Kokesh v. Curlee, No. 20-30356 (5th Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
Louisiana Trooper Curlee observed a handicap-plated truck after nightfall stopped on the road's shoulder, high atop the Pontchartrain Expressway. Curlee stopped to investigate, saw men spray painting the overpass wall, and based upon their odd statements, sought their identification. Evans, the driver, and Gizzarelli complied. Kokesh refused to comply and videotaped the encounter. Curlee arrested Kokesh because of his failure to provide identification, determined that the two other men were acting on Kokesh’s instructions, decided Gizzarelli should be released, photographed the overpass, and wrote Evans a ticket for illegally stopping on the interstate shoulder.
Kokesh subsequently sued. The district court dismissed all claims for injunctive and declaratory relief, all official-capacity claims, and all state law claims, leaving only 42 U.S.C. 1983 claims against Curlee in his individual capacity for unreasonable seizure and excessive force and First Amendment retaliation. The district court granted Curlee qualified immunity as to the excessive force claim but denied it as to the unreasonable seizure claim and the First Amendment claim. The Fifth Circuit reversed, in favor of Curlee, describing the incident as “a regular investigation of an extraordinary and hazardous situation created voluntarily by the plaintiff.” Curlee’s conduct was in accord with reasonable expectations. “The Fourth Amendment and 42 U.S.C. 1983 should not be employed as a daily quiz tendered by videotaping hopefuls seeking to metamorphosize law enforcement officers from investigators and protectors, into mere spectators, and then further converting them into federal defendants.”