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Hardman v. Roosevelt City

United States District Court, D. Utah

June 24, 2019



          Djustin B. Pead United States District Magistrate Judge.

         On May 17, 2019, the Court conducted oral argument on Plaintiff Jerahmia Hardman's (“Plaintiff” or “Mr. Hardman”) pending Motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint.[1] (Dkt. No. 29). Plaintiff was represented by counsel, Aaron W. Owens, and Defendants Roosevelt City, Officer Pete Butcher and Detective Tracy Bird (collectively “Roosevelt Defendants”) were represented by counsel, Heather S. White. (Dkt. No. 42.) After consideration of the parties' briefing and argument along with the relevant legal authorities, for the reasons set forth herein, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's Motion to Amend.

         FINDINGS OF FACT[2]

         1. Mr. Hardman brought this action against the Roosevelt Defendants, asserting claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Utah Constitution, based on the Roosevelt Defendants' alleged destruction and failure to preserve exculpatory evidence in connection with a criminal prosecution against Mr. Hardman. (Dkt. No. 2.)

         2. The Roosevelt Defendants moved to dismiss Mr. Hardman's complaint. (Dkt. No. 15.)

         3. On February 27, 2019, the Court held a hearing on the motion to dismiss. (Dkt. No. 42.) It granted that motion in its entirety, but also granted Mr. Hardman until March 12, 2019, to file a motion seeking leave to amend his complaint. (Dkt. No. 28.)

         4. Mr. Hardman filed a timely motion for leave to amend, proposing an amended complaint in which he identified six new causes of action. Plaintiff's first five claims are titled “Civil Rights Violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 - Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments, ” with the third claim described as “Roosevelt City's Failure to Properly Train Defendants Butcher and Bird, ” the fourth claim described as “Defendant Roosevelt City's Failure to Supervise and Respond to Citizen Complaints, ” and the fifth claim described as “Defendants Actions were a Malicious Prosecution of Plaintiff.” The sixth cause of action asserts violations of article I, § 7 of the Utah Constitution. (Dkt. No. 29 and 29-1.)

         5. The facts alleged in the proposed amended complaint remain largely unchanged from those set forth in Mr. Hardman's original complaint. (Dkt. No. 29-1.)


         I. Plaintiff's Proposed Claims

         Although not entirely clear, Mr. Hardman appears to seek leave to amend his complaint to assert the following claims: (1) a due process claim under § 1983 based on the use of allegedly coerced statements from his daughter to initiate the prosecution against him; (2) a substantive due process claim under § 1983 based on the manner in which he was interrogated; (3) a claim under § 1983 for violation of his right against self-incrimination; (4) a malicious prosecution claim under § 1983; and (5) a claim for violation of his due process rights under the Utah Constitution based on the same conduct giving rise to (1) through (4). Proposed claims (1) through (4) appear to be asserted against Defendants Officer Pete Butcher (“Officer Butcher”) and Detective Tracy Bird (“Detective Bird”) in their individual capacities, as well as against Defendant Roosevelt City based on the theory that it failed to adequately train and supervise Officer Butcher and Detective Bird (fourth and fifth causes of action).

         II. Standard of Review

         Rule 15(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure states “leave to amend shall be freely given when justice so requires.” Duncan v. Manager, Dep't. of Safety, City & Cty. of Denver, 397 F.3d 1300, 1315 (10th Cir. 2005) (quotation marks omitted). Courts, however, will “refuse leave to amend . . . on a showing of undue delay, undue prejudice to the opposing party, bad faith or dilatory motive, failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, or futility of amendment.” Id. (quotation marks omitted).

         This case does not involve undue delay, undue prejudice, bad faith or dilatory motives, or a failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed. Mr. Hardman's motion should nevertheless be denied because his proposed amendments are futile. “A proposed amendment is futile if the complaint, as amended, would be subject to dismissal.” Bradley v. Val-Mejias, 379 F.3d 892, 901 (10th Cir. 2004) (quotation marks omitted).

         III. Analysis

         There is no Fourteenth Amendment right not to have an allegedly coerced statement of a third party used to initiate a prosecution.

         Mr. Hardman's proposed first (and possibly second) cause(s) of action appear to be based, at least on part, on the assertion that the Roosevelt Defendants' use of his daughter's statements, which Plaintiff maintains were improperly obtained, violated his due process rights. (See Prop. Am. Compl. [Dkt. No. 29-1] ¶ 68.)

         In Papadakos v. Norton, the court determined there is “no substantive due process right under the Fourteenth Amendment to remain free from being arrested for, or charged with, a crime based on the allegedly coerced statements of a third party.” 663 Fed. App'x. 651, 658 (10thCir. 2016) (unpublished). In light of Papadakos, Mr. Hardman cannot establish a violation of his substantive due process rights based on the alleged use of a coerced statement from his minor daughter. In the alternative, Officer Butcher and Detective Bird would be entitled to qualified immunity as the law was not clearly established at the time of Mr. Hardman's arrest. See Quinn v. Young, 780 F.3d 998, 1005 (10th Cir. 2015).

         Mr. Hardman has not alleged that the interrogation of him rose to the level of conscience shocking.

         Additionally, Mr. Hardman's proposed first (and possibly second) cause(s) of action appear to be based on the assertion that his interrogation violated his substantive due process rights. (See Prop. Am. Compl. [Dkt. 29-1] ¶ 70.) In order to establish a Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process claim, Mr. Hardman must identify either a fundamental liberty interest or show that the interrogation “shocks the conscience.” C.G. v. City of Fort Lupton, 2014 WL 2597165, at *9 (D. Colo. June 10, 2014).

         As an initial matter, Mr. Hardman does not identify any fundamental liberty interest at play. See Chavez v. Martinez, 538 U.S. 760, 776 (2003) (explaining, “we can find no basis . . . to suppose that freedom from unwanted police questioning is a right so fundamental that it cannot be abridged absent a ‘compelling state interest'”). Thus, the issue before the court is whether the interrogation rose to the level of “conscience shocking.” In general,

Conduct that shocks the judicial conscience . . . is deliberate government action that is arbitrary and unrestrained by the established principles of private right and distributive justice. This strand of substantive due process is concerned with preventing government officials from abusing their power, or employing it as an instrument of oppression. Not all governmental conduct is covered, however, as only the most egregious official conduct can be said to be arbitrary in the constitutional sense.

Seegmiller v. LaVerkin City, 528 F.3d 762, 767 (10th Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks omitted). Whether an interrogation shocks the conscience is an inquiry separate and distinct from the issue of whether a confession was coerced. The “coerced-confession inquiry looks at the state of mind of the suspect-whether a suspect's will was overborne by the totality of the circumstances surrounding the giving of a confession.” Tinker v. Beasley, 429 F.3d 1324, 1328-29 (11th Cir. 2005) (internal quotation marks and alterations omitted). In contrast, the shocks- the-conscience inquiry, focuses on the “objective unreasonableness of the officers' conduct.” Id. Whether or not an officer's conduct rises to a shock the conscience level is an issue of law, to be determined by the court. C.G., 2014 WL 2597165 at, *10.

         Mr. Hardman does not allege any facts indicating that the interrogation rose to a conscience shocking level. Officer Butcher and Detective Bird interrogated Mr. Hardman only once. During that time Plaintiff alleges Defendants were persistent, lied about the strength and amount of evidence against him[3] and informed him that things would be worse if he failed to confess. Mr. Hardman makes no claim that Officer Butcher and Detective Bird used physical force, yelled, acted aggressively, or used harsh language toward him. Additionally, there are there no allegations that Mr. Hardman or his family was threatened, that Plaintiff was kept in isolation, that he was prevented from contacting family, friends, or counsel or that Plaintiff was denied any reasonable accommodation (such as food, ...

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