Stanley v. Hutchinson, No. 20-1822 (8th Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
After child abuse investigators removed seven minor children from their home, plaintiffs filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging claims against the Governor, DHS, Garland County, and numerous employees of the State and Garland County in their official and individual capacities. The district court dismissed the official capacity claims and granted qualified immunity on all individual capacity claims but one. The district court subsequently granted Defendant Finnegan and Garland County's motions for summary judgment and dismissed all claims with prejudice.
The Eighth Circuit affirmed and concluded that the district court properly applied the Heartland test and found that the existence of exigent circumstances justified the taking of the children. Moreover, the removal was ordered in executing a warrant issued by a magistrate who was advised removal was intended. Even if the Fourth Amendment applies in this situation, defendants are entitled to qualified immunity because it was not clearly established in the Eighth Circuit when the children were removed from their home. In regard to post removal proceedings, the court concluded that Finnegan was entitled to qualified immunity where plaintiffs introduced no evidence that Finnegan's find true determination and testimony in administrative and judicial proceedings were "fabricated" or came anywhere near this level of conscience-shocking behavior.