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Lane v. Nading

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

June 20, 2019

Adam Lane Plaintiff - Appellee
v.
Adam Nading, Probation and Parole Office Defendant Joseph M. Boyd, Corporal, Police Officer #4338, Sebastian County Sheriff's Office Defendant-Appellant Fort Smith Police Department; Probation and Parole Office Defendant Adam Lane Plaintiff - Appellee
v.
Adam Nading, Probation and Parole Office Defendant-Appellant Joseph M. Boyd, Corporal, Police Officer #4338, Sebastian County Sheriff's Office; Fort Smith Police Department; Probation and Parole Office Defendants

          Submitted: March 7, 2019

          Appeals from United States District Court for the Western District of Arkansas - Ft. Smith

          Before BENTON, MELLOY, and SHEPHERD, Circuit Judges.

          MELLOY, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         Arkansas state prisoner Adam Lane sued his former parole officer, Adam Nading, and a Fort Smith police officer, Joseph Boyd, (collectively, the "officers") under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for allegedly violating his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. He claimed that the officers failed to knock and announce their presence before entering his hotel room, seizing narcotics and a gun, and arresting him while he was on parole. The district court denied Nading's motion for judgment on the pleadings and Boyd's motion to dismiss on the grounds that the officers were not entitled to qualified immunity. The officers appeal. Having jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291, we reverse.

         I. Background

         The following facts are taken from Lane's amended complaint and the documents he references therein-namely, his original complaint and the Arkansas Supreme Court opinion upholding his conviction. We accept these facts as true and view them in the light most favorable to Lane. See Stanley v. Finnegan, 899 F.3d 623, 625 (8th Cir. 2018) (setting forth the standard of review on "[a]n interlocutory order denying a motion to dismiss based on qualified immunity").

         Lane was on parole in Arkansas in January 2015. As part of his conditions of release from the Arkansas Department of Corrections, Lane consented to warrantless searches and seizures of his "person, place of residence, and motor vehicles." Lane v. State, 513 S.W.3d 230, 233 (Ark. 2017). Lane appeared for his initial parole intake with Nading but subsequently failed to report, a violation of his release conditions.

         That same month, Lane committed another violation of his release conditions: He began staying at a hotel in Fort Smith. The hotel was not his primary residence, and he did not receive prior authorization from Nading before staying there. Nading learned that Lane was staying at the hotel and went with Boyd to find Lane.

         The officers enlisted a hotel worker to open Lane's door for them. Without knocking and announcing their presence, they entered the room. Inside, they found Lane asleep with a female companion. They also found drugs and a handgun. The officers arrested Lane, who signed an affidavit declaring that the drugs were his.

         Lane was convicted in state court of multiple drug charges and simultaneous possession of a firearm. He received a sentence of 70 years' imprisonment. He appealed to the Arkansas Supreme Court, which affirmed. See id. at 237. Relevant to this case, the Arkansas Supreme Court held that the officers violated Lane's Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures because they did not knock and announce their presence before entering the hotel room.[1]

         Lane subsequently brought this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. After Lane amended his complaint, the officers filed their answer. Along with the answer, Nading filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings, and Boyd filed a motion to dismiss. Both argued that they: (1) were immune from liability in their official capacities under the doctrine of sovereign immunity; and (2) were immune from liability in their individual capacities under the doctrine of qualified immunity because they had not violated any of Lane's clearly established constitutional rights.

         The district court granted the officers' motions in part and denied them in part. Regarding the official-capacity claims, the district court held that the doctrine of sovereign immunity applied, so the officers could not be sued. Regarding the individual-capacity claims, the district court said that "there appear[ed] to be a consensus of both binding and persuasive federal law prior to January 27, 2015, that a failure to knock and announce is a violation of the Fourth Amendment absent a reasonable suspicion of exigency or futility." The district court pointed to a Seventh Circuit case, Green v. Butler, 420 F.3d 689 (7th Cir. 2005), and said that Green "held that a failure to knock and announce is not waived when a parolee has signed an agreement permitting warrantless searches." Finally, the district court said that the officers had "conceded that there was no exigency." The district court determined "that [the officers'] actions were unconstitutional." "[W]ithout sufficient information" to determine at that time whether the officers' actions on the day of the search "were those of ...


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