821 F.3d 772 (6th Cir. 2016), 15-3175, Graves v. Mahoning Cnty.

Docket Nº:15-3175
Citation:821 F.3d 772
Opinion Judge:SUTTON, Circuit Judge.
Party Name:SHANNON GRAVES, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. MAHONING COUNTY, et al., Defendants-Appellees
Attorney:James A. Vitullo, Austintown, Ohio, for Appellants. James F. Mathews, BAKER, DUBLIKAR, BECK, WILEY & MATHEWS, North Canton, Ohio, for Appellees. James A. Vitullo, Austintown, Ohio, for Appellants. James F. Mathews, BAKER, DUBLIKAR, BECK, WILEY & MATHEWS, North Canton, Ohio, for Austintown Townshi...
Judge Panel:Before: SILER, SUTTON, and STRANCH, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:May 12, 2016
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
SUMMARY

The plaintiffs, Ohio “exotic dancers” who have been arrested on charges ranging from prostitution to drug distribution to assault to witness intimidation, alleged that court clerks in Mahoning County issued arrest warrants that violate the Warrant Clause. To satisfy this clause, a neutral and detached magistrate must independently determine that probable cause exists after weighing the evidence... (see full summary)

 
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821 F.3d 772 (6th Cir. 2016)

SHANNON GRAVES, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants,

v.

MAHONING COUNTY, et al., Defendants-Appellees

No. 15-3175

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

May 12, 2016

         Argued April 19, 2016.

Page 773

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio at Youngstown. No. 4:10-cv-02821--Sara E. Lioi, District Judge.

         ARGUED:

         James A. Vitullo, Austintown, Ohio, for Appellants.

         James F. Mathews, BAKER, DUBLIKAR, BECK, WILEY & MATHEWS, North Canton, Ohio, for Appellees.

         ON BRIEF:

         James A. Vitullo, Austintown, Ohio, for Appellants.

         James F. Mathews, BAKER, DUBLIKAR, BECK, WILEY & MATHEWS, North Canton, Ohio, for Austintown Township Appellees.

         Gina DeGenova Bricker, MAHONING COUNTY PROSECUTOR'S OFFICE, Youngstown, Ohio, for Appellee Mahoning County.

         Before: SILER, SUTTON, and STRANCH, Circuit Judges.

          OPINION

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          SUTTON, Circuit Judge.

          Shannon Graves and eight other " exotic dancers" were arrested in Ohio at various times and on various charges, ranging from prostitution to drug distribution to assault to witness intimidation. R. 122 at 1 n.1; see Graves v. Mahoning County, 534 Fed.Appx. 399, 401-03 (6th Cir. 2013). Claiming that the police used invalid warrants to arrest them, they filed this § 1983 action against the county and townships that employed the arresting officers. But because they never alleged that the officers arrested them without probable cause--the key allegation needed to show an unconstitutional arrest under the Fourth Amendment--the district court dismissed their lawsuit. We agree and affirm.

         I.

         This case implicates the often-tricky interaction between the Fourth Amendment's two operative clauses. The first clause, the Reasonableness Clause, limits the government's power to search and seize. " The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures," it says, " shall not be violated." U.S. Const. amend. IV. The second clause, the Warrant Clause, describes the process officials must undertake before issuing a warrant. They must have " probable cause," it says, " supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." Id.

         II.

         The plaintiffs allege that court clerks in Mahoning County issued arrest warrants that violate the Warrant Clause. To satisfy this clause's requirements, a neutral and detached magistrate must independently determine that probable cause exists after weighing the evidence supplied by the police. See Whiteley v. Warden, 401 U.S. 560, 564, 91 S.Ct. 1031, 28 L.Ed.2d 306 (1971); Giordenello v. United States, 357 U.S. 480, 487, 78 S.Ct. 1245, 2 L.Ed.2d 1503 (1958).

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The sole " evidence" that the clerks received in their cases, say the plaintiffs, came from police officers' " conclusory complaints," which " consist[ed] only of the officer[s'] [bare] conclusion[s] that the accused committed the offense[s]." R. 139 at 5. To make matters worse, the plaintiffs add, these clerks lack the constitutional power to issue warrants. Yet the clerks continue to issue these kinds of warrants, " rubber stamp[ing]" the police's conclusions and violating the Fourth Amendment along the way--a way allegedly littered with 6,747 defective arrest warrants per year in the county. Id. at 16.

         The plaintiffs have a point. Although they are wrong about the power of county court clerks, who may issue arrest warrants, see Shadwick v. City of Tampa, 407 U.S. 345, 350-51, 92 S.Ct. 2119, 32 L.Ed.2d 783 (1972), they are right about the arrest warrants in the record, which appear to have been issued without any independent probable cause determination. Take the complaint used to obtain the warrant for one of the lead plaintiffs' arrests. " Shannon E. Graves," it says, " did knowingly aid or abet another in the sale of . . . cocaine base . . . in violation of Section 2925.03" of the Ohio Revised Code. R. 139-5 at 1. Based on that statement, and allegedly that statement alone, the clerk found that probable cause existed and issued an arrest warrant. The clerk heard none of the " operative fact[s]" in the case, Whiteley, 401 U.S. at 565, and had no " foundation for [her probable cause] judgment," Jaben v. United States, 381 U.S. 214, 224, 85 S.Ct. 1365, 14 L.Ed.2d 345, 1965-2 C.B. 446 (1965), yet issued a warrant all the same. That complaint is not unique. Many of the complaints in the record state only that " [the defendant] did [the elements of the crime]" " in violation of" some state law. E.g., R. 139-1 at 1. Such foundation-less conclusions do not provide " sufficient information to support an independent" probable cause judgment under the Warrant Clause, as the Supreme Court has held. Whiteley, 401 U.S. at 563-65 (invalidating warrants based on materially identical complaints); e.g.,

Giordenello, 357 U.S. at 481 (same); see

Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 239, 103 S.Ct. 2317, 76 L.Ed.2d 527 (1983).

         III.

         But that does not mean the plaintiffs prevail. To establish a cognizable Fourth Amendment claim, the plaintiffs must show a violation not of the Warrant Clause but of the Reasonableness Clause. " [F]or § 1983 liability" in Fourth Amendment cases, " the seizure must be 'unreasonable.'" Brower v. County of Inyo, 489 U.S. 593, 599, 109 S.Ct. 1378, 103 L.Ed.2d 628 (1989); see, e.g., Robertson v. Lucas, 753 F.3d 606, 618 (6th Cir. 2014). And violating the Warrant Clause does " not invariably violate the Reasonableness Clause." Baranski v. Fifteen Unknown Agents of Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms, 452 F.3d 433, 438 (6th Cir. 2006) (en banc); see, e.g.,

Whiteley, 401 U.S. at 565-66; cf.

Virginia v. Moore, 553 U.S. 164, 169, 128 S.Ct. 1598, 170 L.Ed.2d 559 (2008). The plaintiffs may not prevail merely by showing that they were arrested with a defective warrant; they must show that they were unreasonably seized.

          The Fourth Amendment prohibits " unreasonable searches and seizures," not warrantless ones. See

Brigham City v. Stuart, 547 U.S. 398, 403, 126 S.Ct. 1943, 164 L.Ed.2d 650 (2006); Gramenos v. Jewel Cos., 797 F.2d 432, 440-42 (7th Cir. 1986). What is " unreasonable" varies from case to case, from type of seizure to type of seizure. " [N]either a warrant nor probable cause, nor, indeed, any measure of individualized suspicion, is an indispensable

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component of reasonableness in every circumstance." Nat'l Treasury Emps. Union v. Von Raab, 489 U.S. 656, 665, 109 S.Ct. 1384, 103 L.Ed.2d 685 (1989). No one thinks, for example, that the border patrol needs a warrant (or even individualized suspicion) to seize a person at the airport to check his eligibility to enter the country. Cf. United States v. Martinez-Fuerte, 428 U.S. 543, 566-67, 96 S.Ct. 3074, 49 L.Ed.2d 1116 (1976). It is only when the seizure at issue " requires a warrant" that " the failure to satisfy the Warrant Clause" creates a problem. Baranski, 452 F.3d at 445.

         The seizure at issue in today's case--an arrest--does not require a warrant. Warrantless arrests were " taken for granted at the founding," Moore, 553 U.S. at 170 (quotation omitted), and the passage of time has only deepened that understanding, see, e.g., id. at 171. In case after case, courts ask not whether the police had a valid arrest warrant but whether the seizure was " reasonable." See, e.g., United States v. Watson, 423 U.S. 411, 414-24, 96 S.Ct. 820, 46 L.Ed.2d 598 (1976); Carroll v. United States, 267 U.S. 132, 155-56, 45 S.Ct. 280, 69 L.Ed. 543, T.D. 3686 (1925); Boykin v. Van Buren Township, 479 F.3d 444, 449-50 (6th Cir. 2007); Thacker v. City of Columbus, 328 F.3d 244, 251, 255-57 (6th Cir. 2003).

         ...

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