29 F.3d 1012 (5th Cir. 1994), 93-1488, Mangieri v. Clifton

Docket Nº:93-1488.
Citation:29 F.3d 1012
Party Name:Robert E. MANGIERI, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. W. CLIFTON, et al., Defendants, W. Clifton and Gordon Hager, Defendants-Appellants.
Case Date:August 25, 1994
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

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29 F.3d 1012 (5th Cir. 1994)

Robert E. MANGIERI, Plaintiff-Appellee,


W. CLIFTON, et al., Defendants,

W. Clifton and Gordon Hager, Defendants-Appellants.

No. 93-1488.

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

August 25, 1994

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Edwin P. Voss, Jr., Asst. City Atty., Dallas, TX, for appellants.

T. Wesley Holmes and Donovan Campbell, Jr., Rader, Campbell & Fisher, Dallas, TX, for appellee.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas.

Before GOLDBERG, KING and WIENER, Circuit Judges.

GOLDBERG, Circuit Judge:

Dallas Police Officers Walter M. Clifton and Gordon Hager appeal the district court's denial of their motion for summary judgment on the grounds of qualified immunity. The district court found that a question of fact precluded summary judgment because there was still a controversy as to whether the defendant officers acted reasonably when they arrested the plaintiff, Robert Mangieri, for violating the Texas disorderly conduct statute. 1 Finding that no material factual dispute exists that would hinder a decision on qualified immunity as a matter of law, we conclude that these officers acted in an objectively reasonable manner under the circumstances of Mangieri's arrest. We therefore reverse and remand this case with directions to enter judgment for appellants.

I. Facts

The basic facts of this case are not in dispute. On Saturday, September 28, 1986, Robert Mangieri participated in an anti-abortion protest outside of a Dallas, Texas women's health clinic. Mangieri was standing on a grassy area next to the clinic's parking lot and was using a bullhorn set at full volume to communicate his opposition to abortion. Although Mangieri directed the bullhorn towards the clinic itself and the patients entering the clinic, the sound could also be heard in nearby apartments.

Officers Clifton and Hager were dispatched to the location of a neighboring residence after the police received complaints from the residents regarding the loud noise. The officers entered the complainant's apartment and spoke with the two occupants. The complainants stated that the noise was annoying and disturbing to them and that it recurred every Saturday. The officers could hear the noise made by Mangieri while they stood in the apartment. They described the sound as annoying and "quite audible". Having confirmed the disturbance created by the amplified voice, the officers exited the apartment and approached Mangieri who was continuing to speak through the bullhorn. The officers did not observe any other persons using a bullhorn. Officer Clifton walked up behind Mangieri and arrested him for disorderly conduct, giving no warning prior to the arrest. 2 Charges against Mangieri were subsequently dropped.

Mangieri filed the instant 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983 lawsuit on September 20, 1988 against officer Clifton, an unnamed officer John Doe, 3 the City of Dallas, and various other defendants. Mangieri alleged, inter alia, that Clifton and officer John Doe violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free from false arrest.

On December 6, 1989, after the parties had been allowed limited discovery, the defendants moved for summary judgment. In this motion, the defendants asserted, in part, that

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Mangieri's claim of false arrest failed as a matter of law and that the officers were entitled to qualified immunity. The district court denied summary judgment with respect to the false arrest claim and with respect to the assertion of qualified immunity. 4 As to the false arrest claim, the district court concluded that a question of material fact remained as to the reasonableness of the officer's decision to arrest Mangieri. Similarly, as to qualified immunity, the court stated: "The Defendant officers have not shown that they should not have known that their conduct might have violated both state law and the more restrictive city policy. Nor has the court determined whether the decision to arrest the Plaintiff without a warning was reasonable."

Clifton filed a timely notice of appeal with respect to the denial of his claim of qualified immunity. That appeal was later withdrawn when the City of Dallas filed a motion for reconsideration. The district court denied the motion for reconsideration in its entirety on April 29, 1993. Clifton and Hager appeal. 5

II. Analysis

It is now well settled law that denials of summary judgment motions based on a defendant's qualified immunity from suit are subject to interlocutory appeal. Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 530, 105 S.Ct. 2806, 2817, 86 L.Ed.2d 411 (1985). On appeal, we review a denial of summary judgment based upon qualified immunity de novo, examining the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-movant. Pfannstiel v. City of Marion, 918 F.2d 1178, 1183 (5th Cir.1990).

The question of qualified immunity must be addressed as a threshold issue because this issue determines a defendant's immunity from suit, that is, his or her ability to avoid a trial altogether, rather than merely his or her immunity from damages. Brewer v. Wilkinson, 3 F.3d 816, 820 (5th Cir.1993), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 114 S.Ct. 1081, 127 L.Ed.2d 397 (1994); see also Siegert v. Gilley, 500 U.S. 226, 231-33, 111 S.Ct. 1789, 1793-94, 114 L.Ed.2d 277 (1991). A police officer is entitled to claim the cloak of qualified immunity "unless it is shown that, at the time of the incident, he violated a clearly established constitutional right." Spann v. Rainey, 987 F.2d 1110, 1114 (5th Cir.1993).

We have...

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