209 F.3d 1179 (10th Cir. 2000), 98-4179, Oliver v Woods

Docket Nº:98-4179
Citation:209 F.3d 1179
Party Name:BRUCE OLIVER, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. JAMES WOODS; DALE SCOW, Defendants-Appellants, CITY OF CENTERVILLE; CITY OF FARMINGTON, Defendants.
Case Date:April 17, 2000
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

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209 F.3d 1179 (10th Cir. 2000)

BRUCE OLIVER, Plaintiff-Appellee,


JAMES WOODS; DALE SCOW, Defendants-Appellants,


No. 98-4179

United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit

April 17, 2000

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Utah (D.C. No. 97-CV-106-K)

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Bernard L. Allen of Richards, Caine & Allen, P.C., Ogden, Utah, for Plaintiff-Appellee.

Karra J. Porter (Veda M. Travis with her on the briefs) of Christensen & Jensen, P.C., and Allan L. Larson (Harry H. Souvall with him on the briefs) of Snow, Christensen & Martineau, Salt Lake City, Utah, for Defendants-Appellants.

Before TACHA, BRORBY and EBEL, Circuit Judges.

BRORBY, Circuit Judge.

Bruce Oliver, Plaintiff-Appellee, triggered a silent alarm when he drove into the parking lot of an auto repair shop in order to drop off his car before business hours. Mr. Oliver refused to present identification to a police officer who approached him in the parking lot, and was subsequently arrested for refusing to identify himself. Mr. Oliver initiated a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 suit against Officers James Woods and Dale Scow, Defendants-Appellants, alleging the officers stopped him without reasonable suspicion, in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Utah Code Ann. § 77-7-15. The district court determined Officers Woods and Scow were not entitled to qualified immunity, and entered partial summary judgment in favor of Mr. Oliver. Officers Woods and Scow now appeal the district court's denial of qualified immunity. We exercise jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291, and reverse.

I. Facts

Plaintiff Bruce Oliver, a criminal defense attorney, delivered his MG to Dave's Import Auto Shop ("Dave's") for servicing at approximately 6:45 a.m. on September 25, 1995, as prearranged with Dave's. Mr. Oliver's seventeen-year-old son, Michael, followed Mr. Oliver in the family's Chrysler. Before reaching Dave's, Mr. Oliver pulled over near an intersection to wait for his son to catch up with him. As Michael arrived, both father and son saw Centerville Police Officer James Woods follow them to Dave's, where Mr. Oliver parked his MG in the parking lot in front of the shop and got into the driver's seat of the waiting Chrysler.

Unbeknownst to Mr. Oliver, Dave's had been experiencing problems with illegal oil dumping. On two previous occasions someone had placed approximately five gallons of oil in a plastic bag in Dave's parking lot during the night. As a result, the Centerville Police Department installed a special silent alarm, called a "varda" alarm, which signaled the Centerville Police anytime an infrared beam across the driveway into Dave's was broken. Centerville Police Officer James Woods was aware of the problems at Dave's, and received notice the alarm had been tripped at 6:50 a.m. It was near dawn, but still somewhat dark at that time. Farmington Police Officer Dale Scow also received notice the alarm had been activated, and, because it was standard procedure for a backup officer to respond, drove toward Dave's.

Officer Woods approached Mr. Oliver as he sat in the Chrysler preparing to drive home and asked Mr. Oliver for his name and proof of identification. Mr. Oliver refused to identify himself. Mr. Oliver explained he was there to drop off his car and asked if it was a crime to park a vehicle or if he had broken the law. Officer Woods replied it was not a violation of the law to park a vehicle, and again asked for identification.1 Mr. Oliver refused to identify himself, quoting Utah Code Ann. § 77-7-15, which provides:

A peace officer may stop any person in a public place when he has a reasonable suspicion to believe he has committed or is in the act of committing or is attempting to commit a public offense and may demand his name, address and an explanation of his actions.

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Mr. Oliver then told Officer Woods to step aside because he was leaving. Officer Woods told Mr. Oliver he was not free to leave. Mr. Oliver drove out of the parking lot. Officer Woods returned to his patrol car, called for backup, and drove after Mr. Oliver.

Officer Scow was already en route to Dave's when he was notified by the dispatcher that the suspect had left the scene and Officer Woods had called for backup. Coming from the opposite direction, Officer Scow soon encountered the caravan. Officer Scow turned his car around and followed behind Officer Woods. Officer Woods turned on his lights, and Mr. Oliver pulled over to the side of the highway. Before approaching Mr. Oliver, Officer Woods told Officer Scow he had responded to a "varda" alarm and found this vehicle in the parking lot, but the driver refused to identify himself and drove away. Officers Woods and Scow then approached Mr. Oliver and spoke briefly to him. The officers then compelled Mr. Oliver to exit the car and, when he did not respond to the officers' order to fall to his knees quickly enough, he was forced to his knees. Mr. Oliver asked what law he had broken, and the officers replied he had failed to identify himself. Mr. Oliver once again cited Utah Code Ann. § 77-7-15, and insisted he did not have to present identification.2 Mr. Oliver was handcuffed, guided back to Officer Scow's patrol car, and arrested. At that point, the following dialogue between Officers Woods and Scow took place:

Officer Woods: He asked if he'd broken any laws by dropping off his vehicle, and I told him no.

Officer Scow: He didn't, but he still has to identify himself.

Officer Woods: What code is that?

Officer Scow: I don't know exactly what code it is, to tell you the truth.

Officer Woods then explained: "This guy was driving because they dropped off two vehicles. So he was driving this car. He's gotta learn...."

Officer Scow drove Mr. Oliver to the Davis County Jail3 where he was charged

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with violating Utah Code Ann. § 77-7-15. Learning no criminal sanctions were authorized for violating § 77-7-15, the prosecutor amended the charge to violation of Motor Vehicle Code 41a-214, failing to display motor vehicle registration. A Justice of the Peace dismissed the case, finding the officers lacked reasonable suspicion that Mr. Oliver violated the law.

Mr. Oliver subsequently brought suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Officer Woods and his employer, the City of Centerville, and Officer Scow and his employer, the City of Farmington.4 Mr. Oliver claimed he was subjected to an illegal seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, Section I of the Utah Constitution, and Utah Code Ann. § 77-7-15. He also asserted various tort claims under Utah law. Officers Scow and Woods moved for summary judgment, claiming they were entitled to qualified immunity because they had not violated Mr. Oliver's clearly established constitutional rights. Mr. Oliver opposed the defendants' motion for summary judgment and filed a cross-motion for partial summary judgment on the issue of liability, asking the court to rule, based on the undisputed facts, that his arrest was unconstitutional.

The district court determined Officers Woods and Scow violated Mr. Oliver's clearly established Fourth Amendment rights and were therefore not entitled to qualified immunity. The court determined Mr. Oliver's arrest violated the Fourth Amendment because Officer Woods had no reasonable suspicion of criminal activity when he detained Mr. Oliver in the parking lot, and Officer Scow was unreasonable in relying upon the information provided by Officer Woods concerning the original suspicion of criminal activity. The court granted Mr. Oliver's cross-motion for partial summary judgment, finding Officers Woods and Scow liable with respect to the § 1983 claims. The court granted the defendants' motions for summary judgment on the state law tort claims, and dismissed Mr. Oliver's claims against the municipalities. The only claims at issue in this appeal are Mr. Oliver's § 1983 claims against Officers Woods and Scow.

II. The Denial of the Officers' Motions for Summary Judgment

Officers Woods and Scow contend the district court erred by determining they violated Mr. Oliver's clearly established constitutional rights, and therefore erred by denying their motions for summary judgment based on qualified immunity.

A. Standard of Review

We review the denial of summary judgment on the grounds of qualified immunity de novo. Baptiste v. J.C. Penny Co., 147 F.3d 1252, 1255 (10th Cir. 1998). In general, summary judgment is appropriate when "'there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and ... the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.'" Seymore v. Shawver & Sons, Inc., 111 F.3d 794, 797 (10th Cir.) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)), cert. denied, 522 U.S. 935 (1997). Under the summary judgment standard, we view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, but that party must set forth specific facts as to those dispositive matters for which it carries the burden of proof in order to demonstrate a genuine issue for trial. Muck v. United States, 3 F.3d 1378, 1380 (10th Cir. 1993). However, summary judgment decisions involving a qualified immunity defense are subject to a somewhat different analysis on review than are other summary judgment rulings. Romero v. Fay, 45 F.3d 1472, 1475 (10th Cir. 1995).

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"Qualified immunity is designed to shield public officials from liability and ensure that erroneous suits do not even go to trial." Albright v. Rodriguez, 51 F.3d 1531, 1534 (10th Cir. 1995) (quotation marks and citations omitted). "The entitlement to qualified immunity is an immunity from suit rather than a mere defense to liability; and like an absolute immunity, it is effectively lost if a case is erroneously permitted to go to...

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