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Johnson v. Moody

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

September 10, 2018

Gerald Lee Johnson; Shelly Johnson Plaintiffs - Appellants
v.
Mike Moody, et al. Defendants - Appellees

          Submitted: June 14, 2018

          Appeal from United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa - Des Moines

          Before LOKEN, GRUENDER, and ERICKSON, Circuit Judges.

          LOKEN, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         At the time in question, Gerald Johnson was a special education teacher at Roosevelt High School in Des Moines, Iowa. On December 4, 2015, Student C.P. alleged that Johnson had called her into his classroom the day before to discuss her grades and attendance issues and, during the meeting, locked the door and touched her inappropriately. On January 19, 2016, Johnson was charged in Iowa State Court with Sexual Exploitation by a School Employee and Assault with Intent to Commit Sexual Abuse. See Iowa Code §§ 709.15(3)(a)(1), (5)(a), 709.11(3). After the state court suppressed evidence derived from school surveillance videos that had not been preserved, the prosecution dismissed the charges.

         Johnson and his wife then filed this lawsuit in Iowa District Court against two members of the Des Moines Police Department who investigated C.P.'s allegation, Officer Mike Moody and Detective Brian Mathis; Des Moines Police Chief Dana Wingert; and the City of Des Moines, Iowa.[1] As relevant here, Plaintiffs assert 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims against the officers individually and the City for violation of Johnson's Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process rights and Iowa state law claims of malicious prosecution, negligent hiring and supervision, respondeat superior, and loss of spousal consortium.

         Defendants removed the action and promptly moved for summary judgment, relying primarily on asserted issues of law, qualified immunity and collateral estoppel. Plaintiffs filed a brief resisting summary judgment and requesting deferral of a ruling until the scheduled close of discovery some months later. Plaintiffs attached a Declaration of counsel under Rule 56(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (formerly rule 56(f)) describing the discovery they "anticipated conducting." After hearing oral argument, the district court[2] entered a lengthy order granting summary judgment in favor of the individual defendants and the City and denying the request for additional discovery. Johnson v. Moody, No. 4:16-cv-449, Order (S.D. Iowa June 15, 2017). Plaintiffs appeal, arguing only that the district court abused its discretion by denying their request for time to conduct discovery before granting summary judgment for the Defendants. Reviewing the denial of their Rule 56(d) request for abuse of discretion, we affirm. Toben v. Bridgestone Retail Operations, LLC, 751 F.3d 888, 894 (8th Cir. 2014) (standard of review).

         I. Background.

         We will limit this section to the facts (taken in the light most favorable to Plaintiffs as summary judgment non-moving parties) and the portions of the extensive procedural history of the dispute that are relevant to the only issue on appeal, whether the district court abused its discretion in denying Plaintiffs' Rule 56(d) request for additional discovery.

         A. State Court Proceedings.

         After C.P. made her allegation, Officer Moody and Detective Mathis interviewed C.P. and her mother, attempted to interview Johnson, viewed extensive surveillance videos of the school hallways on the day of the incident, and reviewed text messages from C.P. to a friend and to her mother. Their request that the school save all videos from that day was mishandled, and C.P. deleted her text messages before they were fully preserved. Only notes of the videos and screen-shot images of the text messages taken by Detective Mathis were preserved and available as evidence for the criminal proceedings; Johnson never viewed any portion of the video and reviewed only portions of the text messages.

         Johnson moved to dismiss the charges, alleging that "the State intentionally and/or recklessly failed to preserve exculpatory video evidence that it knew was critical to Johnson's defense." After an evidentiary hearing at which Moody, Mathis, and others testified and were cross examined by Johnson's attorney, the state court denied the motion to dismiss because it did not find "any intentional destruction of exculpatory evidence by law enforcement," "any bad faith on the part of the police," nor "any actions by the police to intentionally and/or recklessly fail to preserve the exculpatory video evidence."

         Johnson then moved to suppress the video and text message evidence, arguing that allowing the prosecution to admit only partial evidence would violate his constitutional rights under the Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments by denying him the ability to refute the evidence against him. The state court suppressed the video evidence, concluding that allowing the State to present evidence the defendant was unable to review "would be grossly unfair" and would deprive the defendant of his right to meaningful cross-examination. It declined to suppress text messages that had been preserved. The court "reaffirm[ed] that the evidence was not lost due to any bad act on the part of law enforcement." The prosecution then dismissed the charges because "the State [did] not believe it [could] prove the Defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and [did] not believe it [was] appropriate to proceed with a trial at [that] time."

         B. District ...


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