120 F.3d 446 (3rd Cir. 1997), 96-7299, Rogers v. Powell

Docket Nº:96-7299.
Citation:120 F.3d 446
Party Name:Robert Eugene ROGERS, Appellant, v. Officer Kevin POWELL; Officer Jeffrey Stine, a/k/a Stiney; Officer Timothy Eiler; Officer James Edwards, Appellees.
Case Date:August 11, 1997
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

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120 F.3d 446 (3rd Cir. 1997)

Robert Eugene ROGERS, Appellant,


Officer Kevin POWELL; Officer Jeffrey Stine, a/k/a Stiney;

Officer Timothy Eiler; Officer James Edwards, Appellees.

No. 96-7299.

United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit

August 11, 1997

Argued Jan. 28, 1997.

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Donald A. Bailey (argued), Harrisburg, PA, for Appellant.

Thomas W. Corbett, Jr., Attorney General, Jacqueline E. Jackson-Degarcia (argued), Deputy Attorney General, Calvin R. Koons, Senior Deputy Attorney General, John G. Knorr, III, Chief Deputy Attorney General, Office of Attorney General, Harrisburg, PA for Appellees.

Before: BECKER, ROTH, Circuit Judges, and ORLOFSKY, District Judge. [*]


BECKER, Circuit Judge.

This is an appeal by plaintiff Robert Rogers from a district court final judgment in a civil rights action, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, in favor of four Pennsylvania state police troopers who Rogers claims violated his civil rights by arresting him without probable cause and by using excessive force in connection with the arrest. The unlawful arrest claim was disposed of by summary judgment. The excessive force claim was tried to a jury which found for the defendants. We find no error in connection with the trial, and affirm summarily with respect to the excessive force claim. However, we find the existence of a triable fact with respect to aspects of the unlawful arrest claim against some of the defendants.

More specifically, we conclude that the information received by Trooper James Edwards from Probation Officer Rita Miller about the supposed existence of an arrest warrant for Rogers was too insubstantial to justify detaining him. Moreover, because Edwards' reliance on the vague and inconclusive statements of a parole officer was not reasonable, he was not entitled to qualified immunity. Thus, we reverse the grant of summary judgment as to Edwards. With respect to Trooper Timothy Eiler, who arrested Rogers along with Edwards based on Edwards' representation that there was a valid arrest warrant, we affirm the grant of summary judgment on the grounds that he is properly held entitled to qualified immunity.

We also conclude that Troopers Jeffrey Stine and Kevin Powell, whose detention of Rogers was also based on Edwards' representation, are entitled to qualified immunity, but only up to the point at which they were informed that there was no reason to hold Rogers in custody. Their qualified immunity disappeared when they continued to detain him for approximately one hour thereafter. We therefore affirm in part and reverse in part with respect to Stine and Powell.

I. Facts and Procedural History

On September 25, 1994, Troopers James Edwards and Timothy Eiler were working the midnight shift in Clinton County, Pennsylvania. 1 Edwards was assigned to the desk while Eiler was on patrol with Trooper Dale Gillette. Prior to starting his shift, Edwards claims that he had spoken with Trooper Davy. During this conversation, Davy allegedly mentioned that there was a "court paper out on Rogers." The record, however, is devoid of any declaration or deposition by

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Davy, so we cannot confirm exactly what he said to Edwards.

Later that evening Edwards received a report of a fight in nearby Logantown in which Rogers was allegedly involved. Edwards dispatched Eiler and Gillette to the scene of the fight. When they arrived, Rogers was not present. Eiler and Gillette then began to search for him. At this point, because of Edwards' earlier conversation with Davy, as well as Rogers' alleged involvement in the Logantown fight, Edwards decided to determine if any warrants were pending for Rogers.

Following Pennsylvania State Police procedure, Edwards contacted the Clinton County Communications Center which informed him that there were two summary warrants pending for Rogers. Additionally, Edwards said he was informed that there might be other "open" paperwork on Rogers from the Clinton County Probation Office. As a result, Edwards called the probation office and requested that the officer on duty that evening contact him. Edwards then contacted Eiler and Gillette and told them not to pick up Rogers if they found him because the only warrants of whose existence Edwards knew were summary warrants. When an individual is arrested for outstanding summary offense warrants, he must be taken to appear before the proper issuing authority "without delay." Pa. R. Cr. P. 76(b)(4). Therefore, officers typically do not arrest an individual during the late evening or early morning hours for outstanding summary offense warrants because they are reluctant to awaken the district justice on duty.

Later that night, Rita Miller, from the Clinton County Probation Office responded to Edwards' call. She too advised Edwards of the two summary warrants. Miller also stated that Trooper Davy wanted Rogers "because he [Davy] said that Lycoming County said that they'll hold him as an absconding witness." 2 Edwards maintains that this statement gave him the belief that there was a warrant for Rogers' arrest in Lycoming County.

A transcript of the conversation between Edwards and Miller, prepared by police communications officer Ruth Eoute at the request of Sergeant Salinas of the Pennsylvania State Police, the accuracy of which is not disputed by any of the parties, supports Miller's claim that she never confirmed the existence of a warrant for Rogers' arrest in Lycoming County:

Edwards: State Police, Tpr. Edwards.

Miller: Hi, it's Rita Miller.

Edwards: Rita?

Miller: Yeah.

Edwards: Do you want Robert Rogers?

Miller: There's a warrant out for him. It's a summary warrant. Davy wants him. Because he says that Lycoming County said that they'll have him as an absconding witness.

Edwards: Who will? Lycoming County?

Miller: Yeah. Because he's to testify against Doctor Bender in the hearing.

Edwards: Mm Hm.

Miller: Okay. And also I think there's two warrants out from Lycoming County. 3 I think they're both from Frazier's office. One's for Hit and Run over at (inaudible) and one's for assaulting that guy and they charged him with harassment. So he has two summary warrants. Do you have them? Copies of the warrants.

Edwards: No. The Comm. Center does.

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Miller: Okay. No. I don't have him on any more because they left him off of probation after giving him that deal. You know, if he would testify?

Edwards: Yeah.

Miller: So I don't have anything on him any more. Do you guys have him?

Edwards: No. He's with Mike Marshall tonight and Gilly Stevenson and they're causing some shit.

Miller: Mm Hm.

Edwards: So, uh, the one guy that was out on the road (inaudible)

Miller: Mm Hm.

Edwards: So they went to look to get him again and he had left. So they're going down to a place in Flemington to see if they're down there.

Miller: Okay.

Edwards: So then if they get him, definitely pick him up. Yes?

Miller: Yeah. They can pick him up on the warrants and then they can let Lycoming County know and they were going to put like high bail on him to hold him so that he'd be able to testify at the trial.

Edwards: Okay. If we're going to pick him up for the warrants, what are we to do, take him to Lycoming County or take him here?

Miller: You better bring him here. And then get ahold of Trooper Davy and let him get ahold of Lycoming County and let them know. Because he said (inaudible), Davy did.

Edwards: This is Bob Rogers the third?

Miller: Yep.

Edwards: Okay. Okay.

Miller: Okay?

Edwards: Go back to sleep.

Miller: Thanks.

Edwards: Bye.

Miller: Bye.

After this conversation, Edwards radioed Gillette and Eiler and told them that if they found Rogers, they should arrest him. Gillette and Eiler did not locate Rogers that evening.

The following evening, Edwards, Eiler, and Gillette were again working the midnight shift. This time Edwards and Eiler were on patrol and Gillette was on desk duty. At approximately 2:40 A.M., Gillette dispatched Eiler and Edwards to Dr. Barry Bender's residence. When they arrived at the residence, Bender informed the two troopers that they were not needed. Edwards and Eiler left, but returned within twenty minutes after Gillette again dispatched them to Bender's residence because Rogers was creating a disturbance inside Bender's house. After receiving consent to enter, Edwards and Eiler arrested Rogers inside. When Rogers demanded to see the warrant for his arrest, Edwards replied that he did not have the warrant and that Rogers would see it when he arrived at the Montoursville State Police Barracks in Lycoming County. Edwards and Eiler left Bender's residence with Rogers at 3:19 A.M.

While en route to Lycoming County, Edwards contacted Gillette and requested that Gillette arrange for a patrol car to meet them at the Clinton/Lycoming County line. Gillette then contacted the dispatch officer in Lycoming County, Police Communications Officer James Pfleegor, to request that he send a patrol car to the county line. Gillette informed Pfleegor that Rogers was being transferred to their custody because there was an outstanding warrant or detainer waiting for him at Lycoming County Prison. At approximately 3:54 A.M., Pfleegor dispatched Troopers Stine and Powell to the county line to transport Rogers to Lycoming County Prison. Edwards and Eiler took Rogers to the county line and transferred him to the custody of Stine and Powell. Stine and Powell did not personally know Edwards or Eiler, or know of Rogers before this...

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