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Defense Victory in High-Profile Federal Civil Rights Action in Ohio

Obtained summary judgment on behalf of one of the nation’s largest grocery chains in a federal civil rights action that received considerable media attention and was venued in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.

​An individual walked hurriedly into a grocery store in a suspicious manner while openly carrying his firearm on his hip. At the time, our client maintained an unwritten policy of allowing customers to openly carry firearms in its stores. Immediately after entering the store, he was approached by the grocer’s security guard, an independent contractor, who instructed the man to return his gun to his vehicle to avoid panic or he would not be allowed to shop inside the store. After becoming confrontational, the man was asked to leave the premises. The man completely disregarded the command and walked hurriedly into the store. He was subsequently arrested for criminal trespassing as a result of his continued failure to leave the grocer’s property after being instructed to do so.

The plaintiff filed suit against the grocery store, two of the grocer’s employees, the security guard, the security guard’s employer, the arresting police officers and the City of Cincinnati. He asserted claims for § 1983, § 1985(3), and § 1986 civil conspiracy, false arrest, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution. His claims were premised principally on the contention that the defendants lacked probable cause to arrest him for criminal trespass.

Ray and David moved for summary judgment, arguing that the grocer and its employees were entitled to judgment as a matter of law because: (1) the plaintiff’s civil rights conspiracy claims must fail due to the lack of any “conduct under color of state law” by the grocer or its employees; and (2) both the conspiracy claims and the common law tort claims must fail due to the existence of probable cause to arrest the plaintiff as a result of his failure to vacate the premises after his privilege to remain on the property had been revoked. Following oral argument, the district court judge ruled in favor of the grocer and its employees, granting summary judgment. The court noted that, despite the client’s open carry policy, the plaintiff did not have an unfettered right to remain in the store while carrying his firearm.

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