Clinton v. Garrett

Decision Date30 July 2021
Docket Number4:20-cv-00166-JEG-SBJ
Parties Jared CLINTON, Plaintiff, v. Ryan GARRETT, Brian Minnehan, and Ryan Steinkamp, Individually and in Their Official Capacity as a Law Enforcement Officers for the Des Moines, Iowa Police Department; Dana Wingert, Individually and in his Official Capacity as Chief of Police for the Des Moines, Iowa Police Department; and City of Des Moines, Iowa, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of Iowa

Gina Messamer, Jessica Donels, Brown & Bergmann, L.L.P., Des Moines, IA, for Plaintiff.

Michelle Mackel-Wiederanders, Des Moines City Attorney Des Moines, IA, for Defendants Ryan Garrett, Brian Minnehan, Ryan Steinkamp, City of Des Moines, Iowa.



This matter is before the Court on cross-motions for summary judgment. Plaintiff filed a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, ECF No. 26, requesting that the Court find Defendants liable on each Count in his Petition, which Defendants resist. Defendants also filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 35, seeking dismissal of all Plaintiff's claims, which Plaintiff resists. Plaintiff requested a hearing on his Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. Pl.’s Mot. Summ. J. ¶ 6, ECF No. 26. The Court has considered Plaintiff's request and, upon review of the record and ample briefing, finds oral argument is unnecessary. The cross-motions for summary judgment are fully submitted and ready for disposition.

Also, before the Court is DefendantsMotion to Exclude two affidavits filed by Plaintiff in support of his Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, ECF No. 56, which Plaintiff resists.


On October 3, 2019, Plaintiff Jared Clinton was driving eastbound on University Avenue near the intersection of 17th Street in Des Moines, Iowa. Des Moines Police Department (DMPD) officers Ryan Garrett, Brian Minnehan, and Ryan Steinkamp were on patrol nearby, riding together in Garrett's marked police vehicle. At their depositions, Defendants Garrett and Minnehan testified that as Clinton's vehicle passed the patrol car, a passenger in the front seat sat up quickly from a reclined position and looked at the officers in a manner that appeared nervous. Both officers testified that this movement caught their attention. They began to follow Clinton.

In addition to their observations of his passenger's movements, the officers noted Clinton's vehicle was not affixed with permanent license plates. Iowa law generally requires motorists to display front and rear license plates. See Iowa Code § 321.37. However, an exception exists for newly purchased vehicles:

A vehicle may be operated upon the highways of [Iowa] without registration plates for a period of forty-five days after the date of delivery of the vehicle to the purchaser from a dealer if a card bearing the words "registration applied for" is attached on the rear of the vehicle. The card shall have plainly stamped or stenciled the registration number of the dealer from whom the vehicle was purchased and the date of delivery of the vehicle.

Id. § 321.25(1). Operating a vehicle without valid registration plates or a temporary paper registration tag is a simple misdemeanor. Id. § 321.98(2). Falsification of a temporary tag is likewise unlawful. See id. §§ 321.100, 714.8(11).

A properly completed temporary registration tag was taped in Clinton's rear window. However, the officers were unable to read any information on the tag from their position behind Clinton's vehicle. According to Officer Minnehan, "mostly it [was] the angle of the back wind-shield and then the glare from the sun" that made the tag unreadable. Minnehan Dep. 17–Defs.’ Summ. J. App. 59, ECF No. 35-1. Officer Garrett similarly testified that "there was no way to tell" whether the piece of paper in Clinton's window was blank or not blank. Garrett Dep. 35–Defs.’ Summ. J. App. 47, ECF No. 35-1. Officer Steinkamp testified about his previous experiences with drivers placing counterfeit or blank documents in the windows of unregistered vehicles to mimic temporary registration tags. A traffic stop was initiated "to verify that the paper tag was legitimate." Minnehan Case Summ. Report 1–Defs.’ App. 11, ECF No. 35-1.

Upon approaching the vehicle, Officer Minnehan was able to read Clinton's temporary tag and verify that it was not expired. Officer Garrett went to Clinton's window and asked whether the car was titled in Clinton's name. Clinton asked Officer Garrett to explain why he had been stopped, and Garrett answered, "I'm pulling you over because I was just checking up on your ID tag, OK?" Garrett Body Cam. at 2:50–3:00. Officer Steinkamp explained to Clinton that the DMPD "get[s] a lot of [temporary registration tags] that are fraudulent. We don't know that until we verify it. That's why we pulled you over." Steinkamp Body Cam. at 5:20–5:50. Officer Minnehan told Clinton that he had been stopped because the officers couldn't "read [his] paper tag" and added that Clinton had first attracted their attention when his passenger "looked at [them] real hard, like [he was] super nervous." Minnehan Body Cam. at 22:00–22:30.

According to Defendants, Officer Garrett recognized the smell of marijuana emanating from somewhere inside Clinton's vehicle during the traffic stop and noticed what he believed to be evidence of marijuana on Clinton's person. Clinton told the officers he had been smoking marijuana in the same clothing earlier that day. The officers searched the car and its occupants and discovered a vape pen alleged to contain THC. Clinton was arrested and charged with Possession of a Controlled Substance in violation of Iowa Code § 124.401(5). After his arrest, Clinton spent roughly four hours in jail. The criminal case was dismissed without prejudice after Clinton filed a Motion to Suppress and the State filed a Notice of Intent Not to Prosecute.

On May 18, 2020, Clinton filed a Petition in the Iowa District Court for Polk County against Officers Garrett, Minnehan, and Steinkamp, alleging violations of his state and federal constitutional rights, and against the City and Chief Wingert on theories of vicarious liability. His Petition also pleads claims against the officers for conspiracy to violate his state and federal rights. Defendants removed the case based on federal question jurisdiction and subsequently filed their answer. Defendants contend they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law on all claims. Clinton contends the Court should grant him summary judgment as to Defendants’ liability on his claims and set this matter for trial on the issue of damages.


Summary judgment must be granted "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). "The movant ‘bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion,’ and must identify ‘those portions of [the record] ... which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.’ " Torgerson v. City of Rochester, 643 F.3d 1031, 1042 (8th Cir. 2011) (en banc) (alterations in original) (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986) ). To overcome such a showing, the nonmovant must "set out ‘specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.’ " Id. (quoting Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324, 106 S.Ct. 2548 ). A genuine issue for trial requires more than "some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Id. (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986) ). Instead, the evidence must be "such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). The Court views the facts presented on summary judgment in the light most favorable to the nonmovant. Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348.

A. Count I - Clinton's Fourth Amendment Claim

Count I of Clinton's Petition seeks to hold Officers Garrett, Minnehan, and Steinkamp individually liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violating Clinton's Fourth Amendment rights by stopping his vehicle without reasonable suspicion. Clinton's Petition also asserts that Defendants violated his Fourth Amendment rights by "extending the stop beyond what was reasonably necessary to resolve the basis of the stop" and by "searching [Clinton] and his vehicle without reasonable suspicion or probable cause to do so." Petition ¶ 47, ECF No. 1-1. However, Clinton does not pursue those theories in his Motion for Partial Summary Judgment or in his resistance to DefendantsMotion for Summary Judgment. He focuses exclusively on the constitutionality of the initial stop.

Defendants contend they are entitled to qualified immunity from Clinton's § 1983 claim. "Qualified immunity shields a government official from suit under § 1983 if his ‘conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.’ " Kelsay v. Ernst, 933 F.3d 975, 979 (8th Cir. 2019) (en banc) (quoting Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818, 102 S.Ct. 2727, 73 L.Ed.2d 396 (1982) ). To determine whether an officer is shielded by qualified immunity, courts ask two questions: whether "the official violated a statutory or constitutional right," and whether that "right was ‘clearly established’ at the time of the challenged conduct." Ashcroft v. al-Kidd, 563 U.S. 731, 735, 131 S.Ct. 2074, 179 L.Ed.2d 1149 (2011) (quoting Harlow, 457 U.S. at 818, 102 S.Ct. 2727 ). "Unless both of these questions are answered affirmatively, an appellant is entitled to qualified immunity." Nord v. Walsh Cty., 757 F.3d 734, 738–39 (8th Cir. 2014) (en banc) (citation omitted). "[C]ourts are ‘permitted to exercise their sound discretion in deciding which of the two prongs of the...

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