Frasier v. Evans, No. 19-1015 (10th Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
After Plaintiff-Appellee Levi Frasier video-recorded Denver police officers using force while arresting an uncooperative suspect in public, one of the officers followed Frasier to his car and asked him to provide a statement on what he had seen and to turn over his video of the arrest. Frasier at first denied having filmed the arrest but ultimately showed the officer the tablet computer on which he had video-recorded it. He did so after an officer, Defendant-Appellant Christopher Evans, and four other members of the Denver Police Department (the other Defendants-Appellants) surrounded him and allegedly pressured him to comply with their demand to turn over the video. Frasier contended that when he showed Officer Evans the tablet computer, the officer grabbed it from his hands and searched it for the video without his consent. Frasier sued the five officers under 42 U.S.C. 1983, claiming they violated and conspired to violate his constitutional rights under both the First and Fourth Amendments. The officers moved the district court for summary judgment on qualified-immunity grounds, and the court granted them qualified immunity on some of Frasier’s claims but denied it to them on others. The district court, as relevant here, held that Officer Evans had reasonable suspicion to detain Frasier throughout their encounter because Frasier lied to him about filming the arrest, thereby potentially violating Colorado Revised Statutes 18-8-111. The court granted Officer Evans qualified immunity on Frasier’s claim that the officer illegally detained him in violation of the Fourth Amendment, and Frasier did not oppose granting summary judgment to the other officers on this claim. Officer Evans did not move for summary judgment on Frasier’s claim that he illegally searched Frasier’s tablet computer in violation of the Fourth Amendment, but the other officers did. The court granted them summary judgment because the record did not support a finding that they personally participated in the alleged search. The district court, however, denied the officers qualified immunity on Frasier’s First Amendment retaliation claim even though it had concluded that Frasier did not have a clearly established right to film a public arrest. The officers appealed the district court’s partial denial of qualified immunity. The Tenth Circuit concluded the district court erred and reversed the partial denial of the officers' motions for summary judgment on qualified immunity grounds. The matter was remanded for further proceedings.