Croland v. City of Atlanta, 071919 FED11, 19-10312

Docket Nº:19-10312
Opinion Judge:PER CURIAM.
Party Name:CAROLINE CROLAND, Plaintiff - Appellee, v. CITY OF ATLANTA, Defendant, STEPHENSON CAMILLE, Defendant-Appellant.
Judge Panel:Before TJOFLAT, BRANCH, and EDMONDSON, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:July 19, 2019
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

CAROLINE CROLAND, Plaintiff - Appellee,



STEPHENSON CAMILLE, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 19-10312

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

July 19, 2019


Appeals from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia D.C. Docket No. 1:15-cv-03303-RWS

Before TJOFLAT, BRANCH, and EDMONDSON, Circuit Judges.


In this interlocutory appeal, City of Atlanta police officer Stephenson Camille appeals the district court's denial of his motion for summary judgment in Plaintiff Caroline Croland's civil action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Georgia law. Officer Camille contends he is entitled to qualified immunity and to Georgia official immunity. Reversible error has been shown; we affirm in part, vacate in part, and remand.


This case arises from Plaintiff's arrest in downtown Atlanta on the afternoon of 1 June 2014. Plaintiff is an active member of two volunteer groups: "Food Not Bombs," which distributes meals to the homeless in Woodruff Park most Sunday afternoons, and "Cop Watch of East Atlanta" ("Cop Watch"), a "watch-dog group focused on increasing police accountability and preventing police brutality by filming police officers in public."

On 1 June, Plaintiff and members of her volunteer groups were distributing food in Woodruff Park. Officer Camille was also present in the park as part of his routine foot patrol. Plaintiff says Officer Camille "hovered" around the Food Not Bombs table for an hour and a half. During this time, Cop Watch volunteers followed Officer Camille and filmed him using their cell phones. One of these video recordings was submitted into evidence and shows the pertinent events leading up to and during Plaintiff's arrest.

The video shows Officer Camille being approached by one of Plaintiff's fellow volunteers. The volunteer (not Plaintiff) asked Officer Camille to leave the park and told Officer Camille that he was not wanted there. Officer Camille refused to leave and responded that he had a right to remain in a public park. The volunteer then continued -- for several minutes -- to make generally mocking and insulting comments to Officer Camille and to ask Officer Camille repeatedly to leave the area. For the most part, Officer Camille ignored the comments, but also responded by providing his name and badge number.

Officer Camille then moved away from the volunteer and from the camera. Over the next several minutes, Officer Camille walked in and around the area where food was being distributed. As he did so, he conversed casually and laughed with other people present in the park. In the background, people can be seen and heard laughing, talking, singing, and playing drums.

Officer Camille then resumed his position close to the Food Not Bombs table -- and only a few feet from the camera -- and stood observing the area for a couple of minutes. Plaintiff can then be heard talking off-camera to a fellow volunteer, Vincent Castillenti. Plaintiff said (in a normal tone of voice) that she was "so angry, oh my god, so angry," referring to Officer Camille's presence. Castillenti urged Plaintiff to "start a chant," to which Plaintiff replied, "I don't want to start a chant." Castillenti then told Plaintiff to "scream it out and people will go along with you. They'll like fucking make him understand that he's a piece of shit." Plaintiff said, "No, nothing could make him understand that."

A few seconds later, Plaintiff said in a louder-than-normal voice, "It's like we can't like share a . . . meal with people every Sunday without state harassment!" Officer Camille turned his back and started to walk away from Plaintiff. As he did, Plaintiff (in the presence of others in her group) yelled -- with increasing volume -- "Why?! Why?! WHY?! WHY?! WHY?!" And then yelled the demand, "ANSWER ME!!" As Plaintiff yelled her questions and her demand at Officer Camille, one or two people looked up, but no volunteers or members of the public reacted visibly in any other way to Plaintiff's outburst. Nor did Plaintiff appear to move physically toward Officer Camille, such that she would have been on camera.

In response to Plaintiff's yelling, Officer Camille turned to face Plaintiff, walked slowly about 11 steps toward Plaintiff, and told Plaintiff that she was under arrest for "disorderly conduct in the park." Plaintiff was charged with violating Atlanta City Code § 106-81(3), which makes it unlawful to cause, provoke, or engage in a fight or riotous conduct.

Plaintiff filed suit against Officer Camille in his individual capacity, 1alleging that she was arrested without probable cause and in retaliation for her protected speech -- in violation of her rights under the First and Fourth Amendments. Plaintiff also asserted against Officer Camille state law claims for assault and battery, false arrest, false imprisonment, and malicious prosecution. The district court denied Officer Camille's motion for summary judgment: a motion grounded on federal qualified immunity and state official immunity.


A. Constitutional Claims & Qualified Immunity

We review de novo a district court's denial of a motion for summary judgment based on qualified immunity, "drawing all inferences and viewing all of the evidence in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Gilmore v. Hodges, 738 F.3d 266, 272 (11th Cir. 2013). When a video recording exists of the pertinent events -- as in this case -- we "view[] the facts in the light depicted by the videotape." See Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380-81 (2007). Because we construe the evidence in favor of the nonmoving party, "material issues of disputed fact are not a factor in the court's analysis of qualified immunity and cannot foreclose the grant or denial of summary judgment based on qualified immunity." Bates v. Harvey, 518 F.3d 1233, 1239 (11th Cir. 2008).

"Qualified immunity protects government officials performing discretionary functions from suits in their individual capacities unless their conduct violates clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known." Gates v. Khokhar, 884 F.3d 1290, 1296 (11th Cir. 2018). To avoid summary judgment on qualified immunity, Plaintiff must show both that Officer Camille violated a federal right and that the right was already clearly established when Officer Camille acted. See id.

A federal right is "clearly established" when "the contours of [the] right are sufficiently clear that every reasonable official would have understood that what he is doing violates that right." Ashcroft v. al-Kidd, 563 U.S. 731, 741 (2011) (quotations and alterations omitted). "We do not require a case directly on point, but existing precedent must have placed the...

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