Eugene McCumons v. J. Marougi ( 2010 )

                               File Name: 10a0413n.06
                                               No. 09-1844                                  FILED
                                                                                         Jul 12, 2010
                              UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS                      LEONARD GREEN, Clerk
                                   FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT
    EUGENE MARTIN MCCUMONS,                          )
           Plaintiff-Appellee,                       )
    v.                                               )   ON APPEAL FROM THE UNITED
                                                     )   STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE
    J. MAROUGI, Officer,                             )   EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
           Defendant-Appellant.                      )
           Before: BATCHELDER, Chief Judge; SUTTON and KETHLEDGE, Circuit Judges.
           SUTTON, Circuit Judge. In this appeal, a police officer challenges the district court’s
    summary-judgment order denying his request for qualified immunity from a false-arrest action filed
    under § 1983. We affirm.
           On August 10, 2007, Officer Marougi went to Hawthorne Park, located in Pontiac, Michigan,
    to work undercover in response to “numerous and recurring complaints” about “open sexual activity,
    specifically between males, in the park.” R.15-11. While there, he met Eugene McCumons. Taking
    McCumons’ factually supported allegations as true, as we must at this stage of the proceeding, here
    is what happened next.
    No. 09-1844
    McCumons v. Marougi
              While McCumons sat in his parked car, he saw Officer Marougi drive past. The undercover
    officer nodded at McCumons, and McCumons nodded back, after which the officer parked his car
    nearby. McCumons drove toward another part of the park, and about ten minutes later the officer
    drove by McCumons’ parked car and made eye contact again. The officer then drove toward the
    front of the park. When McCumons drove toward the front of the park as well, he noticed the
    officer’s car parked on the side of the road. McCumons stopped and said hello.
              The two men exchanged pleasantries, and eventually the officer asked McCumons what
    would make it a “better day.” R.27-2, 122. McCumons asked him what he meant, and the officer
    replied, “Well, you know what I mean.” Id. The men continued “flirting” and started to discuss
    what they were “looking for.” Id. The officer said that he liked “everything but it,” and asked
    McCumons what he liked. Id. He “liked it all too.” R.24 ¶ 18. The officer further explained, “I
    do oral,” and McCumons responded, “I don’t have anywhere we can go.” R.24 ¶¶ 19, 22.
              The officer told McCumons that he had to get going, but then suggested that they “go to the
    back” and gestured over his shoulder. R.24 ¶ 23. McCumons told the officer that he had to “think
    about it,” R.27-2, 123, and after further urging asked, “Why? Are you horny?” R.24 ¶ 27. “Why
    do you think I’m here?” the officer replied. Id. “Okay,” McCumons said, before starting to drive
    his car around the circle on which they were both parked. R.27-2, 123. The officer pulled his car
    over into the tall grass. McCumons stopped near the car, rolled down the passenger window and told
    Marougi that he had seen a police officer nearby (little did he know) and was going to leave, which
    he did.
    No. 09-1844
    McCumons v. Marougi
           The officer followed McCumons out of the park to a flea market. At the market, he arrested
    McCumons, impounded his car and released him from custody after fifteen minutes. McCumons
    was charged with violating MCL 750.448, which prohibits a person from “invit[ing]” another to
    engage in “lewd” behavior. The police seized McCumons’ car under MCL 600.3801, which permits
    the seizure of any “vehicle” used for “lewdness.” McCumons paid $785 to redeem the car, and a
    state court eventually dismissed the solicitation charge.
           On March 18, 2008, McCumons filed this action against Officer Marougi in federal court,
    claiming that Marougi violated his rights under the First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the
    United States Constitution and state law (gross negligence) as well. Marougi filed a motion for
    summary judgment on the federal claims, invoking qualified immunity.
           Of importance here, the district court determined that the subject of the conversation was
    “lewd” within the meaning of the statute, but it concluded that McCumons did not “invite” Marougi
    to do anything and that “it was not objectively reasonable to conclude that Plaintiff violated [MCL
    750.448]”—at least at summary judgment. R.33, 10–11. The court thus denied qualified immunity
    on McCumons’ Fourth Amendment claims arising from his arrest and from the seizure of the car.
    Officer Marougi appeals.
           The denial of a motion for summary judgment ordinarily presents “neither a final appealable
    order nor an appealable interlocutory order.” Jefferson v. Lewis, 
    594 F.3d 454
    , 459 (6th Cir. 2010).
    No. 09-1844
    McCumons v. Marougi
    But the Supreme Court has long held that denials of motions for qualified immunity amount to final
    orders under the collateral-order doctrine. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 
    556 U.S.
    129 S. Ct. 1937
    , 1946
    (2009); Hunter v. Bryant, 
    502 U.S. 224
    , 228 (1991); Mitchell v. Forsyth, 
    472 U.S. 511
    , 530 (1985);
    Cohen v. Beneficial Indus. Loan Corp., 
    337 U.S. 541
    , 546 (1949). So long as the qualified-immunity
    appeal “presents a question of law and does not require us to resolve disputes of material facts,” and
    so long as the defendant is “willing to concede the plaintiff’s version of the facts for the purposes
    of the appeal,” we have jurisdiction over the appeal. Jefferson, 594 F.3d at 459. Officer Marougi
    has done just that, see Marougi Reply Br. 1, and so we may proceed.
           When a government official invokes qualified immunity in a § 1983 action, the claimant
    must make two showings to overcome the defense: He must show that the officer’s conduct violated
    a constitutional right, and he must show that the constitutional right in question was “clearly
    established.” Silberstein v. City of Dayton, 
    440 F.3d 306
    , 311 (6th Cir. 2006). McCumons plainly
    satisfies the first requirement: Officer Marougi concedes that, in retrospect, he did not have probable
    cause to arrest McCumons. At first blush, it might appear that McCumons just as plainly satisfies
    the second requirement: No one doubts that “it is clearly established that arrest without probable
    cause violates the Fourth Amendment.” Leonard v. Robinson, 
    477 F.3d 347
    , 355 (6th Cir. 2007).
    But it is not that simple. The second question turns not just on whether the legal right is “clearly
    established” in the abstract but on whether the officer’s action, “assessed in light of the legal rules
    that were ‘clearly established’ at the time it was taken,” was “objective[ly] . . . reasonable[].”
    No. 09-1844
    McCumons v. Marougi
    Anderson v. Creighton, 
    483 U.S. 635
    , 639 (1987) (quotations omitted). “[R]easonable mistakes,”
    the Supreme Court reminds us, “can be made as to the legal constraints” on police officers, and when
    that is the case, “the officer is entitled to the immunity defense.” Saucier v. Katz, 
    533 U.S. 194
    , 205
    (2001), overruled on other grounds by Pearson v. Callahan, 
    555 U.S.
    129 S. Ct. 808
     (2009). The
    key question, then, is: Did Officer Marougi make a “reasonable mistake” in concluding that he had
    probable cause to arrest McCumons?
            We think not—at least under the facts alleged and supported by the claimant, McCumons.
    The relevant Michigan law says: “A person sixteen years of age or older who accosts, solicits or
    invites another person in a public place or in or from a building or vehicle, by word, gesture, or any
    other means, to commit prostitution or to do any other lewd or immoral act, is guilty of a crime . . . .”
    MCL 750.448. The provision thus permitted Officer Marougi to arrest McCumons if he reasonably
    believed that McCumons “invite[d]” him to engage in lewd behavior.
            Here is how McCumons described the encounter in his deposition:
            I was sitting there and that’s when Marougi came around off of the circle and came
            by me.
                When he went by, he nodded and I nodded back. He pulled on ahead a little bit
            next to some of those cars then, so he was in that bunch of cars. . . . I pulled out and
            went around the opposite way and back around the circle, went down to the other part
            of the park . . . . Probably took maybe, I don’t know, seven, 10 minutes and
            Marougi’s vehicle came down, around the pond and then crossed in front of me
            where I was parked, and he looked again.
                He went back up toward the front of the park and I did not follow him at that
            time. . . . It is getting closer to where it’s time to go so I moved up and went back up
            into the hill in the secluded part of the park, I can’t tell you directions as to where,
            but up the hill as I’m going I notice that he parked at the top of the hill. . . .
                As he is parked on one side off on the side of the road, I come up and we are a
            distance apart but I am still on the road. I stopped and that is when I said hello.
    No. 09-1844
    McCumons v. Marougi
    R.27-2, 120–21. The two men then had this conversation:
           McCumons:     “Hello.”
           Officer:      “Hello.”
           McCumons:     “How are you doing?”
           Officer:      “Doing alright, how about you?”
           McCumons:     “I’m fine.”
           Officer:      “Well, what would make it a better day?”
           McCumons:     “I don’t know, what do you mean?”
           Officer:      “Well, you know what I mean.”
           Officer:      “Well, what’s going on?”
           McCumons:     “I don’t know, what’s up?”
           Officer:      “Well, what are you looking for?”
           McCumons:     “I don’t know.”
           Officer:      “You know, I like everything.”
           McCumons:     “What do you mean?”
           Officer:      “I like everything but ‘it.’ What do you like?”
           McCumons:     “It? What’s ‘it’?”
           Officer:      “You know. What do you like?”
           McCumons:     “I like everything.”
           Officer:      “I do oral.”
           McCumons:     “I don’t have anywhere we can go.”
           Officer:      “I got to go to work. You know how that is.”
           McCumons:     “Yeah, I do.”
           Officer:      “Let’s go back to the back.”
           McCumons:     “Where?”
           Officer:      “Come on, you can get in my truck. No one will see us.”
           McCumons:     “Let me think about it.”
           Officer:      “Well, I got to get going.”
    No. 09-1844
    McCumons v. Marougi
           McCumons:        “Why? Are you horny?”
           Officer:         “Why do you think I’m here?”
           McCumons:        “Okay.”
    R.27-2, 121–23; R.24 ¶¶ 19, 22. Followed by this interaction:
           So I started driving around because I got to come back around to go down the hill.
           . . . He quickly drives around towards the back also, going from the other way, and
           he drives off into the high grass. I’m not going to get into the high grass, so I keep
           going, I stop and I lean over and I roll down my passenger’s window and he comes
           up on an angle and I said I got to get going, I saw a police officer over there. . . .
           . . . At that point I said I got to get going and I drove away.
    R.27-2, 124.
           On this record, if believed, it was Officer Marougi who “invited” McCumons to engage in
    sexual behavior, not the other way around. It was Marougi who asked McCumons what would make
    it a “better day.” It was Marougi who prompted McCumons by saying that he liked “everything but
    it.” It was Marougi who said “I do oral.” And above all, it was Marougi who asked McCumons to
    “go to the back.” How on this version of the facts could one say McCumons “invite[d]” Officer
    Marougi to have sex in the park? It was Officer Marougi who did the soliciting. Perhaps
    McCumons was amenable to the invitation, but even then he ultimately rejected it. A reasonable
    officer could not think that McCumons made an invitation when he was the one invited and he was
    the one who declined.
           Officer Marougi insists that, in the context of an invitation for a sexual liaison, we should
    consider not just the words exchanged but the non-verbal setting in which they were uttered.
    No. 09-1844
    McCumons v. Marougi
    Gestures, facial expressions, tone of voice and other contextual clues, he adds, might cast a different
    light on the conversation. Marougi is right, and indeed the statute refers to invitations made through
    “word, gesture or any other means.” MCL 750.448. But Marougi has only himself to blame for our
    inability to take him up on this invitation. The summary judgment record does not contain any such
    facts, and we may not assume their existence to the detriment of the nonmoving party. Had Officer
    Marougi filed an affidavit to the effect that McCumons’ tone, body language, together with other
    visual and verbal clues, signaled an invitation, and had McCumons not contradicted these
    observations, that might be a different matter. But we cannot credit factual allegations never made
    and we cannot draw inferences in favor of the officer and against the nonmoving party.
           The probable-cause determination was a close call, Officer Marougi adds, and accordingly
    we must find his assessment to be reasonable. This is the nub of the matter, and it is the nub of our
    reason for rejecting Marougi’s argument. This was not a close call. If McCumons’s account is
    accurate, no reasonable officer could conclude that he had “invite[d]” the officer to have sex in the
    park—when the officer made the sexual advances and when McCumons was merely receptive to
    them. The statute covers people who invite others to have sex in the park, not those merely willing
    to have sex in the park.
           In view of this conclusion, we can make quick work of Officer Marougi’s other contentions.
    He argues that the district court improperly resolved factual disputes against him in ruling for
    No. 09-1844
    McCumons v. Marougi
    McCumons. But that is not how we read the opinion. Consistent with its duty at this phase of the
    litigation, the court gave McCumons the benefit of all inferences in determining whether, as a matter
    of law, Officer Marougi merely made a “reasonable mistake” in arresting him. Nothing in the
    district court’s opinion (or for that matter ours) prohibits the jury from playing its time-honored
    role—resolving the competing accounts of what happened at the park—and from then deciding
    whether Marougi acted reasonably in arresting McCumons.
           Officer Marougi separately argues that the district court erred in denying his qualified
    immunity defense on a different claim—for malicious prosecution—which McCumons included in
    his amended complaint. But, again, we do not read the district court’s order that way. The court’s
    decision responds to a motion filed before McCumons amended his complaint. To the extent the
    court’s decision (briefly) mentions malicious prosecution cases, that is because they had some
    bearing on the extant Fourth Amendment claim, not because the court addressed, much less resolved,
    the merits of this freestanding (and later-filed) claim.
           Officer Marougi also challenges the district court’s rejection of his qualified immunity
    defense with respect to McCumons’ freestanding First Amendment claim. Below and in their
    appellate briefs, the parties (and the district court) appeared to treat this claim as the tail on
    McCumons’ Fourth Amendment claim. If McCumons invited Marougi to have sex in the park, the
    parties agreed, the First Amendment does not bar enforcement of the statute against McCumons.
    But if McCumons made no such invitation, he argued, the First Amendment barred the police from
    enforcing the statute against people who merely talk about having sex. The district court thought
    No. 09-1844
    McCumons v. Marougi
    that this last point was wrapped up in the material factual disputes that precluded resolution of the
    Fourth Amendment claim as a matter of law, and as a result it rejected Marougi’s qualified immunity
    defense to this claim as well.
           That may or may not be correct. The parties agree that the statute is constitutional if
    McCumons made the requisite invitation, leaving McCumons to complain about the validity of the
    statute only in the context of invitations never made. Neither Marougi nor the Pontiac Police
    Department, however, has expressed any interest in enforcing the statute in that setting, prompting
    us to wonder whether we have a live “case or controversy” on our hands. We need not resolve the
    point today. In view of our ruling on the Fourth Amendment claim, Marougi must face a trial either
    way (unless the parties settle). To the extent McCumons wishes to continue to pursue his First
    Amendment claim, it is up to the parties and the district court to reconsider whether, even in light
    of these fact disputes, this First Amendment claim is a cognizable one and whether it arises in the
    context of a live dispute.
           For these reasons, we affirm the district court’s rejection of Officer Marougi’s qualified
    immunity defense to the Fourth Amendment claim.
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