Christensen et al v. Quinn et al
ORDER granting 340 Motion for Summary Judgment; granting 345 Motion for Summary Judgment; granting 386 Motion for Summary Judgment; granting in part and denying in part 413 Motion for Summary Judgment; denying 417 Motion to Strike; deny ing 420 Motion to Strike; granting 431 Motion for Summary Judgment; denying 459 Motion for Summary Judgment; denying 465 Motion for Summary Judgment; denying 469 Motion for Summary Judgment; granting in part and denying in part 472 Mo tion for Summary Judgment; denying 493 Motion for Summary Judgment; denying 496 Motion for Summary Judgment; denying 549 Motion for Summary Judgment; granting 329 Motion for Summary Judgment; granting 333 Motion for Summary Judgment. Signed by U.S. District Judge Karen E. Schreier on 9/10/2014. (KC)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF SOUTH DAKOTA
DANIEL REED CHRISTENSEN,
SECOND CHANCE RESCUE
JAMES ADAMSON, individually and in
his official capacity as a Turner County
LUVERNE LANGEROCK, individually
and in his official capacity as a Turner
JOHN OVERBY, individually and in his
official capacity as a Turner County
STEVE SCHMEICHEL, individually and
in his official capacity as a Turner County
LYLE VAN HOVE, individually and in
his official capacity as a Turner County
individually and in her official capacity as
Turner County State's Attorney;
BYRON NOGELMEIER, individually
and in his official capacity as Turner
JAY OSTREM, individually and in his
official capacity as a Turner County
JIM SEVERSON, individually and in his
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND
ORDER ON MOTIONS FOR
official capacity as a Special Agent for the
Division of Criminal Investigation;
LARA CUNNINGHAM, individually
and in her official capacity as a Revenue
Agent for the South Dakota Department
of Revenue and Regulations;
THE HUMANE SOCIETY OF THE
UNITED STATES a/k/a HSUS;
DR. ADAM BAUKNECHT;
EMERGENCY ANIMAL RESCUE
SANCTUARY a/k/a EARS;
DR. DAWN DALE; and
TURNER COUNTY, SOUTH
Pending are motions for summary judgment by all defendants. Plaintiff, Daniel
Reed Christensen, opposes each motion, and separately moves for summary judgment
against defendants Humane Society of the United States, Wayne Pacelle, Scottlund
Haisley, Dr. Dawn Dale, Dr. Adam Bauknecht, United Animal Nations, Tiffani
Landeen-Hoeke, Rosie Quinn, Second Chance Rescue Center, Jim Severson, Lara
Cunningham, and Jay Ostrem.
Viewing the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and
noting all disputes of material facts, the facts are as follows:
Christensen lives on a farm in Turner County, South Dakota. Some time before
2009, Christensen began breeding and selling dogs, both on his property and that of
his son David and daughter-in-law Kelly.
Quinn is the founder of Second Chance Rescue Center (SCRC), a nonprofit
corporation whose mission is to prevent cruelty to animals. During 2009, Quinn was
also the executive director of SCRC. SCRC had a contract with Turner County to
provide animal control services for Turner County. Adamson, Langerock, Overby,
Schmeichel, and Van Hove were, at all relevant times, the county commissioners for
Turner County. Landeen-Hoeke was the Turner County state’s attorney. Ostrem was
a Turner County deputy sheriff. Nogelmeier was the Turner County Sheriff. Severson
was an agent with the South Dakota Department of Criminal Investigation.
Cunningham was a revenue agent with the South Dakota Department of Revenue.
HSUS is a national animal protection organization. Pacelle is the CEO of
HSUS. In 2009, Haisley was the director of emergency services for HSUS. UAN1 is a
private, nonprofit entity that organizes volunteers to provide temporary care for
displaced animals. HSUS and UAN regularly coordinated on joint operations.
Dr. Bauknecht is a veterinarian licensed in Wisconsin who worked for an animal
shelter in Wisconsin and previously volunteered with UAN. Dr. Dale is a Sioux Falls
UAN is identified in the caption and the amended complaint (Docket 133) as
Emergency Animal Rescue Sanctuary, or EARS. EARS, which actually stood for
Emergency Animal Rescue Service, is not an entity but was a program administered
by UAN. See Docket 338 at 2 n.1.
veterinarian who works for Dale Animal Hospital. Dr. Dale also served as a member
of the board of directors for SCRC.
In early 2009, Quinn received a report that Christensen was selling dogs over
the internet without a sales tax license. Quinn reported this information to LandeenHoeke, who in turn passed the information on to Cunningham. Cunningham
determined that Christensen did not have a state sales tax license and prepared a
written notice informing Christensen that he was operating as a retailer without a
license and had three days to obtain a license, commonly known as a three-day notice
to quit. At Landeen-Hoeke’s request, Cunningham also prepared an affidavit so
Landeen-Hoeke could charge Christensen with the misdemeanor offense of operating
a business without a sales tax license.
Cunningham requested the assistance of Turner County law enforcement to act
as an escort when she served the three-day notice. Severson, who was in the area
working on a murder investigation, volunteered to accompany Cunningham. Ostrem
and Deputy Sheriff Jared Overweg, who is not named as a defendant here, were
responsible for serving an arrest warrant on Christensen for the misdemeanor charge.
One of the law enforcement officials requested the presence of animal control at
Christensen’s residence, although there is a factual dispute regarding which party
requested animal control’s assistance.
On April 9, 2009, Cunningham drove to Christensen’s property to serve the
three-day notice. She was accompanied by Severson, Ostrem, Overweg, Quinn, and
Dana Wigg, an animal control officer who is not a defendant in this matter. When the
party arrived at Christensen’s property, a garage door was open and vehicles were
present. When Christensen did not answer his door, Cunningham began to walk
around the other buildings on the property to see if she could locate Christensen.
During this time, Cunningham was accompanied by at least some of the other law
enforcement officials, but it is unclear how closely the group stayed together.
When Christensen could not be located at his property, Cunningham and
Severson decided to travel to David and Kelly Christensen’s property to see if
Christensen could be found there. The rest of the party left Christensen’s property.
After it became clear that no one was present at David and Kelly’s property,
Cunningham and Severson returned to Christensen’s property and waited on the side
of the road across from Christensen’s driveway for Christensen to return.
When Christensen returned, Severson notified Ostrem. At that time,
Cunningham served the three-day notice on Christensen. Christensen gave
Cunningham permission to enter his house for the purpose of examining his business
records. Cunningham and Severson then left Christensen’s property to copy the
records he provided. Ostrem arrested Christensen pursuant to the misdemeanor
warrant and took Christensen in for booking. Christensen was released shortly
thereafter. Subsequently, Christensen pleaded guilty to operating a business without a
sales tax license, and he obtained a license within the three-day period.
In August 2009, Quinn received at least one complaint about a sick
Weimaraner puppy that had been sold by Christensen. Based on that report, Quinn
obtained a search warrant for David and Kelly Christensen’s property, where she
believed the Weimaraners were located. She executed that warrant on August 27,
2009, accompanied by Wigg and Ostrem. No Weimaraners were located on David
and Kelly’s property, and Ostrem noted that the health of the dogs present appeared
adequate, although the living conditions observed were substandard. Quinn and Wigg
also went to Christensen’s property on August 27, 2009, although the record is in
dispute as to how long they were on Christensen’s property or what they did while
they were there.
Based on the conditions observed at Christensen’s property on April 9 and at
both properties on August 27, Quinn decided to apply for search and seizure warrants
for both properties. Quinn sent the draft affidavits in support of the warrant
applications to Landeen-Hoeke for review. Landeen-Hoeke instructed Quinn to omit
information from the warrant applications that had been obtained on April 9. The
warrant applications also did not contain information that had been observed on
August 27 at David and Kelly’s property and at Dan Christensen’s property.
On the morning of September 2, 2009, Quinn, Wigg, and Landeen-Hoeke
appeared before State Circuit Court Judge Tim Bjorkman. Judge Bjorkman granted
the search and seizure warrant for David and Kelly’s property, but denied the
application for Christensen’s property. Judge Bjorkman allowed Quinn to testify, but
again denied the warrant application. Landeen-Hoeke asked Judge Bjorkman if he
would consider additional evidence observed by Quinn when she walked around
Christensen’s property. After Judge Bjorkman said he would consider that evidence,
Landeen-Hoeke and Quinn stepped out of the courtroom briefly. When they
returned, Quinn testified about her observations from April 9. After hearing the
additional information, Judge Bjorkman issued the search and seizure warrant for
In the days leading up to September 2, 2009, Quinn reached out to HSUS for
assistance in removing what she anticipated to be a large number of dogs from both
properties. HSUS arranged for a team, led by Haisley, to assist Turner County law
enforcement with the search and seizure warrants. UAN, which frequently partnered
with HSUS on such operations, arranged to have some volunteers present to care for
the dogs once they were removed. Temporary housing for the dogs was set up at the
Turner County Fairgrounds.
After Judge Bjorkman issued the two search and seizure warrants, Quinn,
Ostrem, and the HSUS team proceeded to David and Kelly’s property. Once all the
dogs were removed from that property, the team moved to Christensen’s property. In
all, 173 dogs2 were seized from both properties and transported to the Turner County
Fairgrounds, where volunteers examined each animal. HSUS filmed its activities at the
properties and the fairgrounds.
Subsequently, a grand jury indicted Christensen on 173 counts of inhumane
treatment of an animal. While the criminal charges were pending, some of the dogs
seized from Christensen died, while others were adopted or placed in foster care.
After a suppression hearing, State Court Magistrate Judge Tami Bern ruled that Quinn
misled Judge Bjorkman when requesting the September 2 warrants and ordered the
evidence from the warrants suppressed. Subsequently, the criminal charges against
Christensen were dismissed on July 2, 2010. Docket 73-5.
After the criminal charges against him were dismissed, Christensen3 filed this
suit, alleging a conspiracy to commit various constitutional violations and other statelaw causes of action. According to Christensen, the defendants conspired to (1)
illegally search his property on April 9, 2009; (2) illegally seize his property and
deprive him of his due process rights on September 2, 2009; (3) commit the torts of
Records show 173 dogs were initially seized but one was euthanized by court
order, so only 172 were kept at the Turner County Fairgrounds following the seizure.
See Docket 369-37 at 5.
Initially, David and Kelly Christensen were named as plaintiffs. See Docket
133. The parties stipulated to the dismissal, with prejudice, of David and Kelly’s
claims, which the court dismissed on December 17, 2012. Docket 193.
malicious prosecution and intentional infliction of emotional distress; (4) violate the
South Dakota Animal Enterprise Protection Act; and (5) engage in conduct
amounting to criminal trespass and intentional damage to private property. See Docket
133 (amended complaint). All defendants have moved for summary judgment, and
Christensen has also moved for summary judgment against some, but not all,
Summary judgment is appropriate if the movant “shows that there is no
genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). The moving party can meet this burden by
presenting evidence that there is no dispute of material fact or by showing that the
nonmoving party has not presented evidence to support an element of its case on
which it bears the ultimate burden of proof. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 32223 (1986). To avoid summary judgment, “[t]he nonmoving party may not ‘rest on
mere allegations or denials, but must demonstrate on the record the existence of
specific facts which create a genuine issue for trial.’ ” Mosley v. City of Northwoods, Mo.,
Also pending are: Christensen’s motion to strike filings by Landeen-Hoeke
(Docket 417); UAN’s motion to strike Christensen’s surreply (Docket 420), which is
joined by Drs. Bauknecht and Dale and by Landeen-Hoeke; and a reply to an
objection which contains a motion to strike filed by Christensen (Docket 583). The
filings in question do not prejudice any party, nor do they add unique or novel
arguments to the extensive record already before the court. Consequently, the
motions to strike are denied.
415 F.3d 908, 910 (8th Cir. 2005) (quoting Krenik v. County of Le Sueur, 47 F.3d 953,
957 (8th Cir. 1995)).
Summary judgment is precluded if there is a factual dispute that could affect
the outcome of the case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). For
purposes of a summary judgment motion, the court views the facts and the inferences
drawn from such facts “in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion.”
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 588 (1986).
Official Capacity Claims
Cunningham and Severson
The Eleventh Amendment generally bars suits for damages against a state or
state officials in their official capacities unless the state waives its sovereign immunity.
See, e.g., Will v. Mich. Dep’t of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 66 (1989). To support his official
capacity claims against Severson, Christensen asserts that the state could be liable for
failure to train Severson, or for deliberate indifference to Severson’s allegedly poor job
performance indicated by inmate suits and past credibility questions, Severson’s
aggressiveness, and the fact that Severson took time off from a murder investigation
to assist with the service of a three-day notice. Docket 367 at 53-57. Christensen
contends that those facts create “a jury question as to whether Severson qualifies for
11th Amendment protection.” Docket 367 at 57.
Immunity from suit is a question of law for the court, not a question of fact for
a jury to decide. See, e.g., Lopez v. Mendez, 432 F.3d 829, 835 (8th Cir. 2005) (discussing
sovereign immunity); Entergy Ark., Inc. v. Nebraska, 358 F.3d 528, 556 (8th Cir. 2004)
(“Whether a state has waived its sovereign immunity is a question of law which we
review de novo.”). Christensen fails to address how South Dakota waived its
immunity under the Eleventh Amendment. The cases cited by Christensen deal with
liability for supervisors or for local governments, not state governments.5 Because
there is no evidence that South Dakota has consented to suit, Severson is entitled to
summary judgment on Christensen’s official capacity claims.
Furthermore, neither a state nor its officials acting in their official capacities are
“persons” who may be sued for money damages under § 1983. See Lapides v. Bd. of
Regents of Univ. Sys. of Ga., 535 U.S. 613, 617 (2002); Will, 491 U.S. at 71; McLean v.
Gordon, 548 F.3d 613, 618 (8th Cir. 2008). The only relief requested by Christensen is
money damages. Docket 133 at 29-30. Accordingly, Christensen’s official capacity
In his brief opposing summary judgment for various Turner County
defendants, Christensen recognizes the difference between state and county
governments. See Docket 443 at 27 (citing Miener v. State of Missouri, 673 F.2d 969, 980
(8th Cir. 1982) (“Controlling case law holds that a county, as well as the school board
of such a political subdivision, does not occupy the same position as a state for
eleventh amendment purposes.”)).
claims against Severson for money damages also fail because Severson, in his official
capacity, is not a proper party under § 1983.
The amended complaint asserts claims against Cunningham in both her
individual and official capacities. Christensen concedes, however, that there is no
evidence to support a claim against Cunningham in her official capacity.6 Docket 367
at 54. Thus, Cunningham is entitled to summary judgment with regard to the claims
alleged against her in her official capacity.
Adamson, Langerock, Overby, Schmeichel, Van Hove,
Landeen-Hoeke, Nogelmeier, Ostrem, and Turner County
Christensen alleges that Turner County, the Turner County Sheriff, a deputy
sheriff, the Turner County state’s attorney,7 and the Turner County Commissioners8
also participated in the conspiracy to deprive him of his Fourth Amendment rights.
To subject the county defendants to liability in their official capacities,9 Christensen
It is unclear if Christensen intended this concession to apply generally to all
his official capacity claims against Cunningham, or just his official capacity claim
against Cunningham in Count I. Even if Christensen intended to limit the concession
to Count I, he failed to oppose Cunningham’s argument that she is entitled to
Eleventh Amendment immunity on the claims against her for money damages in her
official capacity or that she is not a “person” amenable to suit under § 1983. Failure to
oppose a basis for summary judgment constitutes a waiver of that argument. Satcher v.
Univ. of Ark. at Pine Bluff Bd. of Tr., 558 F.3d 731, 735 (8th Cir. 2009).
Landeen-Hoeke is named in her individual and official capacities in Count I
Christensen does not name Overby as a defendant in Count II.
In their initial brief supporting their motion for summary judgment, the
must show that the constitutional violations alleged stemmed from an
unconstitutional policy or custom. See Hafer v. Melo, 502 U.S. 21, 25 (1991) (“Because
the real party in interest in an official-capacity suit is the governmental entity and not
the named official, ‘the entity’s ‘policy or custom’ must have played a part in the
violation of federal law.’ ” (quoting Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 166 (1985))).
“Assuming the existence of an unconstitutional [government] custom, a § 1983
county commissioners, Nogelmeier, Ostrem, and Turner County assert Eleventh
Amendment immunity and claim that Christensen cannot show an unconstitutional
policy or custom. In their reply brief, however, the county commissioners,
Nogelmeier, Ostrem, and Turner County appear to properly concede that the
Eleventh Amendment does not bar suits against county officials, and they rely on the
defense of a lack of an unconstitutional policy or custom. See Docket 533 at 2 (“At
page 28 of his Brief, Plaintiff correctly states the general law regarding defendants
such as the individual Turner County Defendants, with regard to official capacity
claims . . . .”).
Landeen-Hoeke also asserts Eleventh Amendment immunity. See Docket 414
at 17-18. Unlike the other defendants, Landeen-Hoeke does not concede this issue,
and cites to decisions extending Eleventh Amendment immunity to county
prosecutors. See Docket 531 at 15 (citing Hayden v. Nevada Cnty., Ark., 2009 WL
596534, at *5 (W.D. Ark. March 6, 2009); St. John v. Fritch, 2012 WL 3028032, at *7
(S.D. Ind. July 24, 2012)). St. John discussed an Indiana statute on point; the fact that
the attorney in question would be defended by the Attorney General of Indiana; and
the fact that a judgment would be paid by the state of Indiana. St. John, 2012 WL
3028032, at *7. Landeen-Hoeke cites no authority that the state of South Dakota,
rather than Turner County, would pay for a judgment against her in her official
capacity. See Miener, 673 F.2d at 980 (examining which governmental entity would pay
for a judgment in determining the availability of Eleventh Amendment immunity).
Here, Landeen-Hoeke was not defended by the Attorney General’s office and the
salary of the state’s attorney is set and paid by the county commissioners pursuant to
SDCL 7-7-12. Therefore, the court will evaluate Christensen’s official capacity claims
against Landeen-Hoeke using the standard applicable to Turner County. Under these
facts, the use of state or county immunity standards does not change the outcome.
claimant cannot recover unless the claimant also proves that the custom caused the
resulting injury.” Ricketts v. City of Columbia, Mo., 36 F.3d 775, 779 (8th Cir. 1994).
“ ‘[I]t is when execution of a government’s policy or custom . . . inflicts the injury that
the government as an entity is responsible under § 1983.’ ” Id. (alterations and
emphasis retained) (quoting Monell v. New York City Dep’t of Social Serv., 426 U.S. 658,
Christensen points to the following policies or customs of Turner County: the
contract with SCRC giving Quinn the powers of a peace officer based on a repealed
statute; Nogelmeier’s policy of turning all animal control cases over to Quinn; and the
policy or custom of giving Landeen-Hoeke too much power and the failure to remove
her from office. See Docket 443 at 28 (contract with SCRC); id. at 29 (Nogelmeier’s
practice of allowing Quinn to handle the case); id. at 30-31 (Landeen-Hoeke’s
First, Christensen has failed to show that the allegedly unconstitutional policies
are actually unconstitutional. The fact that the legislature repealed the statute upon
which the contract between Turner County and SCRC was based calls into question
the validity of the arrangement between the county and SCRC, but it does not
implicate the federal constitutionality of the arrangement. Second, Christensen
provides no support for the proposition that Nogelmeier’s policy of allowing a private
party with a government contract to investigate animal cruelty or neglect cases is
unconstitutional. See, e.g., Filarsky v. Delia, 132 S. Ct. 1657, 1665-66 (2012) (“Indeed, it
is often when there is a particular need for specialized knowledge or expertise that the
government must look outside its permanent work force to secure the services of
private individuals.”). Third, even if Landeen-Hoeke is the inept official Christensen
alleges, it would not be unconstitutional for Turner County to employ her.10
Furthermore, Christensen fails to show any of the alleged policies to be the
cause of a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. Even if the facts relating to the
alleged conspiracy are true, the source of Christensen’s harm is not any of the policies
that he claims are unconstitutional, but rather the source of his harm is the conduct of
the individuals. Additionally, Christensen fails to identify evidence of similar prior
behavior amounting to a custom by any of these officials. Because Christensen cannot
show that the policies he alleges as the bases for the county defendants’ liability are
unconstitutional or that the policies themselves inflicted the injury he claims to have
suffered, the county defendants are entitled to summary judgment on the official
capacity claims brought against them.
It is unclear what steps Christensen thinks Turner County should have taken
to remove Landeen-Hoeke—a duly elected public official—from office. Christensen
relies on the proposition that the county failed to consult the attorney general to
determine if Landeen-Hoeke could be removed from office and this failure
constitutes the requisite unlawful policy or custom. See Docket 443 at 30 n.67. But
Christensen alleges no further basis to establish the unconstitutionality of allowing
Landeen-Hoeke to continue to act as the state’s attorney.
Individual Capacity Claims
Section 1983 provides a cause of action against any “person who, under the
color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any state” causes the
deprivation of a right protected by federal law or the United States Constitution. 42
U.S.C. § 1983. In this case, Christensen alleges that the defendants conspired to
deprive him of his constitutional rights. “To prove a § 1983 conspiracy claim against a
particular defendant, the plaintiff must show: that the defendant conspired with
others to deprive him or her of a constitutional right; that at least one of the alleged
co-conspirators engaged in an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy; and that the
overt act injured the plaintiff.” Askew v. Millerd, 191 F.3d 953, 957 (8th Cir. 1999). A
plaintiff “is additionally required to prove a deprivation of a constitutional right or
privilege in order to prevail on a § 1983 civil conspiracy claim.” Id.
A conspiracy may be, and often is, shown by circumstantial evidence. See Small
v. McCrystal, 708 F.3d 997, 1010 (8th Cir. 2013). “ ‘The question of the existence of a
conspiracy to deprive the plaintiffs of their constitutional rights should not be taken
from the jury if there is a possibility the jury could infer from the circumstances a
‘meeting of the minds’ or understanding among the conspirators to achieve the
conspiracy’s aims.’ ” Id. (quoting White v. McKinley, 519 F.3d 806, 816 (8th Cir. 2008)).
Nonetheless, “ ‘[a] party may not cry ‘conspiracy’ and throw himself on the jury’s
mercy . . . . There must be a genuine issue about a material fact[.]’ ” Mershon v. Beasley,
994 F.2d 449, 452 (8th Cir. 1993) (quoting Gramenos v. Jewel Companies, 797 F.2d 432,
436 (7th Cir. 1986)). “To advance past the summary judgment stage, [a plaintiff] must
‘allege with particularity and specifically demonstrate material facts that the defendants
reached an agreement.’ ” Reasonover v. St. Louis Cnty., Mo., 447 F.3d 569, 582 (8th Cir.
2006) (quoting Marti v. City of Maplewood, Mo., 57 F.3d 680, 685 (8th Cir. 1995)).
Count II alleges a violation of Christensen’s Fourth Amendment rights.
According to Christensen, defendants Severson, Nogelmeier, Ostrem, Cunningham,
Adamson, Langerock, Schmeichel, Van Hove, Quinn, SCRC, and Turner County
conspired to deprive Christensen of his Fourth Amendment rights when they served
the three-day notice and arrest warrant on Christensen on April 9, 2009.11
Christensen does not allege in his amended complaint that Landeen-Hoeke is
liable under Count II for the events of April 9, 2009. See Docket 133 at 23 (listing
defendants). Christensen contends that he mistakenly left Landeen-Hoeke off the list
of defendants in Count II, and that because she had notice of the claims against her,
he should be allowed to include Landeen-Hoeke in Count II. See Docket 484 at 54-55.
Christensen never moved to amend the complaint, and the deadline to amend has
passed. Christensen makes no effort to show good cause for the omission of
Landeen-Hoeke from Count II, nor does he attempt to correct the omission except to
assert that everyone knew Landeen-Hoeke should have been included. In this case,
Landeen-Hoeke relied on the omission in Count II in moving for summary judgment,
see Docket 414 at 23, Docket 531 at 5-6, and would be prejudiced by allowing
Christensen to simply incorporate Landeen-Hoeke by reference in a response brief.
Landeen-Hoeke’s actions are nonetheless relevant because they may show that
one or more of the defendants named in Count II conspired with Landeen-Hoeke, or
that Landeen-Hoeke joined the conspiracy alleged in Count I. But because
Christensen did not include Landeen-Hoeke as a defendant in Count II, she cannot be
Fourth Amendment Protection
Before addressing whether any defendant is entitled to qualified immunity on
Count II, the court will examine whether Christensen can show a Fourth Amendment
violation on April 9, 2009. See Askew, 191 F.3d at 957 (requiring a plaintiff to show a
deprivation of a constitutional right or privilege).
The Fourth Amendment provides that the “right of the people to be secure in
their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures,
shall not be violated.” U.S. Const. amend. IV. “[W]hen it comes to the Fourth
Amendment, the home is first among equals.” Florida v. Jardines, 133 S. Ct. 1409, 1414
(2013). A Fourth Amendment violation occurs when an officer commits an
unlicensed physical intrusion into a protected area or violates a person’s reasonable
expectation of privacy. See id. at 1417 (“The Katz reasonable-expectations test ‘has
been added to, not substituted for,’ the traditional property-based understanding of the
Fourth Amendment, and so is unnecessary to consider when the government gains
evidence by physically intruding on constitutionally protected areas.” (italics in
original) (quoting United States v. Jones, 132 S. Ct. 945, 951-52 (2012)).
liable on Count II. See Jackson v. Mo. Bd. of Probation and Parole, 306 F. App’x 333, 33334 (8th Cir. 2009) (holding that even a pro se defendant was required to name the
Christensen identifies evidence that at least some of the officers came up to his
house before walking around his property. See Docket 369-3 at 3 (stating that
Cunningham knocked on the door to Christensen’s house on April 9, 2009). But
approaching a house and knocking on a door does not violate the Fourth
Amendment. See Florida v. Jardines, 133 S. Ct. 1409, 1416 (2013) (“Thus, a police
officer not armed with a warrant may approach a home and knock, precisely because
that is ‘no more than any private citizen might do.’ ” (quoting Kentucky v. King, 131 S.
Ct. 1849, 1862 (2011)); Nikolas v. City of Omaha, 605 F.3d 539, 545-46 (8th Cir. 2010)
(“It is clear that, without a warrant, Benson could enter the property through its open
gate and proceed up the driveway to the front door of the main residence . . . .
Likewise, viewing the exterior of the garage while proceeding up the driveway
required no warrant.”). Furthermore, Christensen does not identify any evidence that
any official intruded on his home itself beyond approaching the door and knocking.
See Docket 369-12 at 7-8 (testifying that when Christensen did not answer his door,
the group looked around the outbuildings for Christensen but never went behind his
house). Christensen also does not contend that Cunningham’s presence in his house
or inspection of his business records, both of which took place after Christensen was
home and with his consent, violated the Fourth Amendment. See Docket 369-3 at 6-7
(stating that Christensen consented to law enforcement entering his house and
inspecting his business records). Because no Fourth Amendment violation took place
at Christensen’s home itself, the court must determine whether the other buildings on
Christensen’s property enjoy Fourth Amendment protection.
The Fourth Amendment protects a person’s home and the area immediately
around it to which “the intimate activity associated with the sanctity of a man’s home
and privacies of life” extend. Oliver v. United States, 466 U.S. 170, 180 (1984). This
protection, however, “does not extend past the curtilage. Officers are permitted to
enter a resident’s property to observe buildings located outside the home’s curtilage.”
United States v. Gerard, 362 F.3d 484, 487 (8th Cir. 2004). Property outside the curtilage
does not enjoy Fourth Amendment protection, and society does not recognize a
reasonable privacy interest in open fields. Oliver, 466 U.S. at 179-80. Accordingly, to
demonstrate a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights, Christensen must show that
the areas entered by the government agents on April 9, 2009, were part of the
curtilage of his home.
It is unclear whether a curtilage determination is a factual or legal question.
Following the Supreme Court’s decision in Ornelas v. United States, 517 U.S. 690 (1996),
several circuits have treated curtilage determinations as legal conclusions and have
applied de novo review. See, e.g., United States v. Cousins, 455 F.3d 1116, 1121 (10th Cir.
2006) (collecting cases). Although the Eighth Circuit has applied clear error review to
curtilage determinations at least twice post-Ornelas, it has recognized a potential
conflict between clear error review and Ornelas. See United States v. Bausby, 720 F.3d
652, 655-56 (8th Cir. 2013); United States v. Wells, 648 F.3d 671, 675-76 (8th Cir. 2011)
(“[W]ere we the first panel of our court to review a district court’s curtilage
determination post-Ornelas, we might well hold that de novo review applies to such
determinations. But we are not the first. . . . Having acknowledged the conflict in our
holdings, it is not within our power to resolve it. Nor would resolution of that conflict
affect the result in this case.”). Similarly, the outcome in this case does not depend on
whether a curtilage determination is a question of law or fact. There are no genuine
factual disputes that might impact whether the buildings in question are part of the
curtilage of Christensen’s home.
To decide whether outbuildings are part of the curtilage, a court should
consider “the proximity of the buildings to the farmhouse, whether the farmhouse
and [buildings] are within the same enclosure, the nature and uses of the [buildings]
and the steps [Christensen] took to protect the [buildings] from being seen by others.”
Gerard, 362 F.3d at 487 (citing United States v. Dunn, 480 U.S. 294, 300 (1987)).
“[T]hese factors are not applied mechanically or in isolation . . . .” Id. at 488.
The buildings surrounding Christensen’s home are various distances from
Christensen’s house itself. See Docket 174-9 at 9 (listing distances). The measured
distances range from 18.5 feet to 284 feet. Id. But distance alone is not determinative.
Gerard, 362 F.3d at 487 (“The distance alone, however, is not determinative that [a
building] should be treated as an adjunct of the house.”). Similarly, some of the
buildings are located on the same side of the driveway as the house but outside of
what appears to be a small yard, while others sit across the driveway from the house.
See Docket 337 at 21. Significantly, Christensen emphasizes that the buildings were
separated from the house by chain-link fences. See Docket 367 at 37-40 (arguing that
the outbuildings were enclosed to prevent intrusion); Docket 369-17 (showing two
barns separately enclosed by chain-link fences).
Pictures of the outbuildings demonstrate that the buildings on Christensen’s
property12 (1) were separated from the home by chain-link fences and kennels that
contained dogs, debris, and water dishes containing discolored and dirty water; (2)
were surrounded by overgrown vegetation and in some instances large amounts of
dog feces; and (3) were boarded up where windows had once been but contained
holes through which dogs could pass from the interior of the building to the kennels.
See Docket 351-4 (showing the kennels and overgrown vegetation outside one of
Christensen’s buildings); Docket 419-1 at 1-4 (showing buildings surrounded by
chain-link kennels, overgrown vegetation, and dog feces, and showing covered
windows and holes in the sides of buildings); Docket 419-3 at 6 (showing a large
amount of feces and mud surrounding a building); Docket 430-1 (showing a dog
In some instances, it is difficult to tell whether a given photo depicts Dan
Christensen’s property or the property of David and Kelly Christensen. Nonetheless,
all photos provided depict buildings in similar conditions to those described here.
skeleton outside one of the buildings). Additionally, Christensen designates as
evidence videos shot by HSUS personnel that further illustrate the state of the
outbuildings on Christensen’s property. See Docket 361-28, scene 10 (depicting
conditions); scene 11 (same); scene 13 (same); scene 16 (same); see also United States v.
Mooring, 137 F.3d 595, 597 (8th Cir. 1998) (“After seeing a video tape of the barn’s
interior, the district court noted ‘that a picture is worth a thousand words,’ and the
video confirmed the barn was not associated with the Moorings’ domestic life.”). In
fact, Christensen himself argues that the condition and structure of the buildings
should have indicated to any reasonable officer that Christensen was not inside,
indicating that the use of the buildings was not consistent with human presence. See
Docket 367 at 7 (discussing finding a dead rat behind one of the “rickety” doors); id.
at 43 (“Given that Cunningham also claims she couldn’t even figure out how
[Christensen] could have entered the building and have managed to shut the rickety
door behind him so that it stayed shut in the manner in which Cunningham and
Severson found it, makes any claim that Severson and Cunningham were legitimately
looking into the building in order to locate Christensen preposterous.”).
In considering the steps Christensen took to protect the buildings from
observation, the buildings are set off from the highway by a row of trees, but they
would be visible from the driveway as a visitor approached the house. See Docket 337
at 21. “The fact that one’s view from the road of the [buildings at issue] is obscured
by the trees does not itself establish that [those buildings] should be included within
the farmhouse’s Fourth Amendment protection.” Gerard, 362 F.3d at 488. Although
they are surrounded by chain-link fences, such fences do not limit visual observation
and offer little protection from inspection. See United States v. Tolar, 268 F.3d 530, 532
(7th Cir. 2001) (“[A] chain-link fence does little to assert a privacy interest (as opposed
to property interest) in details visible from outside the fence.”). In some instances it
would have been possible to peer into the interior of the buildings through holes. See,
e.g., Docket 419-1 at 1-4 (showing holes).
After weighing the four Dunn factors, the court concludes that the outbuildings
on Christensen’s property were not part of the curtilage of his home.13 Although some
of the buildings were close to the home, some were a great distance. The buildings
were separately enclosed by fences, which set them off from the house itself. Overall,
the layout of Christensen’s property weighs in favor of a finding that the buildings are
not part of the curtilage of his house. The buildings were also not protected from
Magistrate Judge Bern concluded that the outbuildings were part of the
curtilage and that Christensen had a subjective and reasonable expectation of privacy
in those buildings. See Docket 329-9 at 8-9; Docket 369-10 at 7. Magistrate Judge
Bern’s findings do not bind this court. Furthermore, Magistrate Judge Bern offered
little explanation for her determination that the buildings were part of the curtilage of
Christensen’s property, stating only that “[t]he buildings and surrounding fenced area
where the dogs were housed are curtilage of the Defendant’s home in light of the
proximity of the area to the home, the fact that the buildings are enclosed and fenced
in to house animals and the same are not generally visible to people passing by.”
Docket 329-9 at 8-9. It seems that her ruling on the curtilage issue was an alternative
explanation for her finding that the September 2, 2009, warrants should be suppressed
because Christensen had a property interest in the dogs seized.
public view. Although they would not have been easily visible from the road
bordering Christensen’s property, they would have been visible from the driveway,
where any member of the public might stand. The fences would not have obstructed
one’s view of the buildings, and the interiors would have been visible to anyone who
could approach and look through one of the holes.
The most persuasive factor, though, is the nature and use of the buildings.
Their appearance makes it clear that the buildings were not associated with domestic
activities of an intimate or private nature. They were fenced off, surrounded by
overgrown vegetation, dilapidated, unlit, and in several cases were surrounded by large
amounts of waste. The state of these buildings is inconsistent with “the intimate
activity associated with the sanctity of a man’s home and privacies of life . . . .” See
Oliver, 466 U.S. at 180. Therefore, the outbuildings on Christensen’s property are not
part of the curtilage of his home and do not share the home’s Fourth Amendment
Objectively Reasonable Expectation of Privacy
Christensen contends that even if the buildings on his property were not part
of the curtilage of his house, they were still protected by the Fourth Amendment
because he had a reasonable expectation of privacy. See Docket 367 at 37-40.
Property, even private property, outside the curtilage is generally considered an “open
field,” which enjoys no Fourth Amendment protection. See Oliver, 466 U.S. at 178-80.
“But the open fields doctrine only allows a search of what is in plain view in the open
field. It does not justify a warrantless search of a man-made enclosure found in an
open field.” United States v. Pennington, 287 F.3d 739, 745 (8th Cir. 2002).
There is a factual dispute about whether Cunningham, Severson, or Quinn
opened a door to one of the buildings, stepped inside, and called for Christensen
before leaving. In ruling on defendants’ motions for summary judgment, the court
views the facts in the light most favorable to Christensen and assumes that each of
those three individuals entered at least one of the buildings. To demonstrate a Fourth
Amendment violation stemming from an entry into the outbuildings themselves,
Christensen must establish that he asserted a subjective expectation of privacy in the
outbuildings, and that his subjective expectation is objectively reasonable. United States
v. Douglas, 744 F.3d 1065, 1069 (8th Cir. 2014).
If Christensen had a subjective expectation of privacy in his outbuildings, the
court must then decide whether that expectation was objectively reasonable. Id. (“The
first question is a question of fact, the second is a question of law.”). The Supreme
Court’s decision in Dunn and the Eighth Circuit’s subsequent decision in Pennington
make clear that although an officer may stand in an open field and observe activity in
an enclosed structure, even from immediately next to the structure, law enforcement
usually should obtain a warrant before entering a structure in an open field. Dunn, 480
U.S. at 304 (noting that the officers did not enter the barn but instead stood in an
open field and “peered into the barn’s open front”); Pennington, 287 F.3d at 745 (“The
Supreme Court made that clear in Dunn when it emphasized that the investigating
officers looked through the window of a barn that was outside the curtilage, but did
not enter the barn until they obtained a warrant.”).
In this case, the barns were enclosed by chain-link fences. The doors to the
barns were closed although not locked. Although the siding on the buildings
contained a number of holes, the interiors were unlit. As a result, the officials would
have had to open the doors and enter the buildings to see whether Christensen was
within the interior.
Those facts are significant in determining whether Christensen had an
objectively reasonable expectation of privacy in his outbuildings. The fences around
the buildings offered some protection against encroachment. The buildings were
enclosed and had doors, but the doors were not locked. See Pennington, 287 F.3d at
745-46 (relying on the fact that the bunker had no door impeding access to find that
there was no objectively reasonable expectation of privacy). Although the buildings
had holes in the walls, the interiors were not easily visible through those holes due to
the lack of interior lighting. Objects in the interior of the barn were not openly visible
to a person standing outside, making it necessary for law enforcement to open the
doors to the buildings to see inside. Because inspection of the buildings would have
required a physical entry, Christensen had an objectively reasonable expectation of
privacy in the contents of the outbuildings of his property.
Because the court has found that Christensen had an objectively reasonable
expectation of privacy in the outbuildings, the court will next address the issue of
whether Cunningham, Severson, and Quinn—the members of the party who entered
the buildings—were licensed to intrude for a legitimate law enforcement purpose,
whether there is sufficient evidence of a conspiracy, and whether the officials in
question are entitled to qualified immunity.
There is evidence that Cunningham entered at least one of the outbuildings on
April 9, 2009. Law enforcement may make limited intrusions into protected areas for
legitimate purposes, such as the service of civil process, without violating the
Constitution. See United States v. Gonzalez, 441 F. App’x 404, 406 (8th Cir. 2011) (“This
Circuit has found invasions into an area where a person holds a reasonable expectation
of privacy to be lawful so long as the intrusion was justified by ‘some legitimate reason
for being present unconnected with a search directed against the accused.’ ” (quoting
United States v. Anderson, 552 F.2d 1296, 1299-1300 (8th Cir. 1977))); United States v.
Raines, 243 F.3d 419, 420-21 (8th Cir. 2001) (“We conclude that Davison’s limited
intrusion was justified because he had the legitimate objectives of locating Toni Will,
who he had reason to believe was located at the residence, and serving her with civil
In Raines, the deputy knocked on the front door of Raines’s house and no one
answered. Id. at 420. Because the deputy observed several cars parked in the driveway,
he believed people might be enjoying the summer evening in the backyard. As a result,
the deputy proceeded through a makeshift wall into the backyard, where he observed
marijuana. Id. at 420-421. The Eighth Circuit held that the deputy did not violate
Raines’s Fourth Amendment rights even though he entered the curtilage of Raines’s
home without a warrant because the deputy was engaged in a good faith attempt to
serve civil process. Id. at 422.
Christensen does not challenge the holding in Gonzalez and Raines, which
recognizes that that limited intrusions into protected areas for legitimate purposes are
permissible.14 Instead, Christensen appears to contend that Cunningham could not
have had a reasonable belief that Christensen was in the areas where she looked.
Christensen does not dispute that when Cunningham arrived on April 9, 2009,
Christensen’s garage door was open and vehicles were present. As in Raines, those
The Supreme Court has held that officers can violate the Fourth Amendment
by trespassing on private property. A trespass does not occur if an officer enters areas
on private property that are traditionally open to members of the public, such as a
walkway or front porch. See Florida v. Jardines, 133 S. Ct. 1409, 1416 (2013) (“[A] police
officer not armed with a warrant may approach a home and knock, precisely because
that is ‘no more than any private citizen might do.’ ” (quoting Kentucky v. King, 131 S.
Ct. 1849, 1862 (2011))).
facts support a reasonable belief that someone might be home at Christensen’s
residence but unable to hear knocking on the front door. Christensen argues that the
buildings Cunningham, Severson, and Quinn entered were unlit and surrounded by
chain-link fences, and that it is unlikely Christensen would have entered a building
with a makeshift door and pulled it closed behind him. See Docket 367 at 41, 43, 47.
The facts that a building had a rickety door or a chain-link fence around it does not
prove that Christensen could not have been in that building at the time Cunningham
was trying to locate him. Furthermore, the fact that a building’s interior was unlit is a
fact that would have been unknown to Cunningham until she actually opened the
door to the building. This evidence does not tend to show that Cunningham exceeded
her license to attempt to locate Christensen on his property.
The evidence cited by Christensen, viewed in the light most favorable to him, is
insufficient to create a genuine question of fact as to whether Cunningham was
actually engaged in a good faith effort to serve civil process on Christensen. Because
the facts of the limited intrusion here are indistinguishable from Raines, Cunningham’s
actions on April 9, 2009, did not violate Christensen’s Fourth Amendment rights.
Even if Cunningham did not personally violate Christensen’s constitutional
rights, she could still be liable if she conspired with another person to do the same. In
support of his conspiracy theory, Christensen contends that the short amount of time
between Landeen-Hoeke’s report to Cunningham and the service of the three-day
notice and arrest warrant indicates a conspiracy. Christensen also argues that the size
of the party at Christensen’s property and the presence of animal control officers,
even though there were no loose dogs seen and Quinn and Wigg did not bring any
gear along, support the conclusion that the trip to Christensen’s property was a cover
for an illegal search. Christensen also points out that Cunningham met with Quinn,
Severson, and Landeen-Hoeke on the morning of April 9, 2009, at the Turner County
courthouse before going to Christensen’s property, and that Cunningham therefore
had an opportunity to conspire with the other defendants.
“Various people engaged in investigating and reporting suspected criminal
activity does not amount to a conspiracy. We look for a genuine factual issue of
concerted activity toward an unlawful objective.” Myers v. Morris, 810 F.2d 1437, 1454 (8th
Cir. 1987) (emphasis added), abrogated on other grounds by Burns v. Reed, 500 U.S. 478,
483-84 (1991)); accord Reasonover v. St. Louis Cnty., 447 F.3d 569, 582 (8th Cir. 2006).
Cunningham testified, and Christensen does not refute, that one day is a normal time
frame for an investigation into a misdemeanor sales tax license issue such as the one
performed by Cunningham on April 8, 2009, and that it is ordinary for a revenue
agent to prepare an affidavit for a prosecutor. Docket 410-1 at 3-4. These actions by
Cunningham do not show that she agreed to participate in unlawful conduct.
Similarly, Cunningham’s presence at the courthouse on the morning of April 9, 2009,
does not show that she joined a conspiracy. Christensen’s contention that it would
have been possible for all the defendants, including Cunningham, to plan their
conspiracy at that meeting is entirely speculative. See Crawford v. Van Buren Cnty., Ark.,
No. 4:09CV00932 SWW, 2011 WL 1464513, at *4 (E.D. Ark. April 15, 2011) (finding
evidence that defendants were present at a meeting where statements possibly
indicating the objective of a conspiracy were made, to be insufficient to support a
finding of conspiracy against those defendants) affirmed by Crawford v. Van Buren Cnty.,
Ark., 678 F.3d 666 (8th Cir. 2012).
Christensen also relies heavily on actions taken by Quinn on April 9, 2009. The
number of people, including Quinn, on Christensen’s property on April 9, 2009, does
not by itself show that Cunningham reached an agreement to deprive anyone of any
constitutional rights. Furthermore, Cunningham’s presence on Christensen’s property
at the same time as Quinn is insufficient to prove that Cunningham conspired with
Quinn or others. See Crawford, 678 F.3d at 671 (“Notably, the defendants’ mere
presence during the search was not sufficient to prove a conspiracy existed.
Therefore, the court properly granted summary judgment because no evidence
supported the conspiracy allegations.”). There is no evidence that Cunningham
reached an agreement with Quinn or others to get Quinn onto Christensen’s property
so Quinn could unlawfully search Christensen’s dog breeding operation. Furthermore,
there is no evidence that Cunningham had any knowledge of where Quinn went or
what she did after Cunningham left Christensen’s property.
Christensen points to other evidence arising after April 9, 2009, that he claims
creates a question of fact as to whether Cunningham joined the alleged conspiracy.
Christensen contends that because Cunningham did not reveal during her testimony
at the suppression hearing that Landeen-Hoeke was the person who started the sales
tax license investigation, this indicates that Cunningham was part of the alleged
conspiracy. Similarly, Christensen argues that discrepancies in Cunningham’s
deposition testimony, such as who opened which door to which building and whether
Cunningham stepped on a rat, indicate an attempt to cover up the truth, and therefore
suggest Cunningham was involved in the alleged conspiracy. Many of these facts are
not material, and none of them provides any actual proof, beyond speculation and
innuendo, that Cunningham reached an agreement with anyone to deprive
Christensen of his constitutional rights.15
Christensen does submit an email chain between Cunningham and LandeenHoeke from April 21, 2009, in which Cunningham advises Landeen-Hoeke of the
status of Christensen’s sales tax license and asks whether SCRC executed a search
warrant on Christensen’s property. See Docket 369-35. These emails shows that
Cunningham was aware that a search of Christensen’s property would require a
As an example, Christensen argues that Cunningham knew Severson because
Severson and Cunningham’s husband worked together, and it is reasonable to infer
from that fact that Cunningham willingly assisted Severson in going after Christensen
because Severson and Christensen have a history. That is the type of speculation
which is insufficient to survive summary judgment.
warrant, but they do not contain any evidence that Cunningham agreed with LandeenHoeke, Quinn, or anyone else to deprive Christensen of his rights. Although the
evidence is viewed in the light most favorable to Christensen, Christensen is still
required to present specific evidence of the alleged agreement or understanding. See
Reasonover, 447 F.3d at 582.
Cunningham enjoyed a limited license to intrude on Christensen’s property to
locate Christensen and to serve the three-day notice on him. Christensen has failed to
identify sufficient evidence linking Cunningham to the alleged conspiracy.
Accordingly, Cunningham is entitled to summary judgment on Count II.
As with Cunningham, there is a factual question as to whether Severson
entered any of the outbuildings on April 9, 2009. For the same reasons stated with
respect to Cunningham, Severson had a limited license to enter those areas to serve
civil process. The court turns next to whether Severson joined the alleged conspiracy.
To show that Severson disliked Christensen and had a motive to conspire with
others to violate Christensen’s rights, Christensen alleges that he and Severson “go
way back.” See Docket 367 at 34. But Christensen’s assertions about Severson’s state
of mind and motivations are speculative. Additionally, even assuming there was some
personal animosity between Severson and Christensen, that fact does not show that
Severson joined a conspiracy to violate Christensen’s constitutional rights.
Christensen emphasizes that Severson is the individual who requested that
Quinn accompany the party. See, e.g., Docket 367 at 5-6. Severson admitted that he
asked Quinn to accompany the party that day because he was worried about loose
dogs and wanted Quinn there to protect the officers in case they were attacked. See
Docket 292-2 at 7 (Severson stating that he requested the assistance of animal control
to protect the party from dogs). This justification for Quinn’s presence is inconsistent
with Quinn’s recollection that she was there to care for the animals after Christensen
was arrested.16 See Docket 369-2 at 4 (Quinn stating that she was present on April 9,
2009, to care for the dogs after Christensen was arrested); Docket 369-15 at 12
(Quinn stating that she was unaware that Severson thought she was there to protect
the party from loose dogs). Christensen notes, however, that Quinn did not bring
along any equipment that would have allowed her to control loose dogs. See Docket
369-3 at 9.
Viewed in the light most favorable to Christensen, these facts establish that
Severson agreed that Quinn could accompany the party serving the warrant and the
three-day notice to Christensen’s property on April 9, 2009. But Quinn stated that she
did not enter the outbuildings until after Severson and the rest of the party left.
Docket 369-15 at 18. Importantly, Christensen provides no evidence that Severson
Quinn also testified that she thought Ostrem, not Severson, asked her to
accompany the party on April 9, 2009. See Docket 369-2 at 3.
knew or had any part in Quinn’s activities of entering the outbuildings on April 9,
2009. Nor is there evidence that Severson authorized Quinn to enter the outbuildings.
Christensen makes other allegations, such as Severson took an excessive
amount of time away from a homicide investigation to assist with the service of the
three-day notice (Docket 367 at 33); that Severson’s testimony regarding April 9,
2009, conflicts with the testimony of others present in various ways (Docket 367 at
36); and that Severson could not have felt threatened by the dogs because he did not
have his gun drawn when walking around Christensen’s property (Docket 367 at 3334). None of those facts provides the missing piece of Christensen’s theory: some
type of knowledge on Severson’s behalf that Quinn or others intended to violate
Christensen’s constitutional rights. Without any evidence that Severson knew of the
alleged constitutional conspiracy, Severson cannot be liable as a conspirator, even if
his acts resulted in furthering the conspiracy.
Severson did not personally violate Christensen’s constitutional rights because
he was licensed to intrude on Christensen’s property. Additionally, Christensen has
not identified evidence sufficient to show that Severson knowingly joined the alleged
conspiracy. Severson is entitled to summary judgment on Count II.
Quinn and SCRC
Quinn is only licensed to intrude on Christensen’s property if she is engaged in
a good faith effort to assist law enforcement in serving the three-day notice and the
arrest warrant, but not if those justifications were an excuse to perform an unrelated
search of Christensen’s property. See Gonzalez, 441 F. App’x at 406. Quinn’s
justification for her presence is inconsistent with what others thought she was doing.
See Docket 369-2 at 4 (Quinn stated that she was present on April 9, 2009, to care for
the dogs after Christensen was arrested); Docket 369-15 at 12 (Quinn stated that she
was unaware that Severson thought she was there to protect the party from loose
dogs). Quinn did not bring along any equipment that would allow her to control loose
dogs. See Docket 369-3 at 9. And Quinn testified in her deposition that LandeenHoeke mentioned that service of the arrest warrant and three-day notice was a good
opportunity to check Christensen’s property for evidence of allegations of neglect.
Docket 484 at 7 n.12. This evidence is sufficient to create a question of fact as to
whether Quinn was on Christensen’s property to help serve the arrest warrant and
three-day notice, or if she was really there to search Christensen’s property and did so
without a warrant.
Because there is a question as to whether Quinn violated Christensen’s Fourth
Amendment rights or joined the alleged conspiracy, the court next turns to whether
Quinn is entitled to qualified immunity. “ ‘[G]overnment officials performing
discretionary functions generally are shielded from liability for civil damages insofar as
their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of
which a reasonable person would have known.’ ” Smith v. City of Minneapolis, 745 F.3d
541, 545 (8th Cir. 2014) (alteration in original) (quoting Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S.
800, 818 (1982)). Qualified immunity protects “all but the plainly incompetent or
those who knowingly violate the law.” Malley v. Briggs, 475 U.S. 335, 341 (1986). This
protection extends to allegations of conspiracy. See, e.g., Pendleton v. St. Louis Cnty., 178
F.3d 1007, 1010 (8th Cir. 1999) (refusing to review the sufficiency of the evidence
linking the defendants to the conspiracy, but reviewing “whether Defendants
objectively could have believed that the conduct in which they allegedly engaged did
not violate clearly established law”).
Resolving a question of qualified immunity “ ‘involves the following two-step
inquiry: (1) whether the facts shown by the plaintiff make out a violation of a
constitutional or statutory right, and (2) whether that right was clearly established at
the time of the defendant’s alleged misconduct.’ ” Smith, 2014 WL 2535298, at *2
(quoting Mitchell v. Shearrer, 729 F.3d 1070, 1074 (8th Cir. 2013)). For a right to be
clearly established, there does not need to be “a case directly on point, but existing
precedent must have placed the statutory or constitutional question beyond debate.”
Ashcroft v. al -Kidd, 131 S. Ct. 2074, 2083 (2011). The court may address either prong
first. Id. at 2080 (citing Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 236 (2009)). “Qualified
immunity is a question of law not a question of fact.” McClendon v. Story Cnty. Sheriff’s
Office, 403 F.3d 510, 515 (8th Cir. 2005).
In this case, Christensen has a clearly established right to be free from
unreasonable searches and seizures in the outbuildings on his property. See Pennington,
287 F.3d at 745 (recognizing that buildings such as barns enjoy Fourth Amendment
protection). The rule prohibiting physical intrusions into buildings such as barns has
been established in this circuit since at least 2002 when Pennington was decided. A
reasonable animal control officer would be aware of that right. For the reasons
discussed above, the evidence identified by Christensen supports a violation of that
right. Therefore, Quinn is not entitled to summary judgment on Count II.
SCRC argues that it is not liable for Quinn’s actions and that Christensen
cannot identify an unconstitutional policy or custom sufficient to trigger liability on
behalf of SCRC. Docket 474 at 16-17. Christensen responds by contending that
“Rosey Quinn is Second Chance.” Docket 520 at 38. He then cites instances in which
Quinn hired family members and exercised control over the operations of SCRC. See
Docket 520 at 38-40. Christensen fails to provide any legal authority. See id.
(containing no supporting authority). The court construes this argument as a claim
that Quinn represented the official company policy of SCRC.
SCRC is correct that a corporation cannot be liable “solely because it employs a
tortfeasor.” Smith v. Insley’s Inc., 499 F.3d 875, 881 n.4 (8th Cir. 2007) (internal
quotations omitted) (italics in original). “The proper test [for corporate liability under
§ 1983] is whether there is a policy, custom or action by those who represent official policy
that inflicts injury actionable under § 1983.” Sanders v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 984 F.2d
972, 976 (8th Cir. 1993) (italics added). In Insley’s, which is cited by SCRC, the Eighth
Insley’s cannot seriously contend that Smith is attempting to hold it
liable under a respondeat superior theory of liability. Jeff Insley
represented during his deposition that he was Insley’s corporate
representative, and it was clear from his testimony that he was the
decision-maker with regard to [the underlying constitutional violation].
Jeff Insley’s decisions clearly represented the company’s “official policy.”
Insley’s, 499 F.3d at 881 n.4. Similarly, Quinn’s status as the executive director of
SCRC means she represents the official policy of the organization, and SCRC can be
liable based on Quinn’s actions. Therefore, SCRC is not entitled to summary
judgment on Count II.
Nogelmeier, Ostrem, Adamson, Langerock,
Schmeichel, and Van Hove
There is no evidence that Ostrem entered any of the buildings on Christensen’s
property on April 9, 2009. Nogelmeier, Adamson, Langerock, Schmeichel, and Van
Hove were not present. Christensen has not identified any evidence that any of these
defendants knew of Quinn’s actions. Because there is no evidence that Nogelmeier,
Ostrem, Adamson, Langerock, Schmeichel, or Van Hove personally violated
Christensen’s rights on April 9, 2009, or that they conspired with Quinn to allow her
to search Christensen’s outbuildings, they are entitled to summary judgment on
Count I also alleges a violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Christensen claims that
leading up to and during the September 2, 2009, raid on Christensen’s property, all
defendants conspired to violate Christensen’s right to be free from unreasonable
searches and seizures. Count I additionally claims that all defendants conspired to
deprive Christensen of his right to procedural and substantive due process in violation
of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.
“Section 1983 ‘is not itself a source of substantive rights,’ but merely provides
‘a method for vindicating federal rights elsewhere conferred.’ ” Albright v. Oliver, 510
U.S. 266, 271 (1994) (quoting Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 144 n.3 (1979)). “The
first step in any such claim is to identify the specific constitutional right allegedly
infringed.” Id. In this case, before the court can consider Christensen’s allegations, the
court must determine whether Christensen’s § 1983 claim stemming from the events
of September 2, 2009, should be analyzed under the concept of Fourth Amendment
search and seizure, Fourteenth Amendment due process, or both. “Whether a
substantive due process right exists is a question of law.” Moran v. Clarke, 296 F.3d
638, 643 (8th Cir. 2002).
“ ‘As a general matter, the Court has always been reluctant to expand the
concept of substantive due process because the guideposts for responsible
decisionmaking in this unchartered area are scarce and open-ended.’ ” Oliver, 510 U.S.
at 271-72 (quoting Collins v. City of Harker Heights, Tex., 503 U.S. 115, 125 (1992).
“Where a particular Amendment ‘provides an explicit textual source of constitutional
protection’ against a particular sort of government behavior, ‘that Amendment, not
the more generalized notion of ‘substantive due process,’ must be the guide for
analyzing these claims.’ ” Id. at 273 (quoting Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 395
Christensen’s due process argument is unclear. The amended complaint alleges
Defendants acted in concert and/or conspired together and committed
acts designed to deprive Plaintiff Dan Christensen of his property which
was held and stored under the authority of the Turner County Sheriffs
[sic] Office as evidence in an ongoing criminal investigation and
prosecution after it was unlawfully seized on September 2, 2009,
insomuch as his dogs were removed from his property and the property
of Plaintiffs David and Kelly Christensen without his consent for an
unreasonable amount of time and improperly cared for, causing them to
be permanently altered or destroyed, thereby depriving him of his right
to Procedural and Substantive Due Process in violation of the Fifth and
Fourteenth Amendment [sic] to the United States Constitution.
Docket 133 at 22-23. In his numerous briefs, Christensen never consistently relies on
any one theory. Instead, Christensen frames his due process allegations as a failure to
preserve or safeguard evidence in a criminal case, a failure to properly document
evidence during the seizure, a failure to protect the value of his property while it was
in the custody of the defendants, a failure to allow him an opportunity to inspect the
evidence during and immediately following the seizure, falsification of evidence,
failure to include exculpatory information in a search warrant affidavit, and an
intentional or reckless failure to investigate. Christensen never identifies any specific
procedural rights of which he was deprived, and only provides legal authority for his
claims of an intentional or reckless failure to investigate and fabrication of evidence.
See Docket 383 at 39 (citing Livers v. Schenck, 700 F.3d 340, 351-52 (8th Cir. 2012)).
To establish a violation of a substantive due process right, Christensen must
show (1) that an official violated one or more fundamental constitutional rights, and
(2) that the conduct of the official was shocking to the contemporary conscience.
Flowers v. City of Minneapolis, Minn., 478 F.3d 869, 873 (8th Cir. 2007). “[F]undamental
rights are those ‘deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition, and implicit in
the concept of ordered liberty, such that neither liberty nor justice would exist if they
were sacrificed.’ ” Id. (quoting Terrell v. Larson, 396 F.3d 975, 978 n.1 (8th Cir. 2005)
(en banc)). “[T]he state action must be ‘truly egregious and extraordinary’ to shock the
conscience.” Livers, 700 F.3d at 351 (quoting Winslow v. Smith, 696 F.3d 716, 735-36
(8th Cir. 2012)). Whether conduct shocks the conscience is a question of law. Folkerts
v. City of Waverly, Iowa, 707 F.3d 975, 980 (8th Cir. 2013).
Christensen does provide legal authority for the proposition that a reckless
investigation can violate the due process clause. See Livers, 700 F.3d at 351-52. To
establish such a violation, Christensen would have to prove that officials purposely
ignored evidence suggesting innocence or used systemic pressure to implicate him in
the face of evidence to the contrary. Id. at 351. Although the September 2, 2009,
warrants were suppressed, Christensen identifies no evidence of his actual innocence
or evidence that pressure to indict Christensen was applied in the face of evidence to
the contrary.17 With respect to the second element of a substantive due process claim,
the investigation in this case is not “ ‘so inspired by malice or sadism rather than a
merely careless or unwise excess of zeal that it amounted to a brutal and inhumane
abuse of official power literally shocking to the conscience.’ ” Moran, 296 F.3d at 647
(quoting In re Scott Cnty. Master Docket, 672 F. Supp. 1152, 1166 (D. Minn. 1987)).
Manufacture or fabrication of evidence can violate the Fourteenth
Amendment’s guarantee of due process. See Livers, 700 F.3d at 354. With respect to
his claim that evidence was fabricated, Christensen relies on three allegations. First, he
claims that law enforcement found a dog skeleton and dog head on Christensen’s
property on September 2, 2009, but that Quinn did not report seeing anything of the
sort when she was there only days before Christensen concludes on that basis that
someone must have planted the skeleton and head. See Docket 383 at 36 & n.56.
Second, Christensen argues a video allegedly shows one door open, but an attorney
Christensen frequently asserts that because the motion to suppress in the
criminal proceeding was granted, there was no evidence supporting his prosecution,
and appears to believe that the suppression itself is evidence of his actual innocence.
But the suppression of inculpatory evidence is not the same thing as evidence of
actual innocence. Otherwise, every defendant who prevailed on a motion to suppress
would have an actionable § 1983 claim. Had the motion to suppress been denied,
there would have been evidence to support a prosecution of Christensen for animal
neglect, even if that prosecution did not ultimately succeed.
questioned Christensen about why the door was shut, implying that the dogs were cut
off from water, food, and shade. See Docket 383 at 36 n.56 (“Defendants later lead
[sic] Plaintiff to believe the door was shut and questioned him why the door would be
shut if the water and shade were inside the building.”) On that basis, Christensen
concludes that the search team must have shut the door to strengthen the allegations
against Christensen. Third, Christensen claims that volunteers at the scene were told
to fabricate the conditions of the dogs at Christensen’s property. See, e.g., Docket 520
The fact that Quinn did not report seeing a dog skeleton or head during her
walk around Christensen’s property on August 27, 2009, is not surprising given the
overgrown nature of the property. Essentially, Christensen is arguing that Quinn
should have been more thorough during what he contends was an illegal and
trespassory search. The mere fact that the evidence was not discovered until
September 2, 2009, is insufficient to create a genuine question as to whether evidence
was intentionally fabricated.
Similarly, Christensen identifies no evidence that a member of the search team
shut a door that was previously opened in an effort to incriminate Christensen. It is
unclear from the video Christensen cites which door is at issue or whether it is open
or closed. See Docket 361-28 scene 5. The deposition passage cited by Christensen
discusses a building with food and water inside, but it focuses on cleaning the kennels,
not whether doors were open. See Docket 361-34 at 12. Even if an attorney did
question Christensen about an allegedly closed door, such a line of questioning by an
attorney in a deposition well after the events occurred would not be evidence that the
search team deliberately closed the door. Ultimately, Christensen lacks sufficient
evidence to create a factual question of whether the position of the door was
intentionally altered as part of a deliberate attempt to incriminate him.
Finally, Christensen refers to two videos from September 2, 2009, where
Haisley tells Dr. Byl not to refer to the dogs as in “excellent” condition, but to use the
term “overweight,” and where Haisley tells Jordan Crump that she should not call the
dogs “beautiful” on camera. See Docket 361-28 scene 10 (Dr. Byl); Docket 361-28
scene 18 (Crump). In context, the first video shows Haisley telling Dr. Byl to focus on
the living conditions of the dogs rather than their physical weight, even mentioning
that some of the dogs may be overweight due to the small enclosures in which they
were kept. The video does not show Haisley instructing Dr. Byl to fabricate evidence.
The second video, which only shows Haisley telling Crump not to call the dogs
beautiful, also falls well short of producing a reasonable inference of intentional
evidence fabrication. Neither video supports Christensen’s allegations of deliberate
evidence fabrication, and neither video shows behavior that shocks the conscience.
To be successful on a procedural due process claim, Christensen must show a
protected life, liberty, or property interest and an actual deprivation of that interest
without due process of law. Schmidt v. Des Moines Pub. Sch., 655 F.3d 811, 817 (8th Cir.
2011); Flowers, 478 F.3d at 873. At its core, procedural due process guarantees “the
opportunity to be heard at a meaningful time and in a meaningful manner.” Mathews v.
Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319, 333 (1976). “The circumstances of the deprivation dictate what
procedures are necessary to satisfy this guarantee.” Swipies v. Kofka, 419 F.3d 709, 715
(8th Cir. 2005) (citing Mathews, 424 U.S. at 333-34).
Christensen did have a property interest in the dogs seized on September 2,
2009. But he has not pointed to any recognized procedure he was due but did not
receive. The procedural defects Christensen does allege, such as the refusal to allow
Dr. Hora into the truck with the dogs and the limitation of her time in the fairgrounds
to ten minutes, are not tied to any recognized procedural right. Furthermore,
Christensen did have the opportunity to be meaningfully heard in the criminal
proceeding, and he prevailed there. Finally, Christensen makes no showing that he
exhausted the remedies available to him to get the dogs back. See Lathon v. City of St.
Louis, 242 F.3d 841, 843 (8th Cir. 2001) (“[A] deprivation of property caused by a
state official’s random and unauthorized conduct does not give rise to a § 1983
procedural due process claim if the state provides an adequate postdeprivation
remedy.”); SDCL 23A-37-4 (“Any person claiming the right to possession of [seized]
property may make application for its return in the office of the clerk of courts for the
county in which it is being held.”).
Christensen has a fundamental right to be free from unreasonable searches and
seizures, but that right has an explicit textual source: the Fourth Amendment.
Christensen has not established the substantive due process violations of a reckless
investigation or fabrication of evidence. Christensen has not identified any procedure
that he was due but did not receive. With respect to the remaining asserted due
process rights, Christensen has failed to provide, and the court is unaware of, any
authority establishing those rights or classifying them as fundamental. Unlike cases
where courts have used a due process framework, the facts here “fit the mold of a
typical fourth amendment search and seizure case.” See Rogers v. City of Little Rock,
Ark., 152 F.3d 790, 795 (8th Cir. 1998). Thus, the court will analyze Christensen’s
claims in Count I under the Fourth Amendment.
There is no evidence that Cunningham had any role in the events leading up to
the September 2, 2009, searches and seizures. Her liability is solely premised on her
participation in the alleged conspiracy. For the reasons stated in Count II, Christensen
has failed to provide sufficient evidence linking Cunningham to the alleged
conspiracy. Because Christensen has failed to identify sufficient evidence showing
Cunningham reached an agreement or came to an understanding to participate in the
alleged conspiracy, the court does not need to decide whether Cunningham would be
entitled to qualified immunity. Accordingly, Cunningham’s motion for summary
judgment on Count I is granted.
As with Cunningham, Christensen’s argument for Severson’s individual liability
on Count I is premised solely on his alleged involvement in the conspiracy based on
the events of April 9, 2009. As discussed in Count II, Christensen has not identified
sufficient evidence to support his allegation that Severson conspired with anyone at
any time. The court therefore does not reach the question of whether Severson would
be entitled to qualified immunity for his role in the alleged conspiracy. Severson’s
motion for summary judgment on Count I is granted.
Nogelmeier, Ostrem, Adamson, Langerock, Overby,
Schmeichel, and Van Hove
Christensen contends the county commissioners, Nogelmeier, and Ostrem are
all liable in their individual capacities for violating his Fourth Amendment rights on
September 2, 2009. Specifically, Christensen argues that (1) the county commissioners
improperly contracted with SCRC to provide animal control services; (2) Nogelmeier
failed to supervise Quinn; (3) Ostrem conspired with others to allow Quinn to illegally
search Christensen’s property; (4) Ostrem did not promptly file the return for the
August 27, 2009, search warrant; (5) Nogelmeier and Ostrem failed to properly
supervise the team that removed Christensen’s dogs on September 2, 2009; (6) the
county commissioners ignored Landeen-Hoeke’s alleged incompetence; (7) the county
commissioners failed to protect Christensen’s property by not authorizing the funding
to properly care for the dogs; and (8) Nogelmeier and Ostrem allowed others to
improperly exercise the authority of law enforcement. Docket 443 at 2-3.
Christensen identifies no evidence showing that any of the county
commissioners, Nogelmeier, or Ostrem knew about the omissions in Quinn’s affidavit
or any of the other relevant facts in this case. For example, Christensen asserts,
without a single citation to any evidence in the record, that:
Plaintiff would argue that all of the Commissioners were arguably let in
on what was taking place at the Fairgrounds days before the
September 1st meeting. After all, someone, presumably the Fair
Manager, would have had to let Quinn, Thaler and Adams into the
building which was presumably locked, in order for them to start hauling
supplies and setting up hog crates. Surely, the Fair Manager wouldn’t
have let them into the building with the thought that they were going to
be using the building to house 175 dogs thirty days before the building
was scheduled to be rented, without talking to Van Hove and
Langerock, the two members of the Commission which [sic] were
assigned to the Fair Board. In addition, since Van Hove lived one block
from the Fairgrounds, it would have been hard to hide this kind of
activity from Van Hove. Surely, Van Hove and/or Langerock would
have informed the Commissioners days before September 1st, as to what
was taking place at the Fairgrounds.
Docket 443 at 45-46. This is an unsupported chain of speculative arguments with each
piece of speculation building on the next, and without some evidentiary support, it
cannot survive summary judgment.
Christensen also makes an argument that the county defendants should be
liable for a failure to supervise Quinn and others who assisted law enforcement. A
supervisor “ ‘is only liable for his own misconduct’ and is not ‘accountable for the
misdeeds of his agents’ under a theory such as respondeat superior or supervisor
liability.” Nelson v. Correctional Medical Servs., 583 F.3d 522, 534-35 (8th Cir. 2009)
(quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 676 (2009). Supervisors may be liable “only if
their deliberate indifference to the offensive conduct and failure to take adequate
remedial action proximately caused the injury.” Cox v. Sugg, 484 F.3d 1062, 1066 (8th
Cir. 2007). “Deliberate indifference is a ‘stringent standard of fault.’ ” Id. (quoting
Shrum ex rel. Kelly v. Kluck, 249 F.3d 773, 780 (8th Cir. 2001)). “It requires proof of
reckless disregard of a risk of constitutional harm.” Id. (italics in original). “To impose
supervisory liability, other misconduct must be very similar to the conduct giving rise
to liability.” Livers, 700 F.3d at 356.
In this case, there is no evidence that any of the county defendants knew of the
alleged constitutional violations, much less that they were deliberately indifferent to
them. For example, Christensen alleges that on August 27, 2009, Ostrem knew that
Quinn and Wigg were going to illegally search Dan Christensen’s property but did not
stop them. Docket 443 at 13 n.24 (“It appears that Ostrem was aware of Quinn and
Wigg’s intention to unlawfully enter Dan Christensen’s property on August 27, 2009
without a warrant, yet he did nothing to prevent them from doing so.”). But the
evidence cited does not support that proposition. See Docket 446-18 at 1-2 (failing to
address whether Ostrem knew anything about the activities of Quinn and Wigg, and
indicating that Ostrem did not accompany Quinn and Wigg to Dan Christensen’s but
remained at David and Kelly Christensen’s property). Christensen presents no
evidence that any of the county defendants were involved with or knew of the drafts
of the affidavits circulated between Quinn and Landeen-Hoeke. Without any evidence
showing direct participation or deliberate indifference, Christensen cannot link the
county defendants to a constitutional conspiracy. Therefore, the court does not reach
the issue of whether the county defendants would be entitled to qualified immunity.
The motions for summary judgment by Nogelmeier, Ostrem, Adamson, Langerock,
Overby, Schmeichel, and Van Hove on Count I are granted.
Quinn and SCRC
Christensen contends that Quinn and SCRC violated his Fourth Amendment
rights by providing false information to Judge Bjorkman in the process of obtaining a
search warrant for his premises. “ ‘A warrant based on an affidavit containing
‘deliberate falsehood’ or ‘reckless disregard for the truth’ violates the Fourth
Amendment.’ ” Small v. McCrystal, 708 F.3d 997, 1006 (8th Cir. 2013) (quoting Bagby v.
Brondaver, 98 F.3d 1096, 1098 (8th Cir. 1996)). Truthful information in this context
means “that the information put forth is ‘believed or appropriately accepted by the
affiant as true.’ ” Morris v. Lanpher, 563 F.3d 399, 402 (8th Cir. 2009) (quoting Franks v.
Delaware, 438 U.S. 154, 165 (1978)). “To prove a ‘reckless disregard’ [Christensen]
must ‘show that the omitted material would be ‘clearly critical to the finding of probable
cause.’ ” Hawkins v. Gage Cnty., Neb., No. 13-3107, 2014 WL 3582886, at *7 (8th Cir.
July 22, 2014) (italics in original) (quoting United States v. Jacobs, 986 F.2d 1231, 1235
(8th Cir. 1993)). In fact, recklessness may be inferred when the allegedly omitted
information would be clearly critical to the finding of probable cause. Hunter v.
Namanny, 219 F.3d 825, 830 (8th Cir. 2000). Christensen bears “ ‘the burden of
proving the intentional or reckless inclusion of false statements in a warrant
affidavit.’ ” Morris, 563 F.3d at 403 (quoting United States v. Ozar, 50 F.3d 1440, 1443
(8th Cir. 1995)).
On August 27, 2009, Quinn, Wigg, and Ostrem went to David and Kelly
Christensen’s property pursuant to a search warrant. See Docket 369-16 at 3. The
search warrant return that was filed by Ostrem on September 2, 2009, indicated that
no property was seized, no one was home at the time the warrant was executed, the
conditions of the dogs and kennels appeared “ok,” but that the kennels were
surrounded by feces and the water appeared contaminated. Docket 369-18. Quinn
and Wigg left Ostrem at David and Kelly Christensen’s property and proceeded to
Dan Christensen’s property. See Docket 369-16 at 3-4. There, they observed the
conditions of Christensen’s property. See id. at 4. They also located a loose puppy,
which they put back in a kennel where it was subsequently attacked by another dog.
See Docket 369-15 at 7.
Quinn’s initial draft affidavit in support of the September 2 warrants contained
information about her inspection of David and Kelly Christensen’s property on
August 27, 2009. See Docket 369-16. But neither of the affidavits that were actually
submitted to Judge Bjorkman mentioned the August 27, 2009, search. See Docket 36919; Docket 369-20. Quinn also did not mention anything relating to the August 27,
2009, search during her testimony supplementing the affidavits. Docket 369-22.
Quinn testified that she removed the information relating to the August 27
searches at Landeen-Hoeke’s direction. See Docket 369-15 at 22; Docket 369-31.
Furthermore, Quinn expressed misgivings about the veracity and completeness of the
revised affidavits. Docket 369-15 at 22 (“The only thing that bothered me on that was
for some reason [Landeen-Hoeke] left the August 27th warrant out of the new
information for September 2nd, and I didn’t understand that.”). Nonetheless, Quinn
presented the affidavits to the court and testified without mentioning the August 27,
2009, searches. When ruling on the suppression motion, Magistrate Judge Bern found
that material evidence was intentionally omitted from the affidavits in support of the
September 2 search warrants; that inclusion of the omitted information would have
defeated probable cause because the April 9, 2009, observations were stale and were
not otherwise corroborated; that the good faith exception to the exclusionary rule did
not apply; and that as a result, the evidence seized on September 2, 2009, should be
suppressed. Docket 369-9 at 10-14.
There is sufficient evidence to support a finding that Quinn’s omissions were
intentional. Quinn knew of the information, was aware it was missing from the
revised affidavits, and even expressed concern about the omissions. See Docket 36915 at 22; Docket 369-31. A jury could find from the email exchange between
Landeen-Hoeke and Quinn that Quinn and Landeen-Hoeke conspired to mislead a
judge into issuing a search warrant. The exchange also tends to show that the
omission was more than mere negligence or oversight; it was a deliberate, or at least
reckless, effort to present a limited amount of information to the issuing judge to
avoid the possibility of a finding that Christensen’s Fourth Amendment rights had
already been violated. Even though some of the omitted information was inculpatory,
the omissions were material and would be of the type that an issuing judge would
want to know. A jury could find that Quinn did not believe the affidavits as presented
to Judge Bjorkman were true and complete. Furthermore, Quinn’s statements indicate
that she felt the missing information was critical to a probable cause determination
and would be important for an issuing judge to know. See Docket 369-15 at 22;
Docket 369-31. Therefore, Christensen has identified sufficient evidence to create a
genuine question as to whether Quinn’s affidavits contained a reckless disregard for
the truth and thereby violated his Fourth Amendment rights.
Quinn would still be “entitled to qualified immunity if [her] affidavit,
supplemented by the omitted facts, still supports a probable cause finding.” Block v.
Dupic, No. 13-2889, 2014 WL 3409039, at *2 (8th Cir. July 15, 2014). “Probable cause
for a warrant exists only when the totality of the circumstances provides sufficient
facts to lead a prudent person to believe there is a fair probability that contraband or
other evidence of a crime will be found. Hunter, 219 F.3d at 830 (citing Illinois v. Gates,
462 U.S. 213, 238 (1983)). “It is axiomatic that probable cause must exist at the time
of the search and not merely at some earlier time.” United States v. Kennedy, 427 F.3d
1136, 1141 (8th Cir. 2005) (quoting United States v. Formaro, 152 F.3d 768, 771 (8th Cir.
Quinn argues that conditions on Christensen’s property to which she testified
before the issuing judge would support a probable cause determination. Docket 597 at
17. In reconstructing an affidavit, the court omits all false information and includes
omitted information. See Hunter, 219 F.3d at 829-30. In this case, the reconstructed
September 2, 2009, affidavit would have contained the following: Quinn’s testimony
of what she saw on April 9, 2009; the fact that Quinn was not on Christensen’s
property on April 9, 2009, pursuant to a search warrant; the fact that Quinn received a
report of a sick Weimaraner puppy on August 13, 2009; and the fact that Quinn and
Wigg went to Christensen’s property on August 27, 2009, and returned a loose puppy
to a kennel but made no other incriminating observations. See Docket 369-15 at 6
(describing Quinn’s actions at Christensen’s property on August 27, 2009).
The information from April 9, 2009, was nearly five months old at the time
Quinn applied for the search warrants at issue. “There is no fixed formula for
determining when information has become stale.” United States v. Smith, 266 F.3d 902,
904 (8th Cir. 2001) (discussing information ranging from four months to three years
old). But there is evidence that Quinn spoke to Christensen about the conditions on
his property after he returned on April 9, 2009, and Christensen agreed to clean up his
property. See Docket 369-35. Quinn was on Christensen’s property on August 27,
2009, and she testified only that she found a loose puppy and noticed a foul smell at
the property. See Docket 369-15 at 6-8. The report of the sick Weimaraner related to
David and Kelly’s property, not Christensen’s farm.
The April 9, 2009, observations are stale because they are not corroborated by
Quinn’s observations from August 27, 2009. The likelihood of evidence of a crime
being discovered is lessened by Christensen’s statements that he would remedy the
conditions Quinn observed on April 9, 2009. The sick Weimaraner and the conditions
at David and Kelly’s property are not tied to Christensen’s property. Based on the
totality of the circumstances, probable cause did not exist for the September 2, 2009,
warrant for Christensen’s property. Similarly, Magistrate Judge Bern found that the
reconstructed affidavit did not establish probable cause. Docket 369-9 at 11-13.
Quinn also argues that she did not need a warrant because she could have
seized the animals due to exigent circumstances. Docket 474 at 20-21. The court is
not persuaded that exigent circumstances existed because Quinn waited sixteen days
from the time she received the report of the sick puppy on August 17, 2009, and six
days from her search of the properties on August 27, 2009, before applying for a
warrant. Additionally, Quinn had no evidence linking the sick Weimaraner to
Christensen’s property, rather than David and Kelly’s property. And even if exigent
circumstances would justify a warrantless seizure, that ability would not confer upon
Quinn the power to obtain a warrant through false or misleading statements.
The warrant for Christensen’s property on September 2, 2009, was based on
Quinn’s affidavit containing a reckless disregard for the truth. Because the
reconstructed affidavit did not establish probable cause, Quinn is not entitled to
qualified immunity on that basis.
Quinn argues that she relied on the advice of Landeen-Hoeke, which should
establish that her actions were reasonable. Docket 474 at 22-23 (citing Folkerts v. City of
Waverly, 707 F.3d 975, 982 (8th Cir. 2013)). Folkerts involved a due process challenge
against an investigator’s filing of a complaint against a man with a severe intellectual
disability after interviewing him. See Folkerts, 707 F.3d at 979. In that case, the Eighth
Circuit held that the officer’s charging decision did not shock the conscience because
there was no case interpreting an element in question and the fact that the officer
consulted an attorney showed the reasonableness of the action taken. Id. at 982.
In this case, although Quinn spoke with an attorney, it was not reasonable for
her to omit the evidence from her affidavit. Quinn stated that she did not understand
why the evidence would be omitted. Additionally, omitting material information from
a search warrant affidavit is not a gray area of the law or one in which an attorney’s
advice should be needed. It would be clear beyond debate to a reasonable official in
Quinn’s position that the omitted information should have been included.
Christensen has presented evidence that Quinn conspired to violate his Fourth
Amendment rights when she submitted an affidavit for a search warrant that was
based on a reckless disregard for the truth. Because the reconstructed affidavit did not
demonstrate probable cause, and because a reasonable officer would have known the
omissions violated the law, Quinn is not entitled to qualified immunity.18 Therefore,
the motion for summary judgment on Count I by Quinn and SCRC is denied.
The court recognizes the incongruity of granting absolute immunity to a
prosecutor who presumably knows the law, and denying qualified immunity to the
officer who relied on the legal advice of the prosecutor. See generally Buckley v.
Fitzsimmons, 509 U.S. 259, 275 n.6 (1993). Absolute immunity shields the role of the
prosecutor from fear of civil liability and helps ensure the integrity and independence
of the office. Although absolute immunity may, in some circumstances, shield
prosecutors in a way that does not advance those goals, see Reasonover v. St. Louis Cnty.,
Mo., 447 F.3d 569, 580 (8th Cir. 2006) (“Even if Goldman knowingly presented false,
misleading, or perjured testimony, or even if he withheld or suppressed exculpatory
evidence, he is absolutely immune from suit.”), that is a necessary price to pay for a
legal system in which prosecutors may exercise discretion in the discharge of
Only persons acting under the color of state law can be liable under § 1983.
Carlson v. Roetzel & Andress, 552 F.3d 648, 650 (8th Cir. 2008). In Crawford, which is
controlling here, the Pulaski County Humane Society and the Beebe Humane Society
assisted state officials in removing allegedly neglected dogs from a kennel. The Eighth
Circuit treated those defendants as private parties assisting the state actors. See
Crawford, 678 F.3d at 670. The court can discern no meaningful difference between
the role played by Haisley here and the role played by the humane society defendants
in Crawford. Accordingly, the court will treat Haisley as a private party. Christensen
relies on numerous cases from the Ninth Circuit that reach a different conclusion. See
Docket 554 at 16-22. Because those decisions are not binding on this court, unlike
Crawford which is, they will not be discussed.
“Because a section 1983 claim applies to state action, and the defendants are
private citizens, [Christensen] ‘must establish not only that a private actor caused a
deprivation of constitutional rights, but that the private actor willfully participated
with state officials and reached a mutual understanding concerning the unlawful
objective of a conspiracy.’ ” Id. (quoting Dossett v. First State Bank, 399 F.3d 940, 951
professional duties without fear of reprisal. See Van de Kamp v. Goldstein, 555 U.S. 335,
340 (2009) (“[A] prosecutor’s absolute immunity reflects ‘a balance’ of ‘evils.’ . . . ‘[I]t
has been thought in the end better . . . to leave unredressed the wrongs done by
dishonest officers than to subject those who try to do their duty to the constant dread
of retaliation.’ ” (quoting Gregoire v. Biddle, 177 F.2d 579, 581 (2d Cir. 1949))).
(8th Cir. 2005)). To demonstrate Haisley’s culpability, Christensen argues that Haisley:
was concerned with generating media coverage of the seizure (Docket 554 at 24);
filmed the seizure (Docket 554 at 25); failed to use proper biosecurity measures
(Docket 554 at 26); prevented Christensen’s veterinarian from examining the dogs at
the fairgrounds (Docket 554 at 26); manufactured evidence (Docket 554 at 27);
should have known the warrants were invalid (Docket 554 at 30-31); and had an
agenda to drum up donations for HSUS (Docket 554 at 33).
“An officer’s subjective intent is irrelevant to the question of whether her or his
conduct violated a constitutional right by exceeding the scope of a warrant. Indeed, an
officer’s subjective intent is never relevant under a Fourth Amendment analysis, so
long as an objective basis for the seizure exists.” McClendon v. Story Cnty. Sheriff’s Office,
403 F.3d 510, 515 (8th Cir. 2005). “[T]he fact that a neutral magistrate has issued a
warrant is the clearest indication that the officers acted in an objectively reasonable
manner . . . .” Messerschmidt v. Millender, 132 S. Ct. 1235, 1245 (2012). A warrant “does
not end the inquiry into objective reasonableness. Rather, we have recognized an
exception allowing suit when ‘it is obvious that no reasonably competent officer
would have concluded that a warrant should issue.’ ” Id. (quoting Malley v. Briggs, 475
U.S. 335, 341 (1986)). “[T]he threshold for establishing this exception is a high one, as
it should be.” Id.
It is undisputed in this case that a judge issued warrants for the seizure of
Christensen’s dogs. Christensen has failed to identify evidence showing that Haisley
had any knowledge of, or role in, Quinn’s affidavits or her testimony. Based on the
condition of the properties, a reasonable officer could conclude that a seizure of all
animals was appropriate. The warrants were facially valid, and Haisley is not required
to independently review the finding of the issuing judge regarding probable cause.
This is not one of the few cases in which the circumstances would justify a finding
that Haisley could not rely on the warrant.
Because Haisley had an objectively reasonable basis for the seizure of the
animals, his subjective opinions on breeding, the media, and the alleged agenda of
HSUS are not relevant. Documenting the seizure,19 preventing Dr. Hora from riding
in the trucks and from spending more than ten minutes at the fairgrounds, and failing
to use biosecurity protocols are not constitutional violations. Christensen has not
identified evidence sufficient to create a genuine question as to whether Haisley
Christensen likens this case to Wilson v. Layne, 526 U.S. 603 (1999), in which
the Supreme Court found that media ride-alongs violate the Fourth Amendment
because the news crew was not there to assist police and was solely there for unrelated
purposes. In this case, the people filming the seizure were part of an organization
assisting law enforcement with the execution of the warrant. The documentation of
the conditions served a legitimate law enforcement purpose, namely to document the
conditions of the properties in the event of a legal challenge to the seizure. As a result,
Christensen himself designates many of these videos as evidence in this matter. See
Christensen has not identified any evidence to show that Haisley joined an
agreement or understanding to unlawfully deprive Christensen of his rights. Haisley
acted in an objectively reasonable manner in relying on the warrants. The remaining
actions Christensen alleges do not amount to constitutional violations. Because there
is no evidence connecting Haisley to the alleged constitutional conspiracy, the court
does not reach the issue of whether Haisley is entitled to qualified immunity. Haisley’s
motion for summary judgment on Count I is granted.
HSUS and Pacelle
Like Haisley, HSUS and Pacelle are private parties. Crawford, 678 F.3d at 670.
Christensen must show that they willfully participated with state officials in a
deprivation of constitutional rights and reached a mutual understanding concerning
the unlawful deprivation of rights. Id. There is no evidence showing that either HSUS
or Pacelle knew anything about Quinn’s omissions from the affidavits. There is no
evidence that HSUS or Pacelle knew about a potential violation of Christensen’s
Fourth Amendment rights, much less that they reached a mutual understanding
concerning an unlawful objective.
Christensen argues that the creation of the disaster response team can sustain
liability against Pacelle and HSUS. Docket 383 at 18. The existence of a disaster
response team is not probative of whether there was an agreement or understanding
in this case, nor is it unconstitutional by itself. Because there is no link between the
disaster response team and the constitutional violation alleged in this case, the disaster
response team’s existence does not show a constitutional conspiracy.
Christensen also contends that HSUS and Pacelle should have conducted an
independent investigation to ensure the legality of the seizure. Docket 383 at 40
(labeling the lack of independent investigation as a violation of Christensen’s due
process rights). As discussed with respect to Haisley, the individuals who seized
Christensen’s dogs on September 2, 2009, did so under the authority of a facially valid
warrant signed by a judge. Quinn’s omissions would not have been known to a
reasonable officer examining the warrant, and they certainly would not have been
known to Pacelle, who was not at the property. There is no other basis for assuming
the warrants were invalid. The high threshold for showing that it would have been
obvious to a reasonably competent officer that the warrant should not have issued is
not met in this case. HSUS and Pacelle were not under an obligation to independently
investigate and review the judicial determination of probable cause.
Christensen asserts that HSUS and Pacelle played some role in the fabrication
of evidence on September 2, 2009. See Docket 383 at 40-41. As discussed above,
there is insufficient evidence to support this theory.
In an attempt to impose supervisory liability on Pacelle, Christensen argues that
Pacelle was deliberately indifferent to unconstitutional acts committed by his
subordinate Haisley and that he failed to take sufficient remedial action. Docket 383 at
30-32. The court determined that Haisley did not commit any constitutional violations
in this case; therefore, there is no underlying constitutional violation for which Pacelle
might be responsible.
Because there is no evidence that HSUS or Pacelle knew of the constitutional
violations alleged in this case, they did not conspire with any state actors to cause such
violations. The court does not reach the issue of whether HSUS and Pacelle enjoy
qualified immunity. Accordingly, HSUS and Pacelle are entitled to summary judgment
on Count I.
Christensen names UAN as a defendant in Count I, alleging § 1983 violations
on September 2, 2009. The parties agree that UAN volunteers were responsible for
setting up the shelter at the Turner County Fairgrounds but did not enter
Christensen’s property or the property belonging to David and Kelly Christensen. See
Docket 338 at 4-5; Docket 359 at 4-5 (acknowledging that UAN staff members were
in charge of the shelter at the fairgrounds, did not go to either property in question on
September 2, 2009, and that all UAN volunteers were gone by September 7, 2009).
Because UAN is a private party,20 Christensen is required to show that UAN
willfully participated with state officials in a deprivation of constitutional rights and
As with HSUS, Christensen argues that UAN is a state actor rather than a
private actor. See Docket 359 at 30-34. Crawford is on point and controls on this issue.
Crawford, 678 F.3d at 670.
reached a mutual understanding concerning the unlawful deprivation of rights.
Crawford, 678 F.3d at 670. Christensen argues that it should have been obvious to
Quinn that the September 2, 2009, warrants were defective. Docket 359 at 38 (“[I]t
was blatantly obvious to [Quinn] that the warrants obtained . . . were not facially
valid.”). Although Christensen devotes several paragraphs in his brief to this allegation
detailing Quinn’s knowledge, he does not identify any evidence tending to show that
UAN knew of any problems with the warrants. For the reasons discussed above with
respect to Haisley, Pacelle, and HSUS, the presence of a facially valid warrant is strong
evidence that UAN acted in an objectively reasonable manner.
Christensen argues that UAN instructed volunteers on how to record evidence
to fabricate a case against Christensen. Docket 359 at 41-42. First, the statements
Christensen cites for this proposition came from Haisley, not anyone associated with
UAN. Second, despite Christensen’s frequent invocation of the statements about how
to record the conditions of the dogs, those statements do not create a genuine
question as to whether UAN actually fabricated or agreed to fabricate evidence.
Last, Christensen argues that UAN had an agenda that motivated its
participation in the raid on Christensen’s property. Docket 359 at 42-43. Christensen
cites a Supreme Court decision that held that inviting a news crew to cover a search
was a violation of the Fourth Amendment. See id. (citing Wilson v. Layne, 526 U.S. 603
(1999)). But Wilson is easily distinguishable from the case at bar. Wilson addresses
instances in which the presence of the third parties does not aid in the execution of
the warrant. Wilson, 526 U.S. at 611-12. The private entities in this case were assisting
law enforcement in the execution of a facially valid warrant. The fact that UAN
conducts fundraising activity or has a public agenda does not transform its actions
into constitutional violations.
Christensen has not identified evidence showing that UAN conspired to violate
his constitutional rights. Therefore, the court does not reach the issue of qualified
immunity. UAN is entitled to summary judgment on Count I.
Drs. Bauknecht and Dale
Christensen alleges in Count I that Drs. Bauknecht and Dale, in their individual
capacities, conspired to deprive him of his constitutional rights. Christensen must
show that Drs. Bauknecht and Dale conspired with state actors to deprive
Christensen of his constitutional rights. Crawford, 678 F.3d at 670.
Christensen points to several facts in an effort to demonstrate that
Drs. Bauknecht and Dale joined the alleged conspiracy. He argues that Dr. Dale
provided misleading testimony before the grand jury in the subsequent criminal case
by covering up the overall health of the dogs and by failing to disclose her affiliation
with SCRC. Docket 375 at 23. But Dr. Dale did disclose her relationship with SCRC
during her testimony. See Docket 408 at 13 n.8. Additionally, even viewed in the light
most favorable to Christensen, Dr. Dale’s grand jury testimony regarding the health of
individual dogs is insufficient to create a genuine factual issue as to whether Dr. Dale
fabricated evidence when she examined dogs at the Turner County Fairgrounds.21
Christensen also argues that Dr. Bauknecht had worked for UAN on other
operations before coming to Turner County, and that he was friends with Janell
Matthies. See Docket 375 at 25. Christensen further states that Dr. Bauknecht was not
licensed to practice as a veterinarian in South Dakota and “[b]ringing in a young,
newly licensed veterinarian . . . from Wisconsin to ‘do nothing more than examine
dogs in order to treat them’ seems very unlikely.” Id. at 25 n.47. Based on that
evidence, Christensen argues that Dr. Bauknecht’s bias is clear and creates a triable
question of fact. But this evidence is insufficient to create a factual question regarding
Dr. Bauknecht’s participation in a conspiracy without resort to speculation and
Christensen also argues that both Drs. Dale and Bauknecht knew they were
acting in an investigatory role. Id. at 22. He claims “[Drs. Bauknecht and Dale] were
Christensen primarily relies on a letter provided by Dr. Rentschler, which
states that most of the dogs he examined were in good shape. Although the court
does not weigh the credibility of evidence at the summary judgment stage, the court
observes that Dr. Rentschler’s letter is dated August 30, 2009, and describes the
confiscation of dogs from a puppy mill that occurred on August 26, 2009. See Docket
361-53. The events at question here occurred on September 2, 2009. With respect to
Christensen’s claim that the defendants deliberately kept inadequate records,
Dr. Rentschler himself writes that “[d]etailed individual records were kept on the
findings of every exam I performed . . . .” See id. Although Christensen seems to take
issue with how the veterinarians and volunteers documented their findings and the
terminology they used, that does not equate to the manufacture or fabrication of
biased, were deriving commercial gain from their involvement, and they did not
perform examinations of Dan Christensen’s dogs for the purpose of treatment as they
state.” Id. at 32. In response to the sworn affidavits of Drs. Dale and Bauknecht that
they could not have joined a conspiracy to violate Christensen’s rights because they
did not know he was the focus of the investigation and raid, Christensen states:
“Plaintiff would argue that considering how Defendants place so much weight on ‘not
knowing Plaintiff’s identity’ it is almost as if they intended from the beginning, prior
to their involvement, to avoid requesting such so they could blow that fact
substantially out of proportion later when sued.” Id. at 44 n.62.
These arguments by Christensen are wholly speculative and lack evidentiary
support. Christensen fails to offer any evidence that Dr. Bauknecht or Dr. Dale
derived financial gain from their roles in the raid, that they knew anything about the
April 9, 2009, arrest warrant, that they knew about Quinn’s conduct in obtaining the
September 2, 2009, warrants, or that they even knew the subject or purpose of the
September 2, 2009, raids. Without any evidence tending to show that either
Dr. Bauknecht or Dr. Dale willfully participated and reached a mutual understanding
to deprive Christensen of a constitutional right, they cannot be liable under § 1983.
The court need not reach the issue of qualified immunity. Because Christensen has
failed to identify specific facts that create a genuine issue for trial, Drs. Bauknecht and
Dale are entitled to summary judgment on Christensen’s claim in Count I.
Before examining the merits of Christensen’s individual capacity claim against
Landeen-Hoeke, the court must determine whether Landeen-Hoeke is entitled to
absolute immunity. “Prosecutors are absolutely immune from suits for damages
arising out of their official duties in initiating and pursuing criminal prosecutions.”
Williams v. Hartje, 827 F.2d 1203, 1208 (8th Cir. 1987) (citing Imbler v. Pachtman, 424
U.S. 409 (1976)). This immunity is available even if the prosecutor’s actions are
“patently improper.” Id. “Immunity is not defeated by allegations of malice,
vindictiveness, or self-interest.” Reasonover v. St. Louis Cnty., Mo., 447 F.3d 569, 580
(8th Cir. 2006). “[A] prosecutor is absolutely immune from a civil conspiracy charge
when his alleged participation in the conspiracy consists of otherwise immune acts.”
“[A]bsolute immunity may not apply when a prosecutor is not acting as ‘an
officer of the court,’ but is instead engaged in other tasks, say, investigative or
administrative tasks.” Van de Kamp v. Goldstein, 555 U.S. 335, 342 (2009) (quoting
Imbler, 424 U.S. at 431 n.33). In determining whether a prosecutor’s actions are part of
her official duties or are investigative or administrative, courts evaluate the nature of
the function performed. Kalina v. Fletcher, 522 U.S. 118, 127 (1997). Activities that are
“intimately associated with the judicial phase of the criminal process” are protected by
absolute immunity. Van de Kamp, 555 U.S. at 342-43 (quoting Imbler, 424 U.S. at 430).
Acts that are not associated with the prosecutor’s role as advocate in the judicial
process are protected by qualified immunity. See Kalina, 522 U.S. at 126.
It can be difficult to distinguish between prosecutorial and investigative
activities because “[p]reparation for initiation of the criminal process involves
investigative work mixed with prosecutorial decision-making.” Williams, 827 F.2d at
1210. “ ‘Not all of an advocate’s work is done in the courtroom. For a lawyer to
properly try a case, he must confer with witnesses, and conduct some of his own
factual investigation.’ ” Reasonover, 447 F.3d at 580 (quoting Cook v. Houston Post, 616
F.2d 791, 793 (5th Cir. 1980)). Investigative or administrative acts, particularly those
that “require legal knowledge and the exercise of related discretion,” can still be
directly connected with a prosecutor’s function as an advocate and therefore
protected by absolute immunity. See Van de Kamp, 555 U.S. at 344.
Christensen alleges that Landeen-Hoeke was the mastermind of the conspiracy
against Christensen. See Docket 484 at 51 (“Clearly evidence supports the conclusion
that this was indeed ‘her deal.’ ”). According to Christensen, Landeen-Hoeke:
[E]ngaged in overt acts in furtherance of the conspiracy to seize Dan
Christensen’s dogs when she: initiated the investigation on or about
April 8, 2009; when she completely re-wrote Quinn’s September 2, 2009
Affidavits; when she purposely removed material information and
excluded the findings from the August 27, 2009, search at David
Christensen’s property; and refused payment from the County to pay for
the care of Dan Christensen’s dogs while in the custody of Second
Docket 484 at 50. Christensen contends those acts fall outside of the scope of
Landeen-Hoeke’s role as a prosecutor and that she is not entitled to absolute
immunity for those acts.
April 8 and 9, 2009
With respect to the investigation on April 8 and 9, 2009, Landeen-Hoeke’s
alleged act of initiating the investigation is comprised of several separate acts.22 First,
Christensen claims Landeen-Hoeke passed information from Quinn to Cunningham
regarding Christensen’s business. Docket 484 at 33, 51. Second, Christensen claims
Landeen-Hoeke requested that Cunningham provide an affidavit so Landeen-Hoeke
could request an arrest warrant for the misdemeanor charge. Docket 484 at 34. Third,
according to Christensen, the individuals involved on April 9, 2009, met in LandeenHoeke’s office before going to Christensen’s property.23 Docket 484 at 34. Finally,
Christensen points to Quinn’s deposition testimony where Quinn stated that
Landeen-Hoeke mentioned that service of the arrest warrant and three-day notice was
a good opportunity to check Christensen’s property for evidence of allegations of
neglect. Docket 484 at 7 n.12.
Although Christensen does not name Landeen-Hoeke as a defendant in
Count II, her actions on April 9, 2009, are still relevant in determining whether she
joined a conspiracy.
Christensen contends that Landeen-Hoeke put together a “search party,” but
does not provide support for that proposition in the record. Rather, Christensen cites
to evidence showing that the people involved met at the courthouse, but not that
Landeen-Hoeke organized them there. See Docket 484 at 3-7.
Landeen-Hoeke’s request for a warrant is protected by absolute immunity. See
Van de Kamp, 555 U.S. at 343. Even if the court considers Landeen-Hoeke’s actions in
passing along the suspected sales tax violation to Cunningham and telling Quinn to
look around Christensen’s property and the fact that the officials met at the
courthouse on April 9, 2009, as outside her role as a prosecutor, she would still be
entitled to qualified immunity.
Landeen-Hoeke’s actions related to the sales tax investigation were not
objectively unreasonable in light of clearly established legal rules at the time. See Littrell
v. Franklin, 388 F.3d 578, 582 (8th Cir. 2004) (“What this means in practice is that
whether an official protected by qualified immunity may be held personally liable for
an allegedly unlawful official action generally turns on the ‘objective legal
reasonableness’ of the action, assessed in light of the legal rules that were ‘clearly
established’ at the time it was taken.” (internal quotation marks omitted)). Specifically,
it would be reasonable for an official to refer a sales tax complaint to the South
Dakota Department of Revenue. Furthermore, it would be reasonable for the various
parties to meet at the Turner County Courthouse before proceeding to Christensen’s
The only action by Landeen-Hoeke from April 2009 that raises a constitutional
concern is her alleged statement to Quinn that Quinn should use the opportunity to
look around Christensen’s property. But it is far from clear that Landeen-Hoeke
instructed Quinn to violate Christensen’s Fourth Amendment rights. Quinn could
look around from Christensen’s driveway and observe what was in plain view on his
property. Furthermore, although the right to privacy in one’s home is clearly
established, it is also clear that officers may search open fields without a warrant. It is
well established that “ ‘officials are not liable for bad guesses in gray areas; they are
liable for transgressing bright lines.’ ” Littrell, 388 F.3d at 582 (quoting Maciarello v.
Sumner, 973 F.2d 295, 298 (4th Cir. 1992)). Even if the court assumes that LandeenHoeke made the statement to Quinn as Christensen claims, or was motivated by a
personal animosity against Christensen, her actions would not have been clearly
unconstitutional. “The relevant question . . . is . . . whether a reasonable officer could
have believed [the conduct in question] to be lawful, in light of clearly established law
and the information [she] possessed. [Her] subjective beliefs about the [conduct] are
irrelevant.” Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 641 (1987). Therefore, Landeen-Hoeke
is immune from suit for her actions in April 2009.
Search Warrant Application
Next, the court turns to Landeen-Hoeke’s actions in connection with the
affidavits in support of the search warrant application. Landeen-Hoeke’s appearance
in court in support of the search warrant applications is protected by absolute
immunity.24 See Van de Kamp, 555 U.S. at 343 (“In the years since Imbler, we have held
that absolute immunity applies when a prosecutor . . . appears in court to present
evidence in support of a search warrant application[.]”); see also Burns v. Reed, 500 U.S.
478, 492 (1991) (“[W]e hold that respondent’s appearance in court in support of an
application for a search warrant and the presentation of evidence at that hearing are
protected by absolute immunity.”). Similarly, Landeen-Hoeke is entitled to absolute
immunity for her actions in assisting Quinn draft the affidavits for the search warrant
applications. See Kalina, 522 U.S. at 129 (“These cases make it quite clear that
petitioner’s activities in connection with the preparation and filing of two of the three
charging documents—the information and the motion for an arrest warrant—are
protected by absolute immunity. Indeed, except for her act in personally attesting to
the truth of the averments in the certification, it seems equally clear that the preparation
and filing of the third document in the package was part of the advocate’s function as
well.” (italics added)). Landeen-Hoeke is entitled to absolute immunity for her actions
relating to the warrants on September 2, 2009.
Christensen argues that Landeen-Hoeke intentionally misled the court when
she failed to correct Quinn’s assertion that the April 9, 2009, visit to Christensen’s
property was authorized by a search warrant rather than an arrest warrant. Even if
Christensen’s accusation that Landeen-Hoeke misled the court were true, she still
enjoys absolute immunity for her acts as an advocate. See Reasonover, 447 F.3d at 580
(“Even if Goldman knowingly presented false, misleading, or perjured testimony, or
even if he withheld or suppressed exculpatory evidence, he is absolutely immune from
The final overt act alleged by Christensen is that Landeen-Hoeke
“refused payment from the County to pay for the care of Dan Christensen’s
dogs while in the custody of Second Chance.” Docket 484 at 50. To support
this allegation, Christensen states:
Lastly, Landeen-Hoeke acted in furtherance of the conspiracy when she
told Quinn that they had to continue on with a prosecution or Quinn
would not be paid for taking care of Dan Christensen’s dogs that they
had illegally seized on September 2, 2009. Landeen-Hoeke knew very
well that under South Dakota Law [sic] the County had a responsibility
to safeguard and maintain evidence collected. Landeen-Hoeke was also
well aware that the contract entered into between Second Chance and
Turner County provided for payment to care for animals seized in
Turner County pursuant to the contract.
Id. at 53. Christensen’s argument on this point, reproduced above in its entirety, is
devoid of any citations to the record. It also fails to refer to any legal authority. The
court construes this argument as alleging an improper continuation of a prosecution.
Landeen-Hoeke would be entitled to absolute immunity for exercising her discretion
to continue a prosecution, or deciding whether certain evidence would lead to a
prosecution, or determining when penalties such as restitution might be available. See
Van de Kamp, 555 U.S. at 344 (giving absolute immunity to activities requiring “legal
knowledge and the exercise of related discretion”). Therefore, Landeen-Hoeke enjoys
immunity for the final overt act alleged by Christensen.
At various points in his brief, Christensen alleges numerous other acts by
Landeen-Hoeke that were not included in his list of the acts Landeen-Hoeke took in
furtherance of the alleged conspiracy. Those actions include: not reporting the
upcoming raid at the county commission meeting on September 1, 2009; contacting
Van Hove to request the use of the fairgrounds; working on a press release with
Jordan Crump; refusing to let Christensen’s veterinarian visit the dogs at the
fairgrounds; instructing volunteers on how to collect evidence; working to require that
all kennels be licensed; and telling Quinn that even if Christensen got his dogs back he
would not be able to get a breeder’s license.
First, each of these allegations, without more, would not amount to a
constitutional violation. Second, Christensen fails to adequately develop and support
each, both with legal authority and factual support. See, e.g., Docket 484 at 42
(containing an email from one HSUS employee to another repeating what Quinn said
Landeen-Hoeke had told her about Christensen’s ability to get a breeder’s license).
Even if the court assumes that Landeen-Hoeke is only entitled to qualified immunity
for those acts, Christensen would still have the burden of showing that the act in
question violated a clearly established constitutional right. See Smith v. City of
Minneapolis, Minn., 754 F.3d 541, 546 (8th Cir. 2014) (“ ‘Although the defendant bears
the burden of proof for this affirmative defense [of qualified immunity], the plaintiff
must demonstrate that the law was clearly established.’ ” (quoting Monroe v. Ark. State
Univ., 495 F.3d 591, 594 (8th Cir. 2007))). Christensen does not cite, and the court is
not aware of, any authority that clearly establishes that Landeen-Hoeke’s alleged
conduct was unconstitutional. Accordingly, Christensen has not met his burden and
Landeen-Hoeke is immune from suit on Count I.
Counts III-VII allege state-law claims over which this court has subject-matter
jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a). There are four specific instances in which
a federal court can decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c).
In this instance, the court has not dismissed all claims over which it has original
jurisdiction, and none of the other specified grounds exists. Accordingly, the court
exercises supplemental jurisdiction over the state-law claims. McLaurin v. Prater, 30
F.3d 982, 985 (8th Cir. 1994). A federal court exercising supplemental jurisdiction
over state-law claims applies state substantive law to those claims. Emmenegger v. Bull
Moose Tube Co., 324 F.3d 616, 624 n.9 (8th Cir. 2003).
Count III: Malicious Prosecution
In Count III, Christensen alleges that all defendants conspired to commit the
tort of malicious prosecution. To prevail on a claim for malicious prosecution under
South Dakota law, a plaintiff must show “(1) the commencement or continuance of
an original criminal or civil judicial proceeding; (2) its legal causation by the present
defendant against plaintiff, who was defendant in the original proceeding; (3) its bona
fide termination in favor of the present plaintiff; (4) the absence of probable cause for
such proceeding; (5) the presence of malice therein; (6) damage conforming to legal
standards resulting to plaintiff.” Heib v. Lehrkamp, 704 N.W.2d 875, 884 n.8 (S.D.
2005) (quoting Just v. Martin Bros. Co., 159 N.W. 44, 46 (S.D. 1916)).
“The third element of the tort of malicious prosecution, a bona fide
termination of prior proceeding in [Christensen’s] favor, ‘is a question of law normally
to be determined by the trial court . . . .’ ” Schwartz v. First Nat’l Bank in Sioux Falls, 390
N.W.2d 568, 571 (S.D. 1986) (quoting Brown v. Carr, 503 A.2d 1241, 1245 (D.C.
1986)). “ ‘[A] termination must reflect on the innocence of the accused party with
respect to the alleged wrong conduct.’ ” Id. (quoting Berman v. RCA Auto Corp., 177
Cal. App. 3d 321, 323 (1986)). The Schwartz court found that a nolo contendere plea
was not a bona fide termination in favor of the accused party. Id. In Brown, the court
stated that if a dismissal is “on technical grounds [or] for procedural reasons . . . it
does not constitute favorable termination.” Brown, 503 A.2d at 1245.
In this case, the charges against Christensen were dismissed after the evidence
supporting the state’s case was suppressed. Suppression of evidence does not
demonstrate Christensen’s innocence of the underlying charges. Rather, it is a
technical determination that the proper procedures for acquiring a warrant were
circumvented. Therefore, Christensen cannot show a substantive termination in his
favor that reflects his innocence.
The second element of malicious prosecution requires that the defendant be
the legal cause of the prosecution. “The rule requiring proof of legal causation . . .
[means] ‘a person cannot be liable for malicious prosecution if the decision whether to
prosecute is left to the discretion of another, including a law enforcement official or
the grand jury, unless the person provides information which he knows is false.’ ”
Danielson v. Hess, 807 N.W.2d 113, 117 (S.D. 2011) (emphasis in original) (quoting King
v. Graham, 126 S.W.3d 75, 76 (Tex. 2003)). Christensen was indicted by a grand jury,
which is evidence that there was probable cause for the criminal charges. See Heib, 704
N.W.2d at 887. The false statements by Quinn were not made to the grand jury, they
were made to the judge issuing the warrant. Christensen identifies no evidence that
any false statements were made to the grand jury, which made the decision to indict
him. Because the grand jury indicted Christensen, he cannot show that a defendant’s
false statement was the legal cause of his prosecution.
Christensen has not met his burden of proof on either the second or the third
element of malicious prosecution. Accordingly, all defendants are entitled to summary
judgment on Count III.
Count IV: Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
In Count IV, Christensen alleges that all defendants conspired with others to
commit the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress.25 To prevail on his
claim, a plaintiff must establish that the defendant “(1) by extreme and outrageous
conduct, (2) acted intentionally or recklessly to cause the plaintiff severe emotional
distress, (3) which conduct in fact caused the plaintiff severe distress, and (4) the
plaintiff suffered an extreme, disabling emotional response to the defendant’s
conduct.” Harris v. Jefferson Partners, L.P., 653 N.W.2d 496, 500 (S.D. 2002). “Proof
under this tort must exceed a rigorous benchmark. The conduct . . . must be ‘so
outrageous in character, and so extreme in degree, as to go beyond all possible bounds
of decency, and be regarded as atrocious, and utterly intolerable in a civilized
community.’ ” Id. (quoting Restatement (Second) of Torts § 46 cmt. d (1965)).
Whether conduct is “extreme enough to permit recovery” is a question of law. Reeves
v. Reiman, 523 N.W.2d 78, 83 (S.D. 1994).
“It has not been enough that the defendant has acted with an intent which is
tortious or even criminal, or that he has intended to inflict emotional distress, or even
that his conduct has been characterized by ‘malice,’ or a degree of aggravation which
In his brief in support of his final motion for summary judgment,
Christensen attempts to change his theory of recovery on Count III to abuse of
process. See Docket 552 at 87-89. This case has proceeded for four years, and through
motions for summary judgment by all defendants, as an intentional infliction of
emotional distress claim. Christensen cannot adopt a new theory at this stage of the
case. The court will not address the unpleaded abuse of process claim.
would entitle the plaintiff to punitive damages for another tort.” Restatement
(Second) of Torts § 46 cmt. d (1965). The only defendants whose conduct comes
close to that high standard are Quinn and Landeen-Hoeke. Their actions, while
questionable, possibly tortious, and found by Magistrate Judge Bern to be
unconstitutional, do not go beyond all possible bounds of decency. The rigorous
benchmark has not been met in this case, and all defendants are entitled to summary
judgment on Count IV.
Count V: AEPA Violation
In Count V, Christensen alleges that all defendants are liable for violating South
Dakota’s Animal Enterprise Protection Act. The AEPA states that no person may:
Intentionally damage or destroy an animal facility, an animal, or
property in or on the animal facility, or obstruct any enterprise
conducted at the animal facility;
Acquire or otherwise exercise control over an animal facility or an
animal or other property from an animal facility with the intent to
deprive the owner or to obstruct the enterprise conducted at the facility;
Enter an animal facility, not then open to the public, with intent
to commit any act prohibited by this section;
Enter an animal facility and remain concealed, with intent to
commit any act prohibited by this section;
Enter an animal facility and commit or attempt to commit any act
prohibited by this section; or
Intentionally turn out or release any animal in or on an animal
SDCL 40-38-2. A person may also violate the AEPA by entering and remaining in an
animal facility “if the person had notice that the entry was forbidden or received
notice to depart but failed to do so.” SDCL 40-38-3. The AEPA explicitly states that
it “does not apply to lawful activities of a governmental agency carrying out its duties
under law.” Id.; see also SDCL 40-38-2. A violation of the AEPA exposes the violator
to criminal penalties. SDCL 40-38-4. In addition to criminal penalties, the AEPA also
provides for damages. SDCL 40-38-5 (“Any person who has been damaged by reason
of violation of this chapter may bring an action in the circuit court against the person
causing the damage to recover an amount equal to three times all actual and
consequential damages. Such person may also recover his court costs and reasonable
All defendants argue as a threshold matter that they cannot be liable for
damages or attorney’s fees under SDCL 40-38-5 because no defendant has been
convicted of violating the AEPA. The South Dakota Supreme Court has not
interpreted the AEPA or its civil damages section. “ ‘When there is no state supreme
court case directly on point, our role is to predict how the state supreme court would
rule if faced with the [same issue] before us.’ ” Blankenship v. USA Truck, Inc., 601 F.3d
852, 856 (8th Cir. 2010) (alteration in original) (quoting Northland Cas. Co. v. Meeks,
540 F.3d 869, 874 (8th Cir. 2008).
Defendants point to a decision by the South Dakota Supreme Court that
interpreted a similar statute to require an underlying criminal conviction before a civil
action could proceed. See K & E Land & Cattle, Inc. v. Mayer, 330 N.W.2d 529, 531-32
(S.D. 1983). In K & E, the defendant was found liable for intentional damage to
private property, and the plaintiff was awarded treble damages. The basis for the
treble damages award was SDCL 22-34-2,26 which provided that “[a]ny person who
violates § 22-34-1, in addition to the punishment prescribed therefor, is liable in treble
damages for the injury done, to be recovered in a civil action by the owner of the
property or public officer having charge thereof.” The South Dakota Supreme Court
held that treble damages were not recoverable under SDCL 22-34-2:
A threshold problem exists with the application of SDCL 22-34-1 and
SDCL 22-34-2 herein. SDCL 22-34-1 is a criminal statute. Thus, if
appellant Mayer would have been prosecuted under SDCL 22-34-1, he
would have had the safeguards of the criminal burden of proof and
criminal procedure. . . . While it is undisputed that the same act can be
the basis of both a tort and a crime, SDCL 22-34-2 is dependent upon
SDCL 22-34-1 which is without any tort basis. We are unable to find
that the appellant has violated SDCL 22-34-1 as he has not been
prosecuted under that statute. Therefore, SDCL 22-34-2 is inapplicable
to the case at bar.
K & E, 330 N.W.2d at 532 (emphasis in original). The Eighth Circuit has agreed with
that interpretation of SDCL 22-34-2. Rohweder v. Aberdeen Prod. Credit Ass’n, 765 F.2d
109, 113 (8th Cir. 1985) (citing K & E, 330 N.W.2d at 532) (“The district court
refused to permit treble damages under SDCL 22-34-2 because it concluded that
criminal prosecution under SDCL 22-34-1 was a prerequisite to treble damage
liability. We agree.”).
SDCL 22-34-2 was repealed in 2005. 2005 S.D. Sess. Laws ch. 120 § 99.
To support a recovery in this case under SDCL 40-38-5, Christensen argues
that the repeal of SDCL 22-34-2 indicates the Legislature intended there to be a
difference between that statutory scheme and the AEPA, Docket 367 at 69 n.59; that
public policy supports availability of tort damages without a criminal conviction,
particularly in a case where the prosecutorial authorities are alleged to have
participated in the tort or where a criminal conviction is difficult to obtain, id. at 7071; and points to decisions by the Colorado Supreme Court and South Dakota
Supreme Court for support, id. at 69-70.
In the case cited by Christensen, the Colorado Supreme Court held that a
statute27 allowing the owner of property taken by theft, robbery, or burglary to
recover treble damages did not require a prior conviction. Itin v. Ungar, 17 P.3d 129,
132-35 (Colo. 2000). In reaching this conclusion, the Colorado Supreme Court
emphasized that the omission of the word convict, conviction, or convicted “reflects
a legislative intent not to require a criminal conviction.” Id. at 132. Christensen asks
this court to follow the reasoning of the Colorado Supreme Court in Itin rather than
the South Dakota Supreme Court in K & E.
First, both SDCL 22-34-2 and SDCL 40-38-5 contain a variation of the term
“violation.” Compare SDCL 22-34-2 (“Any person who violates § 22-34-1 . . . .”) with
Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 18-4-405 (2014) reads in pertinent part that with
respect to “[a]ll property obtained by theft, robbery, or burglary . . . [t]he owner may
maintain an action . . . against the taker thereof [and recover two hundred dollars or
three times the damages sustained, whichever is greater].”
SDCL 40-38-5 (“Any person who has been damaged by reason of a violation of this
chapter . . . .”). Because both South Dakota statutes use the term “violation,” which
is absent from the Colorado statute, Itin’s reasoning does not fit this case as closely as
the decision in K & E. Second, this court is bound to apply South Dakota law. The
South Dakota Supreme Court has interpreted a similar statutory scheme— imposing
civil liability based on a violation of a criminal statute—to require a criminal
conviction before a party may file a civil action for treble damages. An individual
prosecuted under the AEPA would enjoy the protections of the criminal process prior
to conviction, and the section authorizing civil damages is entirely dependent upon a
violation of the preceding sections of the AEPA. The court sees no meaningful
difference between the texts of SDCL 22-34-2 and SDCL 40-38-5 that would justify
ignoring the interpretation employed by the South Dakota Supreme Court.
Christensen cites a decision in which the South Dakota Supreme Court found
that a statute requiring a “violation” of a domestic abuse law as a prerequisite to a
restraining order did not require a “conviction” under the domestic abuse statute. See
Trumm v. Cleaver, 841 N.W.2d 22, 24-25 (S.D. 2013). Trumm is distinguishable for two
reasons. First, the South Dakota Supreme Court found it significant that the other
sections of SDCL 25-10 used the term “conviction” while the relevant section used
the term “violation.” Based on that difference in terminology, Trumm held that the
legislature’s choice of the term “violation” must have a different meaning than the
term “conviction.” Id. at 25. SDCL 40-38-5 contains no such juxtaposition of terms.
Second, the Trumm court reasoned that because victims of domestic abuse are
sometimes reluctant, unable, or unwilling to resort to criminal charges, tort claims, or
divorce, the underlying policy of the protection order statute was to “provide victims
with an efficient, alternative remedy to criminal prosecutions.” Id. Those policy
considerations unique to domestic abuse victims do not apply in the context of the
AEPA. Ultimately, K & E is more similar to the facts of this case and the statute at
hand, and provides better guidance to this court on how the South Dakota Supreme
Court might rule.
Christensen’s argument that the repeal of SDCL 22-34-2 indicates a legislative
intent to eliminate the requirement of a criminal conviction in SDCL 40-38-5 is
unsound. SDCL 40-38-5 was enacted in 1992, well after the South Dakota Supreme
Court’s decision in K & E. See 1992 S.D. Sess. Laws ch. 291 § 5. When the South
Dakota legislature repealed SDCL 22-34-2, it left SDCL 40-38-5 in place. Presumably,
the legislature was aware of the South Dakota Supreme Court’s precedent requiring a
criminal conviction as a prerequisite to the recovery of treble damages under a similar
statute. See, e.g., Couch v. Wilkinson, 939 F.2d 673, 675 (8th Cir. 1991) (“State
legislatures are presumed to know the state of pre-existing law when they enact later
law.”); Nelson v. Sch. Bd. of Hill City, 459 N.W.2d 451, 455 (S.D. 1990) (“It must be
presumed that the legislature was aware of the election requirements of SDCL 13-6-9
(rev. 1982) when it enacted SDCL 13-6-91 in 1983.”). Those facts suggest that the
legislature chose to enact SDCL 40-38-5 against the backdrop of the K & E decision
and later chose to leave that statute unchanged while repealing another.
Finally, Christensen provides no support for his speculative public policy
argument. See Docket 367 at 70 (“It would be almost inconceivable that Christensen
could expect to get the State or the County to find some way to appoint someone
who doesn’t have a conflict to prosecute the numerous State and County Defendants
involved in this action.”). Allowing Christensen to avoid the requirement of a criminal
conviction by naming enough government officials as defendants or by arguing that
obtaining a criminal conviction would be difficult would effectively abrogate the
policy decisions of the South Dakota legislature and the South Dakota Supreme
Although the South Dakota Supreme Court has not interpreted SDCL 40-38-5,
if faced with the question presented in this case, it would most likely follow K & E
and require a criminal conviction as a prerequisite to a civil action under SDCL 40-385. Because it is undisputed that no defendant in this case has ever been charged with
or convicted of a violation of the AEPA stemming from this matter, Christensen
cannot prevail on Count V, and summary judgment is granted to all defendants on
Count VI: Trespass
In Count VI, Christensen alleges that all defendants are liable for the tort of
trespass.28 Under South Dakota law, a trespass occurs when a person “intentionally
and without a consensual or other privilege . . . enters land in possession of
another . . . .” Benson v. State, 710 N.W.2d 131, 159 (S.D. 2006). South Dakota follows
the Restatement (Second) of Torts. See id.; State v. Rumpca, 652 N.W.2d 795, 798 n.2
(S.D. 2002), superseded by statute on other grounds, SDCL 41-9-1(2), as recognized by Alvine
Family Ltd. P’ship v. Hagemann, 780 N.W.2d 507, 513 n.4 (S.D. 2010).
Christensen has a property interest in his farm and its buildings. The Restatement
recognizes a “privilege to enter land in the possession of another for the purpose of
executing [civil] process against the person . . . .” Restatement (Second) of Torts § 208
(1965). The entry is not privileged if it is made under a pretense and is actually for
another purpose that would not enjoy a privilege. Id. cmt. f. Similarly, an officer may
trespass while executing a search warrant. See Swedlund v. Foster, 657 N.W.2d 39, 56
Christensen’s complaint is captioned as “Negligence per se - Criminal
Trespass in violation of SDCL 22-35-6.” Docket 133 at 28. But in his briefs opposing
the motions for summary judgment, Christensen labels Count VI as “Civil Trespass,”
cites to case law regarding a civil trespass, and fails to make any mention of a criminal
statute or any other source of authority permitting a private cause of action based on a
criminal statute. Docket 367 at 72. Therefore, the court will consider Count VI under
the tort theory.
April 9, 2009
Cunningham and Severson entered Christensen’s property to serve the threeday notice. Ostrem entered Christensen’s property to execute an arrest warrant. With
the exception of Quinn, no other defendant was present that day. As the court found
above with respect to all defendants except Quinn, there is insufficient evidence of an
agreement or understanding to support Christensen’s conspiracy claim. Therefore, all
defendants except Quinn29 present on April 9, 2009, enjoyed a privilege to enter
Christensen’s property, and they are entitled to summary judgment on Count VI.
Quinn claims to enjoy the privilege available to the other defendants. There is a
question of fact, however, as to whether her presence during the service of the arrest
warrant and three-day notice for the alleged purpose of protecting the others from
loose dogs was a pretense. Christensen points to evidence that Quinn was really on
Christensen’s property for an impermissible purpose of illegally gathering evidence.
Christensen has also identified evidence that after he had been arrested, Quinn
entered at least one building. At this point in time, the reason for the privilege no
longer existed. Therefore, a jury could find Quinn liable for a trespass on April 9,
Christensen alleges that Landeen-Hoeke conspired to commit the tort of
trespass, but only makes this allegation with respect to the seizure of dogs on
September 2, 2009. See Docket 484 at 86 (limiting Landeen-Hoeke’s involvement in
the trespass claim to September 2, 2009). Because Landeen-Hoeke was not present on
Christensen’s property at any time and Christensen only alleges she conspired to
trespass on September 2, 2009, the court does not consider Landeen-Hoeke here.
Quinn also contends that Christensen must show actual damage to his
property. See Docket 474 at 53. This applies when an actor exceeds or unreasonably
exercises a privilege, not when an actor trespasses without a privilege. See Restatement
(Second) of Torts § 214. Accordingly, Quinn is not entitled to summary judgment on
Christensen’s claim for trespass in Count VI.
Quinn and SCRC filed a joint motion for summary judgment and a joint brief
in support of that motion. The brief only discusses Quinn’s potential liability for
trespass. See Docket 474 at 50-53. Because SCRC does not provide any legal authority
or argument as to why it should avoid liability other than its contention that Quinn is
not liable, and because SCRC could be liable on a respondeat superior theory, SCRC
is not entitled to summary judgment on Count VI.
September 2, 2009
As discussed in Count I, no defendant other than Quinn and Landeen-Hoeke
would have had reason to doubt the validity of the warrant. Service of a facially valid
warrant confers upon an actor the privilege to enter the property in question. See
Swedlund, 657 N.W.2d at 56. Therefore, the court will limit its consideration of this
claim to Quinn and Landeen-Hoeke.
There is a question of fact as to whether Quinn intentionally misled the issuing
judge when requesting the warrant. If Quinn knew the warrant was invalid, she would
not have been privileged to enter Christensen’s property. Therefore, a jury could find
that Quinn trespassed on Christensen’s property on September 2, 2009.
Christensen also contends that Landeen-Hoeke conspired with Quinn to enter
his property and remove his dogs on September 2, 2009. See Docket 484 at 86.
Although Christensen does not cite any authority, civil conspiracy “is a wellrecognized theory of recovery once an underlying tort is established.” Reuben C.
Setliff III, M.D., P.C., v. Stewart, 694 N.W.2d 859, 867 (S.D. 2005). To show a civil
conspiracy, Christensen must prove “(1) two or more persons; (2) an object to be
accomplished; (3) a meeting of the minds on the object or course of action to be
taken; (4) the commission of one or more unlawful overt acts; and (5) damages as the
proximate result of the conspiracy.” Setliff, 694 N.W.2d at 866-67.
There is evidence that Landeen-Hoeke worked with Quinn to obtain the search
warrants which resulted in the search and seizure on September 2, 2009. There is also
evidence from which a jury could find that Quinn and Landeen-Hoeke agreed on the
course of action taken, and that Quinn committed an unlawful act in furtherance of
the agreement. Although the parties do not address the issue of damages, there is
evidence that some of Christensen’s dogs died as a proximate result of the conspiracy
and that many other dogs were not returned to Christensen. Therefore, genuine issues
of material fact remain with respect to Landeen-Hoeke’s involvement in a civil
conspiracy to commit a trespass.
Landeen-Hoeke claims she is immune from Christensen’s state-law claims.
Docket 414 at 16-17 (citing Reasonover, 447 F.3d at 585). Reasonover’s holding regarding
immunity for state-law claims was based on Missouri immunity law. See Reasonover, 447
F.3d at 585. The court applies state immunity law in determining the scope of
immunity on state-law claims. See id.; Drake ex rel. Cotton v. Koss, 445 F.3d 1038 (8th
Cir. 2006) (applying Minnesota immunity law to Minnesota state-law claims).
South Dakota provides immunity to public entity employees in certain
circumstances. SDCL 21-32A-2; Unruh v. Davison Cnty., 744 N.W.2d 839, 843 (S.D.
2008). This immunity is an affirmative defense. Id. All affirmative defenses must be
raised in the responsive pleading. Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(c); Jurgensen v. Smith, 611 N.W.2d
439, 442 (S.D. 2000) (“[A] defendant is required to plead any and all affirmative
defenses in the answer to the plaintiff’s complaint.”).
Landeen-Hoeke alleges in her amended answer that she was acting in the scope
of her official duties and is therefore entitled to qualified immunity. Docket 145 at 4.
She also alleges in her amended answer that Christensen’s claims are barred by the
doctrines of sovereign immunity and absolute immunity. Id. at 4-5. Although
Landeen-Hoeke raises numerous immunity defenses, state-law immunity is not one of
them. Accordingly, Landeen-Hoeke, in her individual capacity, is not entitled to statelaw immunity under SDCL 21-32A-2.30
Count VII: Conversion
In Count VII, Christensen alleges that all defendants are liable for conversion.31
“ ‘Conversion is the unauthorized exercise of control or dominion over personal
property in a way that repudiates an owner’s right in the property or in a manner
inconsistent with such right.’ ” First Am. Bank & Trust, N.A. v. Farmers State Bank of
Canton, 756 N.W.2d 19, 31 (S.D. 2008) (quoting Chem-Age Indus., Inc. v. Glover, 652
N.W.2d 756, 766 (S.D. 2002)). The intent of the defendant is not a factor. See W.
Consolidated Co-op. v. Pew, 795 N.W.2d 390, 397 (S.D. 2011). Although South Dakota
specifies a damages calculation for conversion by statute, SDCL 21-3-3, South Dakota
largely follows the Restatement in defining the scope of the tort itself. See Rensch v.
Quinn has pleaded the affirmative defense of immunity under SDCL 21-32A
in her answer. See Docket 141 at 22. Despite asserting that defense in her answer,
however, Quinn never raises it in her briefs. As a result, the court does not address
that unraised issue.
As with Count VI, the amended complaint frames Count VII as “Negligence
per se - Intentional Damage to Private Property in violation of SDCL 22-344 [sic,
likely 22-34-1], SDCL 40-1-21 and SDCL 40-2-6.” In his brief, Christensen fails to
reference any of the statutes included in the caption of the amended complaint, and
provides no source of authority for a private right of action under any of those
statutes. See Docket 367 at 73. Instead, Christensen relies on the tort theory of
conversion, which the court will consider to be the intended theory of recovery under
Riddle’s Diamonds of Rapid City, Inc., 393 N.W.2d 269, 270-72 (S.D. 1986) (citing the
Restatement (Second) of Torts § 222A (1965)).
All parties other than Quinn reasonably believed they were acting pursuant to a
valid warrant for the entire—and brief—time they exercised any dominion or control
over the dogs. Any dominion they had was authorized by a facially valid warrant. Only
Quinn can be said to have exercised unauthorized control over the dogs. Whether
interference with a property right is unauthorized is a factual issue. See W. Consolidated
Co-op., 795 N.W.2d at 396. Therefore, Quinn is not entitled to summary judgment on
the conversion claim in Count VII. As in Count VI, SCRC provides no argument for
summary judgment except that Quinn cannot be liable for conversion. See Docket 474
at 54-55. SCRC can be liable for torts of its employees based on a respondeat superior
theory. Thus, SCRC is not entitled to summary judgment on Count VII.
Christensen also claims that all defendants conspired to commit the tort of
conversion. As the court discussed before, no defendants other than Quinn and
Landeen-Hoeke had any knowledge of the omissions Quinn made to the judge issuing
the warrant. Therefore, no defendant, except Quinn and Landeen-Hoeke, agreed with
another person to commit an unlawful act, namely a conversion. But for the reasons
stated above with respect to the agreement to commit a trespass, there are genuine
issues of material fact as to whether Quinn and Landeen-Hoeke reached an agreement
to convert Christensen’s dogs. Therefore, genuine issues of material fact remain with
respect to Landeen-Hoeke’s involvement in a civil conspiracy to commit conversion.
Christensen claims he is entitled to punitive damages based on Counts III-VII.
See Docket 133 (amended complaint). The court has dismissed Counts III, IV, and V.
Generally, punitive damages are not recoverable in tort actions unless expressly
allowed by statute. Risse v. Meeks, 585 N.W.2d 875, 877 (S.D. 1998). South Dakota law
allows a jury to award punitive damages where a defendant has acted with
“oppression, fraud, or malice, actual or presumed.” SDCL 21-3-2; see also Hoaas v.
Griffiths, 714 N.W.2d 61 (S.D. 2006) (allowing punitive damages in a conversion suit);
Till v. Bennett, 281 N.W.2d 276 (S.D. 1979) (allowing punitive damages in a case
involving trespassing cattle). In this case, there is evidence from which a jury could
find that Quinn and Landeen-Hoeke acted with the requisite culpability to impose
CHRISTENSEN’S MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
Christensen moves for summary judgment against HSUS, Pacelle, Haisley,
Dr. Dale, Dr. Bauknecht, UAN, Landeen-Hoeke, Quinn, SCRC, Severson,
Cunningham, and Ostrem. The court has held that HSUS, Pacelle, Haisley, Dr. Dale,
Dr. Bauknecht, UAN, Severson, Cunningham, and Ostrem are entitled to summary
judgment themselves. Accordingly, Christensen’s motions for summary judgment
with respect to those defendants are denied.
With respect to Quinn and SCRC, genuine issues of material fact remain as to
whether she entered one of Christensen’s outbuildings on April 9, 2009; whether she
did so in a good faith effort to locate Christensen and protect others from loose dogs;
whether she intentionally misled the issuing judge or acted with reckless disregard for
the truth in applying for the warrants on September 2, 2009; whether her presence on
Christensen’s property on September 2, 2009, was a pretense for an unconstitutional
seizure; whether she conspired with anyone to violate Christensen’s constitutional
rights; whether she unlawfully trespassed on April 9, 2009, and September 2, 2009;
whether she conspired to unlawfully trespass; whether she exercised unauthorized
control over Christensen’s dogs; whether her interference with Christensen’s property
rights was warranted; and whether she conspired with anyone to commit the tort of
conversion. Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to Quinn, a jury could
find that she acted in good faith throughout the times in question and did not
conspire with anyone to violate Christensen’s constitutional rights or commit trespass
or conversion. Therefore, Christensen’s motion for summary judgment against Quinn
and SCRC is denied.
With respect to Landeen-Hoeke, genuine issues of material fact remain as to
whether she conspired with Quinn to commit the torts of trespass or conversion.
Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to Landeen-Hoeke, a jury could find
that she did not reach an agreement or understanding with Quinn to commit any
illegal conduct. Christensen’s motion for summary judgment against Landeen-Hoeke
Christensen sees in this case a sweeping conspiracy between all the named
defendants to run him out of business. Christensen, however, has not identified
evidence to show that any defendants except Quinn and Landeen-Hoeke were doing
anything other than investigating what they reasonably believed to be a puppy mill in
Turner County. On Count II, each defendant except Quinn was privileged to enter
Christensen’s property on April 9, 2009. Genuine questions remain with respect to
Quinn’s motives and the scope of her activity on that day. On Count I, without
evidence that the defendants other than Quinn and Landeen-Hoeke conspired to
illegally seize Christensen’s animals based on improperly obtained warrants,
Christensen cannot establish a violation of § 1983. Genuine questions of fact remain
as to whether Quinn conspired to submit affidavits that violated Christensen’s Fourth
Amendment rights. Landeen-Hoeke enjoys absolute immunity.
On Counts III, IV, and V, Christensen has not identified evidence sufficient to
meet his burden on each element of the alleged torts. On Counts VI and VII,
Christensen identified sufficient evidence to create a jury question as to whether
Quinn is liable for trespass or conversion, and whether Landeen-Hoeke conspired
with Quinn to commit those torts. Accordingly, it is
ORDERED that the motions for summary judgment filed by Lara
Cunningham and James Severson (Docket 329), United Animal Nations (Docket
333), Dr. Adam Bauknecht and Dr. Dawn Dale (Docket 340), Wayne Pacelle and the
Humane Society of the United States (Docket 345), James Adamson, Luverne
Langerock, John Overby, Steve Schmeichel, Lyle Van Hove, Byron Nogelmeier, Jay
Ostrem, and Turner County (Docket 386), and Scottlund Haisley (Docket 431) are
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the motion for summary judgment filed by
Rosie Quinn and Second Chance Rescue Center (Docket 472) is granted on Counts
III, IV, and V and denied on Counts I, II, VI, and VII.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the motion for summary judgment filed by
Tiffani Landeen-Hoeke (Docket 413) is granted on Counts I, II, III, IV, and V and
denied on Counts VI and VII.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the motions for summary judgment filed
by Dan Christensen against the Humane Society of the United States, Wayne Pacelle,
and Scottlund Haisley (Docket 459), Dr. Dawn Dale and Adam Bauknecht (Docket
465), United Animal Nations (Docket 469), Tiffani Landeen-Hoeke (Docket 493),
Rosie Quinn and Second Chance Rescue Center, and James Severson, Lara
Cunningham, and Jay Ostrem (Docket 549) are denied.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the court will schedule a jury trial on the
remaining claims against Quinn (Counts I, II, VI, and VII) and Landeen-Hoeke
(Counts VI and VII).
Dated September 10, 2014.
BY THE COURT:
/s/Karen E. Schreier
KAREN E. SCHREIER
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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