12 F.3d 148 (8th Cir. 1994), 93-1441, Lesher v. Reed

Docket Nº:93-1441.
Citation:12 F.3d 148
Party Name:James LESHER; Dawn Lesher, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. Randy REED, Individually and In His Official Capacity as Assistant Chief of Police for The City of Little Rock, Arkansas; W.W. Williams, In His Official Capacity as a Captain with the City of Little Rock, Arkansas Police Department; J.E. Keathly, In His Official Capacity as a Sergeant with The Li
Case Date:January 05, 1994
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
 
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Page 148

12 F.3d 148 (8th Cir. 1994)

James LESHER; Dawn Lesher, Plaintiffs-Appellants,

v.

Randy REED, Individually and In His Official Capacity as

Assistant Chief of Police for The City of Little Rock,

Arkansas; W.W. Williams, In His Official Capacity as a

Captain with the City of Little Rock, Arkansas Police

Department; J.E. Keathly, In His Official Capacity as a

Sergeant with The Little Rock, Arkansas Police Department;

Louie Caudell, In His Official Capacity as Chief of Police

of The City of Little Rock, Arkansas; City of Little Rock,

Arkansas, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 93-1441.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

January 5, 1994

Submitted Sept. 14, 1993.

Page 149

Robert A. Newcomb, Little Rock, AR, argued, for plaintiffs-appellants.

Jeanette L. Hamilton, Little Rock, AR, argued (Thomas M. Carpenter and Jeanette L. Hamilton, on the brief), for defendants-appellees.

Before RICHARD S. ARNOLD, Chief Judge, FLOYD R. GIBSON, Senior Circuit Judge, and JOHN R. GIBSON, Circuit Judge

FLOYD R. GIBSON, Senior Circuit Judge.

James and Dawn Lesher appeal the district court's dismissal of their lawsuit against officers of the Little Rock Police Department ("LRPD") and the City of Little Rock for violations of the First and Fourth Amendments. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand for further proceedings.

I. BACKGROUND

James Lesher was a Little Rock police officer assigned to the canine squad. He entered into a written agreement with the City of Little Rock to donate a dog to the LRPD. The donation agreement provided that James could reclaim custody and control of the dog if the LRPD determined the animal was unsuitable for police work. The agreement also stated that the LRPD could

Page 150

dispose of the dog if James did not reclaim the animal within a certain amount of time or "for any other good cause shown."

The dog continued to live with James and his wife Dawn until the animal bit a young child. After learning of this incident, the LRPD notified the Leshers the dog was unsuitable for police work and the LRPD planned to destroy the animal. James responded that he intended to exercise his option to reclaim ownership of the dog. Acting on orders from the LRPD's Assistant Police Chief, Randy Reed, and a supervisor on the canine squad, W.W. Williams, officers went to the Leshers' home to remove the dog. James released the animal after he was informed he would be relieved of duty if he did not allow the officers to take the dog. Subsequently, the LRPD transferred James from his position on the canine squad to a regular patrol unit.

The Leshers complain that the LRPD's seizure of the dog violated the Fourth Amendment. 1 James claims that LRPD officials violated the First Amendment 2 because they transferred him in retaliation for his protesting their decision to kill the dog. Finding no constitutional issues in this case, the district court granted the defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. See Fed.Rule Civ.Pro. 12(b)(6) (1993). The Leshers appeal.

II. DISCUSSION

A. The Fourth Amendment Claim

In order to state a prima facie claim under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983, 3 the plaintiffs must allege that the defendants, acting under color of state law, caused a constitutional violation. Alexander v. Peffer, 993 F.2d 1348, 1349 (8th Cir.1993). The Leshers complain that LRPD officers, acting without judicial authorization and on orders from LRPD officials, removed their dog from their home without their consent.

The district court concluded no constitutional violation had occurred because the LRPD owned the dog at the time the animal was taken from the Leshers' home. Regardless of the disputed ownership of this dog, the court erred in dismissing the Leshers' Fourth Amendment claim. A seizure of property occurs when there is some meaningful interference with a person's possessory interests in that property. United States v. Jacobsen, 466 U.S. 109, 113, 104 S.Ct. 1652, 1656, 80 L.Ed.2d 85 (1984). The Leshers' constitutional right against unreasonable seizures is not vitiated merely because the defendants believed the dog belonged to the LRPD. See Soldal v. Cook County, --- U.S. ----, ----, 113...

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