Submitted on Briefs: February 6, 2018
FROM: District Court of the Thirteenth Judicial District, In
and For the County of Yellowstone, Cause Nos. DV 14-1015, DV
14-1016 Honorable Michael G. Moses, Presiding Judge
Appellant: Donnie Nolan, Self-Represented, Shelby, Montana
Appellee: Jessica T. Fehr, Adam J. Tunning, Moulton
Bellingham PC, Billings, Montana
JEREMIAH SHEA, JUSTICE
Pursuant to Section I, Paragraph 3(c), Montana Supreme Court
Internal Operating Rules, this case is decided by memorandum
opinion, shall not be cited, and does not serve as precedent.
Its case title, cause number, and disposition shall be
included in this Court's quarterly list of noncitable
cases published in the Pacific Reporter and Montana Reports.
Donnie Nolan ("Nolan"), representing himself, filed
two separate complaints in the Thirteenth Judicial District
Court, Yellowstone County, against the City of Billings
("City") in July and August of 2014. Nolan's
first complaint alleged the City "for action of
Employees and Sergeant Riley Finnegan" violated the
Fourth Amendment, and falsely imprisoned him in August 2013.
Nolan's second complaint alleged the City falsely
imprisoned him in September 2013. The District Court granted
the City's motion to consolidated the two cases.
Throughout the litigation, Nolan failed to respond to
multiple discovery requests and motions by the City, even
after two District Court orders to compel that also granted
Nolan additional time in light of his status as a
self-represented litigant. After Nolan's fourth failure
to respond to discovery in violation of the District
Court's January 19, 2016 Order, the City moved for
summary judgment and attached police reports from Nolan's
August and September 2013 arrests pertaining to Nolan's
claims. Nolan responded to the City's summary judgment
motion without submitting evidence of any kind and made
additional conclusory allegations that were unsupported by
the record. On February 24, 2017, the District Court granted
the City's motion for summary judgment and dismissed
Nolan's case. Nolan appeals.
The only evidence in the record reflects that on August 25,
2013, Nolan approached a man outside an apartment complex,
grabbed him by the shirt, and threatened to shoot him.
Billings Police arrived and found Nolan hiding in an
apartment directly above the victim's girlfriend's
apartment. After Nolan declined to leave the apartment in
which he locked himself, Sergeant Finnegan obtained
permission from the neighbor looking after that apartment to
enter it by force. Finnegan proceeded to kick the doorknob,
enter the apartment, and arrest Nolan for misdemeanor assault
and obstructing a peace officer. Officers booked Nolan into
the Yellowstone County Detention Facility. Nolan posted bond,
but failed to report to his probation officer. Consequently,
on September 17, 2013, Nolan's probation officer issued a
felony probation violation warrant for Nolan's arrest. On
September 22, 2013, around 4 a.m., Officer Brandt stopped
Nolan, who initially identified himself as "Mark Jones,
" while driving a white Cadillac on Montana Avenue.
Officer Brandt arrested Nolan for the felony probation
violation warrant, obstructing a peace officer, driving with
a suspended license, and no car insurance. In February 2014,
the Municipal Court held a hearing on a motion to suppress,
after which it instructed the parties to submit proposed
findings of facts and conclusions of law. However, before the
Municipal Court ruled on the suppression motion, the City
dismissed all charges against Nolan on both the August and
September 2013 arrests.
We review a district court's grant of summary judgment de
novo. Wilson v. Brandt, 2017 MT 290, ¶ 11, 389
Mont. 387, 406 P.3d 452. A court may grant summary judgment
only when the moving party demonstrates both absence of any
genuine issue of material fact and entitlement to judgment as
a matter of law. M. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(3). The nonmoving party
must present facts of a substantial nature that show genuine
issues of material fact remain for trial, precluding summary
judgment. Cape v. Crossroads Corr. Ctr., 2004 MT
265, ¶ 12, 323 Mont. 140, 99 P.3d 171. The nonmoving
party's facts supported by evidence must be material and
substantive, and more than conclusory allegations,
speculations, or denials. Cape, ¶ 12. We review
a district court's discovery ruling for an abuse of
discretion. McCulley v. U.S. Bank, 2015 MT 100,
¶ 22, 378 Mont. 462, 347 P.3d 247.
The Fourth Amendment protects citizens "against
unreasonable searches and seizures, " but lacks a
private right of action. U.S. Const. amend. IV. Instead, 42
U.S.C. § 1983 provides citizens a civil remedy, and a
plaintiff must demonstrate that the government entity itself
acted deliberately or culpably through its custom, policy, or
practice to establish liability for conduct of its employees.
Connick v. Thompson, 563 U.S. 51, 60, 131 S.Ct.
1350, 1359 (2011); Peschel v. City of Missoula, 686
F.Supp.2d 1107, 1116-17 (D. Mont. 2009). To succeed on a
false imprisonment claim, a plaintiff must prove by a
preponderance of the evidence that the government unlawfully
restrained him against his will. Kichnet v. Butte-Silver
Bow Cnty., 2012 MT 68, ¶ 23, 364 Mont. 347, 274
P.3d 740. The record reflects the City set forth undisputed
facts that do not indicate a violation of the Fourth
Amendment or false imprisonment. Nolan's unsupported
conclusory statements fail to rebut the City's position.
Cape, ¶ 12.
We have determined to decide this case pursuant to Section I,
Paragraph 3(c) of our Internal Operating Rules, which
provides for memorandum opinions. This case presents a
question controlled by settled law. The District Court's
interpretation and application of the law were ...