What Happens When County Employees Act Like Police?

A large number of people who read this article have likely had to deal with being stopped by police officers for violating traffic laws. What are you supposed to do? You know what you should do. NotYou are pulled over by a cop, held for several hours and asked to complete a traffic stop.

According to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit, you are, in some circumstances, supposed to accept this—as if working as, say, a highway engineer confers the monopoly on power held by the state. One thing that the government lacks is courage.

This is not a hypothetical for Jonathan Large, one such engineer working for Mahnomen County, Minnesota. 2017 was a year that he took umbrage at CSI, a road maintenance company. This amounted to a petty argument which soon escalated into much bigger.

It all comes down to this: The Minnesota State Department of Transportation hired CSI to repair some roads. They needed to be able to drive on certain roads for the job. Large was the supervisor of these haul roads and tried to prevent CSI from using them. However, the state eventually granted CSI access to certain routes, but not all. CSI demanded access to another road during the course of their project. This would allow them to travel after having loaded up, thus easing any worries about weight limitations.

Large did not accept this. Large refused to be bluffed. Large stopped two CSI trucks from proceeding towards him. One driver claimed that he saw government officials change the weight signs right in front of his truck. Large stated that police would have to stop them from proceeding to call the White Earth Tribal Police Department (State Troopers) and the Sheriff’s Office to take care of the overweight truck. Other trucks were not bothered and continued along the road.

Larger vehicles were arbitrarily reduced to 5 tons per axle To 5 tonnes TotalIt would be illegal for pickups and vans to use these roads. Large did this to target my company’s trucks—which were running empty on these roads—for his petty powerplay,” said Allan Minnerath, CSI’s president, in a statement. He let heavier trucks go while he only stopped CSI trucks, and then he detained their drivers. It should be free to drive in the country. Any government officials who misuse their authority like this need to be punished.

So CSI sued. Large qualified immunity was granted by the federal courts to protect local and state authorities from civil lawsuits for violating Constitutional rights.

But the reasoning behind that decision—that CSI is not legally permitted to ask a jury to consider their case—may sound like parody to a layman. Qualified immunity provides protection for government employees if the alleged violation cannot be “clearly proven” by a precedent court. CSI therefore had to look at a ruling that was almost identical. The result: “Under the unique circumstances of this case, we cannot say that it was clearly established that Large…could not call law enforcement to investigate compliance with the new, reduced weight restrictions,” wrote Circuit Judge Bobby Shepherd. Although it would be easy to mistakenly assume there was no similar case, this is what the law requires because of the unforgiving protections offered by the state.

CSI now requests the U.S. Supreme Court hear the case. The court should clarify that officials of government are not entitled to protection for misconduct in the assumption of duties and power that are not their responsibility. Anya Bidwell from the Institute for Justice said that qualified immunity opponents and proponents of it had reached an agreement on one point. “Government officials cannot Only claim qualified immunity if they were doing their jobs; officials can’t receive qualified immunity when their actions far exceed any reasonable interpretation of their authority….The courts must make it clear that Large should—and in fact must—leave the job of law enforcement to those entrusted with law enforcement.”

Importantly, large was not argued by the majority. IndeedBecause he did not use brute force, he was detained. This ignores the fact that Large placed a roadblock to CSI vehicles, and then ordered them to stay in place for police for allegedly about 3.5 hours.

Circuit Judge L. Steven Grasz did not miss this point and voted against. He wrote, “There is a new sheriff here.” The holding implicitly covers such officials [like Large]They have near-absolute immunity from their actions, since no cases exist that circumscribe or define the authority of this unwritten and newly discovered law enforcement authority.”

Some Republican politicians made the defense of qualified immunity an integral part of their campaign over recent years. Ensuring government UnAccording to partisan definitions, accountability is a difficult hill for conservatives. To that point, Grasz, the dissenting judge, was appointed by President Donald Trump—a reminder of the difference between pure politicking and policy.