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Adickes v. S.H.

Kress & Co
|More Citation. 398 U.S. 144 (1970). Brief Fact Summary. In a civil rights action in which a conspiracy between the police and S.H. Kress & Company (Defendant) was alleged, summary judgment was granted when Adickes (Plaintiff) could not produce any evidence to support a conspiracy. Synopsis of Rule of Law. In an action based on conspiracy, summary judgment may not be granted unless the nonmoving party can show that there is no genuine issue of fact. Facts. Plaintiff sued the Defendant in federal court alleging that there was a conspiracy between the Defendant and the police to arrest the Plaintiff when she entered Defendants store because she was in the company of African Americans. Defendant moved for summary judgment on the grounds that Plaintiff could not produce any evidence in support of a conspiracy. The district court granted summary judgment ruling that Plaintiff failed to produce any facts to allege that a conspiracy might be inferred. The Court of Appeals affirmed. On appeal, the Supreme Court held that Plaintiff had to prove state action by showing that Defendants employee and a policeman reached an understanding to cause her arrest because she was a white person in the company of African Americans. Issue. Whether a moving party has the burden of showing the absence of any genuine issue of fact in a motion for summary judgment? Held. Yes. Summary judgment was improper here because the moving party, the Defendant failed to carry its burden of showing the absence of any genuine issue of fact. Here, the Defendant failed to negate the possibility that there was a policeman in Defendants restaurant while Plaintiff was awaiting service. Further, the Defendant failed to submit affidavits of the waitress in the restaurant. These gaps in the evidence demonstrate that Defendant failed to fulfill its initial burden of demonstrating that there were no police officers in the store at the time of the incident. Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure was not intended to modify the burden of the moving party to initially show the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Furthermore, the rule requires that Defendant do more than simply rely on contrary allegations in its complaint. Thus, in order to concede this fact, Plaintiff would have to file an affidavit explaining why it was impractical to file an affidavit stating that someone saw a policeman in the store. Concurrence. The existence of a conspiracy is a factual issue for the jury, not the judge to decide. Discussion. Please note that this decision was subsequently overruled by Celotex v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 (1986). That decision held that the moving party has the initial responsibility of informing the court of the basis for its motion, and that party must recognize those portions of the record that demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of fact.
Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 1944 (1970). Facts: Plaintiff, a teacher, went to Defendants restaurant with 6 of her African-American

students. Plaintiff was denied service and later arrested. In her lawsuit, Plaintiff alleged, among other things, that there was a conspiracy between the Defendant and the police to arrest her because she was accompanied by her black students. Defendant moved for summary judgment on the conspiracy count. In support of the motion, Defendant presented the following evidence: (1) deposition testimony of Defendants restaurant manager that he had not communicated with the police and Plaintiff was denied service only because he was fearful of a riot; (2) affidavits from the chief of police and the two arresting officers that Defendants store manager had not requested that Plaintiff be arrested; and (3) Plaintiffs own deposition testimony that she had no knowledge of any communication between Defendants employees and the police. Plaintiff, on the other hand, argued that summary judgment was not proper because she had alleged in the complaint, also in her deposition, and had also an unsworn statement of one of Defendants employees that there was a policeman in the restaurant at the time Plaintiff was refused service. Plaintiff argued that although she had no knowledge of an agreement between Defendant and the police, the sequence of events created a substantial enough possibility of a conspiracy to allow her to proceed to trial. The District Court granted Defendants motion for summary judgment.

Pointing to Rule 56 (e) , respondent argues that it was incumbent on petitioner to come forward with an affidavit properly asserting the presence of the policeman in the store, if she were to rely on that fact to avoid summary judgment. Respondent notes in this regard that none of the materials upon which [19] petitioner relied met the requirements of Rule 56 (e). This argument does not withstand scrutiny, however, for both the commentary on and background of the 1963 amendment conclusively show that it was not intended to modify the burden of the moving party [20] under Rule 56 (c) to show initially the absence of a genuine issue concerning any material fact. The Advisory Committee 160*160 note on the amendment states that the changes were not designed to "affect the ordinary standards applicable to the summary judgment." And, in a comment directed specifically to a contention like respondent's the Committee stated that "[w]here the evidentiary matter in support of the motion does not establish the absence of a genuine issue, summary judgment must be [21] denied even if no opposing evidentiary matter is presented." Because respondent did not meet its initial burden of establishing the absence of a policeman in the store, petitioner here was not required to come [22] forward with suitable opposing affidavits. If respondent had met its initial burden by, for example, submitting affidavits from the policemen denying their presence in the store at the time in question, Rule 56 (e) would then have required petitioner to have done more than simply rely on the contrary allegation in her complaint. To have avoided conceding this fact for purposes of summary judgment, petitioner would have had to come forward with either (1) the affidavit of someone who saw the policeman in the store or (2) an affidavit under Rule 56 (f) explaining why at that time it was impractical to do so.

Issue: Whether there was no genuine issue as to any material fact to make summary judgment proper.
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"When a motion for summary judgment is made and supported as provided in this rule, an adverse party may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of his pleading, but his response, by affidavits or as otherwise provided in this rule, must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. If he does not so respond, summary judgment, if appropriate, shall be entered against him."

Holding: No. Reasoning: As the moving party, Defendant had the burden of showing the absence of a genuine issue as to any material fact, and for these purposes the material it lodged must be viewed in the light most favorable to the opposing party. Defendant did not carry its burden because of its failure to foreclose the possibility that there was a policeman at the restaurant while Plaintiff was awaiting service, and that the policeman reached an understanding with some restaurant employee that Plaintiff not be served. Here, Defendant presented no evidence in support of its motion for summary judgment that the officer was not present at the store. If a cop was present, it would be open to a jury, in light of the sequence that followed, to infer from the circumstances that the policeman and a Defendant employee had a meeting of the minds and thus reached an understanding that Plaintiff should be refused service. Note: Its extremely difficult for a party to prevail on summary judgment. To defeat such motion, all that the opponent needs to present is some evidence to create a genuine issue as to any material fact. COMPLETE TEXT OF THE OPINION What is Summary Judgment?