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Judicial Reform Eighth Circuit

United States Court of Appeals: 8th Circuit

Leans Pro Freedom
Total Judgeships: 

11 (0 vacancies)

Political Makeup: 

3 Dem – 8 GOP

Location(s): 
Saint Louis, Missouri; Saint Paul, Minnesota; Kansas City, Missouri; Omaha, Nebraska
Jurisdictions: 
Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota
Caseload: 

2,968

About The Court:

The Eighth Circuit Court was established on December 10, 1869 and is one of the largest of the 13 U.S. courts of appeals. Republican presidents have appointed a greater percentage of judges to the Eighth Circuit than any other court of appeals in the country.

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decided

Officer Denied Qualified Immunity From Death During Arrest

Mon, 08/25/2014

Williams v. Holley: Defendant, a police officer named Holley, sought qualified immunity in an altercation that ended in the death of plaintiff’s father, Cletis. Holley attempted arrest Cletis based on multiple warrants for non-violent misdemeanors. According to defendant, Cletis used Holley’s taser on Holley’s left shoulder. Defendant also claimed that Cletis was on top of him, he shot Cletis in the stomach, and then again in the hand when Cletis grabbed the barrel of the gun. Once Holley got Cletis off of him, Holley claims Cletis came at him aggressively, prompting Holley to shoot Cletis four times at a range under three feet. Evidence presented in court cast doubts to the claims that Cletis used the taser on Holley and that Holley fired the four rounds less than three feet away. Because of these inconsistencies, the district court viewed the disputable facts favorable to the plaintiff, invoking Tolan v. Cotton and Edwards v. Byrd.

Decision

Circuit court affirms District court ruling, Holley denied qualified immunity

Read the full decision here
decided

Court Denies Officers Qualified Immunity from Excessive Force

Tue, 08/05/2014

Blazek v. Santiago: Marcus Blazek sued Officers Santiago and Roth, the City, and the State for unlawfully seizing him and using excessive force. The officers “jerked” him up by the arms when he was already under control and handcuffed. The District Court denied the officers’ motion for summary judgment based on qualified immunity.

Decision

The Eighth Circuit upheld the decision, concluding that the officers violated the 4th Amendment. The Court lacked jurisdiction to resolve Blazek’s state-law claims against Officer Roth and the City.

Read the full decision here
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Man Dies after being Abandoned by Police on Side of Road

Wed, 07/23/2014

Gladden, Jr. v. Richbourg, et al: Bradley asked a police officer to drive him to his sister’s house in the next county over after he had become intoxicated. The officer agreed and drove Bradley to the county lines, where his jurisdiction ended, and left Bradley at an isolated off-ramp there. Bradley died of hypothermia. His estate filed suit alleging that the officer owed Bradley a duty of care and police assistance.

Decision

The Court ruled that the officer did not have a duty of care because the officer was approached by Bradley, who rationally made the decision to approach the officer and ask for a ride. The Court upheld the lower court’s ruling of granting summary judgment to the officer.

Read the full decision here
decided

Unjust Firing of Depute Sheriff over Campaign Loss

Thu, 06/26/2014

Nord v. Walsh County, et al.: Nord worked as a deputy sheriff under Sheriff Lauren Wild until he was fired in late 2010. In early 2010 he ran against Wild in a general election for sheriff, in which he loss. The day after the election, Wild fired Nord. Nord filed suit against the county and Wild on the grounds that he was fired as a result of statements he made during his campaign and therefore, was terminated in violation of his 1st Amendment rights.

Decision

The 8th Circuit Court granted summary judgment to the County and Wild, thus reversing the decisions of the lower courts. The Court determined that not all of Nord’s speech was protected under the 1st Amendment and that tension at work was a foreseeable result of running in the campaign. As a senior official, it was rightfully within Wild’s authority to terminate Nord’s employment.

Read the full decision here
decided

Excessive Force Overlooked Due to Qualified Immunity

Thu, 06/12/2014

Peterson v. Kopp, et al.: Peterson was smoking a hookah pipe and waiting at a bus stop. After several buses came and went, an officer asked him to leave. When Peterson hesitated, the officer pulled him off the bicycle lockers where he was sitting and pepper sprayed him. Peterson alleged that the officer unlawfully arrested him and used unreasonable force. He also contended that his free speech was violated when he was pepper sprayed and arrested after asking for the officer’s badge number. The District Court granted qualified immunity to the officer.

Decision

The Circuit Court concluded that it was reasonable for the officer to interpret Peterson’s hesitation as a refusal to leave. Therefore, the officer is entitled to qualified immunity from the unlawful arrest claim. The Court also upheld the granting of qualified immunity from the unreasonable force claim. However, the Court denied qualified immunity from the retaliatory use of force claim regarding the use of pepper spray after Peterson's exercise of free speech. The Circuit Court remanded for further proceedings.

Read the full decision here
decided

Prison Guards Denied Qualified Immunity

Fri, 04/25/2014

Edwards, Jr., et al. v. Byrd, et al.: Pretrial detainees at a detention center filed suit against prison guards and the sheriff for the use of excessive force and failure to protect them from harm in violation of the 8th Amendment and the Due Process Clause. The District Court ruled in their favor, denying qualified immunity to the guards and sheriff.

Decision

On appeal, the Eight Circuit affirmed the decision regarding the prison guards. However, the Court reversed the denial of summary judgment based on qualified immunity with respect to the sheriff because he was not at the detention center at the time the events occurred.

Read the full decision here
decided

Eminent Domain Abuse

Mon, 03/24/2014

Alliance Pipeline L.P. v. 4.360 Acres of Land, et al.: Property belonging to the Smiths was condemned for the construction of a natural gas pipeline by Alliance. The District Court ruled in favor of Alliance, claiming that the Smiths received reasonable notice, Alliance adequately followed state procedures, and Alliance negotiated with the Smiths in good faith.

Decision

The Eighth Circuit Court upheld the decision.

Read the full decision here
decided

Warrantless Arrest Overruled

Tue, 03/11/2014

Bechman v. Magill, et al.: Chelsea Bechman was led out of her house in handcuffs by police based on an invalid, recalled arrest warrant for failure to appear to contest a traffic violation. She was subjected to a strip search and body cavity search and detained in jail overnight, which was the first time she had been separated from her infant. The District Court ruled in the plaintiff’s favor, denying the officers qualified immunity.

Decision

The Eighth Circuit Court upheld the ruling, concluding that no reasonable police officer could believe that the warrantless arrest was lawful.

Read the full decision here
decided

Taxi Regulations Gone Wrong

Thu, 12/19/2013

KC Taxi Cab Drivers, etc., et al. v. City of Kansas City, Missouri: Cab drivers filed suit challenging an ordinance that regulated the number of taxicab permits in the city due to low demand. Applying rational basis review, the District Court ruled in favor of the city.

Decision

The Eighth Circuit upheld the decision.

Read the full decision here
decided

The Front Door of Your Home is Still Your Property

Tue, 09/10/2013

Mitchell v. Shearrer: Charles Mitchell filed suit alleging that police officers violated his constitutional rights by preventing him from closing his front door, pulling him from his home, and arresting him without a warrant. The District Court denied qualified immunity for the police officer who first arrived on the scene. The Court has not issued a decision regarding two other officers who arrived later as backup.

Decision

The Eighth Circuit Court upheld the decision regarding the first police officer.

Read the full decision here