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Mayfield v. Bethards

United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit

June 20, 2016

KENT MAYFIELD and TONYA MAYFIELD, Plaintiffs - Appellees,
v.
JIM BETHARDS, part-time Deputy, Defendant-Appellant. HARVEY COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT; T. WALTON, Sheriff; CARMAN CLARK, Sheriff Deputy; SCOTT MOTES, Sergeant; TODD HANCHETT, Undersheriff; GREG NYE, District Attorney; TIM BOESE, Corporal; HARVEY COUNTY DISTRICT COURT JOHN DOES 1 - 3; JANE DOES 1 - 3, Defendants.

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Kansas (D.C. No. 6:14-CV-01307-JTM-KGG)

         Submitted on the briefs: [*]

          Kent Mayfield, Tonya Mayfield, pro se.

          Toby Crouse, Foulston Siefkin, LLP., Overland Park, Kansas, for Jim Bethards, Defendant-Appellant.

          Before LUCERO, PORFILIO, and McHUGH, Circuit Judges.

          McHUGH, Circuit Judge.

         Kent and Tonya Mayfield, proceeding pro se, brought this action against Deputy Jim Bethards under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, claiming he violated their Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights by killing their pet dog. Deputy Bethards raised a qualified-immunity defense and moved to dismiss the Complaint under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. The district court denied his motion and Deputy Bethards appeals. We affirm.

         I. Background

         The Mayfields claim Deputies Clark and Bethards violated their Fourth Amendment rights by entering their property without a warrant with the intention of killing their two dogs, firing upon both dogs, and killing one of them.[1] According to the Complaint, the deputies saw the Mayfields' dogs Suka and Majka lying in the front yard of the Mayfields' private residence in Halstead, Kansas, on July 13, 2014. The deputies exited their vehicle and entered the Mayfields' unfenced front yard to approach the dogs. In the Complaint, the Mayfields allege a witness observed that although neither dog acted aggressively, both officers began firing on the dogs once on the Mayfields' property. Deputy Clark fired on Suka, the Mayfields' brown dog, but missed as she fled to the back of the house. Deputy Bethards shot Majka, the Mayfields' white Malamute Husky, three times, killing her on the front porch.

         The deputies then unsuccessfully searched for Suka behind the house, where she had disappeared into a wooded section of the Mayfields' property. The Complaint further alleges that upon returning to the front yard, the deputies first moved Majka's body in an apparent attempt to obscure that she had been shot on the Mayfields' property and then tried to hide her body in a row of trees.

         Deputies Clark and Bethards raised a qualified-immunity defense and moved to dismiss the Complaint under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). The district court dismissed the Mayfields' Fourth Amendment claim against Deputy Clark on qualified immunity.[2] But the district court denied qualified immunity to Deputy Bethards, finding the Complaint set forth a plausible claim that Deputy Bethards violated the Mayfields' clearly established Fourth Amendment rights by unlawfully seizing Majka when he shot and killed her.

         Deputy Bethards filed a timely appeal. We affirm the district court's decision.

         II. Jurisdiction

         The denial of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss on qualified-immunity grounds is an appealable final order if it turns on an issue of law. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 672 (2009) ("[T]his Court has been careful to say that a district court's order rejecting qualified immunity at the motion-to-dismiss stage of a proceeding is a 'final decision' within the meaning of [28 U.S.C.] § 1291."); Keith v. Koerner, 707 F.3d 1185, 1187 (10th Cir. 2013). The district court found the Mayfields had sufficiently alleged a violation of their clearly established rights. Whether a plaintiff has sufficiently "alleged a violation of his clearly established constitutional rights to overcome [the defendant's] defense of qualified immunity is an issue of law reviewable on interlocutory appeal." Brown v. Montoya, 662 F.3d 1152, 1162 (10th Cir. 2011). Accordingly, we exercise jurisdiction pursuant to § 1291 to review the district court's order denying Deputy Bethards's qualified immunity defense. See Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 526-27, 530 (1985); Keith, 707 F.3d at 1187.

         III. Standard of ...


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