Couser v. Gay, No. 19-3088 (10th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
In August 2017, Kansas law enforcement officers, after a traffic chase, pulled over Matthew Holmes for suspected vehicular burglary. The officers were from the City of Newton Police Department (“NPD”), McPherson County Sheriff’s Office (“MCSO”), and Harvey County Sheriff’s Office (“HCSO”). After Holmes stopped and exited the car, officers wrestled him to the ground. McPherson County Sheriff’s Deputy Chris Somers shot Holmes in the back. He later died from the gunshot wound. Holmes' estate sued, alleging constitutional violations under 42 U.S.C. 1983 ad a state law claim. The district court granted in part and denied in part Defendants' Rule 12(b)(6) motions. In particular, it denied each sheriff’s motion to dismiss based on Eleventh Amendment immunity because, “with respect to local law enforcement activities, sheriffs are not arms of the state but rather of the county that they serve.” The Tenth Circuit determined the district court did not err in denying the sheriffs' motions, and therefore affirmed.