United States District Court, D. Minnesota
Teresa M. Graham, Plaintiff,
Sgt. Shannon L. Barnette, Officer Amanda Sanchez, Officer Mohamed Noor, and the City of Minneapolis, Defendants.
N. ERICKSEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
police officers entered Plaintiff Teresa Graham's home
and seized Graham so that she could be transported to the
hospital for an involuntary mental health evaluation.
Plaintiff filed this suit alleging constitutional violations
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and bringing state law claims.
Citing qualified, official, and statutory immunities,
Defendant police officers and the City of Minneapolis moved
for summary judgment.
reasons set forth below, the Court grants in part and denies
in part Defendants' summary judgment motion. First, the
Court finds that the officers are protected by qualified,
statutory, and official immunities. Second, the Court sides
with the weight of federal authority and concludes that
seizures in the mental health context require probable cause.
Third, the Court determines that the City of Minneapolis'
policy on transport holds is facially invalid and that a
reasonable juror could find that the officers implemented
this unconstitutional policy when they seized Graham without
probable cause. As a result, the motion is denied with
respect to Count 5, which alleges that the City of
Minneapolis deprived Graham of her Fourth Amendment seizure
rights by maintaining an unlawful transport hold policy. The
motion is granted in all other respects.
10 a.m. on May 25, 2017, Teresa Graham called 911 and
reported that a man was smoking marijuana on a retaining wall
behind her home. A police officer arrived at Graham's
address, saw no one, and did not follow up with Graham about
her report. Several hours later, Graham called the Fifth
Precinct and left a voicemail for the Precinct's
commander, Inspector Kathy Waite. In the voicemail, Graham
complained that officers did not respond to her call that
morning. Graham also referenced an email she had sent earlier
in the day to Inspector Waite, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy
Hodges, and other local government officials about the
Minneapolis police department's failure to respond to a
“vulnerable adult report” Graham had made
previously concerning her disabled brother. Around 6 p.m.,
Lieutenant Dan May returned Graham's call to inform her
that an officer had investigated Graham's report of the
man in her backyard earlier that day.
p.m., Graham's cousin called 911 and reported that Graham
called him at work and threatened him and his family.
Incident Detail Report No. 17-191155, ECF No. 95, Carter
Decl., Ex. 2. The 911 call taker summarized the call for the
responding officers in a comment to the Incident Detail
Report: “CLRS COUSIN WHO JUST CALLED HIM AT WORK AND
THREATENED HIM AND HIS FAMILY.” Id. The
Incident Detail Report reflects comments entered by 911 call
takers, police dispatchers, and the responding officers about
an ongoing incident. The call taker also noted that
Graham's cousin requested a welfare check on Graham and
that Graham's mental health diagnosis was unknown.
p.m., Officers Noor and Sanchez arrived at Graham's home
to conduct a welfare check. Sanchez recorded the encounter
with her body camera. When Graham answered the door, the
officers explained that they were responding to a complaint
that she had threatened a family member. Graham grew
agitated, demanded to know who made the report, complained
that she was being slandered and harassed, and asked the
officers to leave. After leaving Graham's home, the
officers reported that they were asked to leave before they
were able to check Graham's welfare, but that she
appeared “AOK.” Incident Detail Report No.
17-191155, ECF No. 95, Carter Decl., Ex. 2.
p.m., a 911 call taker reported that Graham had called 911
three more times since the welfare check. Incident Detail
Report No. 17-191393, ECF No. 95, Carter Decl., Ex. 14.
Graham first called 911 at 8:20 p.m. to complain about the
officers harassing her in retaliation for reporting a crime.
The call taker described Graham during her first call as
agitated, aggressive, and not making sense. Approximately
fifteen minutes later, Sergeant Shannon Barnette returned
Graham's call and the two spoke briefly about
Graham's concerns. At 8:40 p.m., Graham called 911,
asking to be transferred to the Edina police department.
Twenty minutes later, Graham again called 911 and requested
to be transferred to the Edina police department.
Barnette had previously interacted with Graham and was aware
of “some mental health history.” Barnette Dep.,
ECF No. 95, Carter Decl., Ex. 12. Graham called the Fifth
Precinct a year or two earlier to request an investigation
into her sister's death at Abbott Northwestern Hospital.
Barnette worried about Graham's mental state since she
accused medical personnel of covering up the circumstances of
her sister's death. Around this time, Inspector Waite
informed Barnette that Graham had a mental health history and
had been subject to harassment restraining orders that were
sought by Hennepin County government employees. Barnette did
not remember specifics.
on the officers' interactions with Graham described
above, Barnette directed Noor and Sanchez to place Graham in
custody to transport her for an emergency mental health
evaluation under Minnesota's Civil Commitment and
Treatment Act (“MCTA”). At 9:05:53 p.m., dispatch
reported: “PER SGT BARNETTE .. . OFCRS TO SIGN A HEALTH
AND WELFARE HOLD ON THIS SUBJECT.” Incident Detail
Report No. 17-191393, ECF No. 95, Carter Decl., Ex. 14. A
similar entry was made at 9:06:11: “OFCRS TO SIGN
HEALTHWELFARE HOLD PER 502, ” which is Barnette's
the MCTA, an officer may place a person in custody under a
health and welfare hold and transport that person to “a
licensed physician or treatment facility if the officer has
reason to believe . . . that the person is mentally ill . . .
and in danger of injuring self or others if not immediately
detained.” Minn. Stat. § 253B.05 Subd. 2(a)
(2017). The Minneapolis police department (“MPD”)
policy on transport holds summarizes the authorizing statute.
The policy allows an officer to take a person with mental
illness into custody “if there is a reason to believe
the person poses a threat to himself or others.” 7-1005
Transport Holds Policy, ECF No. 133, Kushner Decl., Ex. D.
The policy further directs that “[t]he threat does not
have to be imminent.” Id.
9:06:49 p.m., dispatch informed the officers that one of
Graham's family members had called to warn the Edina
police department that Graham may fight with the police.
Id. Subsequently, dispatch reported that Barnette
would support Noor and Sanchez at Graham's home.
9:40 p.m., Barnette, Noor, and Sanchez arrived at
Graham's home. Before arriving, the officers reviewed the
above-referenced Incident Detail Reports. All officers wore
body cameras that recorded the encounter. Graham opened the
interior door and left the storm door locked and shut. Graham
told the officers that she did not call them for help,
angrily demanded that the officers leave her property, and
slammed the door. The officers described Graham as agitated,
argumentative, and uncooperative.
removed the screen from the storm door to allow entry should
Graham reopen the interior door. The officers told Graham
that they would leave if she opened the door and allowed them
to make sure that she was okay. Through the door, Graham told
the officers that she was fine. Graham then called 911 to
complain about the officers at her front door.
Graham opened the interior door to her home. Barnette and
Noor entered the home through the screenless front door and
held Graham by each arm in an escort hold for about six
minutes. Graham repeatedly told the officers that the hold
was causing pain to pre-existing injuries in her left
shoulder and wrist. The officers directed Graham to sit in a
chair and released her arms when she complied. During the
encounter, Graham did not physically resist or threaten harm,
but she did criticize, insult, swear at, and threaten to sue
paramedics arrived and escorted Graham to the ambulance. Once
Graham was in the ambulance, Officer Sanchez completed the
emergency transport hold application required by the
and provided the form to the paramedics. The officers listed
the following reason to take Graham into custody:
“Female continuously called 911 and per dispatchers
female was verbally agitated and not making sense. [P]er
[Barnette], a hold was placed[d] on the female.”
Emergency Hold Application, ECF No. 133, Kushner Decl., Ex.
B. Graham was then transported to Southdale Fairview Hospital
and released after being examined by a doctor.
judgment is proper “if the movant shows that there is
no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(a). A genuine dispute exists “if the evidence is
such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). To support an assertion
that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed, a party must
cite “to particular parts of materials in the record,
” show “that the materials cited do not establish
the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, ” or show
“that an adverse party cannot produce admissible
evidence to support the fact.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(c)(1)(A)-(B). In determining whether summary judgment is
appropriate, a court views the record and all justifiable
inferences in favor of the non-movant. Liberty
Lobby, 477 U.S. at 255.
have moved for summary judgment on qualified immunity and
related grounds. Discussed below are Graham's § 1983
claims against Sergeant Barnette and Officers Noor and
Sanchez, her § 1983 claims against the City of
Minneapolis, and her state law claims against all Defendants.
Section 1983 Claims Against the Officers
“On summary judgment, a defendant official is entitled
to qualified immunity unless ‘(1) the facts, viewed in
the light most favorable to the plaintiff, demonstrate the
deprivation of a constitutional or statutory right; and (2)
the right was clearly established at the time of the
deprivation.'” Walton v. Dawson, 752 F.3d
1109, 1116 (8th Cir. 2014) (quoting Howard v. Kan. City
Police Dep't, 570 F.3d 984, 988 (8th Cir. 2009)).
“District courts may consider these two questions in
any order.” Id. (citing Pearson v.
Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 236 (2009)). Where the law is
not clearly established, courts may grant qualified immunity
on that basis “without resolving the often more
difficult question whether the purported right exists at
all.” Reichle v. Howards, 566 U.S. 658, 664
be clearly established, a legal principle must have a
sufficiently clear foundation in then-existing
precedent.” District of Columbia v. Wesby, 138
S.Ct. 577, 589 (2018). It is not enough for the legal
principle to be “suggested by then-existing
precedent.” Id. It must be settled law
dictated by “‘controlling authority' or
‘a robust consensus of cases of persuasive
authority.'” Id. at 589-90 (quoting
Ashcroft v. al-Kidd, 563 U.S. 731, 741-42 (2011)).
Consequently, a reasonable officer should be able to
interpret this precedent “to establish the particular
rule the plaintiff seeks to apply.” Id. at
“clearly established” standard also requires
“that the legal principle clearly prohibit the
officer's conduct in the particular circumstances before
him.” Id. The “‘specificity'
of the rule is ‘especially important in the Fourth
Amendment context.'” Id. (quoting
Mullenix v. Luna, 136 S.Ct. 305, 308 (2015) (per
curiam)). The Supreme Court has repeatedly stressed that
courts should not “define clearly established law at a
high level of generality, since doing so avoids the crucial
question whether the official acted reasonably in the
particular circumstances that he or she faced.”
Id. (quoting Plumhoff v. Rickard, 134 S.Ct.
2012, 2023 (2014)). Accordingly, courts should
“identify a case where an officer acting under similar
circumstances as [Defendant officers] was held to have
violated the Fourth Amendment.” Johnson v. City of
Minneapolis, 901 F.3d 963, 971 (8th Cir. 2018) (quoting
White v. Pauly, 137 S.Ct. 548, 552 (2017)). While
the case need not be “‘directly on point,'
existing precedent must place the lawfulness . . .
‘beyond debate.'” Wesby, 138 S.Ct.
at 590 (quoting al-Kidd, 563 U.S. at 741).
alleges several constitutional violations. Graham asserts
several claims under the Fourth Amendment against the
officers: (1) they entered her home without exigent
circumstances; (2) they lacked probable cause to seize her
for a mental health evaluation; and (3) they used excessive
force in the process. Graham also claims that the officers
violated her Fourteenth and Fourth Amendment rights when they
forced their entry and damaged her front door. Additionally,
Graham alleges that the officers conspired to violate her
Fourth Amendment rights. Finally, Graham claims that the
officers retaliated against her exercise of her free speech
right to complain about police actions.
officers assert that they are entitled to qualified immunity
on all claims.
claims that the officers' warrantless entry into her home
violated her Fourth Amendment rights. Warrantless entry into
the home without consent or exigent circumstances is
presumptively unreasonable. Groh v. Ramirez, 540
U.S. 551, 559 (2004). The “emergency aid” and
“community caretaking” exceptions are two such
exigent circumstances. These exceptions are “similar in
nature, but not identical.” Burke v. Sullivan,
677 F.3d 367, 371 (8th Cir. 2012). Under the “emergency
aid” exception, officers may enter a home without a
warrant when they have an “objectively reasonable basis
for believing . . . that a person within the house is in need
of immediate aid.” United States v.
Quarterman, 877 F.3d 794, 797 (8th Cir. 2017) (quoting
Michigan v. Fisher, 558 U.S. 45, 47 (2009) (per
curiam)). Under the “community caretaking”
exception, police officers perform community caretaking
functions “to ensure the safety of the public and/or
individual, regardless of any suspected criminal
activity.” Winters v. Adams, 254 F.3d 758, 763
(8th Cir. 2001). As community caretakers, officers may enter
a home without a warrant when “the officer has a
reasonable belief that an emergency exists requiring his or
her attention.” United States v. Quezada, 448
F.3d 1005, 1007 (8th Cir. 2006). The reasonable belief
standard “is a less exacting standard than probable
cause.” Burke, 677 F.3d at 371.
Graham argues that the emergency aid exception applies to the
officers' entry into her home, the Court finds that the
community caretaking standard is appropriate since the
officers entered the home on a welfare check. In
Burke, the Eighth Circuit applied the community
caretaking exception to an officer's welfare check in the
home. Id. at 371-72. The Eighth Circuit
found that an emergency requiring the officers' entry
existed when the resident, who was “home alone with a
violent suspect, ” did not respond after the officers
attempted to contact her. 677 F.3d at 372. Similarly, the
emergency in Quezada involved facts that would lead
a reasonable officer to conclude that “someone was
inside but was unable to respond for some reason.” 448
F.3d at 1008.
contend that a mental health emergency justifies entry into
the home. For example, in Van Raden v. Larsen, the
court held that officers could enter the home to check on the
welfare of a suicidal male, pursuant to their community
caretaking function. No. CIV. 13-2283, 2015 WL 853592, at *1,
*4 (D. Minn. Feb. 26, 2015). Defendants also cite
Winters for the proposition that the community
caretaking function includes acting out of concern for
someone's mental condition. 254 F.3d at 760-63.
community caretaking cases discussed above do not address
whether Graham's conduct justifies entry into her home.
In Winters, the officers observed a man acting
erratically in his car-not in his home. Id. And
although Burke, Quezada, and Van
Raden did involve officers entering a home, these cases
are distinguishable. This is not a case where officers
believed someone in the home was unable to respond; Graham
opened the door and told the officers to leave. There was no
suicidal report; Graham did not threaten to harm herself.
These differences are notable since the Supreme Court
generally affords heightened protection to the sanctity of
the home. See Payton v. New York, 445 U.S. 573, 585
(1980) (“[T]he physical entry of the home is the chief
evil against which the wording of the Fourth Amendment is
directed.”). Because of these distinctions, it would
not have been clear beyond peradventure that the facts of the
present case justified the officers' warrantless entry
into Graham's home.
are not liable for bad guesses in gray areas; they are liable
for transgressing bright lines.” Davis v.
Hall, 375 F.3d 703, 712 (8th Cir. 2004) (quoting
Maciariello v. Sumner, 973 F.2d 295, 298 (4th Cir.
1992)). Because of the dearth of community caretaking cases,
there are few bright lines and officers should not be faulted
for guessing. Here, the officers believed a mental health
emergency existed because: (1) Graham had recently threatened
her cousin on the phone; (2) Graham had repeatedly called 911
and appeared argumentative, agitated, and uncooperative; (3)
Graham had a history of restraining orders; and (4)
Graham's family member warned the police department that
she may fight with officers. Given these facts, Eighth
Circuit precedent does ...