914 F.2d 1076 (8th Cir. 1990), 89-5343, Foster v. Metropolitan Airports Com'n

Docket Nº:89-5343.
Citation:914 F.2d 1076
Party Name:Charles Wayne FOSTER and Dana Gay Foster, Appellants, v. METROPOLITAN AIRPORTS COMMISSION, Officers A. Baetz, Bruce Griller, and J. Edblom, Appellees.
Case Date:September 20, 1990
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
 
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Page 1076

914 F.2d 1076 (8th Cir. 1990)

Charles Wayne FOSTER and Dana Gay Foster, Appellants,

v.

METROPOLITAN AIRPORTS COMMISSION, Officers A. Baetz, Bruce

Griller, and J. Edblom, Appellees.

No. 89-5343.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

September 20, 1990

Submitted May 17, 1990.

Page 1077

Barry G. Reed, Minneapolis, Minn., for appellants.

Timothy R. Schupp, Minneapolis, Minn., for appellees.

Before McMILLIAN and ARNOLD, Circuit Judges, and FRIEDMAN, [*] Senior Circuit Judge.

McMILLIAN, Circuit Judge.

Charles Wayne Foster and Dana Gay Foster, husband and wife, brought this action under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983 against the Metropolitan Airports Commission of Minneapolis and St. Paul and three of its officers. Plaintiffs alleged that defendants arrested Charles Foster without probable cause and that defendants used excessive force in making the arrest in violation of Foster's rights under the fourth, fifth and fourteenth amendments of the United States Constitution. The district court 1 granted summary judgment in favor of defendants on plaintiffs' claims of unlawful arrest and excessive force and dismissed without prejudice their pendent state law claims. Plaintiffs appeal. We affirm.

BACKGROUND

On November 4, 1987, Charles Foster drove his wife and their two children to the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport. Dana Foster and the two children were flying to Texas to visit the children's grandparents. Charles Foster was not traveling with them.

Foster pulled up to the unloading zone on the upper level of the airport terminal which is designated for loading and unloading passengers. Signs posted there indicate that no parking or waiting is allowed. As usual, the airport was busy. Because Foster could not leave the car unattended and his wife could not handle the bags and the two children, Dana Foster and her daughter proceeded into the terminal to check their bags while Foster and his infant son waited in the car. After checking her bags, Dana intended to return to the car to retrieve her son.

Officer Andrew Baetz of the Metropolitan Airports Commission, who was responsible for maintaining traffic and clearing traffic congestion on the upper level of the terminal, approached Foster and asked him to move his car. Foster, who was seated in the car, tried to explain to Baetz that he was in the process of unloading, that his son was also flying with his wife, and that he did not have time to circle the airport. Baetz did not appear to hear him. The facts are unclear as to whether Baetz stood by Foster's car and insisted he move or whether Baetz continued on his rounds and returned to ask Foster to move. Nevertheless, it is undisputed that Foster was asked at least three times to move his car.

When Foster refused for the second or third time to move his car, approximately five minutes after being told to do so, Baetz issued him a parking ticket and asked him again to move his car. Foster, who was visibly angry and frustrated by this time, tore up the ticket. Baetz told Foster he assumed Foster was not going to pay the parking ticket and told Foster he was under arrest. Foster responded by attempting to roll up the car windows and lock the doors. Officers Bruce Griller and Joann Edblom approached the car to assist Baetz. Fearful his son would be left unattended, Foster refused to get out of the car and clung to the frame of the door. The officers forcibly removed Foster from the car and handcuffed him. Dana Foster meanwhile emerged from the terminal to retrieve her son.

Foster was taken by Officers Baetz and Edblom to a holding area inside the terminal. According to Foster, the officers pushed him against the elevator wall and roughed him up on the way to the holding area. Foster was detained in handcuffs for two hours while the officers ran a warrant

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check and identification query on Foster's Texas driver's license. The warrant check revealed an outstanding warrant issued in Arizona for "Dean Bryan Foster." Dean Bryan Foster was described as a male, 5'11", weighing 160 pounds with brown hair and blue eyes and born on October 31, 1961. Foster's driver's license also indicated an October 31, 1961, birthdate. Further checking revealed that Dean Bryan Foster had a tattoo on his right shoulder. The officers checked Foster's right shoulder for a tattoo, and, finding none, decided he was not the target of the warrant. Foster was fingerprinted, photographed, and released from custody approximately two hours later.

Foster was charged with a parking violation and interference with an officer's duties in violation of Minn.Stat. Sec. 609.50, subd. 2 (1986). 2 Foster paid the parking fine. The charges under Sec. 609.50 were dropped due to a pending challenge to the statute's constitutionality. The statute was eventually upheld by the Minnesota Supreme Court. State v. Krawsky, 426 N.W.2d 875 (Minn.1988).

Foster and his wife then filed this Sec. 1983 suit in federal court along with various pendent state law claims. Plaintiffs' federal claim alleged unlawful arrest and excessive force in violation of the fourth, fifth and fourteenth amendments to the United States Constitution. Plaintiffs sought compensatory and punitive damages against the Metropolitan Airports Commission and Officers Baetz, Griller and Edblom.

Defendants moved for summary judgment on the grounds that Foster had not raised a genuine dispute over whether Officer Baetz lacked probable cause to arrest, a necessary element of a fourth amendment claim for unlawful arrest, and that Foster had not raised a genuine dispute over the reasonableness of the officers' use of force. In the alternative, defendants moved for leave to amend their answer to assert a defense of qualified immunity based on Baetz's reasonable belief that he had probable cause to arrest Foster. In opposition to defendants' motion for summary judgment, Foster argued that while the facts may indicate Baetz had probable cause to arrest him for refusing to move his car, they also indicate that Baetz arrested Foster not for refusing to move his car but for talking back to the officer and tearing up the parking ticket, conduct which Foster argues is protected under the first amendment. Foster argued that Baetz's improper motive or bad faith in making the arrest defeats probable cause and renders the arrest unconstitutional.

Ruling from the bench, the district court granted defendants' motion for summary judgment on the constitutional claims, denied defendants' motion for leave to amend as moot, and dismissed plaintiffs' state law claims without prejudice. Without expressly deciding whether Baetz's motive was relevant, the court held that the arrest had "nothing to do with Foster tearing up the ticket," and, as a matter of law, Officer Baetz had probable cause to arrest Foster for refusing to move his car and interfering with his duty to keep traffic moving in violation of Minn.Stat. Sec. 609.50, subd. 2. The court also held that, as a matter of law, the force used in making the arrest was reasonable under the circumstances.

We understand the predicament Foster was in when Baetz insisted he move his car. At the same time, we understand that Foster could have, and certainly in hindsight should have, left for the airport earlier and given himself enough time to park in the lot closest to the terminal building in order to help his wife and children into the airport. However, whether we believe Foster was right or wrong in sending his wife

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into the terminal to check her bags while he waited in the car rather than park the car in a designated lot cannot interfere with our legal analysis of the district court's decision to grant summary judgment for defendants on Foster's claim of unlawful arrest and excessive force. With this in mind, we begin our analysis.

UNLAWFUL ARREST

At the outset, we note that Foster's claim of unlawful arrest turns on whether Foster presented sufficient facts from which a reasonable juror could find that Baetz lacked probable cause to arrest him. If probable cause was indeed present, it is not necessary to consider an immunity defense. Garionis v. Newton, 827 F.2d 306, 309 n. 5 (8th Cir.1987); Deary v. Three Unnamed Police Officers, 746 F.2d 185, 192-93 (3d Cir.1984). The district court did not, therefore, decide whether, even if probable cause was lacking, Baetz reasonably believed the arrest was lawful such that he would be immune from damages resulting from his actions. See Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818, 102 S.Ct. 2727, 2738, 73 L.Ed.2d 396 (1982) (if the officer did not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known, the officer is immune from damages).

The issue presented by this case, and the legal point on which the parties disagree, is whether Baetz's allegedly improper motive for arresting Foster is relevant to Foster's claim of unlawful arrest. Foster argues that he presented sufficient evidence to suggest that he was arrested for verbally abusing the officer and for tearing up the parking ticket, and that if indeed those were the reasons for his arrest, Baetz acted in bad faith and lacked probable cause to arrest him. 3 Defendants, on the other hand, argue that the arresting officer's bad faith or improper motive, if any, is wholly irrelevant to the probable cause analysis and that because Baetz had probable cause to arrest Foster for refusing to move his car, Foster's claim is barred. Under the circumstances of this case, we agree with defendants that Baetz's subjective reason for arresting Foster is irrelevant to his fourth amendment claim.

Foster's arrest was prompted by a combination of acts, some of which gave Baetz probable cause to believe a crime had been committed (refusing to move his car) and some of which may be protected by the first amendment and therefore cannot constitute a...

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