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Gas station fight winds up at 7th Circuit

A lawsuit that involved deer hunting, a game warden and a “dust-up” in northern Wisconsin should not have been fully dismissed, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.

The suit centers on Mitch Rooni, an Iron River resident who was arrested by Department of Natural Resources warden Bradley Biser for disorderly conduct in 2005 after the pair got into a fight at a gas station in Brule following a hunting trip Rooni took with his son.

Rooni said that the fight was preceded by an accidental “brushing” by Rooni, according to an opinion authored by Judge Diane Wood. Biser said that Rooni had pushed him, which was a basis for the arrest.

“Deer hunting is serious business in the state of Wisconsin,” the opinion states. “Although the hunters and the state game wardens may coexist peacefully most of the time, in this case they did not.”

Still, the Douglas County district attorney later dropped the charge, and Rooni later filed suit, claiming the beating he took from Biser left him battered and with a case of carpal tunnel syndrome.

Western District of Wisconsin Judge Barbara Crabb later dismissed most of the claims Rooni made against Biser. But the 7th Circuit court stated in its opinion that Crabb should not have dismissed a count that stated that Biser violated Rooni’s constitutional rights by arresting him with no probable cause.

Biser is not entitled to qualified immunity as a law enforcement officer in this situation, the opinion states, and the court reversed that portion of the case and sent it back to Crabb.

“An unintentional touching alone does not give rise to probable cause for a disorderly conduct arrest,” the court ruled.

The 7th Circuit opinion goes into extensive detail to paint the picture of what happened, where it happened and why. It even describes the hot dog that Biser bought at the gas station and what happened when he allegedly spit it at Rooni.

“We cannot resist commenting that it strikes us as unfortunate that the kind of dust‐up that gave rise to this case can wind up in federal court,” the opinion states.

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