50 F.3d 950 (11th Cir. 1995), 93-9298, Hartsfield v. Lemacks

Docket Nº:93-9298.
Citation:50 F.3d 950
Party Name:Leonard HARTSFIELD, Sr., Mattie Hartsfield, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. D.G. LEMACKS, Individually and in his official capacities as Sheriff of Clayton County and as a member of The Clayton County Narcotics Unit, Robert E. Keller, individually and in his official capacities as District Attorney of Clayton County and a member of The Clayton County Nar
Case Date:April 24, 1995
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
 
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Page 950

50 F.3d 950 (11th Cir. 1995)

Leonard HARTSFIELD, Sr., Mattie Hartsfield, Plaintiffs-Appellants,

v.

D.G. LEMACKS, Individually and in his official capacities as

Sheriff of Clayton County and as a member of The Clayton

County Narcotics Unit, Robert E. Keller, individually and in

his official capacities as District Attorney of Clayton

County and a member of The Clayton County Narcotics Unit,

Ricky McCane, individually and in his official capacities as

a Police Officer with the Clayton County Police Department

and a Narcotics Agent with The Clayton County Narcotics

Unit, Ronnie Clackum, individually and in his official

capacities as Police Chief of Clayton County and a member of

The Clayton County Narcotics Unit, Don Colburn, individually

and in his official capacities as an investigator with the

Clayton County District Attorney's Office and Chief Agent of

The Clayton County Narcotics Unit, et. al., Defendants-Appellees.

No. 93-9298.

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

April 24, 1995

        As Amended June 14, 1995.

Page 951

        Alvin Lamont Kendall, Kendall & Dixon, Atlanta, GA, for appellants.

        Larry A. Foster and Donald R. Foster, Foster & Foster, Jonesboro, GA, for Lemacks, et al.

        Maureen M. Middleton and Beverly Holland Pritchard, Drew, Eckl & Farnham, Atlanta, GA, for McCain, et al.

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

        Before KRAVITCH, Circuit Judge, and GODBOLD and RONEY, Senior Circuit Judges.

        KRAVITCH, Circuit Judge:

        This case arises out of an entry by law enforcement agents into the wrong residence to execute a presumably valid search warrant for a nearby house. Plaintiffs-Appellants Leonard and Mattie Hartsfield contest the district court's grant of summary judgment on, and dismissal of, their constitutional claims brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983. We AFFIRM in part, REVERSE in part, and REMAND.

       I.

        "[T]he issue of a government official's qualified immunity from suit presents a question of law, and 'like the generality of such questions, must be resolved de novo on appeal.' " Jordan v. Doe, 38 F.3d 1559, 1563 (11th Cir.1994) (quoting Elder v. Holloway, --- U.S. ----, ----, 114 S.Ct. 1019, 1022, 127 L.Ed.2d 344 (1994)). "Moreover, when a defendant moves for summary judgment based on the doctrine of qualified immunity, the court must view the facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Hardin v. Hayes, 957 F.2d 845, 848 (11th Cir.1992). Therefore, the "facts," as stated below, may not, in reality, be the facts that would be established at trial. See Rodgers v. Horsley, 39 F.3d 308, 309 (11th Cir.1994); Swint v. City of Wadley, 5 F.3d 1435, 1439 (11th Cir.1993), modified, 11 F.3d 1030 (11th Cir.1994), vacated in part on other grounds, --- U.S. ----, 115 S.Ct. 1203, 131 L.Ed. 60 (1995).

        There are two groups of defendants in this case. The first group consists of Clayton County Sheriff D.G. Lemacks, Clayton County District Attorney Robert E. Keller, Clayton County Police Chief Ronnie Clackum, and the Chairman of the Clayton County Board of Commissioners, Dal F. Turner (hereinafter referred to together as "the Group One Defendants"). The second group consists of law enforcement agents present at the scene of the search: Ricky McCain and George Randall Dewberry, 1 officers with the Clayton County Police Department; Don Colburn, an investigator with the Clayton County District Attorney's Office; and Michael Wayne Newton, David Noe, Samuel Smith and Randall Dewberry, all deputy sheriffs with the Clayton County Sheriff's Department (hereinafter referred to together as "the Group Two Defendants"). All of the Group Two Defendants, except for Smith, were also assigned to the Clayton County Narcotics Unit ("CCNU"). 2

        During the late afternoon of February 21, 1991, Deputy Sheriff Mike Newton went with a confidential informant ("CI") to a residence located at 5108 Middlebrooks Drive, Forest Park, Georgia; the CI entered and purchased marijuana from a black female known as Nora Grooms, 3 while Newton waited outside in his vehicle. 4 Based upon the foregoing, later that day, Newton obtained a search warrant for the residence at 5108 Middlebrooks Drive.

        The next day, February 22, 1991, at approximately 2:30 p.m., Newton erroneously led other law enforcement agents to 5128

Page 952

Middlebrooks Drive to execute the search warrant, despite the fact that the warrant in his possession designated the residence to be searched as 5108 Middlebrooks Drive. None of the other officers had seen the search warrant prior to entry.

        After Newton forcibly opened the side door using a battering ram, Defendant Officer Samuel Smith and his partner J.F. Watkins entered the residence with weapons drawn and identified themselves as officers executing a search warrant. Watkins discovered Plaintiff-Appellant Mattie Hartsfield undressing in her bedroom, pointed his weapon at her face, and escorted her to the den. After they determined that no one else was present in the house, Smith and Watkins holstered their weapons; approximately six other officers, and at least one media representative, then entered the residence. 5

        Upon questioning, Mattie Hartsfield insisted that no one had purchased marijuana out of her house. Newton ordered that a Clayton County drug dog be brought into the house; 6 the dog "alerted" on several baseball caps contained in a cabinet in the den. Mrs. Hartsfield explained that one of her sons had been involved with "dope," but an inspection of the cabinet revealed no contraband. Although the cabinet was the only property searched in the house, the officers did walk through the house and visually inspect the premises. When Defendant Officer David Noe finally asked Mattie Hartsfield if she was Nora Grooms and whether there were any drugs in the house, she responded in the negative and stated that Grooms lived up the street. Noe then obtained the search warrant from Newton and saw that the officers had entered 5128 Middlebrooks Drive instead of 5108 Middlebrooks Drive, as specified on the warrant. The search, which lasted for at least 10-15 minutes, then concluded. 7 As Newton departed, he saw the house on the corner, 5108 Middlebrooks Drive, and realized that he had led the officers to the wrong address.

        At approximately 6 p.m. that same day, Noe and McCain returned to the Hartsfields' residence, apologized for the entry and offered to pay for repairs to the damaged side door. The Hartsfields never requested reimbursement, and the record suggests that the door has not been repaired.

        Evidence before the district court showed that the Hartsfields' residence was distinguishable from Grooms's house. 5108 Middlebrooks was a corner house on a dead-end street, whereas 5128 Middlebrooks was further down the block; the two houses were separated by at least one other residence. Further, one witness testified that the Hartsfields' house differed in that it had a fence around it, and that...

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