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Myers v. Koopman

United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit

December 20, 2013

JEREMY C. MYERS, Plaintiff - Appellant/ Cross-Appellee,
v.
BRIAN KOOPMAN, Detective in the Loveland, Colorado Police Department, in his individual capacity, Defendant-Appellee/ Cross-Appellant.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Colorado (D.C. No. 1:09-CV-02802-REB-MEH)

Joseph Paul Fonfara of Fonfara Law Offices, Fort Collins, Colorado, (Randall Meyers of Law Office of Randall R. Meyers, Fort Collins, Colorado, with him on the briefs) for Plaintiff – Appellant/Cross-Appellee.

Kent N. Campbell of Wick & Trautwein, LLC, Fort Collins, Colorado, for Defendant – Appellee/Cross-Appellant.

Before BRISCOE, Chief Circuit Judge, O'BRIEN and PHILLIPS, Circuit Judges.

PHILLIPS, Circuit Judge.

Jeremy Myers challenges the district court's dismissal of his § 1983 malicious-prosecution claim alleging violations of his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. In his complaint, he asserted that Detective Brian Koopman obtained an arrest warrant by fabricating facts to create the illusion of probable cause. As a result, Myers spent three days in custody.

Exercising jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291, we conclude that the district court rightly dismissed Myers' Fourteenth Amendment claim because an adequate state remedy existed, but we conclude that the district court improperly dismissed Myers' Fourth Amendment malicious prosecution claim as untimely after recasting it as a claim for false imprisonment. In fact, Myers correctly styled his Fourth Amendment claim as one for malicious prosecution because he was seized after the institution of legal process. The malicious prosecution claim is timely. Accordingly, we reverse the dismissal of that claim.

BACKGROUND

Because the district court entered judgment on the pleadings for Koopman, we accept Myers' allegations as true. See Estes v. Wyo. Dep't of Transp., 302 F.3d 1200, 1203 (10th Cir. 2002). Treated as true, Myers' allegations paint a compelling picture of overzealous police work: Detective Koopman falsified an affidavit to obtain a search warrant for Myers' property. Acting under authority of the warrant, law enforcement officers searched his property and a nearby sugar-beet laboratory. Investigators discovered a jar containing a white substance. Field tests incorrectly identified the substance as methamphetamine. The police hailed the seizure as "a lot of dope, " and the media portrayed Myers as a meth manufacturer. App. vol. 1, at 56–57, 64.

According to Myers' allegations, Koopman then fabricated facts in an affidavit to obtain an arrest warrant. A judicial officer granted the warrant, and Myers surrendered on Friday, September 7, 2007, intending to post bond under an agreement between his attorney and Koopman. Myers claims that when he arrived at the police station, Koopman told the officer on duty to detain Myers because Koopman intended to file additional charges. Myers remained in custody until he bonded out on Monday, September 10.

The district attorney then filed criminal charges, and Myers appeared for all hearings. Ultimately, further testing of the samples recovered from the raid revealed that they were not controlled substances. On November 15, 2007, the district attorney dropped all charges.

Myers filed his complaint on November 5, 2009.[1] In 2012, the district court granted Koopman's motion for judgment on the pleadings, dismissing Myers' Fourteenth Amendment claim because an adequate state remedy existed, and further dismissing his Fourth Amendment claim as untimely. Myers now appeals those rulings. Koopman cross-appeals, arguing that he is entitled to qualified and absolute immunity.

DISCUSSION

We review the district court's decision to enter judgment on the pleadings for Koopman under the same standard applicable to a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. See Aspenwood Inv. Co. v. Martinez, 355 F.3d 1256, 1259 (10th Cir. 2004). Under that standard, we apply de novo review and will uphold the dismissal only if Myers' allegations fail to "state a claim to relief ...


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