United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
STARRETT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Court grants in part and denies in part Defendants'
Motion to Renew  their motion for summary judgment on
the basis of qualified immunity. The Court grants
Defendants' request for the Court to address the question
of whether their alleged actions violated clearly established
law. But the Court denies the renewed motion for summary
judgment as to whether Defendants' alleged actions
violated clearly established law.
this Court and the Court of Appeals have discussed the
factual background of this case. See Taylor v.
Hughes, 920 F.3d 729, 731-32 (11th Cir. 2019);
Taylor v. Hughes, No. 2:14-CV-1163-KS-WC, 2017 WL
3836680, at *1-*2 (M.D. Ala. Aug. 31, 2017). On March 6,
2017, Defendants filed a Motion for Summary Judgment  on
the basis of qualified immunity. Among other things,
Defendants argued that Plaintiff could not meet his burden of
showing that they had violated clearly established law. The
Court granted Defendants' motion but did not address the
question of whether Plaintiff had presented sufficient
evidence to show that Defendants violated clearly established
law. On appeal, the Eleventh Circuit reversed the Court's
judgment, but it likewise did not address the question of
whether Defendants' alleged actions violated clearly
filed a Motion to Renew  their motion for summary
judgment on the basis of qualified immunity so that the Court
can address the issue of whether their alleged actions
violated clearly established law. Defendants incorporated and
reasserted their previous arguments on the issue. Plaintiff
opposes the motion. He argues that this Court is prohibited
from addressing the issue by the law-of-the-case doctrine and
the mandate rule.
Plaintiff argues that the Court may not address
Defendants' argument because it is barred by the
law-of-the-case doctrine. The “doctrine of the law of
the case precludes courts from revisiting issues that were
already decided, ” Cambridge Univ. Press v.
Albert, 906 F.3d 1290, 1299 (11th Cir. 2018), either
“expressly or by necessary implication.”
Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc. v. Dolgencorp, LLC, 881 F.3d
835, 843 (11th Cir. 2018). “In particular, findings of
fact and conclusions of law by an appellate court are
generally binding in all subsequent proceedings in the same
case in the trial court or on a later appeal.”
Albert, 906 F.3d at 1299.
the Court of Appeals did not address the question of whether
Defendants' alleged actions violated clearly established
law, despite Defendants' raising it in their briefing on
appeal. Likewise, the Court of Appeals did not address the
issue when it summarily denied Defendants' amended
petition for rehearing, despite Defendants' specifically
raising the issue. Moreover, the Court of Appeals did not
decide the issue by necessary implication. It simply found
that the Court erred in its determination that Plaintiff had
not presented sufficient evidence to create a genuine dispute
of material fact as to whether Defendants violated
Taylor's constitutional rights, not whether the facts of
this case brought it within the contours of previous Eleventh
Circuit case law such that “a reasonable official would
understand that what he is doing violates that right.”
Washington v. Rivera, 939 F.3d 1239, 1245 (11th Cir.
2019). Therefore, the law-of-the-case doctrine is not
also argues that the mandate rule prohibits the Court's
consideration of this issue. The mandate rule “is
nothing more than a specific application of the ‘law of
the case' doctrine.” Albert, 906 F.3d at
1299. “[A] district court, when acting under an
appellate court's mandate, cannot vary it, or examine it
for any other purpose than execution; or give any other or
further relief; . . . or intermeddle with it, further than to
settle so much as has been remanded.” Id.
(punctuation omitted). “The trial court must implement
both the letter and the spirit of the mandate, taking into
account the appellate court's opinion and the
circumstances it embraces.” Id.
opinion, the Court of Appeals merely remanded the case
“for further proceedings consistent with this
opinion.” Taylor, 920 F.3d at 735. There's
nothing in the opinion or the mandate prohibiting this Court
from addressing the question of whether Defendants'
alleged actions violated clearly established law.
Clearly Established Law
argue that Plaintiff can not cite clearly established law
holding that their alleged actions violated Taylor's
constitutional rights. “The defense of qualified
immunity completely protects government officials performing
discretionary functions from suit in their individual
capacities unless their conduct violates ‘clearly
established statutory or constitutional rights of which a
reasonable person would have known.'” Marbury
v. Warden, 936 F.3d 1227, 1232 (11th Cir. 2019) (quoting
Gonzalez v. Reno, 325 F.3d 1228, 1233 (11th Cir.
2003)). “A right is clearly established when the right
is ‘sufficiently clear that a reasonable official would
understand that what he is doing violates that
right.'” Washington, 939 F.3d at 1245
(quoting Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 640,
107 S.Ct. 3034, 97 L.Ed.2d 523 (1987)).
immunity cases are “highly fact-specific and involve an
array of circumstances pertinent to just what kind of notice
is imputed to a government official and to the constitutional
adequacy of the official's acts and omissions.”
Goebert v. Lee County, 510 F.3d 1312, 1330 (11th
Cir. 2007). “This is not to say that an official action
is protected by qualified immunity unless the very action in
question has been previously held unlawful, but it is to say
that in light of pre-existing law the unlawfulness must be
apparent.” Washington, 939 F.3d at 1245.
“[O]fficials are not obligated to be creative or
imaginative in drawing analogies from previously decided
cases, ” and “awareness of the existence of an
abstract right . . . does not equate to knowledge that a
defendant's conduct infringes that right.”
Id. (quoting Coffin v. Brandau, 642 F.3d
999, 1015 (11th Cir. 2011)) (punctuation omitted). The
question is “whether the state of the law gave the
defendants fair warning that their alleged ...