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Shields-Nordness v. Galindo

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

March 1, 2019

OSCAR GALINDO, JEFFREY KORUS, and VOSINICK KELLUM, in their individual and official capacities as St. Paul Police Officers; CITY OF SAINT PAUL; JOHN DOES 1-5, in their individual and official capacities as Ramsey County employees; and RAMSEY COUNTY, Defendants.

          Adam T. Johnson and David Reed Lundgren, LUNDGREN & JOHNSON, PSC; Andrew M. Irlbeck, for plaintiff.

          Kimberly R. Parker and Robert B. Roche, RAMSEY COUNTY ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, for defendants.


          Patrick J. Schiltz United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Emma Shields-Nordness was arrested by St. Paul police officers and transported to the Ramsey County Adult Detention Center (“ADC”) after eyewitnesses mistakenly identified her as the driver of a car that had been involved in a hit-and-run accident. Shortly after arresting Shields-Nordness, the police received additional information that caused them to doubt that she had anything to do with the accident, and the police notified the ADC that Shields-Nordness could be released. At the time that the police contacted the ADC, Shields-Nordness was still sitting in her street clothes in the facility's open-booking area, waiting for her background check to be completed.

         Shields-Nordness was not released. Instead, she was detained in the open- booking area for two more hours, and then she was transferred into the general population of the ADC. Like every detainee transferred into the general population, Shields-Nordness was strip searched. After sitting in a cell for another three hours, Shields-Nordness was finally released.

         Shields-Nordness filed this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the City of St. Paul, three of its police officers, the County of Ramsey, and unnamed employees of the ADC (identified as “John Does”). Shields-Nordness alleges that defendants violated her rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments and committed the tort of false imprisonment. Ramsey County and the ADC employees now move to dismiss all claims against them. For the reasons that follow, the Court grants their motion in part and denies it in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. The Arrest

         The amended complaint alleges the following:

         On November 29, 2017, Shields-Nordness and her boyfriend (Braden Shannon) attended a concert in downtown St. Paul. They left the concert at about 11:30 pm and walked to a nearby restaurant to get something to eat. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 12, 14.

         At about midnight, St. Paul police responded to a report of a hit-and-run accident near the concert venue. Id. at ¶¶ 15-16. The police obtained descriptions of the car and the driver that had been involved in the collision. Id. at ¶ 16. Officer Vosinick Kellum searched the vicinity of the accident and found a vehicle that matched the description of the car. Id. at ¶ 17. That vehicle had sustained substantial front-end damage. The driver of the vehicle appeared to have fled the scene. See id.

         Several blocks away, Shields-Nordness and Shannon, having finished their meal, were walking to the parking ramp where they had left Shannon's vehicle. Officer Kellum spotted the couple and thought that Shields-Nordness seemed upset. Id. at ¶ 18. As Shannon drove out of the garage, Officer Kellum and Officer Oscar Galindo stopped his vehicle. Id. at ¶ 19. Officer Galindo asked to see Shields-Nordness's driver's license so that he could determine whether she was the registered owner of the vehicle that appeared to have been involved in the hit-and-run. After running a computer check, Officer Galindo learned that the car was not registered to Shields- Nordness. Id. at ¶¶ 20-21.

         Officer Galindo nevertheless continued to question Shields-Nordness about the hit-and-run accident and falsely told her that the police had determined that her car had been involved in the accident. See Id. at ¶¶ 21-27. The officers then brought the victims of the accident to the scene, made Shields-Nordness stand alone in the middle of the street with squad lights shining at her, and asked the victims if Shields-Nordness had driven the car that struck their vehicle. The victims identified Shields-Nordness as the driver. Id. at ¶ 27.

         Shields-Nordness was arrested for driving while intoxicated and taken to the police station. Id. at ¶¶ 29-31, 50. At about 2:00 am, officers transported Shields- Nordness to the Ramsey County ADC. See Id. at ¶¶ 54-55.

         B. Intake and Booking at the Ramsey County ADC

         After arriving at the ADC, Shields-Nordness sat in the open-booking area in her street clothes and waited for the staff to complete a background check. See Id. at ¶¶ 56, 69. In the meantime, St. Paul police continued to investigate the accident. An officer was able to locate Shields-Nordness's car, which was parked near Shannon's home in Minneapolis, right where Shields-Nordness told police she had left it. See Id. at ¶¶ 25, 63. Also, Officer Galindo interviewed the registered owner of the vehicle at her home. Id. at ¶¶ 59, 63. The owner (who bore a physical resemblance to Shields-Nordness) told Officer Galindo that she had driven her car to downtown St. Paul that evening, drunk alcohol to excess, and then taken a cab home. She claimed not to know where her car was. Id. at ¶ 59.

         Based on this and other information, Commander Sean Johnson determined that Shields-Nordness should be released. Commander Johnson transmitted to the ADC a release-pending-further-investigation (or “RPFI”) form, notifying the ADC that it could release Shields-Nordness. The ADC received the RPFI form no later than 3:15 am. See Id. at ¶¶ 63-64, 70. A few minutes later, Shannon contacted the ADC and asked when Shields-Nordness would be released. In response, the ADC told Shannon that Shields- Nordness could not be released until her background check was completed. Id. at ¶ 69.

         At about 5:00 am-or almost two hours after Commander Johnson authorized the release of Shields-Nordness-the ADC decided to move Shields-Nordness to the general population of the facility. Pursuant to ADC policies, a female guard took Shields-Nordness to a private room and told her to remove all of her clothes and place them in a crate. Id. at ¶¶ 75, 96. Shields-Nordness was then told to turn her back to the guard, squat, and cough. After completing the strip search, the guard told Shields- Nordness to put on a jail uniform. Shields-Nordness was then taken to a cell in the general population. Id. at ¶¶ 76-78. After being denied the opportunity to make a phone call and being told that she would be detained another 48 hours, Shields- Nordness began hyperventilating and vomited in her cell. Id. at ¶¶ 76-77.

         At about 8:00 am, Shields-Nordness was told that she was being released. A male guard led her to a holding cell with a one-way mirror, handed back her street clothes, and told her to change. Shields-Nordness had to disrobe in front of other female inmates in the holding cell. She did not know whether any male guard was looking through the one-way mirror as she changed. Shields-Nordness was finally released at 8:51 am, more than five hours after Commander Johnson told the ADC that it could release her. Id. at ¶ 78.

         In this action, Shields-Nordness brings claims against the employees of the ADC who failed to release her but instead strip searched her and then incarcerated her with the general population, contending that those employees violated her rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. Id. at ¶¶ 87-93. Shields-Nordness also seeks to hold Ramsey County liable for the constitutional violations because, she claims, Ramsey County maintains facially unconstitutional policies that require every person who is brought to the ADC to complete the full booking process-including being subject to a background check, fingerprinted, photographed, strip searched, and housed with prisoners in the general population-even if that person is ordered released in the course of the booking process. Id. at ¶¶ 94-99.

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. Standard of Review

         To survive a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a complaint must “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Although the factual allegations in the complaint need not be detailed, they must be sufficient to “raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Id. at 555. In assessing the sufficiency of the complaint, the Court may disregard legal conclusions that are couched as factual allegations. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009). The ...

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