United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
ORDER ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DOC. NO.
SOROKIN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
move for summary judgment on grounds of qualified immunity
where the plaintiff alleges false arrest, false imprisonment,
a violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and a violation of the
Massachusetts Declaration of Rights. Plaintiff opposes. For
the reasons that follow, the defendants' motion for
summary judgment is ALLOWED.
undisputed that on the evening of February 21, 2014, the
plaintiff, Karen Calabrese-Kelley, and her ex-husband,
William Kelley, arranged to meet in a Kmart parking lot in
Braintree to exchange custody of two of their four children.
Doc. No. 31 ¶¶ 11-17. During the exchange of their
children, Ms. Calabrese-Kelley and Mr. Kelley had an
interaction that resulted in them both calling 911. Id.
¶¶ 35-36. Three officers from the Braintree police
department responded to the call and eventually arrested Ms.
Calabrese-Kelley. Id. ¶ 63.
the primary question is whether the officers who responded to
the 911 calls are entitled to qualified immunity with respect
to their arrest of Ms. Calabrese-Kelley, the facts are
described as they were known to the officers at the time of
the arrest. However, the facts are presented in the light
most favorable to Ms. Calabrese-Kelley, with all reasonable
inferences drawn in her favor, pursuant to the standard for
deciding a motion for summary judgment. See LeBlanc
v. Great Am. Ins. Co., 6 F.3d 836, 841 (1st Cir. 1993)
(on summary judgment, a court is “obliged to view the
record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party,
and to draw all reasonable inferences in the nonmoving
Ms. Calabrese-Kelley called 911, she told the dispatcher that
her ex-husband had assaulted her by pushing her, that he was
a police officer, and that they were in the Braintree Kmart
parking lot with their children. Doc. No. 26-1 at 69-70.
Three officers from the Braintree Police Department responded
to the 911 calls: Officer John McNamara, Officer David Clark,
and Sergeant Charles Bata. Doc. No. 26-3 at 23. Prior to
their arrival at the scene, the dispatcher told the officers
that it was a domestic dispute involving an off-duty Boston
police officer. Doc. No. 26-1 at 72, Doc. No. 26-8 at 26.
Bata describes his observations of the scene as: “there
were two parties there, the male and female parties, two
separate cars, a few spaces apart.” Doc. No. 26-3
at 27. When Sergeant Bata arrived, Officer McNamara was
speaking with Ms. Calabrese-Kelley. Id. Both
children were in Ms. Calabrese-Kelley's car at that time.
Doc. No. 26-7 at 21.
following information was obtained by the officers from Ms.
Calabrese-Kelley, who “was very emotional” while
talking to the officers. Doc. No. 26-7 at 21. After
she and Mr. Kelley both arrived in the parking lot, she
carried one of their daughter's hockey bag and stick to
Mr. Kelley's car. Id. at 82. Mr. Kelley did not
want to take the hockey equipment from her. At some point
while she was trying to give him the equipment, Mr. Kelley
pushed her to the ground. Doc. No. 31 ¶ 58. Because
she was holding the hockey equipment, the hockey stick
“swung out when [she] fell.” Doc. No. 26-1 at
83. Ms. Calabrese-Kelley showed Sergeant Bata and
Officer McNamara her “bloody knee” and the
injuries on her hands which she got when Mr. Kelley pushed
her to the ground. Doc. No. 26-1 at 85. Furthermore,
she told the officers that Mr. Kelley knocked one of their
daughters to the ground at some point during the incident.
Id. at 79-80. None of the officers asked either of
the two children, ages not revealed in the record, what
happened between Mr. Kelley and Ms. Calabrese-Kelley.
Doc. No. 31 ¶ 73.
following information was obtained by Officer Clark and
Sergeant Bata from Mr. Kelley, who was “calm”
during his conversation with them. Doc. No. 26-8 at
21, 28. Mr. Kelley told the officers that “he was
there for a child custody swap and that [Ms.
Calabrese-Kelley] hit him with a hockey stick.”
Doc. No. 26-3 at 27. He said that Ms.
Calabrese-Kelley “wanted him to take the bag that
belonged to his daughter, ” and that “she came to
the car and tried to put it in the car.” Doc. No. 26-3 at
29, 31. He said “he got in front of her and blocked her
from putting it in.” Doc. No. 26-9. Sergeant Bata
observed a hockey stick and bag in the back seat of Mr.
Kelley's car. Doc. No. 26-3 at 28. Mr. Kelley told the
officers that Ms. Calabrese-Kelley “either fell on the
ground, or . . . hit her head and knee on the [car]
door.” Doc. No. 26-8 at 22. He also told the officers
that that one of their children had gotten into his car
before the altercation. Doc. No. 26-9 at 1. However,
when the officers arrived, both children were in Ms.
Calabrese-Kelley's car. Doc. No. 26-7 at 21. Mr. Kelley
stated that he had been hit on the back of his legs. Doc.
No. 26-3 at 32. The officers did not look at his legs to
see whether there were any marks on them. Id. Though
the officers knew that Mr. Kelley was an off-duty police
officer, none of them asked whether he had a firearm on him
at any point. Doc. No. 26-3 at 26. At some point, Officer
Clark took “control of the hockey stick and put it in
his cruiser.” Doc. No. 26-7 at 23.
Sergeant Bata made the decision to arrest Ms.
Calabrese-Kelley because he determined that she was the
“aggressor” in the situation. Doc. No. 26-3
at 34. She was arrested and transported to the Braintree
Police Station. Doc. No. 31 ¶ 63. She was later
tried for and acquitted of assault and battery with a
dangerous weapon. Doc. No. 31 ¶ 70. She now
brings an action against Sergeant Bata, Officer McNamara,
Officer Clark, and the dispatcher on the 911 call (the
“individual defendants”), as well as the Town of
Braintree and the Braintree Police Department. Her complaint
alleges four counts stemming from her arrest: (1) false
arrest, (2) false imprisonment, (3) a violation of 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983, and (4) a violation of the Massachusetts
Declaration of Rights (“MCRA claim”).
Court applies the familiar summary judgment standard. Summary
judgment is appropriate when “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). Once a party has properly supported its
motion for summary judgment, the burden shifts to the
non-moving party, who “may not rest on mere allegations
or denials of his pleading, but must set forth specific facts
showing there is a genuine issue for trial.”
Barbour v. Dynamics Research Corp., 63 F.3d 32, 37
(1st Cir. 1995) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256 (1986)). Moreover, the Court is
“obliged to view the record in the light most favorable
to the nonmoving party, and to draw all reasonable inferences
in the nonmoving party's favor.” LeBlanc v.
Great American Ins. Co., 6 F.3d 836, 841 (1st Cir.
1993). Even so, the Court must ignore “conclusory
allegations, improbable inferences, and unsupported
speculation.” Sullivan v. City of Springfield,
561 F.3d 7, 14 (1st Cir.2009).
the doctrine of qualified immunity, police officers are
protected ‘from liability for civil damages insofar as
their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory
or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would
have known.'” Mlodzinski v. Lewis, 648
F.3d 24, 32 (1st Cir. 2011) (quoting Pearson v.
Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 231 (2009)). To defeat qualified
immunity, “‘the facts alleged or shown by the
plaintiff” must ‘make out a violation of a
constitutional right' and the right must have been
‘clearly established' at the time of the
defendant's alleged violation.” Id.
(quoting Pearson, 555 U.S. at 231). To determine
whether the right was clearly established, the Court must
(a) whether the legal contours of the right in question were
sufficiently clear that a reasonable officer would have
understood that what he was doing violated the right, and (b)
whether in the particular factual context of the case, a