Beverly Spencer v. Sheriff Jonathan Benison

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USCA11 Case: 18-14397 Date Filed: 07/16/2021 Page: 1 of 21 [PUBLISH] IN THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE ELEVENTH CIRCUIT ________________________ No. 18-14397 ________________________ D.C. Docket No. 7:16-cv-01334-LSC BEVERLY SPENCER, C.B.S. PROPERTIES LLC, B & V WRECKER SERVICE INC, Plaintiffs-Appellees, versus SHERIFF JONATHAN BENISON, in his individual and official capacities, Defendant-Appellant, DREAM INC, BELLE MERE PROPERTIES, LLC, ACCUITY CAPITAL GROUP LLC, BERNARD GOMEZ, individually and as registered agent of Belle Mere Properties LLC, CHE D. WILLIAMSON, individually and as registered agent of Belle Mere Properties LLC, Defendants-Appellees. USCA11 Case: 18-14397 Date Filed: 07/16/2021 Page: 2 of 21 ________________________ Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama ________________________ (July 16, 2021) Before NEWSOM and BRANCH, Circuit Judges, and BAKER,* District Judge. BRANCH, Circuit Judge: Sheriff Jonathan Benison appeals from the district court’s denial of summary judgment to him in this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 lawsuit. Beverly Spencer sued Benison, alleging that Benison violated his Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights by ordering him to remove cones and vehicles that were preventing Spencer’s neighbor from completing construction that Spencer alleged encroached on his property. The district court denied Benison’s motion for summary judgment because it found that Benison acted outside the scope of his discretionary authority when he ordered Spencer to remove the cones and vehicles and thus was not entitled to qualified immunity on Spencer’s individual capacity claims, and also that Spencer had presented adequate evidence of a constitutional violation to sustain his § 1983 claims against Benison in both his individual and official capacities. Because we conclude that Benison was acting within the scope of his * Honorable R. Stan Baker, United States District Judge for the Southern District of Georgia, sitting by designation. 2 USCA11 Case: 18-14397 Date Filed: 07/16/2021 Page: 3 of 21 discretionary authority when he ordered Spencer to remove the cones and vehicles and that Spencer failed to present adequate evidence of a constitutional violation to sustain his § 1983 claims, we reverse. I. Background 1 A. Facts On April 1, 2011, Belle Mere Properties, LLC, purchased a parcel of real estate from Spencer.2 As part of the sale, Spencer granted Belle Mere “an easement of 25 feet on either side of the existing power line . . . for the purpose of ingress and egre[ss].” Belle Mere then leased the property to Accuity Capital Group, LLC, which leased the property to Dream, Inc., which began operating a bingo hall on the property, called Frontier Bingo. Shortly thereafter, Spencer and Belle Mere began to disagree over the boundaries of the easement. In late 2015 or early 2016, Belle Mere decided to expand a previously constructed roadway running through the easement from Frontier Bingo to U.S. Highway 11. On January 13, 2016, Spencer called 911 to 1 For purposes of this appeal, we will “take the facts that the district court assumed when it denied qualified immunity as a given.” Stanley v. City of Dalton, 219 F.3d 1280, 1287 (11th Cir. …

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