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White v. Loudoun County Sheriff Michael L. Chapman

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division

April 6, 2015

MAURICE WHITE, Plaintiff,
v.
LOUDOUN COUNTY SHERIFF MICHAEL L. CHAPMAN, et al., Defendants

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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For Maurice White, Plaintiff: Amy Jo Eldridge, LEAD ATTORNEY, Robert Scott Silverblatt, K & L Gates (DC), Washington, DC.

For Michael L. Chapman, Loudoun County Sheriff, Defendant: Carlene Booth Johnson, LEAD ATTORNEY, Perry Law Firm PC, Dillwyn, VA.

For Wade P. Phillips, Loundoun County Deputy Sheriff, Defendant: Alexander Francuzenko, LEAD ATTORNEY, Broderick Coleman Dunn, Lee Brinson Warren, Cook Craig & Francuzenko PLLC, Fairfax, VA.

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MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Gerald Bruce Lee, United States District Judge.

THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendant Loudon County Deputy Sheriff Wade P. Phillips' Motion for Summary Judgment (Docs. 119 and 122) and Defendant Loudoun County Sheriff Michael L. Chapman's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 100). Plaintiff Maurice White brought this civil action against Defendants pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for unlawful arrest and malicious prosecution related to an August 11, 2013 traffic stop. Defendant Phillips argues in his Motion for Summary Judgment that he had probable cause to seek Mr. White's arrest and acted as a reasonably objective officer in doing so and thus is entitled to qualified immunity. Sheriff Chapman in his Motion for Summary Judgment argues that in his individual capacity, he is not strictly liable or vicariously liable for the conduct of Deputy Phillips and that even were he liable he is entitled to sovereign immunity.

There are four issues before the Court. The first issue is whether Defendant Deputy Phillips is entitled to qualified immunity from suit based on his alleged unlawful arrest and malicious prosecution of Plaintiff. The second issue is whether there is a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Deputy Phillips had probable cause to seek Plaintiffs arrest. The third issue is whether Sheriff Chapman is entitled to sovereign immunity. Finally, the fourth issue is whether Sheriff Chapman may be held both strictly and vicariously liable for Deputy Phillips' actions.

The Court holds that Deputy Phillips is not entitled to qualified immunity in this case because genuine issues of material fact remain regarding whether Defendant violated Plaintiffs clearly established Fourth Amendment rights against unlawful arrest. Further, the Court holds that Sheriff Chapman in his individual capacity may be held strictly and vicariously liable for Deputy Phillips' actions, because Deputy Phillips was acting colore officii when he allegedly violated Plaintiffs rights and thus Sheriff Chapman is not entitled to sovereign immunity.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

On August 11, 2013, after completing his night shift with the Mount Weather Police Department, Plaintiff Mr. White was pulled over by Defendant Deputy Phillips while attempting to enter his master planned residential community near Ashbum, Virginia. (Doc. 1, ¶ ¶ 7-12.) On the date and time in question, several entrances to Mr. White's community were blocked by police cruisers due to runners and cyclists participating in an organized triathlon. ( Id. at ¶ ¶ 10-11.) On his third attempt to find an open entrance into his neighborhood, Mr. White saw yet another police cruiser and approached at a slow rate of speed in order to determine if he would be able to reach his home. ( Id. at ¶ ¶ 11-12.) As Mr. White approached, Deputy Phillips ran out and yelled for Mr. White to slow down. ( Id. at ¶ 12.) Mr. White obeyed and stopped his vehicle. ( Id. at ¶ 12.)

Deputy Phillips, still yelling and with his hand on his weapon, then instructed Mr. White to back his car over to the curb. ( Id. at ¶ 13.) Mr. White complied. ( Id. )

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As Mr. White was backing up however, Deputy Phillips without any provocation grabbed the driver's side mirror of Mr. White's car. ( Id. ) Concerned about potential damage to his vehicle, Mr. White got out of his car to inspect the side mirror, at which point Mr. White's police uniform was plainly visible. ( Id. at ¶ 14.) After Mr. White exited his vehicle, Deputy Phillip made inappropriate physical contact with Mr. White. ( Id. at ¶ 15.) Mr. White verbally protested explaining to Deputy Phillips that there was no need to use force. ( Id. ) Deputy Phillips next asked Mr. White for his license and registration. ( Id. at ¶ 16.) Mr. White produced his license, badge, and credentials from the Department of Homeland Security, but was unable to locate his registration. ( Id. at ¶ ¶ 16-17.) After returning to the car in an attempt to locate his registration, Deputy Phillips asked Mr. White to remain in the car. ( Id. at ¶ 17.)

Deputy Phillips then took out his ticket book and called to request that another office join him on the scene. ( Id. at ¶ 18.) Sergeant Jay Cleveland Conner of the Loudoun County Sheriffs Office approached the scene and began talking to Deputy Phillips shortly thereafter. ( Id. ) Upon arriving at the scene Sergeant Conner interviewed a witness who was attending to a nearby water station. ( Id. at ¶ 19.) The witness told Sergeant Conner that she had not observed Mr. White assault Deputy Phillips. ( Id. at ¶ 19.) During this period, Mr. White's wife called Mr. White concerned because he had not arrived home from his shift. ( Id. at ¶ 20.) Mr. White informed his wife that he had been involved in a traffic stop. ( Id. ) During the conversation, Mr. White told Mrs. White that Sergeant Conner was approaching the car. ( Id. ) Mrs. White could hear Mr. White being told that he was going to receive a summons for reckless driving. ( Id. ) Concerned about her husband, Mrs. White, who was in her pajamas, drove the short distance to the scene of the traffic stop. ( Id. at ¶ 21; Doc. 120, ¶ 33) Upon arriving at the scene Mrs. White asked Sergeant Conner to identify the supervising officer, to which he replied he was the supervisor. (Doc. 1, ¶ 21) Mrs. White also expressed concern that the officers were humiliating Mr. White in front of their community. ( Id. ) At that point Deputy Phillips approached Mrs. White and said " Ma'am, I'm the one at fault. Don't take this out on my supervisor. I initiated this." ( Id. at ¶ 22.) Mrs. White inquired as to whether there would be a summons issued, to which Deputy Phillips responded that there would not be. ( Id. ) At the conclusion of the incident both Mr. and Mrs. White were allowed to leave the scene. ( Id. at ¶ 24.) No arrests were made, no summonses were issued, and no charges were filed. ( Id. at ¶ 24.) Prior to leaving the scene Mrs. White informed Deputy Phillips that she would be filing a complaint regarding the incident. ( Id. at ¶ 23.)

Mrs. White filed a complaint. ( Id. at ¶ 25.) After explaining the situation to someone at the Loudoun County Sheriffs Office, Lieutenant Kenneth Christensen was dispatched to the White's house to investigate the complaint. ( Id. at ¶ 26.) While en route to the White's house, Lieutenant Christensen announced over the radio that he was traveling to the White's house to take a complaint. ( Id. at ¶ 26.) Lieutenant Christensen spoke with the Whites for approximately one hour and took several pages of notes. ( Id. at ¶ 27.) Lieutenant Christensen also recorded the conversation although neither Mr. nor Mrs. White were aware of this fact. (Doc. 101, ¶ 48; Doc. 161, ¶ 48.) Mr. White alleges that at some point later that day Deputy Phillips learned that the White's

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had filed a complaint with Lieutenant Christensen. ( Id. ...


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