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4th Amendment Violation – Immunity

By: WISCONSIN LAW JOURNAL STAFF//February 27, 2023//

4th Amendment Violation – Immunity

By: WISCONSIN LAW JOURNAL STAFF//February 27, 2023//

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7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Case Name: Amanda Pierner-Lytge v. Montrell Hobbs

Case No.: 22-1976

Officials: Flaum, Kirsch, and Jackson-Akiwumi, Circuit Judges.

Focus: 4th Amendment Violation – Immunity

One day in April 2020, Amanda Pierner-Lytge, a private security office and Second Amendment supporter, strapped a rifle to her back and walked to a local park. The rifle on its own was large, but perhaps even more eye-catching was the spike bayonet affixed to its barrel. Multiple parkgoers reported their concerns to the police. Milwaukee County officers arrived at the park and arrested Pierner-Lytge for disorderly conduct; however, charges were never brought.

Shortly after her arrest, Pierner-Lytge filed a civil rights action against two of the arresting officers—Montrell Hobbs and Fredrick Gladney—alleging violations of her First and Fourth Amendment rights. The district court granted the officers’ motion for summary judgment. On appeal, Pierner-Lytge challenged the district court’s conclusion that the officers are entitled to qualified immunity on her Fourth Amendment claim.

The Seventh Circuit ruled that while a reasonable officer should have known in April 2020 that simply carrying a firearm or a knife in public does not constitute disorderly conduct, much more is required to show that the legality of Pierner-Lytge’s conduct was “beyond debate.” To the extent the officers misjudged whether probable cause existed to arrest Pierner-Lytge, it was a reasonable decision given the state of the Wisconsin disorderly conduct statute at the time, and thus the Seventh Circuit ruled that the district court therefore did not err in granting Hobbs and Gladney qualified immunity as to Pierner-Lytge’s Fourth Amendment claim


Decided 02/23/23

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