Brockington v. Boykins, No. 09–2308.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtARGUED:
Citation637 F.3d 503
PartiesTim BROCKINGTON, Plaintiff–Appellee,v.Antwan Lamont BOYKINS, Defendant–Appellant,andBaltimore Police Department, Defendant.
Decision Date22 March 2011
Docket NumberNo. 09–2308.

637 F.3d 503

Tim BROCKINGTON, Plaintiff–Appellee,
Antwan Lamont BOYKINS, Defendant–Appellant,andBaltimore Police Department, Defendant.

No. 09–2308.

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit.

Argued: Dec. 7, 2010.Decided: March 22, 2011.

[637 F.3d 504]

ARGUED: Barron Stroud, Jr., Stroud & Priest, LLC, Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellant. Eric Earl Murphy, Jones Day, Columbus, Ohio, for Appellee. ON BRIEF: Joseph W. Clark, Katherine E. Stern, Mark R. Lentz, Jones Day, Washington, D.C., for Appellee.Before GREGORY, DAVIS, and WYNN, Circuit Judges.Affirmed by published opinion. Judge GREGORY wrote the opinion, in which Judge DAVIS and Judge WYNN joined.

GREGORY, Circuit Judge:

This 42 U.S.C. § 1983 case deals with whether a police officer who used deadly force is entitled to qualified immunity. Timothy Brockington, Plaintiff–Appellee, and Officer Antwan Boykins, Defendant–Appellant, had a confrontation that led to separate criminal and civil proceedings. In the criminal proceedings, Brockington was convicted of kidnapping Officer Boykins, but acquitted of possessing a gun during that same incident. In the current civil proceedings, Brockington alleges Officer Boykins used excessive, deadly force in violation of his constitutional rights. Officer Boykins moved to dismiss the complaint on the ground of qualified immunity. The district court denied the motion. Because a reasonable officer would have recognized that deadly force was no longer

[637 F.3d 505]

needed after Brockington was injured and helpless with his back on the ground, the judgment of the district court is affirmed.


At the outset, we take judicial notice of Brockington's conviction in the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, which is a matter of public record. * Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 298, 106 S.Ct. 2932, 92 L.Ed.2d 209 (1986); see also 21B Charles Alan Wright & Kenneth W. Graham, Federal Practice and Procedure: Evidence 2d § 5106.4 (2005) (court may properly take judicial notice of final convictions). As is the case for the complaint itself, we construe the conviction in the light most favorable to the appellee. Papasan, 478 U.S. at 298, 106 S.Ct. 2932.

After a jury trial, Brockington was convicted of kidnapping, conspiracy to kidnap, carjacking, and robbery, but acquitted of all gun-related offenses. Brockington subsequently filed a pro se complaint against the Baltimore Police Department (“BPD”) and Boykins alleging claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of Brockington's rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution. The district court thereafter granted a motion to appoint counsel to represent Brockington. Brockington's counsel requested leave to file a Second Amended Complaint (“SAC”). The district court granted permission to do so. The court also denied Boykins' motion to dismiss on the doctrine of qualified immunity in a one-sentence order that contained no reasoning. The denial of qualified immunity is an immediately appealable order. Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 105 S.Ct. 2806, 86 L.Ed.2d 411 (1985).

The SAC alleges various crucial facts important to a motion to dismiss. According to the complaint, on or about July 5, 2005, after the initial crimes had been committed, Brockington and Boykins confronted each other on the backyard steps of a vacant house at 1123 Myrtle Avenue. Boykins fired his handgun at least twice at Brockington when Brockington was approximately four feet away on the steps. The first shot hit Brockington's left hand, almost severing his pinky from his hand. The second shot hit Brockington's upper abdomen and caused Brockington to fall off the stairs onto the cement landing below. Brockington was unable to get up or otherwise defend himself. As he lay on his back, Boykins stood directly over him and fired at least six shots at close range. Brockington did nothing to defend himself but raise his hands and sway from side to side to protect his face. After shooting Brockington a total of nine times, Boykins fled the scene. At no point in time was Brockington armed throughout the confrontation. As a result of the incident, Brockington spent three weeks on life support, is paralyzed, and is a paraplegic.


We review de novo the decision of the lower court to deny a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule 12(b)(6), recognizing that dismissal is inappropriate unless, accepting as true the well-pled facts in the complaint and viewing them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, the plaintiff is unable to “state a claim to relief

[637 F.3d 506]

that is plausible on its face.” Bell Alt. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007); Jenkins v. Medford, 119 F.3d 1156, 1159 (4th Cir.1997) (en banc). “Although a motion pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) invites an inquiry into the legal sufficiency of the complaint, not an analysis of potential defenses to the claims set forth therein, dismissal nevertheless is appropriate when the face of the complaint clearly reveals the existence of a meritorious affirmative defense.” Brooks v. City of Winston–Salem, 85 F.3d 178, 181 (4th Cir.1996). One such defense is that of qualified immunity. Jenkins, 119 F.3d at 1159.

“Qualified immunity shields government officials performing discretionary functions from personal-capacity liability for civil damages under § 1983, insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.” Ridpath v. Board of Governors Marshall University, 447 F.3d 292, 306 (4th Cir.2006) (quoting Wilson v. Layne, 526 U.S. 603, 609, 119 S.Ct. 1692, 143 L.Ed.2d 818 (1999)) (internal quotation marks omitted). Officials will receive immunity unless the § 1983 claim satisfies a two-prong test: (1) the allegations, if true, substantiate a violation of a federal statutory or constitutional right and (2) the right was “clearly established” such that a reasonable person would have known his acts or omissions violated that right. Id.; see also Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 201, 121 S.Ct. 2151, 150...

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