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Pantermoller v. Town of Fairfield

United States District Court, D. Maine

March 20, 2018

MARK PANTERMOLLER, Plaintiff,
v.
TOWN OF FAIRFIELD, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          JON D. LEVY U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         In June 2016, Mark Pantermoller was arrested by Town of Fairfield Police Officer Casey Dugas and Police Sergeant Matthew Wilcox after he refused to comply with their orders to leave the office of the Town Manager Michelle Flewelling, located in the Town Hall. He brings this civil action challenging the legality of his arrest against the Town of Fairfield, Town Manager Flewelling, Officer Dugas, Sergeant Wilcox, and Chief of Police Thomas Gould (collectively, “the Town”). See ECF No. 3-3 at 1.

         Pantermoller's Complaint dated May 23, 2017, (ECF No. 3-3) asserts sixteen separate constitutional and tort claims. Since the filing of the Complaint, Pantermoller has voluntarily dismissed two counts, see ECF Nos. 30, 31, and the Town has moved for summary judgment on the fourteen remaining counts (ECF No. 35). Pantermoller has not opposed the Town's motion.

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         The summary judgment record establishes the following undisputed material facts: Flewelling first met Pantermoller in December 2015, shortly after she became the Town Manager. Pantermoller came to her office to discuss his belief that the Town of Fairfield was involved in a series of Facebook pages that featured nude or revealing photos of unsuspecting women and girls, each titled “Purge of Maine.” See ECF No. 36-1 at ¶ 6. Flewelling assured him that she had no knowledge of the Town having any involvement with the Facebook pages.

         Sometime later, Pantermoller returned to Flewelling's office and accused her and the Fairfield Police Department of covering up the Town's involvement with the Purge of Maine pages. Flewelling brought Police Chief Gould into the meeting so that they could jointly assuage Pantermoller's concerns. When Pantermoller became increasingly argumentative, Flewelling told him that she was uncomfortable and would no longer meet with him in her office.

         On May 9, 2016, Pantermoller disrupted a Town Council meeting with similar accusations. In the midst of the meeting, Pantermoller suddenly approached the stage where Flewelling was seated with the council members, yelling that Flewelling knew about the Police Department's involvement with the “Purge of Maine” pages. See Id. at ¶ 8. After several warnings to cease the disruption, the Fairfield police escorted Pantermoller out of the meeting. See id., ECF No. 36-2 at ¶ 7. The next day, Pantermoller came to the Police Station and accused Chief Gould and other police officers of having been involved with the “Purge of Maine” pages. See ECF No. 36-2 at ¶ 8. Chief Gould spoke with Pantermoller, but the discussion became heated and Chief Gould asked Pantermoller to leave the station. See id. Later that day, Chief Gould received a call from a Town Hall employee asking for assistance in removing Pantermoller from the premises because he was being disruptive. See Id.

         Pantermoller returned to the Town Hall on June 30, 2016. See ECF No. 36 at ¶ 11. While there, Pantermoller entered Flewelling's office and sat down in a chair, explaining that he needed to speak with her. See Id. at ¶¶ 12-13. Flewelling agreed to talk with Pantermoller, but only if they spoke in the hallway rather than in her office. See Id. at ¶ 15. Nonetheless, Pantermoller stayed in Flewelling's office. See Id. at ¶ 16. Another employee in the Town Hall soon called the Fairfield Police Department, which dispatched Officer Dugas and Sergeant Wilcox in response. See Id. at ¶¶ 18-19. Officer Dugas - who was wearing a body camera at the time - went to Flewelling's office first. See Id. at ¶¶ 20-21. At that point, Flewelling was in the hallway and Pantermoller was in her office. See Id. at ¶ 21. Officer Dugas asked Pantermoller to leave and Pantermoller refused. See Id. at ¶¶ 22-25. Officer Dugas twice warned Pantermoller that if he refused to leave, he would be arrested for criminal trespass. See Id. at ¶¶ 26, 28. After the second warning, Pantermoller said “arrest me, ” and Officer Dugas placed Pantermoller under arrest. See Id. at ¶¶ 28-30.[1]

         Officer Dugas proceeded to handcuff Pantermoller. See Id. at ¶ 32. Sergeant Wilcox, who arrived on the scene during Officer Dugas' and Pantermoller's interaction, assisted Officer Dugas in escorting Pantermoller out of the building and placing him in a police vehicle. See Id. at ¶¶ 31, 33. Officer Dugas drove Pantermoller to the Somerset County Jail, where he was transferred to the custody of correction officers. See Id. at ¶ 34.

         After the arrest, Wilcox briefed Chief Gould regarding Pantermoller's arrest. See Id. at ¶¶ 39, 41. Chief Gould, when asked by members of the press, confirmed that Pantermoller was arrested for criminal trespass, explained that Pantermoller refused to leave the Town Hall voluntarily, and described Pantermoller's conduct as disruptive. See Id. at ¶¶ 42-44. Flewelling, Officer Dugas, and Sergeant Wilcox never spoke with the press regarding Pantermoller's arrest. See Id. at ¶ 45.

         Pantermoller does not claim to have suffered any physical injury or to have sought mental health treatment due to his arrest. See Id. at ¶¶ 37, 62.

         III. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Pantermoller filed his Complaint (ECF No. 3-3) in the Skowhegan District Court on June 6, 2017. ECF No. 1 at 1. Soon thereafter, on June 15, the Town removed the case (ECF No. 1) to this Court.

         In December 2017, the parties attended a pre-filing conference in anticipation of the Town's Motion for Summary Judgment. See ECF No. 30. At the conference, Pantermoller voluntarily dismissed Count V of his Complaint, alleging violations of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution and the corresponding provision of the Maine Constitution. See Id. at 2. He also voluntarily dismissed the Fairfield Police Department as a defendant. See Id. Additionally, Pantermoller agreed to reconsider the following counts and confirm - via a memorandum to be submitted to the Town's counsel - the existence of a legal basis and sufficient proof to establish a prima facie case with respect to each count: Negligence and Abuse of Process (Count IX), Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (Count X), Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress (Count XI), and violations of the Maine Unfair Trade Practices Act (Count XV). See Id. at 2.

         On December 29, 2017, Pantermoller voluntarily dismissed Count XV, alleging violations of the Maine Unfair Trade Practices Act. See ECF No. 31. On January 19, 2018, the Town filed its Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 35). Because Pantermoller failed to timely submit a memorandum with respect to Counts IX, X, and XI, on January 22, 2018, an Order to Show Cause issued (ECF No. 38) which required him to voluntarily dismiss those counts or to file a verified response showing cause as to why they should not be dismissed. Four days later, Pantermoller filed his “Response to Order to Show Cause” (ECF No. 39), which asserted, without additional explanation, that he believed Counts IX, X, and XI were “legitimate claims.” See ECF No. 39.

         Pantermoller's response to the Town's Motion for Summary Judgment was due on February 2, 2018. See ECF No. 30 at 2, ECF No. 35. To date, he has not filed a response to the Motion.

         IV. LEGAL ANALYSIS

         A. Summary Judgment Standard

         When a motion for summary judgment is filed, the opposing party has 21 days to file a written objection, otherwise “the opposing party shall be deemed to have waived objection.” D. Me. LR 7(b). The First Circuit Court of Appeals has interpreted the requirements of Rule 7(b) “so as to preserve [its] scope and validity without running afoul of the requirements of Rule 56 [of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure].” NEPSK, Inc. v. Town of Houlton, 283 F.3d 1, 8 (1st Cir. 2002) (quoting Jaroma v. Massey, 873 F.2d 17, 20 (1st Cir. 1989) (per curiam)). Under Rule 56 courts cannot automatically grant summary judgment, even if “no opposing evidentiary matter is presented.” Id. at 7 (quoting Jaroma, 873 F.2d at 20). Thus, I must determine whether summary judgment is appropriate by discerning whether there is a genuine issue as to any material fact. Id. at 8. In doing so, I will “accept as true all material facts set forth by the moving party with ...


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