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Welch v. Saunders

United States District Court, D. Colorado

May 11, 2017

LESLIE WILLIAM WELCH, EVA WELCH, a minor child, by and through her next friend, LESLIE WILLIAM WELCH, and HAYDEN WELCH, a minor child, by and through her next friend, LESLIE WILLIAM WELCH, Plaintiffs,
v.
JANE SAUNDERS, and JOHN SPAW, Defendants.

          ORDER ON CROSS-MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT Plaintiffs

          William J. Martinez United States District Judge

         Plaintiffs Leslie William Welch, Eva Welch, and Hayden Welch (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) bring this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants Jane Saunders and John Spaw (collectively, “Defendants”) claiming violations of their rights under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. (See ECF No. 30 ¶¶ 27, 29.) Specifically, this dispute centers on whether Defendants were acting pursuant to a valid court order on March 17, 2014, when they “directed Plaintiffs to depart and vacate their leasehold premises.” (Id. ¶ 16.)

         Before the Court are the following motions: (1) Plaintiffs' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (ECF No. 52) and (2) Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (“Cross-Motion”) (ECF No. 54). For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' Cross- Motion is granted, and Plaintiffs' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment is 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. BACKGROUND

         The following facts are undisputed, unless attributed to one party, or another, or otherwise noted.

         At all times relevant to this action, Kathleen Mueller's[1] ex-husband, Kenneth Mueller, was the owner of a property located at 5035 McIntyre St., Golden CO 80401. (ECF No. 54 ¶ 4; ECF No. 55 ¶ 4; see also ECF No. 54-6 at 2.) Plaintiff Leslie Welch leased the barn on the property pursuant to a written “Residential Lease Agreement” with Mr. Mueller. (ECF No. 30 ¶ 9; ECF No. 49 ¶ 9; see also ECF No. 54-6 at 2-5.)

         On August 15, 2013, a misdemeanor criminal case was brought upon the allegations of Ms. Mueller that she was assaulted by Mr. Mueller. (ECF No. 30 ¶ 11; ECF No. 49 ¶ 11.) On August 17, 2013, a mandatory protection order was entered against Mr. Mueller (the “August Protection Order”). (ECF No. 54-1 at 2-3.) The August Protection Order named Ms. Mueller as the protected party and ordered that “no tenants and or caretakers employed by [Kenneth Mueller] [are] authorized to live on [the] property at 5035 McIntyre St. (Id. at ¶ 8.) On October 4, 2013, the August Protection Order was modified to remove the above statement as to tenants and caretakers (the “October Protection Order”). (ECF No. 54-5 at 2-3.)

         At all times relevant, Defendants were Deputy Sheriffs with the Jefferson County, Colorado Sheriff's Office. (ECF No. 54 ¶ 3; ECF No. 55 ¶ 3.) On March 17, 2014, Defendants directed Plaintiffs “to vacate the property” (ECF No. 54 ¶ 6; ECF No. 55 ¶ 6) which, according to Plaintiffs, forced them to leave “behind the personal property that they were unable to remove prior to complying with” the Defendants' order (ECF No. 30 ¶ 16).

         Defendant Spaw's police report reflects that the Defendants believed they were acting pursuant to a state court order signed by the Honorable Thomas E. Vance. (ECF No. 54-2 at 4-5.) The police report further states that Ms. Mueller handed Defendant Spaw a copy of the mandatory protection order, referring to the August Protection Order. (Id. at 4.)[2] The police report also states that Defendant Spaw provided Mr. Welch with a copy of the August Protection Order and explained to him the content of the order, including the provision stating that no tenants are authorized to live on the property. (Id. at 4-5; see also ECF No. 55 ¶ 5.) Plaintiffs did in fact vacate the property later that evening. (ECF No. 54 ¶ 7; ECF No. 55 ¶ 7.)

         Plaintiffs initiated this lawsuit on October 14, 2015, and filed a First Amended Complaint on February 8, 2016. (ECF Nos. 1, 30.) Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss the First Amended Complaint on February 12, 2016. (ECF No. 31.) The Court granted in part and denied in part Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. (ECF No. 46.)

         Plaintiffs' remaining “First Claim for Relief” incorporates sub-claims, including claims that: (1) Defendants deprived them of their “property rights without due process in violation of the Fifth Amendment, ” and (2) Defendants “seiz[ed Plaintiffs] property without [a] court order in violation of the Fourth Amendment[.]” (ECF No. 30 at 10 ¶ 27.)

         On November 20, 2016, Plaintiffs filed their Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 52.) On December 12, 2016, Defendants filed a Response to Plaintiffs' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 56.) Plaintiffs filed their Reply on December 26, 2016. (ECF No. 58.)

         On November 21, 2016, Defendants filed their Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 54.) Plaintiffs responded on December 9, 2016 (ECF No. 55), and Defendants replied on December 23, 2017 (ECF No. 57).

         III. ...


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