Dedra Rudley, and Minor Child M.D.B. Plaintiff- Appellee
Little Rock Police Department; City of Little Rock Defendants Hubert Bryant, In his individual and official capacity; Chris Oldham, In his individual and official capacity Defendants - Appellants Kenton Buckner, Chief of Police, in his individual and official capacity Defendant
Submitted: April 16, 2019
from United States District Court for the Eastern District of
Arkansas - Little Rock
LOKEN, WOLLMAN, and STRAS, Circuit Judges.
Wollman, Circuit Judge.
Rudley filed suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, asserting that
Little Rock Police Officers Hubert Bryant and Chris Oldham
used excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment
while arresting her and her minor son, M.D.B. The officers
have appealed the district court's denial of their motion
for summary judgment on the basis of qualified immunity.
Because the officers' actions did not violate Rudley and
M.D.B.'s clearly established rights, we reverse and
and M.D.B. met with the principal of M.D.B.'s school just
over a week after M.D.B. had suffered a broken clavicle
during an altercation at school. When the meeting became
hostile, the school principal requested that security
officers escort Rudley and M.D.B. from the premises.
Responding to the request, Bryant, serving as the School
Resource Officer at the time, was told by the principal that
Rudley had thrown a book at him. Bryant requested
identification from Rudley, who stated that her
identification was in her car. Bryant and Jerry Moore, a
security guard employed by the school district, escorted
Rudley and M.D.B. to the parking lot.
asserts that Bryant seemed to be agitated as the three
proceeded to Rudley's vehicle in the parking lot. He also
noticed that Bryant stood very close to Rudley while she
looked for her identification and at one point appeared to
reach for his gun. When M.D.B. asked what Bryant was reaching
for, Bryant informed him that he was under arrest. As Bryant
was proceeding around the back of Rudley's vehicle
towards M.D.B., Rudley stepped in between the two of them
before falling into Bryant.
disputes this account of the events in the parking lot. He
contends that M.D.B. acted aggressively and threatened him.
He asserts that when he informed M.D.B. that he was under
arrest for terroristic threats, Rudley stepped in front of
him and pushed him before falling to the ground.
remainder of the interaction was captured on video by the
camera attached to Bryant's taser. As M.D.B. helped
Rudley up from the ground, Rudley exclaimed "wait a
minute [expletive]" and then took a step towards Bryant
as Bryant commanded her to "stop-get back." Bryant
then deployed his taser on Rudley. As this was occurring,
security guard Moore told M.D.B. to step away. He did so and
then took a few steps towards Moore. The video then shows
M.D.B. and Moore engaged in a physical altercation. Rudley
retrieved papers from the ground and walked purposefully
towards M.D.B. and Moore and away from Bryant, who then
cycled his taser again on Rudley as she walked away. Bryant
caught up with Rudley before she reached M.D.B. and Moore and
took her down, at which point the camera was shaking or
pressed against Rudley's clothes for approximately thirty
contends that he was forced to use his taser again after
taking Rudley down because she "attempted to get
up." Rudley and M.D.B. assert that Bryant was on top of
Rudley, who was fully compliant, with his knee on her back or
neck, an account contradicted by the video, the audio and the
shaking nature of which are consistent with a physical
struggle, during which Bryant informed Rudley that she was
under arrest and ordered her to stop resisting. Although
Rudley stated that she was not resisting, the video reveals
that the scene became calm only after Bryant had used his
taser a third time and was thereafter able to place Rudley in
Oldham arrived in the meantime, arrested M.D.B. and
handcuffed his wrists behind his back, which Rudley and
M.D.B. allege exacerbated M.D.B.'s existing injury.
Oldham's arrival and his subsequent arrest of M.D.B. are
not shown on the video.
officers moved for summary judgment, asserting that they were
entitled to qualified immunity. Although the district court
found that the scene, as shown on the video, was
"chaotic and combative," it denied the
officers' motion, concluding in part that "the right
to be free from excessive force, particularly physical force
and repeated tasing was clearly established in May
officers are entitled to qualified immunity unless (1) the
evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to Rudley,
establishes a violation of a constitutional or statutory
right, and (2) the right was clearly established at the time
of the violation, such that a reasonable official would have
known that his actions were unlawful. See Blazek v. City
of Iowa City, 761 F.3d 920, 922-23 (8th Cir. 2014).
"We review a district court's qualified immunity
determination de novo and may resolve the appeal
under either prong of the analysis." Id. at
923. The Supreme Court has emphasized that courts should not
"define clearly established law at a high level of
generality." Kisela v. Hughes, 138 S.Ct. 1148,
1152 (2017) (per curiam) (quoting City & Cty. of San
Francisco, Calif. v. Sheehan, 135 S.Ct. 1765, 1765-66
(2015)). Because "[u]se of excessive force is an area of
the law in which the result depends very much on the facts of
each case, . . . police officers are entitled to qualified
immunity unless existing precedent squarely governs the
specific facts at issue." Id. at 1153 (internal
quotation marks omitted). In other words, Rudley must
identify controlling authority or "a robust
'consensus of cases of persuasive authority'"
placing the constitutional question beyond debate.
Ashcroft v. al-Kidd, 563 U.S. 731, 742 (2011)
(quoting Wilson v. Layne, 526 U.S. 603, 617 (1999)).
first to the claims against Bryant, Rudley alleges that
Bryant's repeated tasing violated her Fourth Amendment
right to be free from the use of unreasonable force. In
rejecting Bryant and Oldham's qualified immunity defense,
the district court reasoned that Rudley and M.D.B. were
unarmed, made no attempt to flee the scene, and did not
appear to pose a "real threat" to the safety of the
officers. The court then identified several disputes of
material fact, ...