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Margheim v. Buljko

United States District Court, D. Colorado

March 11, 2016

TERRY MARGHEIM, Plaintiff,
v.
EMELA BULJKO, Weld County Deputy District Attorney, Defendant.

ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

William J. Martinez United States District Judge.

Plaintiff Terry Margheim (“Margheim”) sues Defendant Emela Buljko (“Buljko”) for malicious prosecution in violation of the Fourth Amendment. (ECF No. 90.) Currently before the Court is Buljko’s Motion for Summary Judgment (“Motion”). (ECF No. 101.) For the reasons explained below, the Summary Judgment Motion is granted as to any official capacity or municipal liability claims, but otherwise denied.

I. LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is warranted under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 “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); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248-50 (1986). A fact is “material” if, under the relevant substantive law, it is essential to proper disposition of the claim. Wright v. Abbott Labs., Inc., 259 F.3d 1226, 1231-32 (10th Cir. 2001). An issue is “genuine” if the evidence is such that it might lead a reasonable trier of fact to return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Allen v. Muskogee, 119 F.3d 837, 839 (10th Cir. 1997).

In analyzing a motion for summary judgment, a court must view the evidence and all reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Adler v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 144 F.3d 664, 670 (10th Cir. 1998) (citing Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)). In addition, the Court must resolve factual ambiguities against the moving party, thus favoring the right to a trial. See Houston v. Nat’l Gen. Ins. Co., 817 F.2d 83, 85 (10th Cir. 1987).

II. FACTS

The following facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted.

On January 25, 2010, police officers in Greeley, Colorado, responded to a disturbance at Margheim’s residence. (ECF No. 101 at 2-3.)[1] Allegedly, Margheim had assaulted his girlfriend or former girlfriend, Courtney Graham (“Graham”). (Id.) The police therefore arrested Margheim on suspicion of domestic violence in violation of Colorado Revised Statutes §§ 18-9-111 and 18-4-501. (ECF No. 101 at 2, ¶¶ 1-2; ECF No 101-1 at 2-3.) Based on these charges, Weld County authorities instituted a prosecution against Margheim in Weld County District Court, case number 10M251. The Court will refer to this prosecution as the “First D.V. Case.” Margheim posted a $3, 000 appearance bond in the First D.V. Case. (ECF No. 101 at 2, ¶ 5; ECF No. 101-2 at 2.) The appearance bond stated, as a standard condition, that the defendant “acknowledges the existence of a mandatory protection order under § 18-1-1001, C.R.S.” (Id.) In relevant part, the cited statute reads as follows:

There is hereby created a mandatory protection order against any person charged with a violation of any of the provisions of this title [i.e., Title 18], which order shall remain in effect from the time that the person is advised of his or her rights at arraignment or the person’s first appearance before the court and informed of such order until final disposition of the action. Such order shall restrain the person charged from harassing, molesting, intimidating, retaliating against, or tampering with any witness to or victim of the acts charged.

Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-1-1001(1).

Margheim was required to attend a pretrial conference on March 25, 2010, but he failed to appear. (ECF No. 101 at 3, ¶ 8.) In consequence, the Weld County District Court ordered that the $3, 000 appearance bond be f orfeited. (Id. ¶ 9.) The Weld County District Court also issued an arrest warrant for Margheim, and set a new appearance bond amount of $6, 000. (Id. ¶ 11; ECF No. 101-4 at 2.) This warrant led to Margheim’s arrest on April 10, 2010. (ECF No. 101-5 at 8, ¶ 4.)

The record contains no details of what happened during that arrest, but it somehow led to a new criminal charge, namely, violation of a protection order, as prohibited by Colorado Revised Statute § 18-6-803.5. (Id. ¶ 5.) The Court therefore presumes that the police somehow obtained evidence of Margheim’s contact with Graham. This violation led to a new criminal prosecution, apparently instituted the same day as the arrest, that was assigned Weld County District Court case number 10M1026. (ECF No. 101 at 3, ¶¶ 12-13.) The Court will refer to this case as the “Second D.V. Case.”

Two days later (April 12, 2010), Margheim posted the $6000 bond set in the First D.V. Case. (ECF No. 113 at 5, ¶ 21.)[2] Ten days after that, the Defendant here, Buljko, enters the story.

According to Buljko, the Weld County District Attorney’s Office prepares regular reports regarding currently pending defendants against whom new charges have been filed. (ECF No. 114-2 at 3.) Buljko claims that this report alerted her to Margheim’s new charge (i.e., the Second D.V. Case). (Id.) She therefore filed a motion in the First D.V. Case to revoke Margheim’s appearance bond (“Motion to Revoke”). (ECF No. 101-7 at 2.) The Motion to Revoke was signed by Buljko, notarized, and alleged the following basis for revocation: “Defendant has a new offense in Weld County case, 10M1026 [the Second D.V. Case] (failed to comply with the protection order issued in 10M251 [the First D.V. Case]).” (Id.) As already noted, however, the only bond in force in the First D.V. Case was the second appearance bond, posted on April 12. Thus, Buljko was effectively seeking to revoke a bond entered on April 12 based on an offense that occurred on April 10-before the bond existed.

The Weld County District Court granted Buljko’s Motion to Revoke and issued a warrant for Margheim’s arrest. (ECF No. 101 at 4, ¶ 18.) Margheim was arrested on May 7, 2010. (Id. ¶ 19.) That arrest led to yet another criminal prosecution being instituted against Margheim, Weld County District Court case number 10CR754.

The parties’ summary judgment briefs are oddly lacking on the details of this new case. The Court therefore relies upon certain findings made by the Weld County District Court in response to a suppression motion filed in that case. (See ECF No. 113-5.) Apparently Greeley police officers, acting on the revoked-bond arrest warrant, went to Margheim’s residence on May 7, 2010, and saw Graham exiting the front door. (Id. at 6.) They then went around one side of Margheim’s residence and through his backyard to the other side of the residence, where they found Margheim exiting a side door. (Id.; see also ECF No. 113-6 at 3.) The officers there arrested Margheim and, during the search incident to that arrest, discovered illegal drugs in Margheim’s possession. (ECF No. 113-5 at 7.) Those drugs formed the basis of the new prosecution, 10CR754, which the Court will refer to as the “Drug Case.”

Nothing in the summary judgment record specifies how long Margheim was detained on account of the Drug Case. In his currently operative Complaint, he alleges that his detention lasted “approximately six months.” (ECF No. 90 ¶ 28.) There is no indication that Margheim was entirely released from custody at this point. Again, the record is not clear, but the Court is independently aware that Margheim was named as a defendant in an apparently unrelated federal criminal case filed in June 2010. See United States v. Antuna et al., Case No. 10-cr-00326-PAB (D. Colo.). The Court therefore presumes that Margheim was transferred to federal custody in late 2010.[3]

In February 2011, Margheim’s defense counsel in the Drug Case moved to suppress the evidence obtained at the time of Margheim’s arrest in May 2010. (ECF No. 113 at 5, ¶ 24.) The Weld County District Court held a hearing on that motion and then, in June 2011, issued the findings already summarized above. (Id. ¶ 25.) The court found that the arrest warrant obtained by Buljko “was improperly requested, ” lacked probable cause, and was obtained by “reckless conduct by the Deputy District Attorney that was involved in this case, ” referring to Buljko. (ECF No. 113 at 3-4.) The court denied the motion to suppress, however, because it found that: (a) the arresting officers had no reason to know that the warrant was defective; (b) the officers obtained independent probable cause to arrest Margheim for ...


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