dronsfield's former attorney, Matthew Cairns, with
subornation of perjury (doc. no. 100), Dronsfield's
objection (doc. no. 104), Coleman's “motion to
deny” that objection (doc. no. 109), and
Dronsfield's response to that “motion to
deny” (doc. no. 111).
initial matter, all of Coleman's “motions to
deny” are, in substance if not form, responses to the
filings he seeks to have denied. The court therefore
construes these “motions to deny” as objections
or replies, as may be appropriate, rather than as separate
motions. The court likewise construes Dronsfield's
responses to those filings as replies or surreplies rather
than separate responses.
in deference to Coleman's pro se status, the court will
consider all of Coleman's filings, whether timely or not,
when analyzing the respective requests for summary judgment.
Thus, for the purposes of the present analysis, the court
construes Coleman's requests for summary judgment to
consist of his initial motion (doc. no. 70), his subsequent
motion (doc. no. 102), and his recent motion to supplement
(doc. no. 112). Similarly, the court considers Coleman's
objection to Dronsfield's motion for summary judgment to
consist of his “motion to deny” that motion (doc.
no. 88) and his subsequent objection (doc. no. 95).
noted, the court also has for consideration Dronsfield's
motion to strike and Coleman's motion seeking criminal
charges against Dronsfield and Attorney Cairns. As the latter
motion does not directly relate to the merits of the
summary-judgment motions, the court takes it under advisement
and will address it in a separate ruling. And because the
court concludes that Dronsfield is entitled to summary
judgment even if it considers the documents subject to the
motion to strike, the court need not reach that motion and
instead recommends below that it be denied as moot.
despite the plethora of filings currently pending, the court
is, in essence, presented with cross motions for summary
judgment. The court focuses its analysis accordingly.
Standard of Review
analyzing cross motions for summary judgment, the court
applies the same standard to each motion. See Fadili v.
Deutsche Bank Nat'l Tr. Co., 772 F.3d 951, 953 (1st
Cir. 2014). Summary judgment is appropriate where
“there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact
and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Xiaoyan Tang v.
Citizens Bank, N.A., 821 F.3d 206, 215 (1st Cir. 2016).
“An issue is ‘genuine' if it can be resolved
in favor of either party, and a fact is ‘material'
if it has the potential of affecting the outcome of the
case.” Xiaoyan Tang, 821 F.3d at 215 (internal
quotation marks and citations omitted). At the summary
judgment stage, the court “view[s] the facts in the
light most favorable to the non-moving party” and
“draw[s] all reasonable inferences in the
nonmovant's favor . . . .” Garmon v. Nat'l
R.R. Passenger Corp., 844 F.3d 307, 312 (1st Cir. 2016)
(citation and quotation marks omitted). The court will not,
however, credit “conclusory allegations, improbable
inferences, and unsupported speculation.” Fanning
v. Fed. Trade Comm'n, 821 F.3d 164, 170 (1st Cir.
2016) (citation and quotation marks omitted) cert.
denied, 137 S.Ct. 627 (2017).
party moving for summary judgment must identify for the
district court the portions of the record that show the
absence of any genuine issue of material fact.”
Flovac, Inc. v. Airvac, Inc., 817 F.3d 849, 853 (1st
Cir. 2016). Once the moving party makes the required showing,
“the burden shifts to the nonmoving party, who must,
with respect to each issue on which he would bear the burden
of proof at trial, demonstrate that a trier of fact could
reasonably resolve that issue in his favor.”
Id. (citation omitted). “This demonstration
must be accomplished by reference to materials of evidentiary
quality, and that evidence must be more than ‘merely
colorable.'” Id. (citations omitted). The
nonmoving party's failure to make the requisite showing
“entitles the moving party to summary judgment.”
Coleman's Motion for Summary Judgment
moves for summary judgment on both of his
malicious-prosecution claims. He does not, however, attach
any affidavits or other evidence to his summary-judgment
filings. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). Rather, Coleman
raises a series of arguments as to why, in his view, he is
entitled to summary judgment. The court addresses each of
these arguments in turn.
first argues that he is entitled to summary judgment because
Judge McCafferty previously concluded, in her September 29,
2017 Order denying Dronsfield's motion to dismiss, that
Coleman's malicious-prosecution claims were not barred by
res judicata. This argument is unpersuasive. In that Order,
Judge McCafferty concluded that a previous lawsuit brought by
Coleman in 2012 did not bar his malicious-prosecution claims
in this case because Coleman could not have brought those
claims until January 2015, when the underlying criminal
prosecution was dismissed. See 2017 DNH 213, 3-5.
She reached this conclusion because termination of criminal
charges in the plaintiff's favor is an essential element
of malicious prosecution under state and federal law. See
id. at 4. She was not asked to reach the merits of
Coleman's claims, and she did not do so in her Order. Her