Baldwin v. City of Estherville

Decision Date29 June 2018
Docket NumberNo. 17-1592,17-1592
Citation915 N.W.2d 259
Parties Gregory BALDWIN, Appellee, v. CITY OF ESTHERVILLE, Iowa ; Matt Reineke, Individually and in his Official Capacity as an officer of the Estherville Police Department; and Matt Hellickson, Individually and in his Official Capacity as an officer of the Estherville Police Department, Appellant.
CourtIowa Supreme Court

Douglas L. Phillips and René Charles LaPierre of Klass Law Firm, LLP, Sioux City, for appellants.

Jack Bjornstad of Jack Bjornstad Law Office, Okoboji, for appellee.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Jeffrey S. Thompson, Solicitor General, Julia S. Kim, Assistant Attorney General, for amicus curiae State of Iowa.

Thomas M. Boes and Catherine M. Lucas of Bradshaw, Fowler, Proctor & Fairgrave, P.C., Des Moines, for amicus curiae Iowa Communities Assurance Pool.

Katie Ervin Carlson of Fiedler & Timmer, P.L.L.C., Johnson, Jessica Zupp of Zupp and Zupp Law Firm, P.C., Denison, and Joel E. Fenton, Law Offices of Joel E. Fenton, PLC, Des Moines, for amicus curiae Iowa Association for Justice.


After receiving citizen complaints about the operation of an ATV within city limits, police officers reviewed a video of the event, examined the city’s ordinances, and concluded an ordinance had been violated. They sought and obtained an arrest warrant from a magistrate and arrested the ATV operator. An Iowa district court later dismissed the criminal case against the operator, however, finding that no ordinance actually prohibited his conduct.

Thereafter, the ATV operator brought damages claims against the city and the police officers for common-law false arrest, deprivation of civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (2012) based on a violation of the Fourth Amendment, and directly under article I, sections 1 and 8 of the Iowa Constitution. The case was removed to federal court, where the federal district court granted summary judgment to the defendants on the common law and federal constitutional claims. The federal district court reasoned that the police officers were acting pursuant to a facially valid warrant, and it was not clearly established that the ATV operator’s conduct did not violate an ordinance.

We have now been asked by the federal district court to answer the following certified question of Iowa law relating to the Iowa constitutional claims: "Can a defendant raise a defense of qualified immunity to an individual’s claim for damages for violation of article I, § 1 and § 8 of the Iowa Constitution ?"

For the reasons discussed herein, we answer this question as follows: A defendant who pleads and proves as an affirmative defense that he or she exercised all due care to conform with the requirements of the law is entitled to qualified immunity on an individual’s claim for damages for violation of article I, sections 1 and 8 of the Iowa Constitution.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

When we answer a certified question, we rely upon the facts provided with the certified question. See Bd. of Water Works Trs. of Des Moines v. Sac Cty. Bd. of Supervisors , 890 N.W.2d 50, 53 (Iowa 2017) ; Life Inv’rs Ins. Co. of Am. v. Estate of Corrado , 838 N.W.2d 640, 643 (Iowa 2013). Accordingly, we restate the facts as set forth by the federal district court:

The incidents giving rise to Baldwin’s claims began on Sunday, November 10, 2013. At approximately 2:30 p.m. that day, Officers Reineke and Hellickson were on patrol in the City when they received a dispatch to report to the Law Enforcement Center concerning a "4 wheeler complaint." They drove to the Law Enforcement Center. Upon their arrival, they spoke with Tenner and Patti Lilland, who live in the Estherville area. Mr. Lilland showed the officers a video of a 4–wheeler riding in the ditch on the south side of North 4th Street. The officers were able to identify the driver of the ATV as Greg Baldwin. They watched the ATV proceed along North 4th Street and turn into a ditch, using the north Joe Hoye Park entrance, after which it continued in the ditch until it reached West 14th Avenue North, where it returned to the roadway. Baldwin acknowledges that he was operating his ATV/UTV on that date in the south ditch of North 4th Street and on North 4th Street, and the parties agree that the ditch and street are within the City’s limits. Baldwin does not recall using the north Joe Hoye Park entrance to enter the ditch.
Officers Reineke and Hellickson reviewed Iowa Code Ch. 321I, because the City did not reproduce Chapter 321 in printed form, only incorporated it by reference, when that chapter was adopted into the City Code of Ordinances. Officer Reineke then reviewed The Handbook of Iowa All-Terrain Vehicle and Off-Highway Motorcycle Regulations (Handbook ), which the defendants contend is a handbook frequently relied upon by police officers when determining whether off road vehicles are operating in compliance with applicable laws. Baldwin denies, for lack of knowledge, the assertion that police officers rely on the Handbook , and denies that it addresses the applicable laws of the City. Based upon their reading of the State Code and the information contained in the video provided by the Lillands, Officers Reineke and Hellickson concluded that there had been a violation of what they believed was City Ordinance E–321I.10 (operating on highways). Before issuing a citation, however, Officer Reineke conferred with his supervisor, Captain (now Chief) Brent Shatto, and (then) Chief Eric Milburn. Captain Shatto and Chief Milburn agreed that they believed that the activity shown on the video amounted to a violation of the local ordinance. The parties now agree, however, that City Ordinance E–321I.10 was not a valid ordinance in effect at the time that Baldwin operated his ATV/UTV on November 10, 2013, because it did not exist at that time, and it still is not part of the City’s Code of Ordinances.
Officer Reineke prepared a citation (No. 131818 8) to Greg Baldwin, alleging that "on or about 11/10/2013 at 2:30 PM defendant did unlawfully Operate Motor Vehicle/Boat RED UTV ... upon a public highway at NORTH 4TH STREET located in the county and state aforesaid and did then and there commit the following offense: Violation ATV OR OFF ROAD UTIL VEH/OPERATION ON HIGHWAYS AND [sic] ... Local Ord E–321I.10 ICIS E–S/321I.10." Defendants’ Appendix at 17. The citation issued on November 11, 2013. Officer Reineke went to the Baldwin residence to serve the citation on November 11, 2013, but no one was home. Because Reineke was scheduled to be off work in the days that followed, he e-filed the citation with the notation: "Request Warrant." On November 12, 2013, David D. Forsyth, Magistrate, Third Judicial District of Iowa, entered an Order directing that a warrant issue. DefendantsAppendix at 18. On November 13, 2013, Officer Hellickson served the warrant on Baldwin, while he was in the parking lot at his grandchild’s school, in front of his wife and a large number of people, arrested him, and took him to jail, where he was booked. Baldwin’s wife came to the jail and posted bond, and Baldwin was released. Subsequently, Baldwin entered a written plea of not guilty to the charge, and trial was set for May 15, 2014.
The defendants allege that, in the days that followed, City Attorney Christopher Fuhrman discovered that the City had not included Iowa Code Ch. 321I when it incorporated Iowa Code Ch. 321 into the Code of Ordinances. They also allege that neither Shatto, Reineke, nor Hellickson knew this; rather, all were operating under the mistaken belief that the adoption and incorporation of Iowa Code Ch. 321 by the City Council included Iowa Code Chs. 321A through 321M. Baldwin disputes these contentions as inconsistent with the meeting that he had with City police officers in 2006 about operation of ATVs in the City; the express incorporation of "chapter 321," not any other chapter of the Iowa Code, into the Code of Ordinances; and the existence of Chapter 9 of the Code of Ordinances. Mr. Fuhrman was granted leave to amend the charge to allege a violation of a different ordinance, City Ordinance 219–2(2). DefendantsAppendix at 28–29. After Baldwin’s counsel filed a Motion For Adjudication Of Law Points And To Dismiss, and the City filed its response, the court found "that the cited act is not in violation of the city code as written and the case is DISMISSED, costs assessed to the City of Estherville." Defendants’ Appendix at 30–37.
Baldwin alleges that, because of his arrest, he suffered mental and emotional harm and anguish, anxiety, fear, degradation, disgrace, uncertainty, apprehensiveness, restlessness, dismay, tension, and unease. He contends that his wife confirmed the effect on him in her deposition. The defendants deny that Baldwin has produced any evidence to support these claims of harm.

Baldwin v. Estherville , 218 F.Supp.3d 987, 992–93 (N.D. Iowa 2016) (omissions in original) (footnote omitted).

The Estherville City Code incorporated Iowa Code chapter 321 via ordinance E-321.1, which stated,

All sections of the state statutory law, rules of the road, Chapter 321 of the Code of Iowa the offense of which constitutes a simple misdemeanor, are hereby adopted and incorporated by this reference the same as if set forth in full herein into the Code of Ordinances of the City of Estherville, Iowa, and the violation of such applicable state statutory laws of the road shall be a violation of this chapter if the offense occurs within the territorial city limits of the City of Estherville.

Estherville, Iowa, Code of Ordinances, tit. II, div. 1, ch. 7, § E-321.1

Iowa Code section 321.234A covers operation of ATVs and provides,

All-terrain vehicles shall not be operated on a highway unless one or more of the following conditions apply:
f. The all-terrain vehicle is operated on a county roadway in accordance with section 321I.10, subsection 2, or a city street in accordance with section 321I.10, subsection 3.

Iowa Code § 321.234A(1)(f ) (20...

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