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Bailey v. Swindell

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

October 16, 2019

KENNETH BAILEY, Plaintiff - Appellant,
SHAWN T. SWINDELL, in his individual capacity, MICHAEL RAMIREZ, in his individual capacity, SHERIFF OF SANTA ROSA COUNTY FLORIDA, Defendants - Appellees, WENDELL HALL, Defendant.

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida D.C. Docket No. 3:15-cv-00390-MCR-CJK

          Before WILSON and NEWSOM, Circuit Judges, and PROCTOR, [*] District Judge.

          NEWSOM, Circuit Judge.

         What began as a relatively low-key consensual encounter between Santa Rosa County Sheriff's Deputy Shawn Swindell and Kenneth Bailey escalated quickly into a forceful arrest. Taking the facts in the light most favorable to Bailey, as we must given the case's procedural posture, the short story goes like this: Swindell showed up at Bailey's parents' home requesting to speak with Bailey about an earlier incident involving his estranged wife. When Bailey came to the door, Swindell asked to talk to him alone, but Bailey declined. After the two argued briefly, Bailey went back inside the house. Then, presumably fed up with Bailey's unwillingness to cooperate, Swindell pursued him across the threshold and (as Bailey describes it) "tackle[d] [him] . . . into the living room" and arrested him.

         Bailey sued, arguing that his arrest violated the Fourth Amendment. The district court granted summary judgment in Swindell's favor, and Bailey now appeals on two grounds. First, Bailey disputes that Swindell had probable cause to arrest him in the first place. Second, Bailey contends that in any event-i.e., even assuming that probable cause existed-Swindell unlawfully arrested him inside his parents' home without a warrant. Unsurprisingly, Swindell disagrees on both counts and, further, asserts that he is entitled to qualified immunity.

         Without deciding whether Bailey's arrest was supported by probable cause-or, as it goes in the qualified-immunity context, "arguable probable cause"-we reverse. Even assuming that Swindell had probable cause, he crossed what has been called a "firm" and "bright" constitutional line, and thereby violated the Fourth Amendment, when he stepped over the doorstep of Bailey's parents' home to make a warrantless arrest.



         The seeds of the confrontation between Swindell and Bailey were planted when Swindell responded to a request from police dispatch to investigate an argument between Bailey and his estranged wife, Sherri Rolinger.[1] The argument had occurred when Bailey stopped by the couple's marital home to retrieve a package. Bailey no longer lived in the home with Rolinger and their two-year-old son, as the couple was embroiled in a contentious divorce. When Bailey rang the doorbell-seemingly more than once-he woke the boy, who started to cry. Rolinger came to the door but refused to open it and told Bailey to leave. Bailey responded that he wasn't leaving without his package, and Rolinger eventually informed him that she had put it in the mailbox. Bailey retrieved the package and departed.

         Rolinger went to her mother's house and called 911 to report the incident to police. In response to the call, Deputy Andrew Magdalany was dispatched to interview Rolinger, and Swindell went to talk to Bailey. At some point before Swindell reached Bailey, he called Magdalany and gathered additional details about the encounter and the surrounding circumstances. Magdalany told Swindell, for instance, that in the three months since Bailey's separation from his wife, he had visited the marital residence repeatedly, moved items around in the house, and installed cameras without his wife's knowledge. Magdalany also explained that Rolinger was "fear[ful]" and believed that her husband had "snapped." Even so, he told Swindell that he had not determined that Bailey had committed any crime.

         Armed with this information, Swindell approached Bailey's parents' home-where Bailey was living-knocked on the door, and told Bailey's mother Evelyn that he wanted to speak to Bailey.[2] Bailey came to the door and stepped out onto the porch, accompanied by his brother Jeremy. Bailey, Evelyn, and Jeremy all remained on the porch during the encounter, although only Bailey spoke with Swindell. Swindell immediately advised Bailey that he was not under arrest. Shortly thereafter, Swindell retreated off the porch to establish what he described as a "reactionary gap" between himself and Bailey-a distance that Jeremy estimated could have been as far as 13 feet. Swindell asked Bailey to speak with him privately by his patrol car, but Bailey declined, saying that he wasn't comfortable doing so. Swindell then told Evelyn and Jeremy to go back inside so that he could talk to Bailey alone, but they, too, refused. Bailey asked Swindell why he was there, but Swindell initially didn't respond; he eventually said that he was there to investigate, although he never clarified exactly what he was investigating. Frustration growing, Swindell then repeatedly demanded-at a yell-that Evelyn and Jeremy return to the house and that Bailey talk to him by his patrol car, but no one complied.

         Bailey then announced that he was heading inside and turned back into the house. Without first announcing an intention to detain Bailey, Swindell charged after him and "tackle[d] [him] . . . into the living room," simultaneously declaring, "I am going to tase you." Importantly for our purposes, by that time Bailey was- as he, Evelyn, and Jeremy all testified-already completely inside the house. Swindell then proceeded to arrest Bailey.


         Bailey sued for false arrest under the Fourth Amendment, but the district court rejected his claim.[3] In particular, the court reasoned that when Bailey retreated into his house, he at least arguably obstructed Swindell in the lawful exercise of his duty, and thereby violated Fla. Stat. ยง 843.02, which makes resisting an officer without violence a first-degree ...

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