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Childers v. Iglesias

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

February 9, 2017

RANDY CHILDERS, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
ED IGLESIAS; ANNE HOLLIS, Defendants-Appellees.

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas

          Before PRADO, HIGGINSON, and COSTA, Circuit Judges.

          EDWARD C. PRADO, CIRCUIT JUDGE:

         Plaintiff-Appellant Randy Childers brought suit against Defendants- Appellees Ed Iglesias and Anne Hollis for unlawful arrest under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The district court granted the Defendants' motion to dismiss on the ground that Childers failed to allege a constitutional violation. For the reasons stated below, we AFFIRM.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Childers owns a ranch in Parker County, Texas. On September 15, 2013, Childers went to his ranch to evict an individual whom he was allowing to stay there. After he arrived, he requested assistance from the Parker County Sheriff's Office. When Hollis and Iglesias, who are Parker County Deputy Sheriffs, arrived, Childers's truck was parked in front of the gate to the ranch. The Defendants parked their car in front of Childers's truck. Childers alleges that he was intending to leave the ranch at that point, but that the Defendants' parked car prevented him from leaving.

         Childers then attempted to explain the situation to Hollis. While Childers was speaking with Hollis, Iglesias asked Childers to move his truck. Childers did not immediately comply; instead he "attempted to complete his explanation." Iglesias then placed Childers under arrest for interfering with the officers' duties. Childers alleges that the Defendants could have driven around his truck, and that Hollis agreed; Iglesias, however, did not believe he could drive around the truck.

         Although the district attorney eventually dismissed the charge, Childers was held in jail for over twenty-four hours and incurred legal fees as a result of his arrest. Childers subsequently brought suit in state court under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, claiming that the Defendants arrested him without probable cause in violation of the Fourth Amendment. After removing the case to federal court, the Defendants moved to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The Defendants asserted qualified immunity and argued that Childers's allegations do not support a constitutional violation. The district court agreed and granted the Defendants' motion to dismiss. This appeal followed.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Standard of Review and Applicable Law

         We review de novo a district court's dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6), "accepting all well-pleaded facts as true and viewing those facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Hines v. Alldredge, 783 F.3d 197, 201 (5th Cir.) (quoting True v. Robles, 571 F.3d 412, 417 (5th Cir. 2009)), cert. denied, 136 S.Ct. 534 (2015). "If the complaint has not set forth 'enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face, ' it must be dismissed." Id. (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)).

         To survive a motion to dismiss, Childers must allege facts that show the Defendants lacked probable cause to arrest him. Brown v. Lyford, 243 F.3d 185, 189 (5th Cir. 2001). "Probable cause exists 'when the totality of the facts and circumstances within a police officer's knowledge at the moment of arrest are sufficient for a reasonable person to conclude that the suspect had committed or was committing an offense.'" Haggerty v. Tex. S. Univ., 391 F.3d 653, 655-56 (5th Cir. 2004) (quoting Glenn v. City of Tyler, 242 F.3d 307, 313 (5th Cir. 2001)). Moreover, the Defendants are "entitled to qualified immunity if a reasonable officer in [their] position could have believed that, in light of the totality of the facts and circumstances of which [they were] aware, there was a fair probability" that Childers committed an offense-namely, interfering with a police officer's official duties. Id. at 656; see also Tex. Penal Code § 38.15 ("A person commits an offense if the person with criminal negligence interrupts, disrupts, impedes, or otherwise interferes with . . . a peace officer while the peace officer is performing a duty or exercising authority imposed or granted by law.").

         B. Analysis

         Childers principally argues that he did nothing to interfere with the Defendants' official duties.[1] Although Childers concedes that he did not move his truck when Deputy Iglesias requested he do so, he contends that the Defendants could have driven around his truck or simply walked past it to enter the ranch. Childers also argues that he merely attempted to explain the situation to the Defendants, which he suggests was protected speech under the First Amendment. See City of Hous. v. Hill, 482 U.S. 451, 462-63 ...


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