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Hoyland v. McMenomy

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

August 28, 2017

Brian Thomas Hoyland Plaintiff- Appellee
Shawn McMenomy; Henry Cho; Alex Eckstein, individually and in their official capacities Defendants - Appellants Ryan Coughlin, individually; City of Rosemount Defendants

          Submitted: March 9, 2017

         Appeal from United States District Court for the District of Minnesota - Minneapolis

          Before WOLLMAN, COLLOTON, and SHEPHERD, Circuit Judges.

          SHEPHERD, Circuit Judge.

         Brian Hoyland awoke one evening to the sights and sounds of police officers standing with guns drawn in front of his home. He saw his wife, a handicapped woman, standing in the driveway with her arms raised in the air. He then heard someone yell "shoot" or "shooting." Hoyland quickly turned on the porch light, opened the front door, stood in his doorway, and screamed at the officers, who stood 30-40 feet away. The officers ordered him back inside. He remained in his doorway and approximately thirty seconds after he opened the door to his home, an officer declared him to be under arrest. Officers proceeded to his doorway where Hoyland was taken into custody and eventually charged with obstructing legal process pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 609.50, a charge later dismissed for lack of probable cause.

         Hoyland has brought suit against the police officers for violating his First and Fourth Amendment rights. The officers have asserted the defense of qualified immunity. The district court[1] rejected this defense on both claims. After a careful review of the facts, we affirm.

         I. Background

         "We review a district court's qualified immunity determination on summary judgment de novo, viewing the record in the light most favorable to [Hoyland] and drawing all reasonable inferences in [his] favor." Gilani v. Matthews, 843 F.3d 342, 347 (8th Cir. 2016) (second alteration in original) (internal quotation marks omitted). We also "accept[] as true the facts that the district court found were adequately supported, as well as the facts the district court likely assumed." Shekleton v. Eichenberger, 677 F.3d 361, 365 (8th Cir. 2012) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         Rosemount, Minnesota police received reports of drag racing in the early hours of May 8, 2013. Officers Shawn McMenomy and Alex Eckstein, driving in separate squad cars, responded to the scene of these reports. As he drove, McMenomy saw a vehicle driving toward him and away from the scene. McMenomy swung a U-turn in the road and proceeded to follow the car-a Corvette. He had not, as of yet, witnessed any traffic violations. But he ran the vehicle's license plate and discovered the Corvette was registered to Mark Illetschko, who had no outstanding warrants. Continuing to follow the Corvette, McMenomy observed its tires partially cross the road's center dividing line. In response, McMenomy activated his emergency lights, but the Corvette did not pull over. Instead, the Corvette continued driving and turned into a residential neighborhood before finally pulling into the driveway of a house (the home of Brian Hoyland) and stopped. During this "chase, " which lasted about 40 seconds, McMenomy claims the Corvette visibly accelerated in an apparent attempt to flee. The district court concluded that the vehicle never exceeded 40 miles per hour as it traveled a distance of one quarter mile from the time McMenomy activated his lights until reaching Hoyland's driveway.

         After stopping in the driveway, the driver of the Corvette, Illetschko, began to exit the vehicle. He was ordered to remain in the vehicle by McMenomy, who had parked his squad car behind the Corvette. The officer had his service weapon drawn and pointed at Illetschko. Officer Eckstein now arrived, parked his squad car near McMenomy's, and drew his service weapon. McMenomy next ordered Illetschko to exit the vehicle with his hands up and walk backwards toward the squad cars. Illetschko obeyed without any resistance. Around this time Officers Henry Cho and Ryan Coughlin arrived on scene. Coughlin took Illetschko into custody and handcuffed him. The officers then shifted their attention to the vehicle's passenger, Christina Hoyland, and ordered her to exit the vehicle with her hands in the air. The district court determined that Christina "by-and-large followed the Officers' commands, but did direct verbal criticism-including profanity-at them in the process." One of the messages Christina tried to convey was that she could not walk backwards as the officers commanded because she suffers paralysis in one of her legs.

         All of this commotion awoke Brian Hoyland, who had been asleep inside the house. Out of concern for their safety, Hoyland moved his children to the back of the house and retrieved a cell phone to record the incident outside. He intended to remain inside but changed his mind when he believed he heard the officers yell "shoot" or "shooting." He proceeded to switch the porch light on, open his front door, and hold his phone, which was recording, out in front of him.

         Hoyland stood in his doorway, about 30-40 feet away from the officers and Christina. All four officers on the scene briefly turned their attention to him. McMenomy and Cho kept their attention on Hoyland while Coughlin and Eckstein quickly returned their focus to Illetschko and Christina. Within seconds, an officer shouted, "Drop the camera!" McMenomy yelled at Hoyland to go back inside the house. Hoyland remained where he stood and began screaming at the officers. He shouted, "You are in my yard!" and "What is this, a DWI stop, and you guys are doing this? Are you kidding me?" Hoyland also yelled that his wife was handicapped and demanded that the officers do their jobs "the right way." McMenomy again ordered Hoyland to "stay inside." Immediately following this command, with Hoyland remaining in the doorway, "the arrest decision was made" by McMenomy who shouted "you are under arrest, " and ordered Hoyland to raise his hands. About thirty seconds of time elapsed between Hoyland's emergence from his house into the doorway and McMenomy's pronouncement that he was under arrest. Hoyland did not resist, raised his hands and laid down on the ground, following the instructions given by the officers. He was taken into custody by McMenomy and Cho without incident.

         Meanwhile, Coughlin and Eckstein continued to deal with Illetschko and Christina. Coughlin was in the process of putting a handcuffed Illetschko in the back of the squad car when Hoyland first appeared. Coughlin secured Illetschko in the squad car before he turned his attention to Hoyland. As McMenomy and Cho arrested Hoyland, Coughlin approached the house and closed the front door that Hoyland had exited. Coughlin next joined Eckstein, who had remained focused on Christina after "very briefly" shifting his attention after Hoyland had first stepped out. Shortly after Hoyland was secure, Coughlin and Eckstein took Christina into custody without incident. The entire encounter, from the moment Hoyland opened his door until both he and Christina were in police custody, lasted no more than two and a half minutes.

         Throughout this encounter, Hoyland never left the area around his front door, failing to ever come closer than 30-40 feet from the officers. He never told his wife or Illetschko to disobey the officers' commands. He never ran away or resisted the officers as he himself was arrested. Finally, he never physically intervened, and never attempted to physically intervene, in the arrest of anyone.

         After taking Hoyland into custody, the officers placed him in the back of a squad car. Eckstein issued Hoyland a citation for obstruction of legal process. He did so under the instruction of Cho and Coughlin, not because he had seen anything amounting to obstruction. Eckstein told Hoyland he was being charged with obstruction. Hoyland, who had served for a time in the military police, admitted he had made the situation worse for the officers. But Hoyland repeatedly told Eckstein that he came outside to inform the officers of his wife's disability.

         Hoyland subsequently challenged the obstruction charge in county court and argued that the officers lacked probable cause to arrest him. The judge agreed and dismissed the charge, holding that:

[Hoyland's] actions did not constitute the crime of Obstruction of Legal Process. It is clear from the video recording obtained from [Hoyland's] cell phone that [Hoyland] exited his residence with the sole intent to inform officers his wife was disabled and unable to comply with their commands, and to record the incident for possible future use as evidence if the officers engaged in any improper conduct. The recording also shows that within seconds of [Hoyland's] exiting the residence, the officers were aware the object he held was a camera. The entire encounter with [Hoyland] lasted approximately one minute, during which time [Hoyland] consistently attempted to communicate his wife was disabled. [Hoyland's] conduct amounted to nothing more than a fleeting interruption of the officers' performance of their duties without any intent to cause such an interruption. Accordingly, there is not probable cause to sustain the charge and the charge is dismissed.

         Hoyland subsequently brought an action under 28 U.S.C. § 1983 against McMenomy, Cho, and Eckstein for violating his First and Fourth Amendment rights.[2]He also asserted a state law claim for malicious prosecution against those three officers. Before the district court, Hoyland moved for partial summary judgment as to his Fourth Amendment claim. The officers, asserting the defense of qualified immunity, sought summary judgment on all of the claims made against them.

         The district court denied the officers' motion as to the First and Fourth Amendment claims. The court reasoned that genuine issues of material fact were in dispute, rendering summary judgment inappropriate. The court denied Hoyland's motion for the same reason. Lastly, the court dismissed the malicious prosecution charge. The officers have now appealed the district court's denial of qualified immunity on Hoyland's First and Fourth Amendment claims.

         II. Jurisdiction

         As a preliminary matter, we must address Hoyland's contention that we have no jurisdiction over the officers' interlocutory appeal. See Thompson v. Murray, 800 F.3d 979, 982 (8th Cir. 2015) (noting that the first question in an appeal from a denial of qualified immunity is one of jurisdiction). When a district court issues an order denying qualified immunity, we can immediately review that order "to the extent that it turns on an issue of law." Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 530 (1985). "While we cannot review the district court's determination that material issues of fact remain for trial on the merits of [Hoyland's] claims, we can consider the legal question whether, in view of the facts that the district court deemed sufficiently supported for summary judgment purposes, the individual defendants' conduct was objectively reasonable given their knowledge and the clearly established law." Waddell v. Forney, 108 F.3d 889, 890 (8th Cir. 1997).

         Hoyland argues that the officers' appeal does not raise any questions of law. Rather, he contends the appeal challenges disputed issues of material facts identified by the district court, namely that (1) "the parties disagree about whether Hoyland intended to interfere with the Officers' performance of their duties" and (2) "the parties disagree about whether Hoyland's conduct 'substantially interfered' or 'merely interrupted' the Officers in their duties." Thus, according to Hoyland, we have no jurisdiction over this appeal.

         Hoyland misunderstands the legal standard. To be sure, an appellate court cannot maintain jurisdiction over an interlocutory appeal when the legal reasonableness of an officer's actions turns on disputed factual questions. See Thompson, 800 F.3d at 984 (dismissing for lack of jurisdiction when the parties disputed historical facts). But here we have no historical facts in dispute. The events of that night were recorded on three cameras located in squad cars and Hoyland's cell phone. The question raised on appeal is whether the material facts, viewed in a light most favorable to Hoyland, show that the officers' actions were objectively reasonable given their knowledge and clearly established law. "Our inquiry is a quintessentially legal one, and we accordingly have jurisdiction to consider defendants' appeal." Smithson v. Aldrich, 235 F.3d 1058, 1061 (8th Cir. 2000).

         III. Fourth Amendment Claim

         The first issue raised by the officers is the district court's denial of qualified immunity on Hoyland's claim that he was unreasonably seized. The officers contend that they had arguable probable cause to arrest Hoyland for obstruction because he interfered with their ability to detain Illetschko and Christina. They also argue that their fear of ambush provided arguable probable cause to arrest Hoyland.

         A. Qualified Immunity

         "The determination of whether an officer is entitled to qualified immunity requires consideration of the 'objective legal reasonableness' of the officer's conduct in light of the information he possessed at the time of the alleged violation." Winters v. Adams, 254 F.3d 758, 766 (8th Cir. 2001) (quoting Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 819 (1982)). "Courts conduct a two-part inquiry to determine whether qualified immunity protects a government official from liability: (1) whether the facts taken in a light most favorable to [Hoyland] make out a violation of a constitutional . . . right; and (2) whether that right was clearly established at the time of the alleged violation." Buckley v. Ray, 848 F.3d 855, 863 (8th Cir. 2017). "We have discretion in deciding which part of the inquiry to address first." Id. (citing Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 236 (2009)). It was clearly established in 2013 "that a warrantless arrest, unsupported by probable ...

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