Ahmad v. City of St. Louis, No. 19-2062 (8th Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
This case arose out of several days of street protests during the September 2017 riots that occurred following the acquittal of a former St. Louis police officer for the on-duty shooting of a black man. Plaintiffs are a protester who allegedly was maced, a person whose cell phone was seized and searched as he filmed arrests, and an observer who was allegedly exposed to chemical agents and arrested on September 17.
The Amended Complaint alleged that the City (i) violated the First Amendment by retaliating against plaintiffs for engaging in protected expressive activity; (ii) violated the Fourth Amendment because its custom, practice, and failure to train and supervise caused unlawful seizures and the use of excessive force by police officers; and (iii) violated the Fourteenth Amendment when officers failed to warn before deploying chemical agents, failed to provide opportunities to disperse, and arbitrarily enforced two ordinances of the St. Louis Code. The City subsequently appealed the district court's order denying its motion to dissolve the preliminary injunction that included affirmative mandates pending a prompt trial on the merits of plaintiffs' claims for a permanent injunction, and the district court's order granting class certification.
The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of the City's motion to dissolve the temporary injunction and remanded with directions to vacate and dissolve the injunction no later than October 31, 2021, if it has not been replaced with a final order either granting a permanent injunction or denying injunctive relief. The court explained that, given the rigorous 42 U.S.C. 1983 burdens of proof, the evidence at the preliminary injunction hearing relating to the events of September 2017, while relevant and sufficient to persuade the court to grant a preliminary injunction pendente lite, will not be sufficient to warrant permanent injunctive relief imposing the same levels of indefinite federal court control over the City's law enforcement responsibilities.
The court vacated the class certification order without prejudice to plaintiffs renewing their request after a final order has been entered on their claim for permanent injunctive relief, at which point the district court can better assess whether a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(2) class is appropriate and necessary to afford proper equitable relief. The court explained that, given the individualized inquiries plaintiffs' disparate claims require, the massive class action certified neither promotes the efficiency and economy underlying class actions nor pays sufficient heed to the federalism and separation of powers principles in Supreme Court and Eighth Circuit precedent.