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8th Circuit decides N.D. case Monday, November 6, 2023

This appeal arises from a protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline at the Backwater Bridge in Morton County, North Dakota. Police officers deployed water, tear gas, rubber bullets, and bean bags to disperse a crowd. Plaintiffs participated in the protest, and they were allegedly injured by the officers’ use of force. The protestors sued Morton County, the City of Mandan, Stutsman County, the law enforcement chiefs for those municipalities, and one hundred unnamed officers. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendants.
The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that it was not clearly established in November 2016 that the officers’ use of force to disperse protestors violated a constitutional right under the Fourth Amendment. Thus, the need for training and supervision on dispersal of protestors was not so obvious that it can be characterized as deliberate indifference to the protestors’ rights to be free from unreasonable seizures. Further, the court explained that as with the municipalities, there is insufficient evidence here of deliberate indifference by supervisors where the alleged constitutional right was not clearly established.