United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Northern Division
Marshall Jr. United States District Judge
case is a triangle. The three points are James Barnes,
Mountain View police officer Cody Lee, and Barnes's
former wife, Valerie Stair. After the divorce, Officer Lee
and Stair dated for several months. Barnes alleges that, for
two years after Lee and Stair ended their relationship,
Officer Lee harassed him and seized him during various
encounters. Lee's fellow officers, Barnes says, joined
this campaign. Barnes points to seven stops across the
two-year period. And he seeks to hold Mountain View
responsible because the City didn't stop the campaign,
notwithstanding Barnes's repeated complaints to the mayor
and other City officials.
the facts where genuinely disputed in the light most
favorable to Barnes, Mountain View is entitled to judgment.
He lacks standing to complain about two encounters; his
guilty pleas to minor traffic offenses arising from two other
stops bar him from relying on those stops; the officer
involved had probable cause during the April 2016 stop; no
seizure occurred in January 2016; and even if the June 2016
stop was improper, one bad stop doesn't create municipal
liability. Barnes's § 1983 claim for a Fourth
Amendment violation, and his echoing claim under the Arkansas
Civil Right Act, fail as a matter of law.
can't challenge the constitutionality of the August 2015
and February 2017 stops. In each instance, Officer Lee
encountered people other than Barnes, who therefore lacks
standing to complain. Slusarchuk v. Hoff, 346 F.3d
1178, 1182 (8th Cir. 2003). In August 2015 Lee stopped one of
Barnes's employees. Lee's parting words were
"You tell Mr. Barnes Officer Lee said howdy." No.
38 at 2-3. As Barnes says, this remark shows Officer
Lee's attitude toward him. The City disciplined him for
this jab. Putting that fact aside, Barnes wasn't injured
by the traffic stop. The same is true for the February 2017
encounter with Stair, Barnes's former wife. Lee made a
U-turn in his squad car and followed her briefly. Barnes
wasn't present. And this event wasn't a seizure
anyway. United States v. Weaver, 966 F.2d 391,
393-94 (8th Cir. 1992)
claims about the November 2015 and January 2017 stops are
barred by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 486-87
(1994). Another officer pulled Barnes over in November 2015
for bad headlights and driving left of center; probable cause
existed for the stop. United States v. Long, 320
F.3d 795, 798 (8th Cir. 2003). A record check revealed an
outstanding warrant. Barnes was handcuffed, arrested, and
released. At the station, a knowing smile was exchanged in
Barnes's presence between the arresting officer and
Officer Lee. The warrant eventually turned out to be stale.
In due course, though, Barnes pleaded guilty to driving left
of center and the other charges were dropped. His guilty plea
forecloses a constitutional challenge now to the stop.
Heck, 512 U.S. at 486-87. In January 2017, Lee
pulled Barnes over for having the wrong tags on his vehicle.
Barnes eventually pleaded guilty to this tag problem. So he
can't challenge that stop's constitutionally, either.
April 2016 stop was supported by probable cause, which
eliminates any potential seizure-based claim against Mountain
View. Mettler v. Whitledge, 165 F.3d 1197, 1204 (8th
Cir. 1999). Officer Lee pulled over a truck for speeding. It
was Barnes. Barnes says Lee knew it was him, and the stop was
just to harass him. The Court assumes that's true. But
even a minor traffic violation gives an officer probable
cause to stop a motorist. United States v. Sallis,
507 F.3d 646, 649 (8th Cir. 2007). The officer's
motivations don't affect the probable cause analysis,
which is objective. Barnes disputes only whether Lee knew it
was him, not whether he was actually speeding. Probable cause
existed for this twenty-second stop, which ended without a
ticket or a warning. United States v. Peralez, 526
F.3d 1115, 1119 (8th Cir. 2008).
Mountain View isn't liable for the January and June 2016
stops. An officer other than Lee followed Barnes into a
parking lot in January. Barnes doesn't recall whether the
officer activated his blue lights. Nq 41 at 9. The
officer told Barnes that he had made only a rolling stop at a
stop sign. Barnes acknowledged the officer and told him he
had to take his son inside the building. Barnes did so. There
was no seizure because Barnes reasonably felt free to leave.
Weaver, 966 F.2d at 393-94.
June, Officer Lee pulled in behind Barnes as he turned into
the parking lot of his business. The record on this stop is
thin. Barnes says there were blue lights. Officer Lee asked
for proof of insurance. No. citation was issued. How long it
lasted, or what else was said, is unclear. Barnes points to
no facts, other than Officer Lee's blue lights, showing
that he couldn't leave or that a reasonable person
wouldn't have felt free to leave. But the lights are
strong medicine. Assuming a seizure occurred, this is not
enough to make the City liable.
View doesn't have a policy that allows officers to stop
people without probable cause. Szabla v. City of Brooklyn
Park, Minnesota,486 F.3d 385, 389-90 (8th Cir. 2007).
And Barnes hasn't created a jury issue on whether the
City had a custom or practice of allowing unconstitutional
conduct. The law requires a pattern. Brossart v.
]anke,859 F.3d 616, 627-28 (8th Cir. 2017). Each of the
stops Barnes complains about, except for the one in June
2016, was constitutional. Municipal liability in these
circumstances requires more. To get to a jury, Barnes must
establish "a continuing, widespread, [and] persistent
pattern of unconstitutional misconduct by" ...