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Banks v. Slay

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

November 17, 2017

Michael J. Banks; Antonia Rush-Banks Plaintiffs - Appellees
v.
Francis G. Slay, in his official capacity as Mayor, City of St. Louis, and Ex-Officio Member, St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners; Darlene Green, in her official capacity as Comptroller, City of St. Louis; Tishaura O. Jones, in her official capacity as Treasurer, City of St. Louis Defendants - Appellants Richard Gray, in his official capacity as President, St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners; Thomas Irwin, in his official capacity as Vice President, St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners; Bettye Battle-Turner, in her official capacity as Treasurer, St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners; Erwin O. Switzer, in his official capacity as Purchasing Member, St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners Defendants Michael J. Banks; Antonia Rush-Banks Plaintiffs - Appellees
v.
Francis G. Slay, in his official capacity as Mayor, City of St. Louis, and Ex-Officio Member, St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners Defendant-Appellant Darlene Green, in her official capacity as Comptroller, City of St. Louis; Tishaura O. Jones, in her official capacity as Treasurer, City of St. Louis Defendants Richard Gray, in his official capacity as President, St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners; Thomas Irwin, in his official capacity as Vice President, St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners; Bettye Battle-Turner, in her official capacity as Treasurer, St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners; Erwin O. Switzer, in his official capacity as Purchasing Member, St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners Defendants - Appellants Michael J. Banks; Antonia Rush-Banks Plaintiffs - Appellants
v.
Francis G. Slay, in his official capacity as Mayor, City of St. Louis, and Ex-Officio Member, St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners; Darlene Green, in her official capacity as Comptroller, City of St. Louis; Tishaura O. Jones, in her official capacity as Treasurer, City of St. Louis; Richard Gray, in his official capacity as President, St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners; Thomas Irwin, in his official capacity as Vice President, St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners; Bettye Battle-Turner, in her official capacity as Treasurer, St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners; Erwin O. Switzer, in his official capacity as Purchasing Member, St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners Defendants - Appellees Michael J. Banks; Antonia Rush-Banks Plaintiffs - Appellants
v.
Francis G. Slay, in his official capacity as Mayor, City of St. Louis, and Ex-Officio Member, St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners; Darlene Green, in her official capacity as Comptroller, City of St. Louis; Tishaura O. Jones, in her official capacity as Treasurer, City of St. Louis; Richard Gray, in his official capacity as President, St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners; Thomas Irwin, in his official capacity as Vice President, St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners; Bettye Battle-Turner, in her official capacity as Treasurer, St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners; Erwin O. Switzer, in his official capacity as Purchasing Member, St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners Defendants - Appellees

          Submitted: September 20, 2017

         Appeals from United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri - St. Louis

          Before LOKEN, ARNOLD, and SHEPHERD, Circuit Judges.

          SHEPHERD, CIRCUIT JUDGE

         A core tenet of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 jurisprudence is that an official-capacity suit against an individual is really a suit against that official's government entity. This case applies that principle, as the primary issue we are called upon to decide is whether-under the facts of this case-a properly served, yet unnamed, government entity may evade a judgment obtained solely against an employee in his official capacity. Our answer, flowing from settled precedent, is that it may not. We affirm the district court[1] and, on cross-appeal, affirm its orders on post-judgment interest and attorney's fees under 42 U.S.C. § 1988.

         I.

         This case has zig-zagged through Missouri and federal courts-creating a lengthy history-but the facts relevant to our decision follow.

         Michael J. Banks was threatened, robbed, and falsely arrested by St. Louis Police Officer Reginald Williams in July 2002.[2] Officer Williams was prosecuted and convicted in 2004 for doing essentially the same thing to others and was sentenced to seventy-eight months in prison. United States v. Williams, 177 Fed.Appx.. 513, 514 (8th Cir. 2006) (affirming conviction and sentence). In August 2005, shortly after Officer Williams's trial-at which Mr. Banks testified-Mr. Banks and his wife, Antonia Rush-Banks, [3] filed a § 1983 suit in St. Louis Circuit Court against Officer Williams and his partner, Officer Ryan Cousins, in their personal and official capacities. The suit also named each member of the St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners ("Board") as defendants in their official capacities.

         A number of procedural maneuvers-spanning over three years-then followed. Officer Williams did not respond to the initial complaint, but the Board defendants moved for summary judgment in November 2007. In June 2008, the Bankses dismissed the Board defendants-rather than respond to their summary judgment motion-and then filed an amended complaint against Officers Williams and Cousins in August 2008. In January 2009, after dismissing Officer Cousins from the action, the Bankses filed their last amended complaint solely against Officer Williams in his personal and official capacities under § 1983.

         It is uncontested that the January 2009 complaint and summons were served on each member of the Board in accordance with Missouri procedure. No responsive pleading was filed, however. The Bankses moved for default judgment on April 3, 2009, and the circuit court granted the motion and set a hearing for April 27, 2009. In addition to mailing notice of the hearing to each member of the Board, the Bankses' counsel also emailed notice of the hearing to the Missouri Attorney General's office on April 10, 2009.[4] At the hearing, no appearance was entered for Officer Williams in his personal or official capacity. A Missouri Assistant Attorney General, however, silently observed the proceedings.[5] After the hearing, judgment was entered against Officer Williams in his personal and official capacities in the amount of $1, 487, 553.49 ("Judgment"), with no mention of pre- or post-judgment interest.

         The Bankses first attempted to enforce the Judgment in Missouri state courts, but the Missouri Court of Appeals dismissed the case without prejudice citing procedural defects with the Bankses' petition. They then filed a petition in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri seeking a writ of mandamus against the members of the Board and three municipal officials in the City of St. Louis[6]-the uncontested successor to the Board's liabilities-ordering payment of the Judgment.[7] The district court initially dismissed the petition for lack of jurisdiction, but we reversed. See Banks v. Slay, 789 F.3d 919, 923 (8th Cir. 2015) (finding district court had jurisdiction).

         After examining the merits, the district court issued a writ of mandamus, ordering the City of St. Louis (through its officials) to pay the Judgment but denied the Bankses' request for post-judgment interest under Missouri law. The Bankses later moved for attorney fees, under § 1988, in the amount of $245, 030.00. The district court reduced the award to $193, 889.30, citing the relative complexity of the case as the primary reason for its reduction.[8]

         We first consider the appeal from the district court's entry of mandamus and then turn to the Bankses' cross-appeals from the denial of ...


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