Bingham v. City of Manhattan Beach

Decision Date19 May 2003
Docket NumberNo. 01-56044.,No. 01-56086.,01-56044.,01-56086.
Citation329 F.3d 723
PartiesHoward L. BINGHAM, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. CITY OF MANHATTAN BEACH; Ernest Klevesahl, Jr.; Hodgen Crossett; Does, 1-10, inclusive, Defendants, and Robert Schreiber, Defendant-Appellant. Howard L. Bingham, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. City of Manhattan Beach; Ernest Klevesahl, Jr., Defendants, and Robert Schreiber; Hodgen Crossett, Defendants-Appellees.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Ninth Circuit

David D. Lawrence, Franscell, Strickland, Roberts & Lawrence, Pasadena, CA, for the defendant-appellant-cross-appellee.

Howard R. Price, Brodey & Price, Beverly Hills, CA, for the plaintiff-appellee-cross-appellant.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California; Margaret M. Morrow, District Judge, Presiding. D.C. No. CV 00-6882 MMM.

Before: REINHARDT, TROTT, and TASHIMA, Circuit Judges.

Opinion by Judge TASHIMA; Partial Concurrence and Partial Dissent by Judge REINHARDT.


TASHIMA, Circuit Judge.

Howard Bingham was pulled over by Manhattan Beach Police Officer Robert Schreiber in the early morning hours of October 4, 1999. Schreiber alleges that Bingham was driving erratically. After Bingham showed Schreiber an expired driver's license, and a check of that license found an outstanding warrant for an individual with similar identifying information, Schreiber arrested Bingham and brought him to the police station, where he was held for several hours. Bingham filed this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, contesting both the traffic stop and the arrest. Schreiber sought summary judgment on qualified immunity grounds. The district court denied the motion as to the traffic stop, but granted it as to the arrest. Schreiber appeals the denial of the motion and Bingham cross-appeals the grant. We affirm the district court.


Although the denial of a summary judgment motion ordinarily is not appealable, we have jurisdiction over an interlocutory appeal when the ground for the motion is qualified immunity. Jeffers v. Gomez, 267 F.3d 895, 903 (9th Cir.2001) (per curiam); Schwenk v. Hartford, 204 F.3d 1187, 1195 (9th Cir.2000). Our jurisdiction generally is limited to issues of law; it "does not extend to claims in which the determination of qualified immunity depends on disputed issues of material fact." Jeffers, 267 F.3d at 903. Where the facts are disputed, however, we assume that the version of the facts asserted by the non-moving party is correct in determining whether the denial of qualified immunity was appropriate. Id.; see Behrens v. Pelletier, 516 U.S. 299, 313, 116 S.Ct. 834, 133 L.Ed.2d 773 (1996) (holding the denial of summary judgment appealable where the denial "necessarily determined that certain conduct attributed to petitioner (which was controverted) constituted a violation of clearly established law"). We have jurisdiction over Bingham's cross-appeal of the grant of summary judgment with respect to the arrest pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291 because the district court certified its order granting summary judgment as to the arrest under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b).1


On October 4, 1999, at approximately 12:30 a.m., Bingham was driving southbound on Sepulveda Boulevard in the City of Manhattan Beach, California. A few blocks after he crossed Rosecrans Avenue, he was pulled over by Schreiber. Bingham is a 62-year-old African-American photographer whose work has appeared in major magazines, including Time, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, and Life. Prior to the incident at issue, he had no criminal record.

The events preceding and during the traffic stop are disputed. Bingham contends that he was driving in a safe and lawful manner at all times on the evening in question. He states that shortly after he crossed Rosecrans Avenue, Schreiber, who is white, began to follow him in a patrol car. Schreiber followed Bingham from the 3400 block to the 1500 block of Sepulveda, at which time he turned on his overhead lights and directed Bingham to pull over. Bingham came to a stop at the 1200 block of Sepulveda. It is disputed whether Schreiber could see Bingham (and, consequently, whether he knew Bingham's race) before he pulled him over.

Schreiber alleges that Bingham was driving erratically; specifically, he testified that Bingham's car was drifting between lanes on Sepulveda and that he suspected that Bingham was intoxicated. Schreiber approached Bingham's car, where he "immediately" determined that Bingham was not intoxicated. Schreiber asked Bingham for his driver's license, and Bingham complied with the request. Bingham asked Schreiber why the officer had pulled him over, and Schreiber replied that Bingham had been driving over the lane line.

The driver's license that Bingham gave to Schreiber had expired on May 29, 1999, approximately four months earlier. Schreiber noticed this fact, returned to his police car, and ran a check on Bingham's identifying information in the mobile computer in the patrol car. The computer informed Schreiber that a "no-bail felony warrant" was outstanding for a person named Andre Bingham. It further informed him that: (1) Andre Bingham resided at the same address listed on Howard Bingham's driver's license, on Towne Avenue; (2) the warrant was for some type of grand theft and was issued in 1977, approximately 22 years earlier; (3) the physical description on the warrant differed from that on Bingham's driver's license in that the heights differed by one inch and the weights differed by ten pounds.

Once Schreiber obtained this information, he called for backup; Officer Hodgen Crossett reached the scene three to four minutes later. Schreiber confronted Bingham with the information regarding the Andre Bingham warrant. Bingham stated that he was not Andre Bingham and that he did not know anyone named Andre Bingham. In response to Schreiber's question, Bingham informed the officer that his address was the Towne Avenue residence.2

Bingham and Schreiber agree that Bingham informed the officer that he had just left an event where the President of the United States had been present. Schreiber maintains that Bingham told him that he was on the front page of Sports Illustrated magazine. Bingham recalls not only telling Schreiber that information, but also retrieving a copy of the magazine from the back seat of his car and showing it to Schreiber. The magazine prominently features a picture of Muhammad Ali and Bingham under the headline, "Who's that Guy With Howard Bingham?" and the subtitle "You don't know Muhammad Ali until you know his best friend." Bingham also states that he showed Schreiber a small box with the presidential seal that was a souvenir from the fundraiser for President Clinton that he had just attended. Schreiber denies that Bingham showed him the box.

Schreiber arrested Bingham for violating California Vehicle Code § 12500, which prohibits driving an automobile with an expired driver's license. The Vehicle Code also provides that "a peace officer shall not detain or arrest a person solely on the belief that the person is an unlicensed driver, unless the officer has reasonable cause to believe that the person is under the age of 16 years." Cal. Veh.Code § 12801.5(e).3 Schreiber's deposition testimony is somewhat ambiguous as to whether he arrested Bingham solely for the unlicensed driver violation or also to verify the warrant.4

Bingham was brought to the Manhattan Beach Police Station, where he was detained for several hours. The booking record identifies the charge only as a violation of California Vehicle Code § 12500 and does not mention the arrest warrant. Due to the age of the outstanding warrant for Andre Bingham, the police were unable to learn more about the details of that warrant in the early morning hours.5 At 3:40 a.m., Bingham was released because there were "insufficient grounds for making a criminal complaint against" him. The authorities in fact never verified whether Bingham was Andre Bingham. His car, which had been impounded, and his expired license were returned to him. He received no citation for unlicensed driving. The officer on duty at the station credited Bingham's statements that he would go the Department of Motor Vehicles soon after being released to renew his license.

Several months later, Bingham filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S. § 1983, alleging that his traffic stop violated the Fourth Amendment because it was an unreasonable seizure; that he was targeted for a traffic stop because of his race, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment; that his arrest violated the Fourth Amendment; that Officers Schreiber and Crossett conspired to deprive him of his civil rights; and that the City of Manhattan Beach should be held liable for the officers' misdeeds as their supervisor. Following discovery, the defendants moved for summary judgment on all claims on the basis that no question of material fact exists, and on the basis of qualified immunity. The district court granted the motion in part and denied it in part.

The court held, regarding Bingham's claims about the traffic stop, that: (1) a genuine issue of fact existed with respect to the reasonableness of the traffic stop; (2) if determined to be unlawful, a traffic stop can be the subject of a § 1983 claim and is not a de minimis constitutional violation; (3) Bingham had not presented a factual question requiring trial regarding his claim that traffic stop was race-based; and (4) qualified immunity was not available to the officers for the traffic stop.

With respect to Bingham's claims in connection with his arrest, the district court held that, based on the record, Schreiber could not argue that Bingham was arrested for any reason other than unlicensed driving and that to arrest Bingham for unlicensed driving was unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment because it violated California law. The...

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