Garcia v. City of New Hope, No. 19-1836 (8th Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
Officer Baker, on school patrol, motioned for Garcia to stop and shouted for him to slow down. Garcia responded that he was going the speed limit. Garcia drove away. Later, in the afternoon, Garcia again saw Baker at the school. He extended his hand and raised his middle finger. Baker followed Garcia, called for backup, and pulled Garcia over. Baker told Garcia that there were children present and that his actions constituted disorderly conduct. Baker repeatedly asked for Garcia’s license but he ignored her requests and demanded that she call her supervisor. Other officers arrived. Baker told Garcia to get out his “g*d d**n D.L.” Garcia yelled that he was “protected by the First Amendment!” Baker opened the door and grabbed Garcia as he stepped out of the vehicle, placed him against his vehicle, handcuffed him, stating that he was being detained for disorderly conduct. Baker held Garcia in the squad car for seven minutes and issued a citation. As Garcia left, he yelled, “f**k you.” Baker later stated that she had noted a license plate violation. Garcia later apologized in writing, took a driving course, and entered into an “Agreement to Suspend Prosecution.” Garcia's complaint with the New Hope Police Department was not sustained.
In Garcia’s suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, the district court granted the defendants summary judgment, citing qualified immunity. The Eighth Circuit reversed with respect to Garcia’s First Amendment retaliation claim against Baker. Genuine disputes of material fact exist; a reasonable jury could find that Baker lacked probable cause to pull Garcia over. The court affirmed in part. Given the totality of the circumstances, the officers’ use of force in handcuffing Garcia was objectively reasonable.
Court Description: [Smith, Author, with Melloy and Shepherd, Circuit Judges] Civil case - Civil rights. At this stage of the litigation, defendant police officer Baker is not entitled to qualified immunity on plaintiff's claim of a Fourth Amendment violation because there is a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether she had probable cause to conduct a traffic stop of plaintiff's vehicle; plaintiff's right to be free from unreasonable seizure was clearly established at the time of the traffic stop at issue, and the district court erred in granting the officer qualified immunity on plaintiff's Fourth Amendment seizure claim; the defendant officer did not use excessive force in pulling plaintiff from his vehicle and handcuffing him, and she was entitled to qualified immunity on his excessive force claim, as are the officers who assisted her; the district court erred in granting the police officer qualified immunity on plaintiff's First Amendment retaliation claim; other than the incident in question, plaintiff cites no fact that would have given the City notice of a potential training inadequacy with respect to dealing with disorderly conduct and fighting words, and without notice, the city had no reason to believe its training was inadequate; as a result, it was entitled to summary judgment; the district court correctly dismissed plaintiff's state-law claims against the officers based on official immunity. Judge Shepherd, concurring in part, and dissenting in part.