United States District Court, S.D. Florida
ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY
BLOOM UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
CAUSE is before the Court upon Defendants Jorge Maura and the
City of Fort Lauderdale's (collectively
“Defendants”) Motion for Final Summary Judgment,
ECF No.  the “Motion”). The Court has
carefully reviewed the Motion, the record, all supporting
filings, the exhibits attached thereto, and is
otherwise fully advised in the premises. For the reasons that
follow, Defendants' Motion is granted.
case involves an investigation into a building code violation
initiated by Robert J. Masula (“Masula”), a
Building Inspector and Code Officer for the City of Fort
Lauderdale (“City”), involving a property located
at 3233 N.E. 34th Street Unit 1614 (the
“property”). See ECF No. , Ex. 3. On
November 5, 2014, Masula visited the property and found that
the kitchen and bathroom were under demolition without the
necessary permits or inspections. Id. at Ex. 3. For
that reason, Masula immediately issued a stop work order.
Id. Masula maintained a log where he documented his
investigation. Id. at Ex. 14. In that log, he
documented that Mary Varvarigos owned the property, but her
son Dean Varvarigos, who claimed to have a power of attorney
for his mother, was overseeing the renovation project.
Id. Mr. Varvarigos advised Masula that Plaintiff was
the main person working on the project at the property along
with a man named Francisco. Id. Masula made numerous
efforts to speak with Plaintiff and, on January 22, 2015,
Plaintiff and Masula met briefly. Id. On April 14,
2015, Plaintiff returned to meet with Masula and Detective
Jorge Maura (“Maura”). Id. Maura is
employed by the City as a police officer and has been
assigned to the code enforcement division for the last eight
years. Id. at 15. During this meeting, Plaintiff informed
Masula and Maura that he prepared a contract to perform work
on the property and he hired Francisco to work on the
project. Id. at 53; Ex. 14. Plaintiff also admitted
that he was not a licensed contractor. Id. at Ex. 1;
ECF No.  at 31.
on Plaintiff's admissions to Maura that he had entered
into a written contract with Mr. Varvarigos to remodel the
property, that he hired at least one worker to assist in the
demolition of the property without the required permits, and
that he was not a licensed contractor, Maura issued a Notice
to Appear to Plaintiff. See ECF No.  at 22, Ex. 1.
The Notice to Appear cited Plaintiff for violations of
working without a permit and working as an unlicensed
contractor. Id. at Ex. 1. During their meeting,
Plaintiff was not in Maura's custody. Id. at P.
40-41. Plaintiff could leave the meeting and decline to sign
the Notice to Appear without a resulting arrest. Id.
at 43, 45. The municipal prosecutor eventually charged
Plaintiff under a Municipal Information with
“Alteration without Permit FBC 104.1” and
“Unlawful Contracting MO 16-1 (17).” See
ECF No.  at 7. More specifically, Plaintiff was charged
with performing demolition and remodeling work without filing
an application and obtaining a permit in violation of Florida
Building Code 105.1 and Municipal Ordinance 16-1 and with
engaging in a business or acting in a capacity of a
contractor without being duly registered or certified in
violation of Municipal Ordinance 16-1 and Florida Statute
§ 489.127(1)(f). Id. On September 4, 2015, the
Disposition Order reflects the charges were nolle
pros. See ECF No.  at Ex. 16.
the charges were dropped, Plaintiff filed a Complaint against
Maura and the City. See ECF No. . Count I asserts
a claim against Maura individually under 42 U.S.C. §
1983 for violating his rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth
Amendments to be free from unreasonable search and seizure.
Id. All remaining claims are pled under state law
for false arrest/false imprisonment against the City in Count
II, false arrest/false imprisonment against Maura in Count
III, and malicious prosecution against Maura in Count IV.
Id. Defendants' Motion followed. See
ECF No. .
may grant a motion for summary judgment “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). The parties may support their
positions by citation to the record, including, inter
alia, depositions, documents, affidavits, or
declarations. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). An issue is
genuine if “a reasonable trier of fact could return
judgment for the non-moving party.” Miccosukee
Tribe of Indians of Fla. v. United States, 516 F.3d
1235, 1243 (11th Cir. 2008) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986)). A fact is
material if it “might affect the outcome of the suit
under the governing law.” Id. (quoting
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48). The court views the
facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and
draws all reasonable inferences in the party's favor.
See Davis v. Williams, 451 F.3d 759, 763 (11th Cir.
2006). “The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence
in support of the [non-moving party's] position will be
insufficient; there must be evidence on which a jury could
reasonably find for the [non-moving party].”
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252. The Court does not weigh
conflicting evidence. See Skop v. City of Atlanta,
Ga., 485 F.3d 1130, 1140 (11th Cir. 2007) (quoting
Carlin Comm'n, Inc. v. S. Bell Tel. & Tel.
Co., 802 F.2d 1352, 1356 (11th Cir. 1986)).
moving party shoulders the initial burden to demonstrate the
absence of a genuine issue of material fact. See Shiver
v. Chertoff, 549 F.3d 1342, 1343 (11th Cir. 2008). If a
movant satisfies this burden, “the nonmoving party
‘must do more than simply show that there is some
metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.'”
Ray v. Equifax Info. Servs., L.L.C., 327 F.App'x
819, 825 (11th Cir. 2009) (quoting Matsushita Elec.
Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574,
586 (1986)). Instead, “the non-moving party ‘must
make a sufficient showing on each essential element of the
case for which he has the burden of proof.'”
Id. (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477
U.S. 317, 322 (1986)). The non-moving party must produce
evidence, going beyond the pleadings, and by its own
affidavits, or by depositions, answers to interrogatories,
and admissions on file, designating specific facts to suggest
that a reasonable jury could find in the non-moving
party's favor. Shiver, 549 F.3d at 1343. But
even where an opposing party neglects to submit any alleged
material facts in controversy, a court cannot grant summary
judgment unless it is satisfied that all of the evidence on
the record supports the uncontroverted material facts that
the movant has proposed. See Reese v. Herbert, 527
F.3d 1253, 1268-69, 1272 (11th Cir. 2008); United States
v. One Piece of Real Prop. Located at 5800 S.W. 74th Ave.,
Miami, Fla., 363 F.3d 1099, 1103 n.6 (11th Cir. 2004).
argue that Maura is entitled to summary judgment on grounds
of qualified immunity with respect to Plaintiff's §
1983 claim asserting violations of the Fourth and Fourteenth
Amendments because there was probable cause to believe that
Plaintiff violated the Florida Building Code and the
municipal ordinance. Similarly, Defendants argue that the
existence of probable cause is also dispositive of
Plaintiff's false imprisonment and malicious prosecution
claims. The Court agrees.
immunity offers complete protection for government officials
sued in their individual capacities if their conduct
‘does not violate clearly established statutory or
constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have
known.'” Kingsland v. City of Miami, 382
F.3d 1220, 1231 (11th Cir. 2004) (quoting Vinyard v.
Wilson, 311 F.3d 1340, 1346 (11th Cir. 2002); Harlow
v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982)). “This
formulation of the qualified immunity inquiry is intended to
protect government officials ‘from undue interference
with their duties and from potentially disabling threats of
liability.'” Jordan v. Doe, 38 F.3d 1559,
1565 (11th Cir. 1994) (quoting Harlow, 457 U.S. at
806); see also Jackson v. Humphrey, 776 F.3d 1232,
1241-42 (11th Cir. 2015) (“The purpose for qualified
immunity is to permit officials to act without fear of
harassing litigation as long as they can reasonably
anticipate before they act whether their conduct will expose
them to liability.”). The doctrine “‘gives
ample room for mistaken judgments' but does not protect
‘the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate
the law.'” Kingsland, 382 F.3d at 1231-32
(quoting Malley v. Briggs, 475 U.S. 335, 343, 341
(1986)). “Qualified immunity is an immunity from suit
rather than a mere defense from liability.” McClish
v. Nugent, 483 F.3d 1231, 1237 (11th Cir. 2007).
receive qualified immunity, ‘the public official must
first prove that he was acting within the scope of his
discretionary authority when the allegedly wrongful acts
occurred.” Kingsland, 382 F.3d at 1232
(quoting Lee v. Ferraro, 284 F.3d 1188, 1194 (11th
Cir. 2002)); see also O'Rourke v. Hayes, 378
F.3d 1201, 1205 (11th Cir. 2004) (“To be even
potentially eligible for qualified immunity, the official has
the burden of establishing that he was acting within the
scope of his discretionary authority.”) (citation
omitted). Here, it is undisputed that Maura was acting in his
discretionary capacity when he issued the Notice to Appear.
Once a defendant raises the issue of qualified immunity and
demonstrates that the acts complained of were committed
within the scope of his or her discretionary authority,
“the burden then shift[s] to the [plaintiff] to show
that qualified immunity should not apply because: (1) the
officers violated a constitutional right; and (2) that right
was clearly established at the time of the incident.”
Garczynski v. Bradshaw, 573 F.3d 1158, 1166 (11th
Cir. 2009). “Additionally, the standard for determining
if an officer violated clearly established law is an
objective one and does not include inquiry into the
officer's subjective intent or beliefs.”
Jackson, 206 F.3d at 1165 (citing Von Stein v.
Brescher, 904 F.2d 572, 579 (11th Cir.1990)).
“Thus, a police officer is entitled to qualified
immunity if a reasonable police officer could have believed
his or her actions were lawful in light of clearly
established law and the information possessed by the officer
at the time ...