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Lee v. Driscoll

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

September 7, 2017

Roger Lee; Mary Lee Plaintiffs - Appellees
v.
William Driscoll; Greg Albrecht; William Albrecht Defendants - Appellants Mathews Township, by and through its township board of supervisors Defendant Roger Lee; Mary Lee Plaintiffs - Appellants
v.
William Driscoll; Greg Albrecht; William Albrecht; Mathews Township, by and through its township board of supervisors Defendants - Appellees

          Submitted: May 10, 2017

         Appeals from United States District Court for the District of South Dakota - Sioux Falls

          Before SMITH, Chief Judge, COLLOTON and KELLY, Circuit Judges.

          KELLY, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         Mary and Roger Lee sued Mathews Township, South Dakota, and three members of the Township Board of Supervisors-William Driscoll, Greg Albrecht, and William Albrecht (collectively, the individual defendants)-alleging claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law. The defendants moved for dismissal and summary judgment, which the district court denied in part and granted in part. The individual defendants appeal the district court's denial of summary judgment as to three § 1983 claims, arguing that they are entitled to qualified immunity. The plaintiffs, asserting pendent jurisdiction, cross-appeal the court's order as to several other claims. We affirm in part and reverse in part.

         I. Background

         The Lees own land in Mathews Township, South Dakota. Rock Creek runs across their land through a natural waterway before meeting 219th Street. In 2011, Rock Creek ran under 219th Street, passing through an eight-foot culvert and a three-foot culvert. Flooding in 2011 washed out the culverts, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) awarded the Township a grant for the repair. The Lees believed that two nine-foot culverts would be necessary for adequate drainage, but that even a single nine-foot culvert would provide better drainage than the previous configuration of an eight-foot culvert and a three-foot culvert. In the Lees' understanding, the Township planned to build a nine-foot culvert under 219th Street. However, after the culvert was installed, they discovered it was only eight feet in diameter.

         The Lees attended a meeting of the Township Board of Supervisors and voiced concerns about the culvert project. The meeting became heated, and the owner of the building asked all in attendance to leave. The Township Board held several additional meetings regarding the project, but many of the meetings were closed to the public. At the time, Mary Lee was the Township Board Clerk-an elected position-but was excluded from all non-public Township Board meetings about the culvert project. According to the Lees, the Township Board decided to install an additional, three-foot culvert under 219th Street and to refund leftover grant money to FEMA without holding public meetings. The Township Board was later reprimanded for violating South Dakota open meeting laws by a state administrative body.

         The Lees sued the defendants pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging Fourteenth Amendment due process violations, Fourteenth Amendment equal protection violations, First Amendment free speech, association, and retaliation violations, and a Fifth Amendment taking without just compensation. They also brought state-law claims, alleging conversion, deceit, and a taking without just compensation in violation of the South Dakota Constitution.

         The defendants moved for dismissal and summary judgment on the plaintiffs' claims. In part, the individual defendants argued they were entitled to summary judgment on the § 1983 claims based on qualified immunity. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Mathews Township and the individual defendants in their official capacities as to all claims; granted summary judgment to the individual defendants in their individual capacities as to the due process, equal protection, free speech, and conversion claims; and dismissed the federal and state takings claims. It also dismissed the Lees' claims for future flooding damages, declaratory judgment, and injunctive relief. However, the district court denied summary judgment to the individual defendants in their individual capacities as to the Lees' First Amendment retaliation and petition claims, Mary Lee's First Amendment association claim, and the Lees' state-law deceit claim.

         The individual defendants appeal the district court's denial of summary judgment as to the retaliation, association, and petition claims, arguing that they are entitled to qualified immunity. The plaintiffs cross-appeal, arguing that the district court erred in dismissing their claims for declaratory relief and injunctive relief; in granting summary judgment to Mathews Township and the individual defendants in their official capacities; and in granting summary judgment to the individual defendants in their individual capacities as to their due process, equal protection, and free speech claims.

         II. Discussion

         A. Individual defendants' appeal

         We have jurisdiction over interlocutory appeals of a district court's denial of qualified immunity as long as the appeal is not based on whether there is a genuine dispute of material fact. White v. McKinley, 519 F.3d 806, 812 (8th Cir. 2008). "We review de novo the district court's denial of qualified immunity." Id. at 813. "In determining whether an officer is entitled to qualified immunity, we ask (1) 'whether, taking the facts in the light most favorable to the injured party, the alleged facts demonstrate that the official's conduct violated a constitutional right'; and (2) whether the asserted constitutional right is clearly established." Wallingford v. Olson, 592 F.3d 888, 892 (8th Cir. 2010) (quoting White, 519 F.3d at 813).

         1. First ...


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