420 F.3d 841 (8th Cir. 2005), 04-3922, Russell v. Hennepin County

Docket Nº:04-3922.
Citation:420 F.3d 841
Party Name:Charles RUSSELL, Appellant, v. HENNEPIN COUNTY; Sheriff Patrick McGowan; Chief Deputy Michele Smolley; Inspector Thomas Merkel; and Former Inspector Richard Estensen, officially and individually, Appellees.
Case Date:August 25, 2005
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

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420 F.3d 841 (8th Cir. 2005)

Charles RUSSELL, Appellant,


HENNEPIN COUNTY; Sheriff Patrick McGowan; Chief Deputy Michele Smolley; Inspector Thomas Merkel; and Former Inspector Richard Estensen, officially and individually, Appellees.

No. 04-3922.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit.

Aug. 25, 2005

Submitted: June 23, 2005.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Seth M. Colton, argued, Minneapolis, MN, for appellant.

Toni Ann Bunker Beitz, argued, Minneapolis, MN, for appellee.

Before MELLOY, HEANEY and GRUENDER, Circuit Judges.

GRUENDER, Circuit Judge.

Charles Russell brought suit against Sheriff Patrick McGowan, Chief Deputy Michele Smolley, Inspector Thomas Merkel, and former Inspector Richard Estensen, in their individual and official capacities, and Hennepin County, Minnesota (collectively "the County"), alleging his six-day prolonged detention at the Hennepin County Adult Detention Center ("ADC") violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Article I, Section 10 of the Minnesota Constitution, and constituted false imprisonment under Minnesota tort law. The district court 1 granted the County's motion for summary judgment on the § 1983 claim and declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state claims. Russell appeals from the district court's order granting summary judgment to the County on his § 1983 claim. For the reasons discussed below, we affirm the district court's summary judgment order. 2


Charles Russell was arrested on September 26, 2000 for the felony offense of making terroristic threats in violation of Minn.Stat. § 609.713, subd. 1. After Russell

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entered a plea of not guilty, the Fourth Judicial District Court set bail at $10,000 with conditional release and no contact with the victim. According to the County's In-Custody Records (ICR) Quick Reference Guide:

A conditional release is granted to some inmates if it is determined that they do not pose a significant threat to the community and there is a substantial likelihood that the person will appear at future Court dates. Conditional releases are most often granted in the Court room and documented on the inmate's Court Tracking Sheet.

Russell, however, did not post bail and remained an inmate at the ADC.

On Thursday, November 9, 2000, Russell appeared before Judge Bruce Hartigan and entered a plea of guilty. The terms of his plea agreement allowed Russell to be released conditionally without bail while awaiting the imposition of a sentence. After he accepted Russell's plea of guilty, Judge Hartigan ordered Russell to cooperate with the probation department in the creation of a presentence investigation report and then told him, "You will be out. You go over to Probation and talk to them and go over everything and then five or six weeks from now we will be able to give you a stay of imposition[.]"

Consistent with the terms of the plea agreement and Judge Hartigan's requirement that Russell meet with the probation department to "go over everything," Judge Hartigan's courtroom deputy recorded a conditional release in Russell's "ADC Inmate Tracking Sheet." Russell's conditional-release status was also recorded in the Subject in Process ("SIP") computerized records system, which reflected Judge Hartigan's order for a presentence investigation report and that Russell's case was referred to the probation department. The court uses the inmate tracking sheet and the SIP records to communicate to the ADC the status of an inmate after each hearing. After the change-of-plea hearing, however, neither Russell's inmate tracking sheet nor his SIP records indicated that he was to be released immediately.

Pursuant to ADC policy, "all persons legally entitled to release ... shall be processed and released as expeditiously as possible ... [and] confinement shall continue only so long as is necessary to meet the demands of orderly and efficient operation." To this end, "Court Services personnel must interview the inmates prior to [a conditional] release." 3 During this meeting, a probation officer and the inmate review the conditions of the inmate's release. At the conclusion of the meeting, the probation officer must inform the ADC that the meeting has occurred, that the inmate is aware of the conditions of his release and that he is ready for release. The ADC Records Unit then commences the ADC's administrative processing necessary for a final release.

The progress of an inmate's conditional release is monitored by the Records Unit. Once an inmate subject to a conditional release returns from court, his file is placed in a designated location within the ADC to be accessed by the probation department staff. If a probation officer does not sign an inmate out in a timely manner, the inmate's paperwork is placed in a

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"check daily" file. Records Unit staff will, on a daily basis, attempt to contact the probation department or the appropriate judge to clarify the inmate's situation. These efforts are generally documented informally with "post it" notes that do not become part of the inmate's permanent file. 4

After the hearing, at approximately 3:40 p.m., Russell was returned to the ADC. About two hours later, Russell began to ask about his release. Consistent with ADC policy, the housing deputies on duty told Russell that his inquiries must be submitted in writing on an inmate request form. On his first inmate request form, dated Friday, November 10, 5 Russell wrote, "I was released from custody yesterday, and I'm still confined. Could you find out what is the procedure, why I'm still languishing here[?]" The November 10 inmate request form reflects that a housing deputy promptly "talked to [Russell and] explained the process."

In his other inmate request form, received Saturday, November 11, 2000, Russell wrote, "I hereby seek information about my release from custody. My case was resolved at about 4 p.m. on Thursday and I'm still confined without any explanation or information. What's the procrastination about?" According to the November 11 inmate request form, Deputy T. Bush explained to Russell that he "need[ed] to be signed [out] by Probation." Russell apparently also filed other inmate request forms and made daily informal inquiries of the guards regarding his release.

By all accounts, Monday, November 13, 2000 was the first available business day for a timely meeting between Russell and a probation officer. This required meeting did not, however, occur on Monday or Tuesday. Finally, apparently on the advice of a fellow inmate, Russell contacted his attorney on Tuesday, November 14.

ADC is unable to produce records reflecting its daily efforts to check Russell's status. However, at approximately 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday, November 15, 2000, Judge Hartigan faxed to Dottie Schwantz, an ADC Custody Records Coordinator, a Modification of Sentence/Commitment order stating that "Defendant should be NBR with no contact with the victim rather than CR." 6 The ADC released Russell less than three hours after receiving the written order.

Subsequent to his release, Russell apparently met with a probation officer for his presentence interview. On February 22, 2001, the court sentenced Russell to a stay of imposition of sentence with a 53-day term at the ADC as one of the conditions. He was given 53 days' credit against that sentence for the entire time he spent at the ADC.

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Russell then brought this suit against Hennepin County and four current and former county officials in their individual and official capacities. 7 In his complaint, Russell alleged that ADC policy or custom caused his prolonged detention in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. He also asserted claims against the County for violating Article I, Section 10 of the Minnesota Constitution and for false imprisonment. The defendants argued in a motion for summary judgment that Russell did not suffer a deprivation of constitutional rights, failed to identify an unconstitutional policy or custom and could not prove that a County policy caused his prolonged detention. In his response to the defendants' motion for summary judgment, Russell agreed to dismiss three of the four individuals while pursuing his claims against the remaining defendants, Hennepin County and Sheriff McGowan. The district court granted the County's summary judgment motion, entered judgment in favor of the defendants, dismissed the § 1983 claim and declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims.


A municipality may be liable under § 1983 when an official municipal policy or custom caused a violation of a plaintiff's substantive due process rights. Hayes v. Faulkner County, 388 F.3d 669, 674 (8th Cir.2004); see also City of Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 389-91, 109 S.Ct. 1197, 103 L.Ed.2d 412 (1989) (requiring that a plaintiff establish a municipal policy or custom that caused a deprivation of his constitutional rights). Further, "[m]unicipal officials who have final policymaking authority may, by their actions, subject the government to Section 1983 liability." Angarita v. St. Louis County, 981 F.2d 1537, 1546 (8th Cir.1992) (citing St. Louis v. Praprotnik, 485 U.S. 112, 121-22, 108 S.Ct. 915, 99 L.Ed.2d 107 (1988)). Before a municipality can be held liable, however, there must be an unconstitutional act by a municipal employee. Avalos v. City of Glenwood, 382 F.3d 792, 802 (8th Cir.2004). Generally, prolonged detention beyond the term authorized by law unlawfully deprives a prisoner of rights protected under the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Slone v. Herman, 983 F.2d 107, 110 (8th Cir.1993). However, a municipality is not liable for the negligent acts of its employees. See Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327,...

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