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Stile v. Somerset County

United States District Court, D. Maine

May 18, 2018

JAMES STILE, Plaintiff,
v.
SOMERSET COUNTY, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER AFFIRMING ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR A FINDING OF CONTEMPT

          JOHN A. WOODCOCK, JR., UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         The Court overrules the Plaintiff's objection to a Magistrate Judge's order in which the Magistrate Judge declined to hold a corrections officer Defendant in contempt of court for allegedly false sworn statements. The Court affirms the Magistrate Judge's order because the Plaintiff lacks standing to enforce criminal law and because the evidence does not confirm that the corrections officer lied in her affidavit.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Procedural Background

         On October 30, 2017, James Stile filed a motion asking this Court to hold Kelly Smith, a corrections officer with Somerset County Jail and a Defendant in this case, in contempt for having made allegedly perjurious statements in an affidavit submitted to the Court. Notice of Mot. Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 1623 (ECF No. 460) (Pl.'s Mot.). On November 13, 2017, all Defendants, except Somerset County, Delong, Allen, Plourd, and Jacques, responded to Mr. Stile's motion. Defs.' Obj. to Pl.'s Notice of Mot. Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 1623 (ECF No. 471) (Defs.' Opp'n).

         On December 5, 2017, the Court referred the motion to the Magistrate Judge. On February 13, 2018, the Magistrate Judge issued an order in which he denied the motion. Order on Pl.'s Mots. for Contempt (ECF No. 493) (Order). On March 8, 2018, Mr. Stile objected to the Magistrate Judge's order. Pl.'s Obj. to ECF No. 493 Order on Pl.'s Mots. for Contempt (ECF No. 508) (Pl.'s Obj.). On March 16, 2018, the Defendants, except Somerset County, Delong, Allen, Mayhew, Welch, Jacques, Plourd, and Kline, responded. Defs.' Resp. to Pl.'s Obj. to Order on Pl.'s Mots. for Contempt (ECF No. 512) (Defs.' Resp.). On March 20, 2018, Defendant David Allen responded to Mr. Stile's objection. Def. David Allen's Resp. to Pl.'s Obj. to Order on Mot. for Contempt (ECF No. 524) (Allen Resp.).

         B. The Plaintiff's Motion and Defendants' Opposition[1]

         Mr. Stile claims that Corrections Officer Kelly Smith made perjurious statements in her affidavit filed with the Court. Pl.'s Mot. at 1-2 (citing Additional Attachs. Attach. 24 Aff. of Kelly Smith (ECF No. 433) (Smith Aff.)). Mr. Stile asserts that, for this reason, the Court should hold Ms. Smith in contempt. Pl.'s Mot. at 1. He highlights statements that he alleges were perjurious for failing to accurately describe an episode in which one or more of the Defendants deployed an electrical device on him while extracting him from his prison cell on January 5, 2012. Specifically, Mr. Stile points to Ms. Smith's statement that Corrections Officer Walter “Fails asked for and was given the handheld electrical device by Lt. Jacques.” Id. (quoting Smith Aff. ¶ 13). Mr. Stile asserts that by this statement, Ms. Smith “attempted to place the blame of her criminal actions of arming Corrections Officer Fails on Lt. Jacques.” Pl.'s Mot. at 1. Mr. Stile's assertion, which he clarifies in a later filing, Pl.'s Obj. at 2-3, is that it was Ms. Smith, not Mr. Jacques, who handed the electrical device to Mr. Fails.

         Mr. Stile also scrutinizes statements by Ms. Smith that read: “After another order to stand, Fails deployed the handheld electrical device twice on Stile's upper thigh for two short bursts, ” Id. (quoting Smith Aff. ¶ 14), and “Stile was told to stand again and he refused after which Fails deployed the handheld electrical device in Stile's right upper thigh for one short burst.” Pl.'s Mot. (quoting Smith Aff. ¶ 15). According to Mr. Stile, these statements “are refuted by the Video Exhibit #35 of Defendants Video Exhibits that were submitted with their motions for summary judgment.” Pl.'s Mot. at 2. Mr. Stile further contends that the affidavit of Defendant Jeffrey Jacques refutes Ms. Smith's statements. Id. (citing Statement of Fact Attach. 3 Aff. of Jeffrey Jacques (ECF No. 435) (Jacques Aff.)).

         All Defendants, except Somerset County, Sheriff Delong, Allen, Plourd, and Jacques, oppose Mr. Stile's motion and argue that it should be dismissed solely on the basis that the statute under which Mr. Stile purports to make his motion, 18 U.S.C. § 1623, is a criminal statute that does not provide a private right of action. Defs.' Opp'n at 2.

         C. The Magistrate Judge's Order

         In his order, the Magistrate Judge laid out some tenets of the Court's contempt power, including its foundations and that it is to be used sparingly. Order at 1-2. The Magistrate Judge determined that, even if Mr. Stile's assertions were accurate, a finding of contempt would not be warranted because: (1) “there is no evidence of record that either Defendant deliberately misrepresented a fact to this Court”, and (2) “the record lacks any evidence that would support a finding that any alleged misrepresentation resulted in an obstruction of justice.” Id. at 3 (citing S.E.C. v. Pinez, 52 F.Supp.2d 205, 209 (D. Mass. 1999)). The Magistrate Judge observed that issues of witness credibility and accuracy of witness statements “can be appropriately assessed at the fact finding stage of the proceedings.” Id. The Magistrate Judge's order also notes that Mr. Stile “does not have standing to prosecute a charge under a criminal statute.” Id. at 2 n.1.

         D. The Plaintiff's Objection

         Mr. Stile objects to the Magistrate Judge's order on the basis that Ms. Smith's statements constitute deliberate misrepresentations of fact to the Court and that the statements were intended to and in fact did obstruct justice. Pl.'s Obj. at 2-4. Specifically, Mr. Stile believes that Ms. Smith handed the electrical device to another officer who then deployed it on Mr. Stile. Id. at 3. He suggests that by stating that someone else transferred the device to the officer who ultimately deployed it, Ms. Smith is seeking to shield herself from liability. Id. at 4. Mr. Stile also accuses Attorney ...


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