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Meidinger v. City of Rapid City

United States District Court, D. South Dakota

September 23, 2014

RANDALL J. MEIDINGER, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF RAPID CITY; PETER RAGNONE, STEVE ALLENDER, JOHN LEAHY, and SAM KOOIKER, in their individual capacities, Defendants.

ORDER

JEFFREY L. VIKEN, Chief Judge.

Pending before the court is a motion for summary judgment filed by the City of Rapid City, Peter Ragnone, Steve Allender, John Leahy, and Sam Kooiker ("defendants"). (Docket 38). Defendant Sam Kooiker also filed a motion to dismiss. (Docket 44). The court referred these motions to Magistrate Judge John E. Simko for a report and recommendation. (Docket 49). On April 23, 2014, Magistrate Judge Simko filed a report recommending the court grant in part and deny in part defendants' motion for summary judgment. (Docket 90). Specifically, the magistrate judge recommended granting the motion for summary judgment as to the City of Rapid City, Steve Allender, John Leahy and Sam Kooiker. Id . The magistrate judge recommended granting the motion for summary judgment by Peter Ragnone with regard to the Fourteenth Amendment claims but denying the motion as it relates to the Fourth Amendment claims. Id . The magistrate judge also recommended denying defendant Sam Kooiker's motion to dismiss. Id . Plaintiff and defendants timely filed objections. (Dockets 93 & 94). Defendants filed a response to plaintiff's objections.[1] (Dockets 100).

The court reviews de novo those portions of the report and recommendation which are the subject of objections. Thompson v. Nix , 897 F.2d 356, 357-58 (8th Cir. 1990); 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The court may then "accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

For the reasons stated below, plaintiff's objections are overruled and defendants' objections are overruled in part and moot in part. The court adopts the report and recommendation of the magistrate judge.

A. MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S FINDINGS OF FACT

Neither party made specific objections to the magistrate judge's findings of fact although the parties interpret testimony differently. See Dockets 93 & 94. The magistrate judge's findings of fact are adopted by the court in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). Specific facts will be discussed to the extent they relate to defendants' and plaintiff's objections.

B. MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

Defendants' objections to the magistrate judge's conclusions of law are:

1. The magistrate judge erred by finding an issue of material fact existed regarding plaintiff's Fourth Amendment claims against Peter Ragnone.
2. The magistrate judge erred in concluding Sam Kooiker was not entitled to legislative immunity.

(Docket 94 at p. 2).

Plaintiff's objections to the magistrate judge's conclusions of law are:

1. The magistrate judge erred in finding the City of Rapid City, Sam Kooiker, John Leahy, and Steve Allender are entitled to qualified immunity.
2. The magistrate judge erred in finding Peter Ragnone was entitled to qualified immunity as to plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment claims against him.

(Docket 93 at p. 2). Each objection will be addressed separately.

C. QUALIFIED IMMUNITY

"Qualified immunity shields government officials from liability in a § 1983 action unless the official's conduct violates a clearly established constitutional or statutory right of which a reasonable person would have known." Brown v. City of Golden Valley , 574 F.3d 491, 495 (8th Cir. 2009).

"To determine whether an official is entitled to qualified immunity we engage in a two-part analysis. The threshold question' is whether, taking the facts in the light most favorable to the injured party, the alleged facts demonstrate that the official's conduct violated a constitutional right. If a violation could be made out on a favorable view of the parties' alleged facts, the next step is to ask whether the right was clearly established. To determine whether the right is clearly established we ask whether it would be clear to a reasonable officer that his conduct was unlawful in the situation he confronted." White v. McKinley , 519 F.3d 806, 813 (8th Cir. 2008) (quotations omitted).

"The party asserting immunity always has the burden to establish the relevant predicate facts, and at the summary judgment stage, the nonmoving party is given the benefit of all reasonable inferences." Id . (citation omitted). "If there is a genuine dispute concerning predicate facts material to the qualified immunity issue, the defendant is not entitled to summary judgment." Id . (citation omitted).

"[I]f a constitutional claim is covered by a specific constitutional provision, such as the Fourth... Amendment, the claim must be analyzed under the standard appropriate to that specific constitutional provision, not under the rubric of substantive due process." Moran v. Clarke , 296 F.3d 638, 646 (8th Cir. 2002) (quoting Cnty. of Sacramento v. Lewis , 523 U.S. 833, 843 (1998)); see also Albright v. Oliver , 510 U.S. 266, 288 (1994) (Souter, J., concurring) (finding substantive due process should be reserved for otherwise "homeless substantial claims" and noting "the Court has resisted relying on the Due Process Clause when doing so would have duplicated protection that a more specific constitutional provision already bestowed").

Mr. Meidinger's claims related to Mr. Ragnone's false testimony to the grand jury are covered by the protections afforded under the Fourth Amendment. See Winslow v. Smith , 696 F.3d 716, 738 (8th Cir. 2012) (recognizing the right under the Fourth Amendment to be free from the use of false evidence to secure a conviction) (citing Napue v. Illinois , 360 U.S. 264, 269 (1959)). Mr. Meidinger's claims related to a reckless investigation and manufactured evidence are not specifically covered under the Fourth Amendment and are appropriately considered under the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

D. DEFENDANTS' OBJECTIONS

1. Whether Peter Ragnone is entitled to summary judgment on plaintiff's ...


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