Submitted: January 16, 2019
from United States District Court for the Eastern District of
Missouri - St. Louis
SMITH, Chief Judge, COLLOTON and ERICKSON, Circuit Judges.
ERICKSON, Circuit Judge.
Robinson sued Officers Angela Hawkins and Kelli Swinton for
civil conspiracy and Officer Hawkins for excessive force and
performing an unreasonable search. The officers moved for
summary judgment, and the district court denied their motion.
The officers now appeal that denial. Because Robinson has not
stated facts sufficient to support a finding of civil
conspiracy or excessive force, we reverse the district court
in part. We affirm that portion of the district court's
opinion denying Officer Hawkins summary judgment on the
unreasonable search claim.
the facts in a light most favorable to Kayla Robinson, the
non-moving party to the summary judgment. On October 19,
2012, St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department (SLMPD)
Officers Angela Hawkins and Joseph Speiss were among a group
of officers conducting a police checkpoint. At approximately
10:30 p.m., Robinson's boyfriend-who was driving
Robinson's car while she sat in the front passenger
seat-made an illegal U-turn, apparently to avoid the
checkpoint. Officers from the checkpoint then conducted a
traffic stop on Robinson's car.
Officer Hawkins approached the stopped car she saw
Robinson's boyfriend hand something to Robinson, and
Robinson "taking her hands out of the front of her
waistband." Robinson v. City of St. Louis, Mo.,
No. 4:17-CV-156-PLC, 2018 WL 1695534, at *3 (E.D. Mo. Apr. 6,
2018). Officer Hawkins suspected that Robinson and her
boyfriend had exchanged drugs or a weapon. Once she reached
the car, Officer Hawkins asked Robinson to show her hands and
step outside. Robinson complied. Officer Hawkins then
handcuffed Robinson and performed a pat-down search which
failed to reveal the presence of any contraband. Officer
Hawkins then asked Robinson what she had placed in her
waistband, and Robinson admitted to having attempted to hide
some marijuana. Officer Hawkins told Robinson to retrieve the
marijuana, but Robinson asked to be brought to the police
station to retrieve the marijuana there. Officer Hawkins
refused, citing officer safety concerns.
Hawkins moved Robinson to a nearby parking lot behind a
tractor-trailer, intending to complete the search for the
drugs that Robinson had admitted were in her possession.
While being moved, Robinson continued to object to the search
in the parking lot and asked to be taken to the station.
According to Robinson Officer Hawkins said, "Bitch, no,
we're doing this right now" and yelled at her
repeatedly in response to her desire to be taken to the
station, calling her a "f*cking dope fiend."
Hawkins requested rubber gloves over the radio. Sgt. Mark
McMurry, another SLMPD officer, drove up "alongside the
trailer" and delivered a pair of gloves. Once in
location Robinson retrieved the marijuana. Officer Hawkins
remained convinced that Robinson was likely hiding other
contraband. While there is some dispute as to what was said
and done, Robinson asserts Officer Hawkins grabbed her by the
arms and pushed her face-first into the trailer yelling,
"Bitch, this isn't all that you have. You're not
freaking out over a bag of marijuana."
Hawkins turned Robinson around and pushed her back against
the trailer. Pictures of Robinson's clothes from that
evening show some staining, reportedly caused by the
encounter. Robinson claims Officer Hawkins then unfastened
her pants, pulled down her underwear, and "touched . . .
Robinson's vagina, anus, and inside her vagina
lips." Robinson claims that shortly thereafter, Officer
Hawkins planted a baggie containing drugs on the ground in
front of Robinson.
also claims she "could still see the man [i.e., the male
officer] that was watching" during the search. Security
footage confirmed the presence of a male officer in the lot
during at least a portion of the search. Officer Hawkins did
not dispute Robinson's assertion "that there were at
least two male officers in the parking lot while [Officer
Hawkins] searched [Robinson]." Robinson described the
experience as feeling "like [she] was being raped in
Hawkins walked Robinson back to the patrol car and shortly
thereafter Officer Swinton arrived at the scene of the stop.
Officer Swinton observed that Robinson was
"hysterical." According to Officer Swinton it
appeared that Robinson was "having a panic attack."
was transported to the police station, where she attempted to
write a statement describing Officer Hawkins's behavior.
While Robinson was writing her statement, Officer Swinton
allegedly attempted to pressure her into claiming the
"dope" belonged to her boyfriend. Robinson asked
for a lawyer and Officer Swinton cursed at her in reply.
Robinson claims Officer Swinton then read her statement,
laughed, balled it up, and did not include the statement in
the final incident report. At her deposition, Officer Swinton
explained she did not include the statement in Robinson's
incident report because it was unsigned. There is, however,
no SLMPD policy requiring statements to be signed. Officer
Swinton also described Officer Hawkins as a
after her encounter with police, Robinson visited an
emergency room and was treated for shoulder pain, neck pain,
and cuts and bruising on her wrists, all of which she
attributed to her encounter with the officers. Following
treatment, she was prescribed an anti-inflammatory drug, a
pain-killer, and a muscle relaxant.
Swinton later drafted her own incident report for the
evening, even though she had not been at the scene during
most of the relevant events. The officers concede that
Officer Swinton's report is riddled with inaccuracies and
omissions. For example, the report did not mention the
presence of Officers Spiess and McMurry, the pat-down search
in the street, Robinson's request to be searched at the
station, Officer Hawkins's request for gloves, the
strip-search in the parking lot, the unfastening and lowering
of Robinson's pants, or Robinson's distress.
charges were brought against Robinson. Robinson subsequently
sued Officers Hawkins and Swinton in both their individual
and official capacities under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for
violating her constitutional rights. Robinson alleged
Officers Swinton and Hawkins conspired to produce a false
police report. She also alleged Officer Hawkins used
excessive force and performed an unreasonable search, in
violation of the Fourth Amendment. Officers Hawkins and
Swinton moved for summary judgment on the basis of qualified
district court construed Robinson's complaint as alleging
that Officers Swinton and Hawkins had conspired to deny her
access to the courts. The district court then granted summary
judgment to the officers on the official capacity claims but
denied summary judgment on the individual capacity claims.
The court determined a reasonable jury could conclude that
Officer Hawkins had used excessive force and performed an
unreasonable search and that Officers Hawkins and Swinton had
conspired to deny Robinson access to the courts.
appeal, Officers Hawkins and Swinton argue Robinson's
complaint does not allege that they conspired to violate her
constitutional rights, and they deny the existence of a
constitutional right to an accurate police report. Officer
Hawkins also denies having used excessive force or performed
an unreasonable search.
VI of Robinson's complaint alleges that the officers
"unlawfully conspired with each other to violate [her]
constitutional rights" and that she "was deprived
of her rights guaranteed in the United States
Constitution." The district court construed the
conspiracy count as a conspiracy by the officers to deprive
Robinson of her right access to the courts. While we have
recognized that this type of construction may be appropriate,
see S.L. ex rel. Lenderman v. St. Louis Metro. Police
Dep't Bd. of Police Comm'rs, 725 F.3d 843,
848-49 (8th Cir. 2013) (cleaned up) (construing
plaintiff's claim that defendants "had violated her
Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process, property, equal
protection under the law, and equal justice by conspiring
together . . . to undertake a course of conduct that violated
[plaintiff's] civil rights" as alleging deprivation
of access to the courts), we believe that such a construction
is unavailing to save Robinson's conspiracy claim in this
order to prove a conspiracy under § 1983, the plaintiff
must show for a particular defendant: (1) a conspiracy
between the defendant and at least one other person; (2) an
overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy; (3) a resulting
injury to the plaintiff; and (4) the deprivation of a
constitutional right or privilege. Askew v. Millerd,
191 F.3d 953, 957 (8th Cir. 1999) (internal citations
omitted). Even though the question of a conspiracy to deprive
a person of their constitutional rights is usually a jury
question, a court may resolve a conspiracy claim on summary
judgment where it is "convinced that the evidence
presented is insufficient to support any reasonable inference
of a conspiracy." White v. McKinley, 519 F.3d
806, 816 (8th Cir. 2008) (internal quotations omitted).
such a case. Robinson has scant evidence from which a
reasonable jury could infer that Officers Hawkins and Swinton
conspired to deprive Robinson of her constitutional rights.
The evidence Robinson points to included: Officer Swinton
called Officer Hawkins "a mentor"; that
Swinton's report included multiple material inaccuracies;
that it was unusual for a person who had not witnessed either
the stop or the search to prepare a report; and that Swinton
was rude and disrespectful while Robinson drafted her
statement. Taking Robinson's claims about Officer
Swinton's treatment as true, we agree that Officer
Swinton acted unprofessionally in yelling and cursing at
Robinson while she drafted her statement. The multiple
inaccuracies in Officer Swinton's report are concerning.
These shortcomings reflect poorly on Officer Swinton's
credibility. Nonetheless, they do not establish the existence
of an agreement between Officers Hawkins and Swinton. That
Officers Hawkins and Swinton enjoyed a close professional
relationship is insufficient, standing alone, to support a
reasonable inference of a conspiracy.
the district court erred in denying Officers Hawkins and
Swinton summary ...