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Robinson v. Mecham

United States District Court, D. Utah, Central Division

January 23, 2017

DENISE ROBINSON, Plaintiff,
v.
TAD MECHAM, in her official and individual capacities and JARED HAMMON, in his official and individual capacities, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER AFFIRMING REPORT & RECOMMENDATION

          Clark Waddoups United States District Court Judge

         This is a civil rights action alleging violations of the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments arising from an incident at the Kanab Port of Entry in July 2015. Plaintiff seeks “monetary damages and injunctive relief” under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the complaint under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (Dkt. No. 18.) The matter was referred to United States Magistrate Judge Brooke Wells under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). On July 29, 2016, Magistrate Judge Wells issued a Report and Recommendation, recommending that this court dismiss plaintiff's complaint because the claims are “not plausible” based on the surveillance video that captured the events at issue, and because plaintiff's complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. (R & R, Dkt. No. 32.) Plaintiff timely objected to the Report and Recommendation as provided by Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 72(b) and 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). This court has reviewed the Report and Recommendation and plaintiff's objections de novo. Being fully advised, the court now accepts the recommendation and GRANTS defendants' motion, but for the reasons stated below.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “[M]ere labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not suffice; a plaintiff must offer specific factual allegations to support each claim.” Kan. Penn Gaming, LLC v. Collins, 656 F.3d 1210, 1214 (10th Cir. 2011) (internal punctuation omitted). Furthermore, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(d) states that “[i]f, on a motion under Rule 12(b)(6) matters outside the pleadings are presented to and not excluded by the court, the motion must be treated as one for summary judgment under Rule 56.” Both parties submitted the Kanab Port of Entry surveillance videos that captured the event at issue, and plaintiff submitted additional law enforcement dispatch audio files as well as still photographs. In addition to both parties being on notice, based on their submissions and arguments, that this matter may be converted to a motion for summary judgment, on December 14, 2016 the court notified the parties that it intended to convert the motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment and invited objections by a set deadline. Neither party objected to the court's notice. Accordingly, the court will treat defendants' motion as a motion for summary judgment.

         Summary judgment is appropriate “if the movant shows that 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). “At the summary judgment stage, facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party only if there is a genuine dispute as to those facts.” Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007). Because the video recording and still photos “tell[ ] quite a different story” than many of the facts in plaintiff's complaint, the court also views the facts in the light depicted by the actual recordings and photos. Id. at 379-80 (“When opposing parties tell two different stories, one of which is blatantly contradicted by the record, so that no reasonable jury could believe it, a court should adopt that version of the facts for purposes of ruling on a motion for summary judgment.”)

         FACTUAL HISTORY AND FINDINGS

         The facts upon which the parties agree are cited below. (Mot. to Dismiss p. 2-6, Opp'n Memo p. 3; Dkt. Nos. 18, 19.) Where the parties do not agree, the court cites the facts directly from the plaintiff's copy of the surveillance video and identifies them as such, or where they are consistent with the surveillance video, from plaintiff's Opposition Memo.

         1. On or about July 1, 2015 at about 4:06 p.m. plaintiff Denise Robinson was traveling with her husband through Kanab, Utah in a tractor trailer combination. They were transporting watermelons to a retailer in Salt Lake City.

         2. As they approached the Kanab Port of Entry, a flashing light and sign ordered plaintiff and her husband to exit the highway and enter the weigh station.

         3. After driving across the scale, a Port of Entry agent ordered that the truck stop and the driver enter the building with all paperwork. Plaintiff accompanied her husband into the building.

         4. A surveillance video at the Kanab Port of Entry captured and recorded the events at issue. At plaintiff's request, her copy of the surveillance video was viewed by the court.

         5. As the surveillance video begins, defendant Tad Mecham can be seen sitting at one of the desks in the Port of Entry, looking out the window at vehicles on the scales, and talking on a cellphone.

         6. Plaintiff and her husband walked into the Port of Entry office and Mr. Robinson laid a red folder on the counter. Mecham stood and began looking at Mr. Robinson's paperwork while still on her cellphone. (Video 4:18:24-4:18-44.)

         7. Mecham stated to the caller something like, “I've got to go, I've got a driver here.” (Video at 14:18.)

         8. Mecham then finished her cell phone call. She indicated to Mr. Robinson that he was 1000 pounds overweight on his rig.

         9. Mecham and Mr. Robinson continued to discuss the total weight of his rig versus the weight of his axels. During this portion of the conversation, Mr. Robinson remained calm, although he briefly used profanity and expressed surprise or incredulity that he may be ticketed for having an overweight axel when the gross weight of his rig was less than the limit, and because no fuel allowance was given. For her part, Mecham remained calm during this portion of the conversation as well, indicating that axel weights, not just gross weights, are enforced, and that Utah is a “zero tolerance state.” (Video at 14:18-14:20.)

         10. Mr. Robinson stated that in his 15 year driving career, he had never been issued a citation for such a violation. He then flipped his driver's license or some other identification card onto the counter in front of Mecham. (Video at 14:20.)

         11. Mecham stated that she had been at the Port of Entry for 28 years, then turned away from the front counter with the folder containing the Robinsons' paperwork and placed it on a side desk, saying, “and I can tell you we never give an allowance.” (Id.)

         12. At this point, the verbal exchange between Mr. Robinson and Mecham became more heated. Mr. Robinson swore, claimed that he had been given an allowance multiple times, and began to raise his voice at Mecham. Mecham then turned back toward Mr. Robinson, began to raise her voice, and stated, ...


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