United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER RE: REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
REGARDING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DKT.
NOS. 69 & 94)
MICHAEL A. PONSOR U.S. District Judge.
has brought this action against eight law enforcement
officers and the City of Springfield pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983. The City of Springfield moved for summary
judgment on Count II, in which Plaintiff seeks damages under
a theory of municipal liability. (Dkt. No. 69.) See
Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978).
The motion was referred to Magistrate Judge Katherine A.
Robertson for a Report and Recommendation.
October 14, 2016, Judge Robertson issued her Report and
Recommendation (Dkt. No. 94), to the effect that the motion
should be denied as to the Monell claim based upon a
failure adequately to supervise and discipline certain police
officers and allowed as to the claim based upon a failure to
train. Defendant has filed an objection to the Report and
Recommendation in accordance with the timeline established by
Judge Robertson. For the reasons set forth below, the court
is not persuaded by the objection. Upon de novo
review, the court will therefore adopt the Report and
Recommendation, deny the motion for summary judgment, in
part, and set the case for a final pretrial
Robertson's Report sets forth the background of this case
and the underlying facts in scrupulous detail. No significant
objection has been filed as to the facts that must be
presumed at this stage, or to the basic analytical framework.
A copy of the Report and Recommendation is attached to this
Memorandum for reference.
heart of Defendant's objection is straightforward. The
record, the argument goes, is simply insufficient to persuade
a reasonable jury (1) that the City of Springfield had a
custom, policy, or practice of failing to investigate,
discipline, and supervise its officers; (2) that this custom,
policy, or practice demonstrated deliberate indifference to
the constitutional rights of individuals with whom the
officers interacted; and (3) that this custom, policy, or
practice was the direct cause of the constitutional violation
suffered by Plaintiff here. In particular, Defendant
emphasizes its substantial efforts at improving review and
oversight of its police officers. It also points out that
Plaintiff himself in this case failed to invoke available
processes for protesting alleged police misconduct.
arguments, and others, may well ultimately persuade a jury
that Plaintiff's claims against the City of Springfield
lack support. However, as the Report and Recommendation
summarizes in detail, the record regarding some of the
officers who are Defendants in this case, and the record of
the City of Springfield with regard to the supervision and
discipline of its officers, is sufficient to clear the Rule
reaching this conclusion, the court has found particularly
helpful the excellent decision by U.S. District Court Judge
F. Dennis Saylor, IV, in the case of Cox v. Murphy,
Civ. No. 12-11817, 2016 WL 4009978 (D. Mass. Feb. 12, 2016).
Cox involved a Monell claim against the
City of Boston, arising (as here) from an incident of alleged
excessive force by police officers.
Cox, Judge Saylor noted the considerable evidence of
incidents of excessive force by particular defendants. He
observed that “[i]t has been well-documented for
decades that a small percentage of police officers is
responsible for a large percentage of citizen complaints of
abuse.” Id. at *9. He concluded as follows:
There is no clear standard or precise metric by which the
Court can measure whether the claim has reached the
appropriate threshold to survive summary judgment. The courts
should not lightly infer a municipal policy or practice from
a few scattered claims, lest every claim of excessive force
engender a Monell claim. But neither should the
courts blind themselves to reality. As with many issues, the
question is to a considerable extent one of degree: while a
single accusation of excessive force is not enough, at some
point, as the accusations and claims begin to pile up, a
critical mass may be reached requiring an affirmative
response from the supervisors. Put simply, a very large
amount of smoke could reasonably compel the inference that
there must be at least a small amount of fire.
Id. at *10 (internal citations omitted).
Cox, this is such a case. It is important to
underline that in making this ruling, the court is not
finding that any of the individual officers used excessive
force on Plaintiff, or that the City of Springfield was
deliberately indifferent to that possibility. This court is
deciding simply that the quantum of evidence offered by
Plaintiff is sufficient as a matter of law to permit
Plaintiff to submit his claim against the City of Springfield
to a jury for resolution.
foregoing reasons, the court, upon de novo review,
hereby ADOPTS the Report and Recommendation. (Dkt. No. 94.)
Based upon this, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment
(Dkt. No. 69) is hereby ALLOWED as to the Monell
claim, based upon failure to train (as to which there has
been no objection), and DENIED as to the claim based upon
failure to adequately supervise and discipline.
clerk will issue the standard order for a final pretrial
conference and establish a date for counsel to appear ...