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Hubbard v. Holmes

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Charlottesville Division

April 20, 2018

Rodney Hubbard, ET AL., Plaintiffs,
v.
Andrew Holmes, ET AL., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          NORMAN K. MOON SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         The plaintiffs in this case allege that Andrew Holmes, an Albemarle County police officer, violated the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause through racially selective enforcement of the law. Specifically, Rodney Hubbard and his mother Savannah Hubbard claim that Holmes stopped and searched their car because they are African-Americans. The defendants, Holmes and Albemarle County, have moved for summary judgment.[1]

         The parties focus on a narrow question: Are certain statistics about Holmes' prior arrests and summonses sufficient to establish that Holmes' actions had a discriminatory effect? If not, plaintiffs' case falters because a selective enforcement claim requires the plaintiffs to establish both that the defendant's actions had a discriminatory effect and that those actions were motivated by a discriminatory purpose. Here, the statistics are the only evidence of discriminatory effect relied on by the plaintiffs. The defendants are entitled to summary judgment because this statistical evidence is insufficient to demonstrate discriminatory effect.

         I. Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that a court shall grant summary judgment “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact.” “As to materiality . . . [o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). In order to preclude summary judgment, the dispute about a material fact must be “genuine.” Id. A dispute is “genuine” if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id. In considering a motion for summary judgment under Rule 56, a court must view the record as a whole and draw all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See, e.g., Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-24 (1986).

         II. Facts

         A. The stop

         On September 11, 2015, Rodney Hubbard and his mother were driving north on Route 29 in a black sport utility vehicle. As they entered Albemarle County, Hubbard passed Holmes, who was standing outside his patrol car. Hubbard slowed down when passing Holmes. A mile or two later, Hubbard noticed that Holmes was now in his patrol car and following Hubbard. Holmes followed Hubbard for three to four miles before passing him. After another mile or two, Hubbard again saw that Holmes was again following him. At that point, Holmes turned on his lights and pulled Hubbard over. Holmes claimed Hubbard had driven 65 mph in a 60 mph zone.

         Holmes then asked Hubbard for his driver's license and registration. Hubbard did not have his license, but gave him an identification card. Holmes asked Hubbard to step out of the vehicle. Holmes told Hubbard he stopped Hubbard for exceeding the speed limit, although Hubbard denies he was speeding. Holmes asked Hubbard whether his license was suspended in Virginia. Hubbard was unsure, but said his license in Maryland was expired. (During the stop, a different officer later informed Holmes that Hubbard's Virginia license was indeed suspended).

         Holmes said he smelled marijuana and asked Hubbard why the vehicle smelled like marijuana. Hubbard denied the vehicle smelled like marijuana and said there was no marijuana in the car, but did admit that someone had smoked in the vehicle three or four days before the stop. However, Hubbard had placed an air freshener in his car to conceal the marijuana smell from his mother. In her deposition, his mother denied smelling marijuana. Holmes told Hubbard he was not under arrest, but searched him due to the marijuana odor Holmes claimed he smelled in Hubbard's vehicle. Holmes then placed Hubbard in handcuffs in the patrol car while Holmes searched Hubbard's vehicle. Other officers arrived to assist in the search of the vehicle. The officers did not find drugs. Holmes issued Hubbard a ticket for driving on a suspended license.

         B. The statistics

         In response to a discovery request in a related case, the defendants produced statistical data about Albemarle County and its police officers. The data show the racial breakdown of Albemarle County, a more specific racial breakdown of two sectors of Albemarle County where Holmes primarily worked, Holmes' total traffic stops (although these stops are not broken down by race), the racial breakdown of the summons and arrests issued by Holmes, and the racial breakdown of citations and arrests for other officers in Holmes' primary sectors for 2015.

         The statistics state that the population of Albemarle County is 81% white and 10% black. Holmes normally does not cover the whole of Albemarle County, but is usually assigned to three police “sectors.” The population of two of those sectors was approximately 68% white and 18% black. The parties do not have specific data on the racial breakdown of the third of the sectors.

         While statistics are kept on total traffic stops, no accompanying demographic data are available for those stops unless a summons or citation is issued. In 2014 and 2015, 17% of summons issued by the Albemarle County Police Department were to black individuals. From 2009 to 2015, 49% of the summonses Holmes issued were to black individuals, and 51% were to white individuals. In 2015, 51% of the summonses Holmes issued were to black individuals and 48% were to white individuals. Other officers in two of Holmes' three sectors issued 22% of summonses to black individuals and 74% to white individuals in 2015. In 2015, 61% of Holmes' arrests were of black individuals and 39% were of white individuals.

         III. ...


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