Keylon v. City of Albuquerque

Decision Date05 August 2008
Docket NumberNo. 07-2071.,07-2071.
Citation535 F.3d 1210
PartiesBertha KEYLON, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. CITY OF ALBUQUERQUE; Martin Chavez, in his individual capacity as Mayor of the City of Albuquerque; Gil Gallegos, in his individual capacity as Chief of Police of the City of Albuquerque Police Department; Scott Barnard, City of Albuquerque Police Officer, Defendants-Appellees, and David Sedillo, Defendant.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Tenth Circuit

Joseph P. Kennedy, Kennedy Law Firm, Albuquerque, NM, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Kathryn C. Levy, Deputy City Attorney, City of Albuquerque, Albuquerque, NM, for Defendants-Appellees.

Before HENRY, Chief Judge, BALDOCK and TYMKOVICH, Circuit Judges.

HENRY, Chief Judge.

Bertha Keylon, brought suit against Officer Scott Barnard, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that her Fourth Amendment rights were violated when she was arrested without probable cause for concealing her identity. After a jury found Officer Barnard not liable, Ms. Keylon submitted a post-trial motion including (1) a Rule 50(b) request for judgment as a matter of law; (2) an objection to the district court's submission of the question of qualified immunity to the jury; and (3) a request that the claims against the City of Albuquerque be tried. The district court denied each claim.

We exercise jurisdiction pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 1291 and reverse. Because there were no disputed issues of material fact, we hold that the district court erred in denying Ms. Keylon's judgment as a matter of law, and in submitting the question of qualified immunity to the jury.

I. BACKGROUND

As this is a judgment of a matter of law, we view the evidence in the light most favorable to Officer Barnard; thus, we have adopted his version of the facts, which are, in any event, undisputed by Ms. Keylon on appeal. See Herrera v. Lufkin Indust., Inc., 474 F.3d 675, 685 (10th Cir. 2007) (when reviewing Rule 50 decisions, we must view all the evidence in the light must favorable to the nonmoving party).

On the morning of September 28, 2003, Officers Scott Barnard and David Sedillo were dispatched to Bertha Keylon's home because a tow-truck driver was complaining about damage to his truck caused by Michael Martinez, who drove a vehicle off of it. Mr. Martinez had exited Ms. Keylon's home before the alleged offense. When the officers arrived on the scene, the tow-truck driver told them that the damage amounted to roughly $4000, which could make the removal of the car a felony under New Mexico law. The driver directed Officer Barnard's attention to Ms. Keylon, who was walking out of her home, and he identified her as Mr. Martinez's mother. Officer Barnard approached Ms. Keylon, introduced himself, and asked her if he could ask a few questions. He informed Ms. Keylon that her son was the subject of a felony investigation, and that he would need to get some information from her. He asked Ms. Keylon her son's birthday and address, and she responded that she did not know.

Believing that she was being "untruthful and evasive," Officer Barnard asked for Ms. Keylon's identification. Aples' Br. at 8. Ms. Keylon did not produce identification, and instead approached her van. Officer Barnard put his hand up, preventing Ms. Keylon from getting in. He asked her where her identification was, and she told him that it was in her purse, which was in the house. She started walking up the driveway towards her home, at which point Officer Barnard said, "Ma'am, I need to see your ID." Ms. Keylon responded, "Well, I'll get my ID when I'm ready." Tr., at 225. Officer Barnard then placed her under arrest for concealing her identity, in violation of N.M. Stat. Ann. § 30-22-3. All of this occurred on the sidewalk and lawn in front of Ms. Keylon's home.

Ms. Keylon filed a § 1983 complaint, alleging Fourth Amendment violations by Officers Barnard and Sedillo, and alleging supervisory and municipal claims against the Mayor of Albuquerque, the Chief of Police, and the City of Albuquerque. Specifically, Ms. Keylon claimed that she was detained, arrested, and charged with a crime without reasonable suspicion or probable cause, and that the City and its policymakers failed to properly supervise and train its officers in Fourth Amendment protections. The individual defendants' and municipal defendants' trials were bifurcated, and Ms. Keylon voluntarily dismissed her action against Officer Sedillo, meaning that in the jury trial, she only tried her unreasonable detention and arrest claims against Officer Barnard.

Before the trial began, Ms. Keylon filed a motion for summary judgment against Officer Barnard, claiming that as a matter of law, Officer Barnard had no basis to detain her and no probable cause to arrest her. The district court denied her motion for summary judgment, finding that there were disputed facts for a jury to decide. Specifically, with regard to Officer Barnard's arrest of Ms. Keylon, the court found that there were genuine issues of fact as to whether Officer Barnard reasonably believed he had probable cause to arrest Ms. Keylon. Dist. Ct. Rec., doc. 35. See United States v. Whaler, 219 Fed. Appx. 821, 825 n. 2 (10th Cir.2007) (unpublished) (sua sponte supplementing the record with a district court document). However, in the district court's order denying summary judgment, the court pointed to no specific disputed facts and discussed only questions of law. At the close of evidence, Ms. Keylon requested that the court enter judgment as a matter of law in her favor. The district court also denied this motion.

The trial court submitted the question of Officer Barnard's qualified immunity to the jury. Jury Instruction 10 read:

If you find that Plaintiff has proven her Fourth Amendment claim, then you must consider Defendant Barnard's defense that his conduct was objectively reasonable in light of the legal rules clearly established at the time of the incident, and that therefore Defendant Barnard is not liable for any damages to the Plaintiff.

. . . .

If, after considering the scope of discretion and responsibility generally given to police officers in the performance of their duties, and after considering all of the surrounding circumstances in the case as they reasonably would have appeared at the time Defendant Barnard arrested Plaintiff, you find from the preponderance of the evidence that the Plaintiff has proven either that (1) Defendant Barnard was plainly incompetent or (2) that Defendant Barnard knowingly violated the law regarding Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment rights, then you must find for Plaintiff on her claim against Barnard. But if you find that Defendant Barnard has proven that he had a reasonable belief that his actions did not violate the Fourth Amendment rights of Plaintiff, then you cannot find Defendant Barnard liable even if the Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment rights were in fact violated as a result of Defendant Barnard's objectively reasonable action.

Aplt's App. vol. I, at 21. Ms. Keylon objected to this instruction at trial. The jury ruled in favor of Officer Barnard, and the district court dismissed with prejudice the claim against Officer Barnard, along with those against the municipal defendants.

Ms. Keylon filed a post-trial motion, again raising her claim for judgment as a matter of law, and again objecting to the district court's qualified immunity instruction. She also requested that the claims against the City of Albuquerque be tried. The district court denied her motion. Ms. Keylon timely appealed.

On appeal, Ms. Keylon claims the district court erred when it: (1) denied her request for Rule 50(b) relief — judgment as a matter of law; (2) submitted the issue of qualified immunity to the jury; and (3) denied her request for Rule 60(b) relief from judgment on the grounds that the municipal and supervisory defendants were improperly dismissed.

II. DISCUSSION
A. Standard of Review

We review de novo a district court's denial of a Rule 50 motion for judgment as a matter of law. Escue v. Northern OK College, 450 F.3d 1146, 1156 (10th Cir.2006). Motions brought under Rule 50 "test whether there is a legally sufficient evidentiary basis for a reasonable jury to find for the moving party." Ruyle v. Continental Oil Co., 44 F.3d 837, 841 (10th Cir.1994) (internal quotation marks omitted). We must view the evidence in the light most favorable to Officer Barnard. See Minshall v. McGraw Hill Broad. Co., 323 F.3d 1273, 1279 (10th Cir. 2003) ("In reviewing the district court's refusal to grant JMOL, this court draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. . . .") (internal quotation marks omitted). A district court's refusal to grant judgment as a matter of law may be reversed "only if the evidence is such that without weighing the credibility of the witnesses the only reasonable conclusion is in [the moving party]'s favor." Hurd v. Am. Hoist & Derrick Co., 734 F.2d 495, 499 (10th Cir. 1984).

B. Analysis

Ms. Keylon's counsel first moved for judgment as a matter of law at the close of evidence. Tr., at 371. Specifically, counsel argued, "I want to make it clear for the record . . . that plaintiff does indeed move for judgment as a matter of law in her favor under Rule 50 for the same reason that we believe the qualified immunity standard is a legal question for the Court to decide and not the jury [namely, that there is no genuine issue of material fact], and in this case, I believe the Court should decide that no reasonable police officer could believe that Mrs. Keylon violated any statute when she was arrested." Id. After hearing Ms. Keylon's arguments that the undisputed evidence in Ms. Keylon's case showed that no reasonable officer would believe that he could arrest her for concealing identity, the district court denied Ms. Keylon's motion, saying simply, and without elaboration, "I believe that the facts are so in dispute that, depending on which version the jury believes, it could reasonably reach a...

To continue reading

Request your trial
178 cases
  • Bledsoe v. Carreno
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Tenth Circuit
    • 15 Noviembre 2022
  • Ganley v. Jojola
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of New Mexico
    • 30 Agosto 2019
    ...sufficient to lead a prudent person to believe that the arrestee has committed or is committing an offense." Keylon v. City of Albuquerque, 535 F.3d 1210, 1216 (10th Cir. 2008) (quoting Romero v. Fay, 45 F.3d at 1476 ). The Supreme Court has stated that the existence of probable cause for a......
  • Castaneda v. City of Albuquerque
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of New Mexico
    • 4 Febrero 2016
    ...to lead a prudent person to believe that the arrestee has committed or is committing an offense." Id. (quoting Keylon v. City of Albuquerque , 535 F.3d 1210, 1216 (10th Cir. 2008) (quoting Romero v. Fay , 45 F.3d 1472, 1476 (10th Cir. 1995) )). Plaintiff must also show that the constitution......
  • Ysasi v. Brown
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of New Mexico
    • 28 Febrero 2014
    ...sufficient to lead a prudent person to believe that the arrestee has committed or is committing an offense.” Keylon v. City of Albuquerque, 535 F.3d 1210, 1216 (10th Cir.2008) (quoting Romero v. Fay, 45 F.3d 1472, 1476 (10th Cir.1995)). The Supreme Court has stated that the existence of pro......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT