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Federal Court Sanctions Plaintiff Who Sued City’s K-9 Unit

March 3, 2013

03/04/13 On Wednesday, Federal Judge Tanya Walton Pratt entered an order sanctioning Kevin D. Miller, the plaintiff in a lawsuit filed last year against the City of Plymouth’s K-9 Unit. The Court ordered Mr. Miller to pay the City $810.43 in attorney’s fees and expenses and prohibited him from making any further filings against the City.

In January 2012, Miller named Plymouth as a defendant among approximately 50 other municipalities, all of whom had K-9 Units trained by Vohne-Liche Kennels. Miller alleged that the dogs trained by Vohne-Liche were unreliable and he requested an injunction preventing the named municipalities from using their dogs until each dog could be tested. The City responded to the lawsuit with a motion addressing the procedural deficiencies in Miller’s complaint, contending the lawsuit was filed frivolously and in bad faith, and seeking an award of attorney’s fees and sanctions. The City was dismissed from the lawsuit in June of 2012, but, at that time, the court advised that it would still consider the City’s motion for sanctions.

In 2009, Miller had filed a separate lawsuit against the City’s K-9 Unit, in a different federal court, seeking monetary damages for alleged federal civil rights and state law claims arising from a 2008 traffic stop in which the City’s K-9 Unit performed a vehicle search. That case was decided in December with a jury returning a verdict in favor of the City on all of Miller’s claims. When granting the City’s motion for sanctions, Judge Walton Pratt took Miller’s prior filing against the City into account stating, “it was inappropriate and frivolous of Mr. Miller to file a second lawsuit against the City of Plymouth in this Court while simultaneously litigating a suit in the Northern District.”

City Attorney Sean Surrisi stated, “The City is currently reviewing the court’s order and will begin efforts to collect the fee award from Miller in the near future.”

7 Responses to “ Federal Court Sanctions Plaintiff Who Sued City’s K-9 Unit ”

  1. Andrew on March 4, 2013 at 10:50 pm

    I lived for a while in the big city — and was stopped many times (lead foot). I cooperated with the officer and moved along — that’s what normal people do. One of those cases I lost not 45 minutes but two days because of a computer glitch — did I make a federal case out of it? No. Because a normal person would understand that it is something that happens from time to time. Certainly I was irate about it — but in the bigger picture it wasn’t worth the trouble.

    Anybody who makes such a deal of what is basically nothing — and this is not my opinion but that of two federal judges who have said as much — and ruled so — should stop searching for their resolution in the legal system, but rather with their pastor, priest or rabbi. There is much more under to surface here and I sincerely hope for the sake of his soul that he does so before he potentially ruins other lives because of inflated ego.

    Everybody gets stepped on from time to time, whether it be from people in authority, fellow men, or even just plain bad luck. Its a reminder of who we are. I don’t know about Kmiller, but as a Christian should I expect to be treated better than my Lord and God that was hung on a tree? No, I don’t and shame on anybody who would.

  2. KMiller on March 4, 2013 at 6:48 pm

    “Banana Republics” are entities that don’t respect your rights; typically police states that think that police officers can do anything they want to do. The difference between most of the United States that I live in and “Banana Republics” is that in the United States, we are concerned about rights and will defend them…particularly against police officers that are itching to find an excuse to search every car they stop for a traffic violation.
    Concerning the “indentured servitude” comment – I was referring to your comment about having a citizen wax police cars for a month. Typical…read a statement out of context and ran with it

  3. Andrew on March 4, 2013 at 6:20 pm

    What I find positively revolting in today’s society is the preoccupation with “rights” as though we lived in a Banana republic. Now some may believe that we do live in a Banana Republic as evidenced by what we see in the media today. However that is just not so. The remark about indentured servitude underscores the off-skew thinking that the poster KMiller has demonstrated.

    Real courage is what is demonstrated by the officers that protect our streets from criminals and drug makers, not the kind of behaviour that begat many hundreds of lawyer jokes. Both professions are an honorable one, so long as the greater good is respected. Though I am not a legal professional, I think common sense would back me up 100%.

    Shame on you for besmirching the name of both professions!

  4. Kathy Bottorff on March 4, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    I find this quote from the judge most interesting……When granting the City’s motion for sanctions, Judge Walton Pratt took Miller’s prior filing against the City into account stating, “it was inappropriate and frivolous of Mr. Miller to file a second lawsuit against the City of Plymouth in this Court while simultaneously litigating a suit in the Northern District.”
    I also wish to let it be known that I believe whole-heartedly that the City’s K9 is very well trainned and does an excellent job helping to locate drugs in our community.

  5. Kathy Bottorff on March 4, 2013 at 2:16 pm

    Mr. Miller is correct that in September 2011 the City and its outside insurance counsel were fined $2,000 as a result of a discovery dispute in the context of the lawsuit pending in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana. In December 2012, a jury ultimately returned a verdict in favor of the City on all of Mr. Miller’s claims in that case. Mr. Miller has filed several post-trial motions in that case alleging errors and seeking a new trial. The City has also filed post-trial motions in that case seeking an award of fees and costs. The judge currently has those motions under advisement and after the court’s ruling Mr. Miller may choose to exercise his right to appeal. With respect to the case in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, which was the focus of the present story, in June 2012, the court permitted Mr. Miller to file an amended complaint dismissing all claims against the City of Plymouth. Thus, any substantive litigation over Mr. Miller’s allegations against the City has come to an end in that court. However, the City acknowledges that Mr. Miller has a right to appeal the court’s award of sanctions and attorney’s fees if he so chooses. The City of Plymouth respects the civil rights of all and stands behind its police officers.

    City Attorney Sean Surrisi

  6. KMiller on March 4, 2013 at 9:27 am

    It’s not surprising that the local “news” outlets would only report this minor setback while it failed to report that the City of Plymouth, its K-9 officer, and their lawyer were sanctioned and fined $2,000 for withholding evidence. It is also interesting that the news does not report how often the dog falsely alerts to citizens’ vehicles. Regardless of how Mr. Miller’s case turns out, Plymouth’s citizens should be aware that any dog that the Plymouth Police Department uses is not properly trained…and if a citizen’s vehicle is searched and nothing is found after Plymouth’s dog “supposedly” alerts to the car, that is no different than the K-9 officer “manufacturing” evidence so he can get around your Fourth Amendment right against unlawful searches.

    With respect to Andrew’s comment, the City has not “prevailed” here. You should be aware that this is not the end of the legal process. And rather than advocating indentured servitude, you should be glad that private citizens are enforcing their civil rights.

  7. Andrew on March 3, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    I am glad that the City prevailed here. These kinds of cases make it difficult for people who are REALLY discriminated on. Its too bad there cannot be some kind of poetic way of collecting this fee, such as waxing the police cars for a month.