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Lauzon v. Dodd

United States District Court, D. Maine

July 9, 2019



          Lance E. Walker U.S. District Judge.

         Plaintiff Matthew Lauzon alleges Defendant Stephen Dodd sexually assaulted him when Plaintiff was a minor and Dodd was a police officer for the City of Biddeford. Plaintiff also alleges that Roger Beaupre, the Chief of Police of the Biddeford Police Department, knew or should have known of Officer Dodd's misconduct and failed to take appropriate action to prevent the abuse. Plaintiff filed this civil action against Mr. Dodd, Mr. Beaupre, and the City of Biddeford, asserting violations of Plaintiff's civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and related state laws.[1] Defendants Roger Beaupre and City of Biddeford now move for summary judgment on three discrete issues: (1) whether Plaintiff's action is barred by the statute of limitations; (2) whether the actions of Defendant Dodd were done under color of law; and (3) whether Defendant Beaupre is entitled to qualified immunity.

         For the following reasons, Defendants Roger Beaupre and City of Biddeford's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 138) is GRANTED.


         When parties file a motion for summary judgment in the District of Maine, they must “present the factual record for summary judgment in accordance with Local Rule 56.” Winslow v. Cty. of Aroostook, No. 1:11-CV-162-GZS, 2013 WL 594762, at *1 (D. Me. Feb. 15, 2013), aff'd sub nom. Winslow v. Aroostook Cty., 736 F.3d 23 (1st Cir. 2013). The District's Local Rules expressly require parties to submit a “separate, short, and concise statement of material facts.” See M. R. Civ. P. 56(h) (emphasis added).

         However, in this case, I was faced with, as the Maine Supreme Judicial Court so aptly put it, “a summary judgment process that was, by definition, not ‘summary.'” First Tracks Investments, LLC v. Murray, Plumb & Murray, 2015 ME 104, ¶ 2, 121 A.3d 1279. In direct contradiction to our conversation during the 56(h) conference at which I reminded the parties I had every intention of requiring the parties to “fastidiously . . . comply with a short and concise statement, ”[2] Defendants' summary judgment motion was submitted along with 668 statements of “material” facts to which Plaintiff responded and then submitted an additional 93 statements of “material” facts in opposition. Rule 56(h) Conference Tr. 12: 23-24 (ECF No. 133, #448). Of the 668 facts submitted along with their motion, Defendants Beaupre and City of Biddeford identified 558 of them as the “facts . . . necessary to the resolution of the partial motion for summary judgment issue.” Def.'s Listing, 1-2 (ECF No. 139, #513-14). Despite this anemic effort at trimming the fat, disappointingly few of the purported facts submitted by both parties were material to the three narrow legal questions advanced in the motion.

         As acknowledged by the First Circuit when applying a similar standard under Puerto Rico's local rules, “[t]here is no mechanical rule rendering a long statement insufficiently ‘short' and ‘concise'; after all, a case could have a great many material contested facts.” Alsina-Ortiz v. Laboy, 400 F.3d 77, 81 (1st Cir. 2005). However, when the parties “[b]ury[] the district court in a mass of supposedly material contested facts, ” they fail to “even arguably comply with the spirit or letter of the rule” and create “the very morass from which the rule aims to protect the district judge.” Id. Here, the unnecessary length and contested nature of the parties' constellation of facts, more suited to an unabridged anthology than to a Rule 56 filing, has “needlessly complicate[d] the summary judgment process” and on that ground alone, it would be within my ambit to deny summary judgment. Stanley v. Hancock Cty. Comm'rs, 2004 ME 157, ¶¶ 28, 29, 864 A.2d 169 (“If a party submits an unnecessarily long, repetitive, or otherwise convoluted statement of material facts that fails to achieve the Rule's requirement of a ‘separate, short, and concise' statement, the court has the discretion to disregard the statement and deny the motion for summary judgment solely on that basis.”). Nevertheless, as this motion holds potential to significantly limit the future expenditure of judicial resources and is capable of resolution on narrow grounds, I have labored through the Rule 56 statements and the merits of the parties' arguments notwithstanding their constitutional inability to steer within the navigational beacons of the rulebook.


         The summary judgment facts are drawn from the parties' extensive statements of material facts. The Court will adopt a statement of fact if it is admitted by the opposing party and is material to the dispute. If a statement is denied or qualified by the opposing party, or if an evidentiary objection is raised concerning the record evidence cited in support of a statement, the Court will review those portions of the summary judgment record cited by the parties, and will accept, for summary judgment purposes, the factual assertion that is most favorable to the party opposing the entry of summary judgment, provided that the record material cited in support of the assertion is of evidentiary quality and is capable of supporting the party's assertion, either directly or through reasonable inference. D. Me. Loc. R. 56; Boudreau v. Lussier, 901 F.3d 65, 69 (1st Cir. 2018).

         Plaintiff alleges that he was sexually abused by an adult neighbor when he was a young teenager.[3] Defs. Statement of Material Facts (“DSMF”) ¶ 36 (ECF No. 161-2, #1800); Amend. Compl. ¶ 10. At the time, Plaintiff did not report this sexual abuse to his family or police. DSMF ¶¶ 85; 87. However, after the neighbor called the Plaintiff's household to speak to Plaintiff, Plaintiff's family filed a complaint with the Biddeford Police Department (“BPD”) in which they reported that the neighbor was harassing Plaintiff. DSMF ¶ 66, 67, 76, 84.

         On July 27, 2000, an officer and two detectives from BPD visited the Plaintiff's home to investigate. DSMF ¶ 66, 82, 93, 110. Plaintiff did not reveal his sexual encounter with the neighbor to the responding police officers. DSMF ¶¶ 87, 111, 114. In accordance with BPD policies, the responding officers filed a report concerning Plaintiff's harassment complaint and this report was then submitted to the officers' supervisor and Approving Officer, Defendant Stephen Dodd.[4] Pl.'s Statement of Material Facts (“PSMF”) ¶¶ 4-7 (ECF No. 144, #747-48).

         Sometime after this report, [5] Plaintiff made contact with Defendant Dodd on an instant messaging service. DSMF ¶¶ 21; 125. Defendant Dodd used a private computer in his home to contact Plaintiff.[6] DSMF ¶¶ 153, 141. During this initial conversation, Plaintiff asked whether Dodd was a police officer and Dodd acknowledged he was an officer with BPD. DSMF ¶ 145; PSMF ¶ 11. Plaintiff later testified that Dodd indicated he knew “something happened to [Plaintiff]” (presumably relating to the abuse Plaintiff suffered at the hands of his neighbor) and made an offer to help. DSMF ¶¶ 147; 155. Plaintiff and Dodd arranged to meet in person. DSMF ¶ 154. Plaintiff later testified he believed he was going to meet with a police officer or, in his words, “someone you could trust anytime.” DSMF ¶ 146.

         At the time of the meeting, Dodd was dressed in plain clothes, did not display his BPD badge, and was driving his personal vehicle. DSMF ¶¶ 166; 172; 224. The record is unclear whether Dodd had a gun; however, the parties agree Dodd did not threaten Plaintiff with a gun during this encounter. DSMF ¶¶ 181-83, 191-93. Dodd initially suggested he and Plaintiff return to Dodd's home. DSMF ¶ 178. However, Plaintiff was uncomfortable with that suggestion and so Dodd drove approximately 15 minutes and stopped on a dirt road. DSMF ¶ 139; Lauzon Dep. 276:24, 277:11-12 (ECF No. 154-11, #1340). Plaintiff and Dodd engaged in sexual activity in Dodd's vehicle. DSMF ¶ 196. Sometime after this initial encounter, Plaintiff and Dodd had one additional sexual encounter.[7] DSMF ¶¶ 211; 212.

         Defendant Dodd's activities - particularly regarding his alleged interactions with minors - had been the subject of investigations both before and after his encounters with Plaintiff. For example, in 1989, Maine State Police investigated allegations of sexual abuse asserted by Dodd's foster child, Larry Carey. DSMF ¶ 24. The York County District Attorney's office did not prosecute the case. DSMF ¶ 549. However, because of the allegations, Dodd was removed from the foster parent list. DSMF ¶ 531. In approximately 2001, unbeknownst to the Biddeford Police Department or Maine law enforcement, Dodd was the subject of an FBI investigation regarding his social media use. DSMF ¶¶ 295-96, 298. No. action was taken against Dodd as a result of the FBI investigation. DSMF ¶ 297. Then, in 2002, a former neighbor of Dodd's filed a complaint with the York County District Attorney's office and the Maine Office of the Attorney General began an investigation into allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Dodd. DSMF ¶¶ 26, 261, 265. Although this investigation did not uncover information relating to Dodd and Plaintiff's sexual contact, it did uncover other allegations of sexual ...

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