Spencer v. Benison, No. 18-14397 (11th Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
Spencer sued Sheriff Benison under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that Benison violated his Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights by ordering him to remove cones and vehicles that were preventing Spencer’s neighbor from completing construction that Spencer claimed encroached on his property. The district court found that Benison acted outside the scope of his discretionary authority and was not entitled to qualified immunity on Spencer’s individual capacity claims and that Spencer had presented adequate evidence of a constitutional violation to sustain his section 1983 claims against Benison in both his individual and official capacities.
The Eleventh Circuit reversed. Benison was acting within the scope of his discretionary authority when he ordered Spencer to remove the cones and vehicles. It was a legitimate job-related function for Benison, an Alabama sheriff, to seek the removal of cones and vehicles for the purposes of achieving public safety, given that traffic was backing up and customers were unable to access a business. Benison properly carried out his duties by verbally commanding Spencer to remove the cones and vehicles and by threatening arrest should he fail to comply. Spencer failed to present adequate evidence of a constitutional violation; he did not demonstrate that Benison’s actions caused him to be deprived of a constitutionally-protected property interest.