Baldwin v. Estherville, Iowa et al
MEMORANDUM Opinion and Order granting in part and denying in part 41 Motion For Reconsideration re 40 Memorandum Opinion and Order (See Order Text). Signed by Judge Mark W Bennett on 12/21/2016. (des)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF IOWA
No. C 15-3168-MWB
ESTHERVILLE, IOWA; MATT
REINEKE, Individually and in his
Official Capacity as an Officer of the
Estherville Police Department; and
MATT HELLICKSON, Individually and
in his Official Capacity as an Officer of
the Estherville Police Department,
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND
ORDER REGARDING THE
PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR
RECONSIDERATION OF RULING
ON CROSS-MOTIONS FOR
This case, arising from the defendant police officers’ arrest of plaintiff Gregory
Baldwin for riding his ATV on and in a ditch beside a city street, is before me on
Baldwin’s November 22, 2016, Motion For Reconsideration (docket no. 41). Baldwin’s
Motion seeks reconsideration of my November 18, 2016, Memorandum Opinion And
Order Regarding The Parties’ Cross-Motions For Summary Judgment (docket no. 40)
(Summary Judgment Ruling).
In that Summary Judgment Ruling, I granted the
defendants’ July 19, 2016, Motion For Partial Summary Judgment (docket no. 21) as to
Baldwin’s claims of a federal constitutional violation in Count II and state law false arrest
in Count IV; denied those parts of Baldwin’s August 11, 2016, Motion For Partial
Summary Judgment (docket no. 27) seeking summary judgment on his claims of a federal
constitutional violation in Count II and state law false arrest in Count IV; and stayed those
parts of Baldwin’s Motion For Partial Summary Judgment on his claims of Iowa
constitutional violations in Counts I and III pending determination by the Iowa Supreme
Court of whether to take further review in State v. Conklin, No. 14–0764, 863 N.W.2d
301, 2015 WL 1332003 (Iowa Ct. App. March 25, 2015) (table op.). Summary Judgment
Ruling at 29.
Specifically, Baldwin seeks reconsideration of the part of my Summary Judgment
Ruling holding that the officers had probable cause to arrest Baldwin for a violation of
Estherville Ordinance 219-2(2) and, thus, no constitutional violation or false arrest
occurred or, in the alternative, the officers were entitled to qualified immunity, because
their mistake of law as to probable cause was reasonable. Baldwin contends that I decided
that issue sua sponte, without briefing, argument, or the opportunity to be heard by either
party. He also argues that, in light of the clarification in Ordinance 110-102(23), a
reasonable officer would not have had probable cause to arrest him for operating an ATV
in the ditch, which is part of the “road,” not “off road” on “publicly-owned property,”
as prohibited by Ordinance 219-2(2). In their Resistance (docket no. 44), filed December
2, 2016, the defendants contend that Baldwin is simply repeating his argument that
Ordinance 219-2(2) established that the defendants lacked probable cause for his arrest.
They also argue that I rejected this argument, finding that the officers’ mistake was the
same kind as the mistake of law at issue in Heien v. North Carolina, ___ U.S. ___, 135
S. Ct. 530 (2014), involving an arguable reading of uncertain language in the Ordinances.
The defendants assert that, because Baldwin offers nothing new, there is no basis to
conclude that my Summary Judgment Ruling was clearly or manifestly erroneous.
A district court is free to reconsider its ruling on summary judgment motions.
See, e.g., Macquarie Bank Ltd. v. Knickel, 793 F.3d 926, 936 (8th Cir.2015)
(reconsideration of denial of summary judgment). As the defendants point out, I have
addressed the standard applicable to such a reconsideration, as follows:
This court has also noted, “The exact standard
applicable to the granting of a motion under Rule 54(b) is not
clear, though it is typically held to be less exacting than would
be [applicable to] a motion under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 59(e), which is in turn less exacting than the
standards enunciated in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
60(b).” [Wells’ Dairy, Inc. v. Travelers Indemnity Co. of Ill.,
336 F.Supp.2d 906, 909 (N.D. Iowa 2004)]. Although the
standards for reconsideration of interlocutory orders may be
less “exacting” than the standards for reconsideration of final
orders under Rules 59(e) and 60(b), this court has
nevertheless held that it should look to the general principles
under Rules 59(e) and 60(b) for guidance when reconsidering
a summary judgment ruling pursuant to Rule 54(b). Id. (citing
Bragg v. Robertson, 183 F.R.D. 494, 496 (S.D. W.Va.
1998)). Under Rule 59(e), a judgment may be amended to
correct “clearly” or “manifestly” erroneous findings of fact
or conclusions of law. See, e.g., Hagerman v. Yukon Energy
Corp., 839 F.2d 407, 414 (8th Cir.1988); Baker v. John
Morrell & Co., 266 F.Supp.2d 909, 919 (N.D. Iowa 2003).
It is this standard that the court finds is applicable to
reconsideration of a summary judgment ruling under Rule
Kirt v. Fashion Bug # 3252, Inc., 495 F. Supp. 2d 957, 964-65 (N.D. Iowa 2007); see
also Serverside Group, Ltd. v. Tactical 8 Techs., L.L.C., 985 F. Supp. 2d 944, 946-47
(N.D. Iowa 19 2014) (citing this portion of Kirt); Rattray v. Woodbury Cnty., Iowa, 908
F. Supp. 2d 976, 984–85 (N.D. Iowa 2012) (quoting this portion of Kirt). I find no
“clear” or “manifest” error in my disposition of the parties’ cross-motions for summary
“‘Federal district courts have power to grant summary judgment sua sponte when
the losing party is given sufficient advance notice and an adequate opportunity to submit
evidence in opposition.’” Barkley, Inc. v. Gabriel Brothers, Inc., 829 F.3d 1030, 1041
(8th Cir. 2016) (quoting Chrysler Credit Corp. v. Cathey, 977 F.2d 447, 449 (8th Cir.
1992) (per curiam), and also citing FED. R. CIV. P. 56(f)). Here, the issue of whether
or not the officers had probable cause to arrest Baldwin was before me on motions for
summary judgment by both Baldwin and the defendants, and they all had adequate
opportunity to submit evidence in opposition to summary judgment against them. Indeed,
in his motion for reconsideration, Baldwin does not now rely on any evidence that was
not already before me on summary judgment.
To the extent that Baldwin argues that the issue of probable cause under Ordinance
219-2(2) was not at issue, because the parties addressed probable cause based on an arrest
for violating a non-existent Ordinance “E321I.10,” that argument fares no better. Again,
Baldwin and the defendants both put probable cause for his arrest at issue. Furthermore,
I heard oral arguments on the cross-motions for summary judgment, affording the parties
a further opportunity to address any issues overlooked in their briefing. A party can
hardly be heard to complain that the court did not properly limit itself to the part of the
“probable cause” analysis that the parties addressed, when the parties overlooked a
second part of the analysis that was necessarily at issue to determine if any party was
entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c) (summary judgment
is only appropriate when “the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and
admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue of
material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law”
(emphasis added)); see Woods v. DaimlerChrysler Corp., 409 F.3d 984, 990 (8th Cir.
2005) (“Summary judgment is appropriate if viewing the record in the light most
favorable to the nonmoving party, there are no genuine issues of material fact and the
moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”); see generally Celotex Corp.
v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). Specifically, here, as I explained in my
Summary Judgment Ruling, the second part of the “probable cause” analysis is whether
the facts known to the officers would have provided probable cause to arrest Baldwin for
the violation of some other City Ordinance. Summary Judgment Ruling at 22-23 (citing
Greenman v. Jessen, 787 F.3d 882, 889 (8th Cir. 2015), and United States v. Demilia,
771 F.3d 1051, 1054 (8th Cir. 2014)).
Moreover, although he missed the second issue in the “probable cause” analysis,
the need to analyze probable cause under an alternative ordinance, Baldwin did argue in
in support of his own summary judgment motion that Ordinance 219-2(2) negated
probable cause for his arrest. In support of reconsideration, Baldwin now “repackages”
that argument somewhat to focus on the “off-road” requirement for a violation of
Ordinance 219-2(2). Nevertheless, as I concluded in my Summary Judgment Ruling, the
Iowa District Court concluded, after the fact, that “street” in Ordinance 102(23) includes
the entire width of the right-of-way between property lines and that “publicly-owned
property” in Ordinance 219-2(2), to the extent it conflicted with Ordinance 110-102(23)
does not include the “ditch” of a City street. Summary Judgment Ruling at 23-24. In
the absence of this construction, the “ditch” reasonably appears to be both “off-road”
and “publicly-owned property.”
I reiterate my conclusion that this after-the-fact
construction establishes no more than a mistake of law as to the applicability of the
prohibition in Ordinance 219-2(2) to Baldwin’s conduct, which is the same kind of
mistake of law at issue in Heien, involving an arguable reading of uncertain language in
the law. Id. at 24 (citing Heien, 135 S. Ct. at 540). On reconsideration, Baldwin argues
that reasonable officers should have foreseen that construction, but I conclude that
reasonable officers would not necessarily—likely, or “reasonably”—have done so.1
Indeed, it is ironic that, in support of his argument that the officers should have
foreseen the construction of “street” as including the apparently “off-road” “publiclyowned property” of the ditch, Baldwin now relies, in part, on The Handbook of Iowa All(Footnote continued . . .
Upon the foregoing, Baldwin’s November 22, 2016, Motion For Reconsideration
(docket no. 41) is granted, to the extent that I have considered Baldwin’s arguments on
the issue he contends that I improperly decided sua sponte, but his Motion is denied as
to any other relief. I reaffirm my November 18, 2016, Memorandum Opinion And
Order Regarding The Parties’ Cross-Motions For Summary Judgment (docket no. 40)
(Summary Judgment Ruling) in all challenged respects.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
DATED this 21st day of December, 2016.
MARK W. BENNETT
U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF IOWA
Terrain Vehicle and Off-Highway Motorcycle Regulations (Handbook). On summary
judgment, however, Baldwin disparaged the officers’ alleged reliance on the Handbook
to determine whether they had probable cause to arrest him for any offense, because that
Handbook purportedly summarized the applicable law statewide, but did not purport to
interpret the City’s Ordinances.
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